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  #1  
Old 15 Jul 2008
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Central American Borders Question

ok so I have read in numerous places that the borders in Central America are more difficult than SouthAmerica...

So any tips to make it smoother??
Had the advice of getting plenty of photocopies already.

Any borders that people recommend or that should be avoided???
How much should I expect to pay???
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  #2  
Old 15 Jul 2008
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You'll only need a helper going into and out of Honduras. The sooner you hire a helper, the sooner the rest of them will leave you alone. Don't pay for his services until after he's done. Don't give him your original documents- when he needs copies, go with him. Sit in a bar or restaurant while he does his work.

Don't change any money with the money changers at the border. Half of them sell counterfeit bills. American dollars work everywhere.

The rest of the countries are easy. Sometimes it takes a while, but they're easy. Not as easy as South America, but still, easy.

If you have time before you leave Panama City, stop by Panama Bikers and sign the adv book.
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  #3  
Old 15 Jul 2008
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I'd also thought Honduras would be a pain but didn't use a helper and it was fine. I think it was around $40 or so to enter which was a bit annoying as we just rode straight through it.

El Salvador took about 3 hours only because we couldn't find my engine number and the one we could find didn't tie up with my V5 reg doc. He eventually left that field blank but I found it later on in Mexico City after thumbing through Gary Dymonds Haynes manual and I went 'ahh so that's where it is!'...

And yes, they'll want photo copies of your documents so it helps to have quite a few at your disposal.
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  #4  
Old 15 Jul 2008
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helpers shmelpers

dont need em ,unless you are used to getting a manicure and cant change your own tyre
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  #5  
Old 15 Jul 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thecanoeguy View Post
dont need em ,unless you are used to getting a manicure and cant change your own tyre
At our border crossing out of El Salvador into Honduras it was 105 in the shade. We'd already been riding for hours through that kind of heat. I had suffered enough. I can change my own tires, but for $10, we were able to sit in an airconditioned cafe, eat a decent meal, and let someone else run around- someone who needed the money and worked hard for it.

The Honduras border was a regular cluster****. 3 hours to get a kazillion stamps and it took up an entire page of my passport. You start running out of pages pretty quick, you know?

Other borders took time- especially Costa Rica, mainly because the guy in charge of vehicles took a 2 hour break! He just picked up his things and left for a while. No explanation. There was a line of truckers... and he just left everyone. At least it wasn't hot or raining.
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  #6  
Old 15 Jul 2008
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AIYEEE carramba!!No senor Bananaman-
Most definitely DO NOT " sit in a bar or restaurant " while your hired guide does the work. This is an invitation to get ripped off.
You must be the one who hands over all the documents to the customs guys at the various wickets. And you must be the one who pays them the required fees and gets the required receipts in hand.
Your guide should be just that and nothing more- somebody who knows the language and the routine who leads you to the various wickets in the proper sequence. YOU should keep your precious documents in your own hands all the time and only hand them over to authorised personnel of the border and immediately get them back.
If you hand the documents over to a guide believing that he will do it all for you you can get a surprise. Not all guides are crooks but many like to pad the document stack with a few nonsense papers with " fees " marked on there which he claims he paid for you. These fees are fake, he did not pay a cent, the service is nonexistant.Anything you pay him is going straight into his own pocket.
Also do not believe any guide who tells you to hand him the documents so that he can speed up the process across the way at a special wicket or that the aduana guy was absent and he has to follow a special step which cost $xx
If you speak Spanish you should not need a guide, if your Spanish is absent or very poor, a guide may be useful to get the routine down, but on subsequent borders it should get easy enough without a guide.
If you go for a guide, pick any of the kids with officious looking'Guia "tags, they all kno w the routine and have not had enough time to learn the ripoff schemes the older teenage guides know and pull on tourists gullible enough to trust them. Decide on a fee and pay it when you are done, just tell the other pestering guides that this is your guide and the others can buzz off.

Last edited by Sjoerd Bakker; 15 Jul 2008 at 17:59.
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  #7  
Old 16 Jul 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sjoerd Bakker View Post
AIYEEE carramba!!No senor Bananaman-
Most definitely DO NOT " sit in a bar or restaurant " while your hired guide does the work. This is an invitation to get ripped off.
You must be the one who hands over all the documents to the customs guys at the various wickets. And you must be the one who pays them the required fees and gets the required receipts in hand.
Your guide should be just that and nothing more- somebody who knows the language and the routine who leads you to the various wickets in the proper sequence. YOU should keep your precious documents in your own hands all the time and only hand them over to authorised personnel of the border and immediately get them back.
If you hand the documents over to a guide believing that he will do it all for you you can get a surprise. Not all guides are crooks but many like to pad the document stack with a few nonsense papers with " fees " marked on there which he claims he paid for you. These fees are fake, he did not pay a cent, the service is nonexistant.Anything you pay him is going straight into his own pocket.
Also do not believe any guide who tells you to hand him the documents so that he can speed up the process across the way at a special wicket or that the aduana guy was absent and he has to follow a special step which cost $xx
If you speak Spanish you should not need a guide, if your Spanish is absent or very poor, a guide may be useful to get the routine down, but on subsequent borders it should get easy enough without a guide.
If you go for a guide, pick any of the kids with officious looking'Guia "tags, they all kno w the routine and have not had enough time to learn the ripoff schemes the older teenage guides know and pull on tourists gullible enough to trust them. Decide on a fee and pay it when you are done, just tell the other pestering guides that this is your guide and the others can buzz off.
You're absolutely right about at least two things: never hand over your documents, and never pay for anything not required.

