Fear of the Unknown, Crossing the Border into Guatemala
We heard several horror stories about the difficulty crossing the border into Guatemala and were ready to face long lines, excess delays, endless bureaucracy and requests for bribes. So here is how the process actually went for us.
On the Mexican side of the border we entered a very clean and modern control area where people and their vehicles exit the country. Upon entry two women inspected our bikes and saddle bags for anything that was illegal to take out of Mexico. They were very profession and pleasant, which made this step in the process simple. As usual, Omar got them to take their picture with us.
Next we went to the office where we officially notified the Mexican government that we were leaving the country with our motorcycles and submitted requests to return our $400 deposits. Again, this was handled very professionally by the staff. After that we stopped by one more office to get our passports updated with a stamp indicating we left the country. The entire process on the Mexican side took approximately 45 minutes.
After that we paid a small toll of 7 pesos to cross the bridge into Guatemala.
Where the buildings and complex on the Mexican side of the border were modern, freshly painted and super clean, the Guatemalan side was well used and in need of some work. However, the process was just as smooth.
First, we had the lower half of our bikes sprayed for insects and got the certificates for this. Then we stopped at the immigration office next door to get our passports stamped to enter the country.
The last and longest step in the process was getting the permits to bring our motorcycles into Guatemala. For these permits we went to another building that was a short distance away. There we presented all the documents requested along with copies of each of them. These included titles for our bikes, driver’s licenses and passports. We missed getting a document from immigration, so we went back to get it. We also had to get copies of a couple new documents, which we did at a small copy business across the street. We paid the fees (about $23 US) at the bank office in the same building. The lady at the bank arranged to have our US and Mexican currency exchanged for quetzal (Guatemalan currency) at a very fair rate. We crossed the lobby with our payment receipt and got our permits. Total time on the Guatemalan side was about an hour and a half. Everyone was professional, no one asked for extra money and there were no lines.
Below are a couple interesting examples to give you the feel for the kindness of people in Latin America.
On the Mexican side of the border we purchased sodas and water at a stand in the immigration complex. After having a pleasant conversion with the lady operating the stand, she offered us additional bottles of fruit juice at no charge. She saw that we were hot and perspiring. When did you last have that happen to you?
On the Guatemalan side, the lady at the copy business created the duplicates we needed. When we went to pay her with 50 quetzal bill (Guatemalan currency), she said she didn’t have change for that size of bill and told us to take the copies for free. Later we got some smaller bills and went back to pay her, but we appreciated the offer to take the copies at no charge.
The kindness these ladies showed us was similar to other experiences we have had on our journey.