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  #1  
Old 1 Jul 2009
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How i cross Central America without paying/getting any 'helpers'.

Border crossings of Central America, from South to North.

Panama entry

I arrived by sail boat from Columbia thus the captain didn’t gave me a proper import permit for the bike. We have to obtain 1 from Panama City.
CURUNDU edficio 1009 frente a las instalaciones del MOP
The phone number is Control Vehicular 506-6466 506-6467
Central Telefónica 506-6400 506-6406

N8 58.410 W79 32.846

How:
they didn’t check my bike.
I showed them my vehicle registration details from Singapore and Passport. they gave me a proper import permit 15minutes later.

Panama exit.
Paso Canoas.
N8 32.043 W82 50.300

Immigration: was straight forward where they have a proper counter.

Custom: I had to look for a guy to obtain a stamp or signature on the import permit as it is a ‘permission to exit’. Produce it to the Aduana office in the same building and it is done.

Costa Rica Entry
Paso Canoas.
N8 32.104 W82 50.450

Immigration: on the left of the road. Straight forward with filling up immigration form and health+declaration form.

Custom:
1) I had to go thro a gate to get ‘fumigated’ and get a piece of paper to show that I had been ‘fumigated’.
2) Buy a 3rd party insurance from the only company there, which is behind the immigration counter. Produced my Vehicle Registration Details (VRD) and paid US$14.
3) Go to the Aduana, an office where there were many bike traveler’s stickers are on the glass window. Gave them my photocopy of Driver’s License (From Singapore), Passport, VRD and the entry stamp where the immigration just stamped on my passport few minutes ago. Photocopy shop is across the street. Answer some questions from the officer and they will issue a computer printed import permit. I can’t remember paying anything. They are closed for lunch hours.

Costa Rica Exit
Penas Blancas


N11 12.727 W85 36.660
Immigration: It was chaotic due to the swine flu. The official do not allow anyone to enter the immigration hall and everyone was queuing up outside the building. Make sure you are in the correct queue. Fill in the exit form, from the security guard that was filtering humans from entering the office. The officals will come out of the office with a box and collect passports from those queuing on the line or anyone that was not on the line with longer hands or money stuffed in the passport. After queuing up for 3 hours, we noticed that it was not necessary to queue quietly. After the officals had collected about 40-50 passports, they would bring the box in to process and we have to wait outside the building for one hour before they bring out all the stamped passport and will shout individual’s name for collection. BEWARE that someone will just say yes to the officals when your name is being called. I did not pay any money.

N11 12.590 W85 36.704
Customs: Located before the immigration. Enter the building, 2nd door on the left where there is an old guy with long grey hair sitting alone in the office with temperature that will keep an ice-cream. Give him the import permit, he made some stamps and I got back nothing. It is done, so call the permit is cancelled. I did not pay any money.

Nicaragua entry
Penas Blancas

1) Get a Declaration form from an officer that is standing on the middle of the road, helping vehicle owners to write the form. I didn’t pay any money.
2) take the written form and bring it to a cashier (Caja) in front and pay US$3.00. Keep the recipt and the declaration form.
3) ride pass the cashier, will reached a ‘fumigation gate’ but don’t go thro it, (400meters). Stop after it as an officer will spray some chemicals on the bike’s tires.
4) will ride pass an unmanned custom (it’s the old office) then turn right into the new building where the buses stopped.
N11 13.097 W85 36.744
5) will be approached by some well dressed young ladies trying to sell the 3rd party insurance. I agreed on one of them and enquired about other information from her. then I went to the immigration.
6) Immigration: filled up the form, paid US$7.00 for a $5.00 tourist card (where the other US$2 goes?) the passport is still with the officer.
For me, as a Singaporean, the officer had not seen a passport like this and was unsure about my entry. he redirected me to another building to seek for permission to enter the country. It was a pretty hard process for me because I couldn’t understand Spanish well.

7) Went to the health counter to declare health statues. got the stamped health statues card and show it to the immigration officer then he released the passport and immigration card back to me.

