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Border Crossing :: Mexico to Guatemala

Border crossings can be extremely confusing, so I hope this information will be helpful for your departure from Mexico.  Leave ample time to cross the border.  Lines, validation processes, and general disorganization can take hours to finish.  In order to be prepared, you can print this post to assist you during the process.  However, I will warn you that processes change depending on which customs official greets you from behind the counter.

Go to a Banamex (one of Mexicos banks) to pay your Tourist Depasrture Fee (262 pesos per person – around $20).  This can be paid before your day of departure, (I recommend paying it as soon as you get it on the way into Mexico so as not to forget until the last minute).
What you need: Your Tourist Card and your Tourist Daparture Fee page (8.5×11 paper that documents your total payment for leaving Mexico).  They give you this sheet with your tourist card on intering Mexico.

As you approach Tapachula city from the west on Mex 200, just before the city stop at the customs office on the left side (ask anyone on the street for aduana or ‘Viva Mexico’… Viva Mexico is the name of this office, believe it or not).  Another name you can use is Banjercito though most people don’t recognise this name).  At Viva Mexico, you will turn in your Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit and the sticker, and they will give you a document that states your permit has been canceled in Mexico. The picture above is taken from the lane of traffic heading north out of Tapachula, you have to actually make a U-turn to go through the aduana checkpoint.  There is not a checkpoint on the way into Tapachula.
What you need: Your original Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit and it’s sticker (remaining in the windshield of your car… they must peel it off for you).

You will be instructed to park on the right side of the road that passes through the checkpoint and walk into the building.
What you need: Passports, Tourist Cards, and Tourist Exit Fee Receipt from the bank (the one you paid in STEP 1).

They will take your turist cards and stamp your passports.  There are no other fees to be paid at the Mexican border.

Once you complete your departure from Mexico, the process starts all over again to enter Talisman, Guatemala.

Stamping your Passports: As you enter Talisman, you will see a white and blue office on your left with a sign that says, “MIGRACION.”  Simply park on the side of the road and take your passports to be stamped, and pay a small fee (which can be paid in pesos or quetzales, 10 Pesos – aroud 70 cents or slightly less if you pay in quetzales).  Before you continue to the agricultural and customs offices, make a copy of your canceled Mexican Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit and the page in your passport showing the Guatemalan stamp.  Look for the Agencia Aduanal office that is close to the immigration office to make copies for around 1 quetzale for 2 copies.

Agricultural Office: There will be two large concrete gateways as you drive towards the border at Talisman – park at the gateway on the right.  You will need a few quetzales for office fees, which can be easily obtained by people changing money outside of the office (see TIPS below).  Agricultural officials will first wash your tires, and you can then park on the side.  We had to show Domino’s International Health Certificate here, as well as give them copies of this document (about 64 quetzales – $8).

Customs Office: The customs office is further down in the same covered area (pictured above).  It requires a few ridiculous steps to complete the process: 1) Bring your license, passport, vehicle registration, and your canceled Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit from Mexico.  You will also need to turn in copies of all of these, including a copy of the page containing the Guatemalan entry stamp in your passport.  2) Pay 40 quetzales (around $5) at the bank to the right of the office.  3) Return to the customs office and show your receipt.

What you need: Your pet’s International Health Certificate, license, passport, vehicle registration, your canceled Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit from Mexico and copies of all of these (make multiple copies to stay on the safe side).
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Who are these guys trying to flag us down near the border?

When you approach the border crossing, a crowd of men will try to flag down your car offering border crossing “services.”  They seem to be telling you that they want your papers for crossing the border.  Many tourists who do not speak Spanish pay these men to turn in their documentation to the customs office.  This is not needed.  Turning in your documentation is simple, even if you do not speak Spanish. These guys flag you down as though they are goverment officials and have various sorts of badges around there necks.  They are just trying to make a buck, and have no authority whatsoever to stop you.

I have heard that border crossings further south can take hours due to long lines.  Some of these people offering their services, who are sometimes young boys, have family or friends in the customs offices.  Should you find one of these people and pay them to turn in your documents, you may save a lot of time, since they often can walk to the front of the line.

Sometimes its all about timing
From the time we left our hotel to the time we finished our paperwork was from 7:00 am to 10:00 am.  I recommend beginning the entire process around 8:00 am to avoid long lines.  The customs office in Guatemala opens and 8:30 am and the bank where you need to pay for bringing your car into Guatemala opens at 9:00 am, so you can’t get through before then.  If you start on the Mexican side before about 8:00 am you will just have to wait on the Guatemalan side until everything opens. We were there early and there were really no lines, there may be lines later in the day.

Money Matters
Look up the rate of the quetzale (ket-zal-ay) before you head for the border.  When you enter the Guatemalan side, I recommend only changing about $20 US with someone on the street changing money.  If you have pesos left over, exchange them here.  You will get a much better rate obtaining your money at an ATM once you have entered the country.  And, as always, make sure to keep track of your exchange rate – watch the money changer calculate the total on their calculator.  If they offer you a rate below what you looked up was the current rate, just find another changer.  If you find after you get into Guatemala that you have some pesos stashed away you forgot about, about the only bank that will take them is the Guatemalan National Bank.  Most other banks only exchange dollars and euros.

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