This is a post for other overlanders. We’ve done a lot of border crossing research in order to be the prepared boy and girl scouts that we strive to be. You read enough to be prepared for the worst and then are pleasantly surprised when all goes well. Here’s our experience crossing the Mexico-Guatemala Border at Ciudad Cuauhtémoc-La Mesilla.
Leaving Mexico – Tuesday, April 21, 2015 @ 12:30pm.
Border at Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, 2 hours south of San Cristobal De Las Casas
Objective: Cancel temporary vehicle import permit, have deposit refunded, and received Mexican exit stamps in our passports.
Both the Banjercito (to deal with vehicle import) and Aduana/Migracion, Customs/Immigration (for passport exit stamps) are in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, right off the 190 highway. You can’t miss it. Big awning, blue and white building on the left hand side (when heading south from San Cristobal).
We went to the Banjercito first. There was no one waiting ahead of us.
- Give agent Vehicle Import paperwork to be canceled.
- Agent wanted to see car title/registration, just for fun.
- Agent came out to car with us, verified VIN and removed the sticker on our windshield.
- There was no money exchanged. The deposit of 200 pesos that was placed on our credit card upon entry would be reversed automatically in a few days.
- Agent returned the canceled Vehicle Import paperwork. This is needed to show at the Guatemala border.
Next door at Aduana/Migracion, only a handful of people filling out entry paperwork. We were waved through to the counter right away.
- Hand over passports and Mexican FMM visas to be canceled. Ours only expire in September 2015 (180 days from entry), but we do not plan to return to Mexico until December or later.
- *Important* Agent was going to charge us a 336 peso tourist tax per person. We had our receipt from entry at Nogales 34 days ago, showing it had already been paid. No money was exchanged here either.
- Passports are stamped, visas remain with the agent, drive 4 kms to actual border.
There is a Y in the road, as you approach the busy vendor area at the border. No signs. Keep left into what looks like the more chaotic choice.
Mexican border agent only wants to see that Vehicle Import Permit has been canceled. Show him through car window, done. Crossing arm lifts and we’re on to the Guatemala side (literally one car’s length away).
Entering Guatemala – Tuesday, April 21, 2015 @ 2:00pm.
Border at La Mesilla, on the Pan American Highway 1.
Objective: Complete Bruno’s first fumigation, pay for temporary vehicle import permit, and receive Guatemala entry stamps in our passports.
There is only one lane in and one lane out of Guatemala at this crossing. Luckily, we are the only car trying to enter on a Tuesday afternoon. A Chevy Cavalier with Ontario plates is leaving Guatemala as we are preparing to enter. Hello compadre.
There are cones in the lane and therefore, we must stop. A guy comes over and explains that they are going to fumigate the car, right there in the road. Bruno’s tires are sprayed, we pay 18 quetzals ($2 USD) and receive a receipt.
Park immediately on the right for Aduana/Migracion.
At this point, nobody has swarmed the car, asking to help us for a tip (as we read about at so many other border crossings in Central America). There are guys with huge wads of cash, we presumed to be the money changers. They asked us politely, we said no thank you. Travis had picked up small amounts of each currency through Wells Fargo before leaving San Francisco (just enough to get us over the borders and into town).
- Hand over passports for entry stamp.
- Do you have a car? Yes. Fill out this short form. OK. Is that a soccer game on T.V.? Si, Barcelona. Wonderful. I like Neymar, too.
- Yellow copy of short form is ours to keep. It is needed next door to import the car.
- We were charged 20 pesos (or 10 quetzals, our choice) per passport. Presumably for all their ‘trouble’ stamping the page. Several other travelers reported being charged a similar “small fee” for entry. With no receipt given, this could easily be a scam. We could have fought it, but in the essence of time, ease and charity, we paid the equivalent of $2 USD and went on our merry way.
The building right next door has a window, where they’ll issue the Vehicle Import Permit. There is also an armed guard there to watch over the bank with tinted windows where you’ll pay for the permit.
- This part took the longest and required the most paperwork, but once it was handed over, the agent did all the work. Slowly. There’s a Barcelona game on, remember?
- Hand over originals: car title, registration, driver’s licenses, passports + canceled Mexican Vehicle Import paperwork + yellow copy of Aduana form.
- We had multiple copies of everything, but behind the little window, in his air-conditioned office, the agent had a copier and did everything he needed to do. We were not asked for any copies.
- Go next door to tinted window bank (literally, the door right beside his little window). Pay 160 quetzals ($20 USD) for the vehicle import. Good for 90 days.
- Upon returning bank receipt to window-man, he returns our original documents, we sign a few things, and walk away with the Vehicle Import paperwork.
- The agent then comes out to inspect the car (opens a few doors, verifies VIN). He affixes sticker to windshield and we’re done.
I have to note that this is the first time an official of any kind has looked inside Bruno since we left. Not in the U.S., not in Mexico, coming or going. Guess we just don’t look that suspicious – despite Travis’ new facial hair.