So we made it to Guatemala. But not without a few minor complications. As we’ve mentioned in a previous blog post (or was it only on our web page???), we have adjusted our route to meet up with some family from Norway on Yucatan in the beginning of March. We are therefore making a loop down into Guatemala and Belize before driving back up to Yucatan. And this means multiple entry to Mexico for both us and the vehicle… Which, according to guide books, shouldn’t be a problem as both the vehicle permit and the tourist cards should allow multiple entry to Mexico.
After a lot of internet research, we have still not been able to find official info from Mexican authorities (but here we have to admit that our Spanish is almost nada). However, we find a lot of postings from other travellers, some saying that it wasn’t a problem, and others saying that the border official refused to give them multiple entry on the same tourist cards. The challenge for us is that my tourist card is “linked” to the vehicle permit (your tourist card number is registered on your vehicle permit), and the vehicle permit is not valid if you don’t have the right tourist card. So, if you want multiple entries to Mexico with your vehicle, you have to hold on to your tourist card.
First attempt to cross the border was at La Mesilla on the “Pan-Am” highway south of San Cristobal. We stopped at “Aduana”, and the vehicle permit was “no problem”. The guy at Aduana told us that this was not a problem, and that we should keep it in order to get back into Mexico. AND, he told us to keep the tourist card, but to get an exit stamp from “Migracion”. This was what stopped us from crossing at La Mesilla. The border official at Migracion refused to stamp us out of Mexico without collecting the tourist card. He insisted that we had to “buy” new when we reentered the country. Which would make our vehicle permit invalid as the tourist card number would not match.
Aduana office in the first building on the left, and Migracion in the second, lower building behind it.
We went back to the guy at the Aduana office and told him about this, and he seemed a little surprised, but told us it was nothing he could do. So we packed up and left the border. We drove south west to Tapachula where we spent the night. After leaving the border I really regretted that I didn’t walk back into the Migracion and tried again with a slightly more inspired tone in my voice, and asking him to give me his name. It is hard to believe that he actually doesn’t know that the tourist cards includes multiple entry, or if he’s just being an asshole. But then, according too many other travellers (and even guide books), it appears that this procedure often is kind of random.
And that is why we decided to try the border crossing at Talisman-El Carmen the next day. As “2aroundtheworld” mentioned in his thread, there is a LOT of helpers that come running towards you when you approach the border. Even before you actually see the border itself. Many of them look kind of official with fancy cards around their necks. They all try to flag you down, and make you stop/turn of the road into a parking area. Ignore them and keep driving. That is the beauty of a border crossing. You KNOW when you reach the border, and where you HAVE to stop. If you have doubts, keep driving. When we got to the border, there was a guy in a proper uniform chasing away the helpers still following us, and showed us a place where we could park while we sorted out the paperwork. There is a short time parking on the left side of the street about 20 meters/ 60 feet from the office building (the building next to the “border gate” (left hand side)).
We walked to the Migracion office first, as this seem to be the difficult part for us. We were kind of expecting the same story here as well, but to our surprise, he didn’t even blink. Of course we can have multiple entries on our tourist cards, and of course he can give us exit stamps. When we asked if this could be questioned on entry back into Mexico, he insisted that this would not be a problem. So then we went to the Aduana office, and a guy there had a look at the car and checked that the number on our license plate matched the vehicle permit. And then he wished us a pleasant journey and waved us through.
On the Guatemalan side the helpers were back. Many of them wanted us to exchange US$ to Quetzales, but we had already got some Guatemalan currency in San Cristobal. We highly recommended to do this, as you then don’t have to deal with the helpers at all. We also decided to find out if this side would be as easy as the Mexican side ourselves, so we completely ignored the helpers and kept driving. After about 100 meters / 300 feet there is an office building on your left with a huge blue sign saying Migracion. You can’t miss it.
We parked right in front of it (but you would enter from the left. We had made a u-turn from the "parking area" (next paragraph...)). There is one line in front of a window that says “Mexican citizens” and one that says Guatemala something (to the left in the picture). Go to this one (if you are not Mexcian…). You get a stamp in your passport, and it costs 10 Q per person. You pay to the same guy that give you the stamp. Took us 3 minutes.
From there we almost drove into the tourist scam… We got back into the car and drove on toward Aduana for the vehicle permit. Just before you get to the fumigation point there is a parking area to the right. Everybody waved us in there, even the guy at the fumigation station (which is on the road going into the “border-gate” 10 meters/30 feet from the roofed checkpoint. We turned off and stopped at a locked gate where a very official guy (armed) wanted my name before I drove on into the fenced compound. When we asked how much the parking cost, they said 20 Q, and that was when we decided to check out our options. The armed guard wasn’t too happy, but I told him to wait, and I didn’t drive in through the gate. Malin got out and walked up to the Aduana office to ask if we could park in front of that office too. Which they preferred we didn’t, but they told us we could back up to the Migracion and just park there for free. So to anyone planning to go to Guatemala through this border crossing, just walk to the Aduana office for your vehicle papers directly from Migracion.
The guy at Aduana was friendly and helpful, and he spoke good English. Bring a copy of your driver’s license, passport, vehicle papers, and I was asked for a copy of the Mexican vehicle permit and a copy of the page in my passport with the Guatemala entry stamp. I didn’t have the last two, but when I asked if there was a place here where I could make copies, he offered to do it for me (there was a copy machine just behind him in the office). He then came with me back to the Migracion office to check the vin number and the license plate, and then we walked back to Aduana to finish the papers. This takes a little time. Typing everything into the computer took about 10 minutes, and then he print a bill that you have to go next door to pay. It is 55 Q for a vehicle. You leave your original documents at the Aduana office. The bank is in the same building just 5 meters away. When I was there, there was a long line, and I waited maybe another 10-15 minutes. And while waiting I saw that a couple of the helpers actually got direct access to the counter, so it you could save a few minutes if you want to pay them.
You hand the receipt from the bank back to the Aduana office, and he tell you to go get the car. You drive up to the fumigation point, and the guy sprays your tires and maybe a little under the car. While one guy spray, you go the counter (3 meters to the left), and pay 18 Q for the disinfection. You get a receipt, but nobody asked for this. A few meters further a custom officer stops you, and hand over your passport, vehicle papers, and the sticker for your windshield. In our case, he did not bother to check the car at all. He opened the gate, and we drove into Guatemala!