Customs:

1) Have to look for 1 officer to sign/stamp on the declaration form which I got earlier. (I enquired from the insurance lady about which was the man.)
2) take the form, look for another officer, he was supposed to check the bike and sign/stamp on the declaration form.
3) buy the 3rd party insurance form that lady. US$12.
4) Aduana was along the same building as the bank, which is also opposite to the immigration. I handed over my VRD, Singapore Driver’s license, passport and the 3rd party insurance which I bought earlier to the counter. After printing out the import permit, the officer passed all the documents to the next table where a policeman checked on my insurance that I have bought and put some stamps on the import permit before giving all the documents back. I did not pay any money.

Before getting out of this place, I had to show my passport with the valid stamp, import permit and the declaration form some officers at the exit gate. They will keep the declaration form and return the rest. Off I went before paying US1.00/person at this gate with a proper receipt.

Nicaragua Exit + Honduras Entry
Las Manos.
N13 47.523 W86 34.191

1) I was stopped by a ‘string gate’, got off the bike, walked to an officer (with uniform and tag) with my bike import permit. He took it and wrote some stuff in a book. CLEAR! for the bike.
2) Ride the bike in for 20 meters where the Nicaragua and Honduras immigration share the same office. Paid Nicaragua US$2/person to exit, paid US$3/person to Honduras for entrance. They did not give me an exit stamp nor an entry stamp on both countries. They just took note of the details in their computer/notepad.
3)Aduana: I rode further down the road where on the left with an orange wall with some windows, above the windows is written: Transito, Entrega de Documentos, Importaciones Exportacion.

there is a clear instruction on how to pay written on the window:

Note to all tourist:
In this customs, the steps to obtain a temporary the permission of entry and exit of the vehicle (Form 9A-1) is personal.
The whole of Dollars when sound of $42.50, removed this way:
1) $20.00 of filming (right of traffic of the vehicle in the national territory)
2) $1.50 for inspection of the vehicle.
3) $7.00 this one is the value of the form 9A-1 that is paid in the bank
4) $14.00 these are paid in Aduanet’s window for the fingering of the form 9A-1.
5) It must present 2 copies of: passport license of driving, traffic in force registration, the plate of the vehicle and any another document related to the autorail

---A receipt will spread over the payment of the payment of the form 9A-1 and the filming and inspection, which you will pay at the bank.

When this enclosure the bank, there was paid to the official that this of shift.

It does not have to do any payment extra, if it is like that denounce it in the office of the administration.

Anyway, it was an easy Sunday. I showed up, gave the officer 2 copies of my passport, VRD and license. In return, he had a big stamp on my passport that filled up 1 page and the filled form 9A-1. I have to go to the copying shop to zap 2 copies of these new documents for the officer. I paid US43.00 direct to the officer as the bank was closed. It was a Sunday. I did not get any receipt. Done! the officer didn’t request me to buy an motor insurance. There was a ‘helper’ that wanted to lead me to buy an unnecessary motor insurance.

Honduras exit and El Salvador Entry.
El Poy
N14 22.451 W89 12.571
12 June 2009, weekday.

I recived a form to be filled up at the first Gantry. the form is for Salvador. The officer made a signature on this form.

Riding for 20 meters, an officer of Honduras checked my passport that I had a stamp coming into the CA4 country.

The El Salvador and Honduras Aduana together. I went to submit the temp import permit from Honduras to the officer. He made some typing, checked my VIN number on the bike, made another big stamp on my passport that filled up one page.

I hand over the form I recived from the first gantry (filled up by now) to the El Salvador Aduana. She passed it to another man to do some check on my motorbike and it was being passed back to her. she did some typing together with my VRD, and photocopies of VRD and passport. In return she gave me the proper computer printed Temp import permit. there was a mistake on the capacity of my bike but she doesn’t want to change it, kept saying ‘no problemo’, then she asked an English speaking officer to tell me in English ‘no problem’.

Done, ride the bike to the last gantry of El Salvador where an officer checked the passport and temp import permit.

I didn’t pay any money. No ‘helpers’ hassling around. We didn’t have any entry/exit stamp on the immigration part.


