Friday, December 7, 2012

Crossing the border between the USA and Mexico

1 Gate nr 1 ( gate nr 2 is under the red roof), 2 Guarded motorcycle parking, 3 Tourist card, 4 Bank where tourist card needs to be paid, 5 US Customs for green card return 
First of all, do not believe all the stories about how hard it is. Quite frankly it isn't. It is confusing if you don't speak Spanish but it's not difficult. You also won't find gangs ready to rob you at gunpoint and do not have to drive through drugwars. Actually the border crossing into Mexico is easy, the people are friendly and even the process is pretty simple.

Of course there are exceptions to what I've written above. When we crossed into Mexico there were serious problems at the Laredo side of the border between Mexico and the USA. Common sense meant we didn't cross there. Nor did we cross at the San Diego side as San Diego can hardly be described as a pleasant place to be and Tijuana doesn't seem to be much better. We chose Tecate, just inland from Tijuana. We stayed at a campground just north of Tecate and arrived early at the border. The whole process took 20 seconds… I'm not kidding! Ride up to the boomgate, press the button, light goes green, ride to the second boomgate, light goes green again and you're in Mexico!

There is a small catch… if you just want to visit the northern half of Baja or stay within 25 km of the US border then the above is all you need to do. The easiest border crossing ever. When you are a foreigner then you'll have to return your greencard to US Customs and if you want to go further into Mexico then you'll need a Mexican tourist card and a temporary vehicle permit. Both are an easy process. The tourist card is something in the order of US$25,- the vehicle permit requires a bond of US$400,- per vehicle. This bond will be returned when you leave Mexico.

We did not purchase the vehicle permit in Tecate but in La Paz (see La Paz tab). We also returned the green card to the US officials when we had already crossed the Mexican border and parked the bikes at nr 2 on the map. The tourist card process is somewhat strange; go to the office (3) first, you'll get a form which has to be paid at the bank which is in the round green building (4) and then return to 3. The payment has to be done in cash… it's a bank but no ATM.

A couple of things to remember: Make sure the vehicle is in your name or you'll have big problems. Mike was riding a motorcycle registered in my name and we had to supply a birth certificate to prove that I am his father. If the vehicle is registered in someone else's name who is not direct family then I'm not sure how you can enter Mexico with it. As far as I'm aware it's impossible. You will also have to be 18 years of age to get the permit and you can only have one permit per person per vehicle class. In other words one motorbike permit, one car permit etc. You can have a permit for your RV and a second one for the motorcycle you are towing with it. You can't have two motorcycle permits per person though.

The other thing to do is vehicle insurance. There are plenty of options available online. We found motorcycle express the best option. They insured us for Canada, USA and Mexico and were working on Central America and South America too.