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So you've done it - got inspired, planned your trip, packed your stuff and you're on the road! This section is about staying healthy, happy and secure on your motorcycle adventure. And crossing borders, war zones or oceans!
On the Road! is 5.5 hours of the tips and advice you need to cross borders, break down language barriers, overcome culture shock, ship the bike and deal with breakdowns and emergencies."Just makes me want to pack up and go!" See the trailer here!
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Ok here it is, I wanted to give something back to Grant, Susan and this site for all the good info it provides and its promotion of a way of travel and lifestyle that is unique and has so many benefits.
I took my Vulcan 750 down from Michigan (in the u.s.) to Costa Rica last fall. I did a blogging site during the whole trip and got good feed back from other riders and people following the trip looking to perhaps do the same thing. I had a lot of problems and needless expenses at the borders that I wrote about on this site and got some really good responses.
One thing I wanted to do with my site was to do an extensive post on all the border crossings (except Panama since I didn't go that far) with the idea of perhaps helping others new to this experiance. I wanted to share this with readers of this site as well and instead of trying to get all that information in the form area of this site, I'm just giving out my blogging site so people can read it there. Eventually I would like to organize my site better with links to this site and vice versa, as well as other travel friendly sites, also maybe moving my site to this site or at least related posts like the border crossings ones here. But for now to get something on here that people might be able to use sooner I'll just give my blogging site's address and also my thanks for help offered on my trip... Thanks Again ...... Doug (nanagosa4)
sites address: freedomthrumovement.blogspot.com
P.S. I just wanted to say this is really an extensive post of fees paid both coming and going, times of the day, and days, as well as serious strategies for dealing with all the corruption and crowds at these borders, especially for the novice......
Damn dude $307 to enter Guatemala and $325 to enter Honduras!!!????
Sorry man, but I think you might have been had.
FWIW, When I have any problem in Latin America I just kick back and act like I have all the time in the world (pretty much true) and can sleep all night right where I sit. Seems to work well in Mexico anyway. :-)
Over $600 bucks to cross 2 borders would have been almost a month of my budget. I've only been into Guatemala once and I think I paid about a tenth of that and I still thought I was had. I paid a kid 10 quetzales to watch my bike once and he was totally stoked about it.
But, I have yet to go all the way through CA, so I dont have nearly as much experience as you. I'm not an expert. All I know is from Mexico and Guatemala.
Otherwise, nice blog, its all a good adventure though eh? thanks for posting as its great to hear other traveler's experiences. good stuff.
Sorry , I do not wish to be cruel but I think the best thing you can do with the blog as it now exists is to take it down and thoroughly edit it to take out all the errors and wrong information. Return it only when you have corrected all the misspelled place names ( eg "xelea" unncapitalized too ) , incorrect spelling of supposedly Spanish words (e.g "migration, migracione" ), and can vouch for the accuracy of your allegations as to the procedures and fees at the borders. Sure granted, the odd typo will sneek in but this is far more than simple missed key strokes.
I gave up reading through it after a while and skimmed the rest because it was just too much work and agravation .In your eagerness to thank the HUBB posters for their help with the data you used for your trip you went to print before you were ready. But we can only conclude that you did not read the HUBB advice very closely seeing the high fees you let yourself get suckered into paying at the Honduras and Guatemala borders. With such blatant booboos the rest of your material comes into serious question .You had a wonderful trip and muddled through, just like we all did on our first few trips, but please get some facts straight before spreading inacuracies on the internet.
I have to agree. That info is not accurate. You paid $10.00 for a vehicle permit to get into Guatemala one time and $250.00 the other. You got robbed one of those times. Paying someone to NOT search your bags? $20.00 tramitadores?
We were all new at this at one time and we all made mistakes, but searching the HU forums and/or asking questions here is the way to get accurate information.
We crossed all the Central American Borders (Exept El Salvador) without paying any bribe or exesive fees this year (2009).
The Costa Rica Borders were the most confusing, and took us 5 hours to get into and out of the country. But we did it the hard and cheap way by not bribing and not hiring any guides to help us. We also speak almost no Spanish, so it can be done.
We just made sure we had the entire day to do the crossing and were friendly to the officials. This is important, dont try and do these crossings quickly, just go with the flow and make sure you have lots of time. Then its not so bad.
We took the road along the Caribean (North) side from Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, which I think has less corruption and friendlier locals anyway.
In general we loved Central America and had a great time there.
nanagosa4, Doug, thank you for taking the time to private message me. I got it that you would like me to comment on your substantial effort to help others.. As explained in our private com, I was withholding comment until your work was edited, and/or completed. Since you did not respond, with an edited. completed work, here are my requested comments.