Exit El Salvador, entering Guatemala

La Hachadura

I handed the temp import permit of El Salvador to the officer at the first gantry with a photocopied (for cancelation). He gave me the photocopied back with a stamp and I could proceed on.
N13 51.541 W90 05.186

There was a check on the bridge. the officer wanted to see our passport and the photocopied piece of temp import permit with that stamp.

On the Guatemala side, I stopped before a gate where the aduana had a small window. I presented the photocopy of my passport, license and VRD. I passed him my original passport, VRD, license and that copy of temp import permit from El Salvador with a stamp. N13 52.083 W90 05.535

He made some typing and handed me a paper, asked me to pay 40 quetzals (US$6) to the bank. I went to pay to the bank with exact US$6.00 and I had 2 out of the 4 papers back. I present it to the officer. He gave me the proper computer printed import permit and a windscreen sticker.

The bank is a door next to the aduana window. it was a Sunday (14 June 2009), it took me about 1 hour to process everything. no hassles except to look out for some kids around.

Exit Guatemala
Ciudad Tecun Uman
N14 40.521 W92 08.560

There were some helpers around. I chosed to ignore them and it straight to do the immigration work first. We paid US$4 for 2 person to leave the country and we had an exit stamp because we got out of that CA4 country. The officer didn’t want to issue a receipt for the payment until I persisted. Then we rode back to the Aduana which we had just passed.

I need to return the sticker which I got when I enter the country. I gave them my import permit document and passport. The officer gave me my passport back with a stamp ‘cancel’ on the import part. I was free to go and did not pay any money.

Enter Mexico
At CA1, most western border.
N14 40.627 W92 08.932

We are the only alien there to do the entry. We were granted 180 days and had an entry stamp on the passport. The officer gave us a tourist card (Don’t lose it!) and we had to pay 262pesos at any banks in Mexico before we get out of the country.

Customs:
N14 54.435 W92 19.550
Had to ride about 80-100km away to Highway 200 to look for a Banjercito. it’s kind of a toll and inspection for all the vehicle. The import permit was handled by Banjercito. the Aduana at the border do not issue import permit. I gave the officer at the Banjercito my photocopy of VRD, passport and entry stamp into Mexico. They return me with some papers and a sticker (I did not paste the sticker on my windscreen) and I paid the fees using a Debit Card, from Masters. I can’t remember how much was it. There was also a feedback form on the service of that officer. Try to tick ‘Malo’ if you don’t want to get a proper import permit. (Not recommended)

Exit Mexico
Matamoros
N25 52.336 W97 28.531
The immigration and custom office is at the same hall. I had to make some illegal turns to get to the office as it is on the opposite side. Immigration was straight forward. I did not pay any money.

Custom: the officer went to check the bike VIN and requested to get all the documents I was issued when I enter the country, especially the sticker. He made a scan on the stickers and printed out a recipt from his pocket. I kept the recipt as a proof that I had ‘checked out’ of the country. I did not pay any money. I had to ride I an opposite direction of traffic flow for a few meters to the USA side. DONE!


Conclusion:

There is no need to seek help from helpers. Those helpers are usually there to make the process more complicated and thus we had to pay special fees to get special clearance. They would usually whistle at you, shout for your attention or run towards you when you are riding into the immigration area. then they will instruct you where to park. IGNORE THEM. by following their fingers it meant that we had given off our defense from them. I would usually park at some place to my own comfort. Then those helpers will still come to the bike and tell us what to do.

Some of them persisted to follow me around and I told them I don’t understand Spanish. If they speak English that would be even better. I told one of them:

I can’t afford to pay him anything. even US$1.00. If you are a nice man you can help me for free and we could be friends.

Sometimes the money changer at the border had better rates than in the town. Beware that they would mix some special notes in all the real notes. Don’t be attracted by those that came to you, shouting a good rate of exchange. I would usually go to those bossy type of money exchanger.

Visit the custom first, then the immigration. if not, then it’s the other way round. just have to make an extra ride for less than 1 minute.

There is always the case where the custom officer makes typing mistake. Please check the document when you had recived. espically the name, plate number, VIN number and what ever numbers. There are cases where their computer only allow limited digits to key in information. If this happened, request them to make a special note and stamp on in. Upon exiting, the officals loved to see stamps and stamps. also all the blanks were being filled up.