Crossing into Honduras we didn't just sit in a restaurant like a couple of slugs. We never gave the helper our documents. Mainly he just stood in line for us. When he got somewhere, he sent for us, and then we went to get whatever it was done.

I admit that we were a little stupid to pay him part of the fees up-front. Not all of them, but some.

It was just so ****ing hot.

In the end our guide did try to charge an extra $10 each, by producing a reciept and showing us the actual stamp. I audited everything, caught his 'error', told him to **** off, and paid him exactly what we owed him.

Somehow I made it through every border and only had to bribe one Colombian border guard. It was my own fault for not using the correct passport when I entered Colombia.

Anyone reading any of this should take Sjoerd's advice over mine. I've only done the ride once, and I was actually trying to follow his advice when I was doing it. My comments are basically just modifications of Sjoerd's.

One time, on an advrider thread about insurance, we had a similar misunderstanding. I said something incomplete about insurance, Sjoerd corrected me, I pointed out our differences, and we agreed that we were both right.

Sjoerd- can you come to the rally in Colorado in August?
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  #8  
Old 16 Jul 2008
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El Salvador into Honduras:







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  #9  
Old 16 Jul 2008
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I never use a guide. The time spent in line can be good time spent meeting people, reading maps and snacking.

I occasionally pay some bilingual youngster to hang with me somewhat as a translator but juat as much because I like helping out young people. I generally look for someone who looks happy Those amounts of money means little to me but it often means a lot to them. And generally, you'll learn something during your conversations that will improve the enjoyment of your trip and perhaps save you money and/or hassle in the long run.

All money and all papers stay with me.

Last edited by MeCasa; 17 Jul 2008 at 02:56.
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  #10  
Old 8 Aug 2008
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[quote=MikeS;198556]

El Salvador took about 3 hours only because we couldn't find my engine number and the one we could find didn't tie up with my V5 reg doc. He eventually left that field blank but I found it later on in Mexico City after thumbing through Gary Dymonds Haynes manual and I went 'ahh so that's where it is!'...

quote]

They check engine numbers? Im planning a trip to panama this late winter on my f650gs, but ive installed a replacement engine in it i bought off ebay as the old one was shot and this way was cheaper am i going to run into trouble with this?
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  #11  
Old 8 Aug 2008
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Yes they check the engine ,chassis numbers , the VIN , and it better match the numbers on your papaer documents. Get this looked after pronto .
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  #12  
Old 8 Aug 2008
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well my vin on the frame matches the numbers on all of my paperwork but im sure the engine will be different, but i thought those numbers are usually different anyway? do all countries checkthis? i know ive been through to cananda and not had a problem but of course im sure thats a little different story.
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Old 8 Aug 2008
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Yes ,at the Canada/USA border they never check these things but such a problem will be exposed anytime you have a policeman check your ID & regs for a speeding or parking ticket and there is the question of change of ownership formalities if eventually you try to import a vehicle.
In Mex and CA they check this stuff thoroughly at the border , but the cops never ask.
Better get everything registered properly before setting out.
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  #14  
Old 8 Aug 2008
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everything is properly registered, insured etc and the vin on the frame is the vin on all of my paperwork, the only thing is its not the original motor, what are my options besides pulling this motor back out and swaping cases so itll have the original again?
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  #15  
Old 8 Aug 2008
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I wasn't going to say anything because everybody handles situations differently. But I've crossed those borders on more than one occassion and I don't remember anybody working too hard on checking my engine numbers. And if they did and if my numbers were different a repeated explanation aka: "viejo motor muerte es nueve motor" coupled with $20 US will get you across the border.

Oh yes, be sure to Thank him profusely for his great help while constantly singing the virtue of nueve motor, fuerte, mucho fuerte.

A bribe should never be considered a bribe, it is payment for extra help. A continuing monotone of incoherant English/Spanish may be construed as friendliness, but more often than not it'll annoy the hell outa them and prove their theory that all gringos are both rich and annoying....and better off pushed along as quickly as possible. (a good thing)

I almost didn't post this because some people believe we should only give conservative advice

But Central America is Central America

Last edited by MeCasa; 9 Aug 2008 at 02:46.
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