Sjoerd Bakker had, what I consider to be a valid critique of your work.
crashmaster, petefromberkeley and jc also offer valuable data that you might consider incorporating into an edited edition of your effort.
I would not sleep well tonight, if I neglected to present the following.
My first ride through Central America and Mexico was in 1968. Costa Rica to Los Angeles....For this 4 month epic journey, at a time when long stretches of the Pan American Highway were still dirt and gravel, I rode a 175cc Honda CD model purchased in Costa Rica after having served 2 years as a US Peace Corps volunteer.
My last ride through Mexico and Central America, was 3 years ago round trip from Arizona to Panama. I have lived in Mexico and Central America many years. Currently I am a permanent foreign resident of Argentina.
1. The Central American countries have no agreement that enables a Guatemalan border official or anyone else to sell a "permit" authorizing a foreign motor tourist entry into and exit from all central American countries.
2. The reality is that most foreign motor tourists do purchase moto/vehicle liability (third party) insurance, the prices you quote are for comprehensive coverage, not for liability insurance. A foreign tourist can purchase liabilty insurance for a motorcycle, a little cost in each Central American country. Here are some facts about not having insurance in Mexico and central America.
If anyone needs to be convinced that insurance is an absolute necessity while riding in Mexico Central or South America, please read:
It is true you might not be asked to prove you have insurance unless you have an accident.
But, I have lived in Mexico for 3 years and as recently as a couple years ago rode through Mexico. Sit down, my boy, and let me explain the facts of life.
If you are involved in an accident with substantial property damage or any injury that requires hospitalization, here are some facts to consider.
The Mexican police, on the streets, are not trained or allowed to determine fault. They generally arrest everyone involved in a serious accident, who does not have insurance. This is done to prevent anyone escaping responsibility for the accident. If you have insurance, the police will verify that insurance with the insurance company, and unless the accident involves, significant property damage, a death or possibility of death, you probably will not be detained.
If you are arrested, for not having insurance, or because the accident is very serious, you might be in a Mexican jail for weeks, even months, waiting for your turn to go before a judge, who is qualified to determine fault in the accident.
Without insurance, you stay in jail until the judge sorts out who was at fault.
If you have insurance, your insurance agent may be able to have you released from jail, while you wait your turn before the judge. I have known of foreign tourists being held for 6 months before their involvement in an accident could be sorted out by a judge.
Please consider these facts, before deciding to buy or not to buy insurance before entering Mexico and/or Central America."
3. Thank you for sharing your hard won lesson in your descriptions of CROSSING BORDERS. Some of your suggestions reveal a keen insight into local customs and the behavior of some border officials. Keen, because you you are not fluent in Spanish.
But, in Central America, to pay more than one US dollar per hour to have someone watch you bike, indicates that you are not be applying what you know, or what you should have known before beginning your international ride.
At this point I will let the chips fall where they may, just know in your heart I could not review your efforts to help others without duplicating facts already stated, and I am sorry I cannot give you a glowing review.
Doug, you have a good start and if you do edit your work, utilizing suggestions posted here, and you understand my intention is not to insult, but to help, send it to me. Thank you for your continued efforts to help others.
xfiltrate Eat, Drink and Be Careful and buy insurance damit...
I crossed from mexico into Guatemala with my vehicle 3 weeks ago.
crossing point :
Ciudad Hidalgo. N14.67629 W92.14593 Total cost(both borders) : $9
I very strongly recommend the crossing i used from Mexico to Guatemala. Head for the town of Tampachula. completly ignore the touts that strike you there ! DO NOT take the std route signed for guatemala. instead drive South West towards the coast for 12.5kms then head (signposted) Ciudad Hidalgo.
absolute pleasure and very easy (no queues) to leave Mexico, one office stop all paperwork handled there. No Fees.
Then cross bridge ($2 toll)
Guatemalean side of bridge stop at first building marked 'immigrasion'. Get your passport stamped here for $2
Drive another 50 metres and a very nice young lady will guide you through the paperwork (very easy, very little) at the 'dounne' building.
40 Quetzals needed, just change $10 with one of the 2 money handlers (i got ex rate of 7.7 to $ at time bank official rate was 8 to $ ) they will not rip you off.
Whole process takes maybe 40minutes and is easy, easy, easy.
Exit border post,
into town, first junction go straight across and follow 'natural' street to get to West side of town (2 mins) and then head south along the CA2 main road (good road except for where towns are which all appear to be getting upgraded.
I asked for (and got) 180days entry permit for my truck.
Insurance document not requested.