About CA4 that concerned Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Upon entering one of that country I would get a immigration stamp for 90days (depending on my country of origin) and this 90 days is valid for travel within this 4 countries. But crossing from one to another also requires paperwork. For example the Nicaragua-Honduras border, I still had to queue up to have my passport checked and registered, pay money to exit and entry but didn’t get a stamp. CA4 is not ‘friendly’ towards our vehicle import. I still have to import the bike, pay, get papers and export the bike, pay and get papers when we travel within these 4 countries. I only got an exit stamp in my passport when I exited Guatemala to Mexico.

You may view my blog for some videos of how these ‘helpers’ reacted.
http://singaporedream-rtw.blogspot.com

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  #2  
Old 1 Jul 2009
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Excellent Description Central American Border Crossings

WOW, I AM IMPRESSED. Singaporedream, you have my vote for the best Central American border crossing guide on line. Good work and a big thank you.

You have mastered the art of presenting an accurate, detailed description of Central American border crossings in simple terms. Your descriptions are very interesting, informative and well worth copying and carrying along with other important documents when riding Central America.

And, YOUR WEB SITE IS FANTASTIC. Great work.

I humbly contribute the following idea.

Sometimes politely ignoring helpers, does not work, especially if it is a group of *young boy helpers. Here is what I have done with great success.

Engage the group of children , tell them to line up, all facing you, and lead them in exercises, "Stand on one foot," lift arm, "tai chi" would be great, continue for a few moments or until they get tired, then explain "look, I would love to continue helping you with your exercises, but right now I have to cross the border, continue my journey, and help other like you understand the value of exercise." I am on a mission of good health for all.

The older, more experienced helpers, always take note of how you handled the children , and this usually puts a smile on their faces. This puts you in very good position to deal with the other "professional" helpers and border officials.

I have used this little game at every major border in Central American, more than once, and at most of the major South American borders. This little game has enabled me to be on very good terms with the "helpers" and the officials. It is something different and unexpected, and relieves the monotony of the daily routine for all involved.

Good work and looking forward to your future posts.

*Young boy helpers, are sometimes motivated by hunger and/or physical threats. Many children who live on the streets or come from poverty stricken families offer their "help".... for it is all they have to exchange for money needed to eat, or money needed to support their families. Some children are coerced by parents, older siblings or bullies to beg money from foreigners at border crossings. Please be gentle and understanding of their persistence.

Ride Free, Eat, Drink, and Be Careful xfiltrate

Last edited by xfiltrate; 1 Jul 2009 at 15:50.
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  #3  
Old 1 Jul 2009
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Simply Incredible.

A very big thank you for your post. You have just saved many motorcyclists lots of money by posting this very accurate guide!

Hats off to you and we agree, the website is great!
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  #4  
Old 3 Jul 2009
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xfiltrate:

i could imagine how people would want to survive by giving 'help' to bikers crossing the border. did i just broke their rice bowl?

if i was born in their shoe, i would write an article on :how to get paid by helping the foreigners to use our border.

what to do... the helpers could get some income from desprate travellers.
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  #5  
Old 3 Jul 2009
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[quote=Brian and Marie;248325]Simply Incredible.


hi brian and marie,

u took the opposite way of what we took. do you need any gps co-ord for anyting?

if u come to singapore u could look for chan, for bike repair. he is the only person u could trust in south east asia. unless u want to pay the bmw dealership for the 'proffessional' works.

goh
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  #6  
Old 8 Jul 2009
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Hey there's something important to add here - Honduras in my experience is always the worst border, and the most important tip given above may not be clear - cross into Honduras on a Sunday! That's by far the easiest Honduras crossing I've ever heard of.
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  #7  
Old 8 Jul 2009
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No you did not "break their rice bowl"

We just arrived back in Buenos Aires, sorry for the delay in responding.

Hi singaporedream, the reality is that the challenges to survival are very great in all Central American countries and in Mexico.

I believe you have done very well describing border crossing procedures and have presented the information in a clear and interesting manner.

I was not taking you on personally about the plight of the border crossing "helpers" who are just trying to survive. I was speaking to the lack of options they have, too young to be gainfully employed, too little education to write a decent article like you suggest, and they are just doing the best they can to survive in a very tough environment.

I believe we have an obligation to help others survive. We each have limited resources and must allocate our help where we know it will do the most good. I very carefully differentiate between sympathy and compassion. Sympathy keeps people down, and sympathy never helped anyone, on the other hand compassion is good when someone is in a situation, like a small child or a severely disabled person, who have no resources and cannot help themselves, I do feel obligated to help as my own resourses allow.

That is all I am saying, nothing personal, just another point of view. xfiltrate
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Old 12 Jul 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by joshoisasleep View Post
Hey there's something important to add here - Honduras in my experience is always the worst border, and the most important tip given above may not be clear - cross into Honduras on a Sunday! That's by far the easiest Honduras crossing I've ever heard of.
Yes, it was a sunday. i paid the aduana and he DID NOT give me any recipt. that is a risk also.

and the money changer do not want to change any USD that is lesser than 20. i should have prepared more small USD notes.
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  #9  
Old 12 Jul 2009
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I believe we have an obligation to help others survive. We each have limited resources and must allocate our help where we know it will do the most good. I very carefully differentiate between sympathy and compassion. Sympathy keeps people down, and sympathy never helped anyone, on the other hand compassion is good when someone is in a situation, like a small child or a severely disabled person, who have no resources and cannot help themselves, I do feel obligated to help as my own resourses allow.



i learn something new from u. thanks xfiltrate.
also, i do miss the assados in argentina...
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  #10  
Old 12 Jul 2009
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Vamos a tomar mate quando estan en Buenos Aires!

Thank you Singaporedream, I have learned from you too.

Wandering this planet is a great adventure. Thanks to Grant and Susan we can share our observations, and what we have learned, at the HUBB. Those of the HUBB, like our hunter/gatherer ancestors are trailblazing to new horizons for our fellowman.

Perhaps our spirit of companionship and our willingness to lend a hand to those in need, will be our legacy. The HUBB provides a glimpse into the vastness of the land and the diversity of the people of earth. Our visions and our realities when shared are more valuable than gold.

When two people, like you and I, share our similar and different experiences, each with his own point of view, learning happens. Learning that increases our potential to survive. Elisa and I invite you to an assado, and I have no doubt that some day you will arrive Buenos Aires and we will learn more from you. We look forward to that day.

xfiltrate Eat, Drink and Be careful
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  #11  
Old 19 Aug 2009
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Many Thanks
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  #12  
Old 7 Sep 2009
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Hmmmmm.... so far did anyone tried what i did?

any comments?
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  #13  
Old 28 Sep 2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Singaporedream View Post
Hmmmmm.... so far did anyone tried what i did?

any comments?
I have not yet, but I am going into Mexico tomorrow and then all ports south, so I will certainly keep this thread in mind before each border and try and do it in reverse

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  #14  
Old 11 Oct 2009
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We had a group of three or four when coming down from Guatemala to Costa Rica. After reading this post and others on ADVRider, I was prepared and convinced that I could do it without any helpers.

We had to fight off the helpers at the El Salvador / Honduras border. They were exceptionally pushy there. They also tried to direct us to false parking, separate us from each other, the offices and our paperwork.

There was one guy on the bridge whom I am convinced was posing as an official. He tried to take all of our passports and paperwork from us, saying he would meet us at the offices. I took my docs back from him, then all of the others did as well. He got really upset, and said we couldn't pass. Then he said that we wouldn't get our visas, because he had to authorize us. We just loaded up and rolled on through, ignoring his arguments. He wasn't wearing a gun, though his hat said Seguridad. He was openly consulting with the tramitadores, though, and that made me sure he was bogus.

All in all, we made it through on our own. There was a deaf woman helping people in the Nicaragua/Costa Rica office, Nica side. She actually did save us considerale time and stress. So, though she didn't ask for anything, I did tip her out, even though I promised myself I wouldn't pay. She totally helped, though.
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