My experience crossing borders (solo), tips on money, and hiring handlers:
I never paid a bribe or an excessive amount to a handler (US to Costa Rica and back)
Laredo, Texas > Mexico - easy process, no handler, parked my bike near the security guard at the parking lot entrance (bought optional insurance in Texas)
Chetumal ,Mexico > Belize - easy - no handler, parked bike near as possible to "toll booth" (bought required insurance just over the line, was stopped 2 or 3 times and checked for insurance while traveling through Belize)
Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize (Western Highway) > Guatemala - fair easy (my spanish is weak, the process was straight forward), no handler
Guatemala > El Salvador - ran into a paper wall filling out forms - a handler jumped into the process and was disappointed that I gave him the equivalent of $7.00, but I told him that is all I have...my first experience holding the line with handlers...
El Salvador > Honduras - was approached by handlers at gas station several miles from the boarder. We negotiated a two part deal, a fee for get me and the bike out of the country and a hand-off to another guy who would manage the paperwork into Honduras. If you are working with a handler on one side of the board that you like, ask to be connected with a handler of the other side of the border. I think I paid the handlers $5 per border, and gave their friend $1 for watching my bike. While that might not seem like a lot of money, many people labor hard all day for similar pay and these guys aren't breaking a sweat filling out paperwork. I had no problem tell the handlers that I didn't have much money and was on a very tight budget.
Honduras > Nicaragua -was surrounded by handlers and money changers, all trying to get my attention. I got off the bike and walk 75 feet away to a food shack (the bike was never out of my line of sight.) Got a bite to eat, a drink and a smoke, then waived the handler who I noticed before who was standing calmly at the edge of the pack. Most of the other handlers and money changers had walked away, but this guy was patient and that is a key thing. Don't let the handlers rush you at any point. They are in a hurry to process you through and move on to their next client, but time at this point should mean little to you. Getting the paper work done right and paying the right amount is your goal. I spent a few minutes talking to the handler about the various steps, the number of windows and the fees, so I would exchange enough local currency, but not too much. He agreed to $5 to get me out of Honduras and to connect me with a handler on the Nicaraguan side. I bought the required insurance. Note: Before getting far from the various border buildings, you will be stopped and all of your paper work checked.
Assume you will not get a great exchange rate from guys standing around at the border with thick stacks of money. Some will offer a stupid bad rate to start and that is where you need to be prepared. I recommend carrying a palm sized calculator and you'll need to know the "official" exchange rate. I downloaded a free application to my iPhone called CURRENCY. The exchange rate is close to what you might get (buy and sell rates are different so use rates that you see online as a guide!) If you are prepared, then you won't be horribly ripped off, but remember that the money changers are trying to make a living and don't expect the world from them.
I put together two sets of document in binders with clear plastic sleeves. One had the original document (title, medical documents, International driver permit and Inter-American driver permit, etc) and the other contained multiple copies of the first binder. I recommend making multiple copies of your passport, title, license, and registration. Having copies will reduce, but not eliminate, the trips to the copy shacks. NEVER hand over your original documents to a handler. ONLY let them handle the copies. ALWAYS be present when fees are paid and handle the money yourself, then there will be no confusion as to how much was paid. I have heard of handlers claiming they had to pay (or bribe) for things that the traveler didn't see...make it clear up front that YOU will handle all the original document and pay all the fee. Also make clear exactly how much you will pay the handler. I found that $5 per border is enough. They usually can't assist you on both borders, unless they are a dual citizen, which I imagine is rare. Get everything done before paying, because they disappear as soon as they are paid.
Nicaragua > Costa Rica - hired handlers, bought insurance. By this time I proven system, $5 per border, or $10 per frontier (here are two borders per frontier.) Get the handler fee worked out ahead. If they don't like the rate you offer, then someone else will take the work. Yes, its the free market system at work. Exchange a enough money for gas, and border fees...but not too much. The handlers all want to be paid in USD.
On my trip north I connected with two gringos near the Nicaragua border. It was a lot easier crossing borders with company, much lower stress. We tried to make our border crossing early in the morning to avoid delays and long lines. Honestly, the guys I traveled with were a bit more free with their tips. I pitched in here and there, but don't recall the handler fees we paid going north.
As you head north you will want to spend any excess local currency before hitting the border. Keep enough get out of the country. You will get a low rate buying USD with the multi-colored monies that you bring back.
Consider researching and opening an account with HSBC, CitiBank or Scotia, so you can withdraw local currency without paying bank fees. I have an account with Bank of America and their Mexican parther, Santander Serfin, will allow you to withdraw Pesos without a bank fee. Bank of America only has a partner in Mexico. The rest of the time I was cashing American Express Travelers, which was a major pain in the ass.
Last piece of advice, if there is a long line of cars/trucks queuing up for the border, then drive around them and go to the front of the line. It is not expected that a motorcyclist will wait in a long line of traffic. I think it was crossing into Nicaragua, there was a line of truck about mile long! You might not want to cut in front of the person at the very front of the line.
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