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  #1  
Old 9 Nov 2008
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Spent a lot of $'s on border crossings in Central America

Outside of learning Spanish (which unless you did border crossings down here all the time I don't think would help that much) I like some advice on if anyone can give it about border costs in C.A.
I just spent ten days driving down from Texas and this is how my expenses lined up at the borders, and also time waited.
Mexico, $23 entry permit for me, $30 for a thirty day permit for my bike, used a credit card for that, found out its non refundable if you use a credit card (even though he asked for it), it is if you use cash. Total for Mexico $53, total time, about an hour and a half.
Guatemala, for bike permit, which I was told was good for all of C.A. $243 Its not,( I gave him $250, he never did give the $7 in change) The handling fee, there were 3 guys watching the bike and three doing other stuff, he told me about $50, and that wasn't with paying the watchers, they wanted $20, I gave them $10 and he was pissed about that. $10 probably in other miscallaneous charges, spraying the bike, stamping passport, copies of everything, paying to cancel permit of Mexico. Total for entry to Gautamala, about $320. Total wait time, about 5 hours!
El Salvador don't remember if I paid to have anything from Guatamala cancelled, I think maybe $10 for stamps in and out, no fee for El Salvador permit, $20 handling fee, no change, he wanted $14 with a tip. Total to get into El Savador $30, Total wait time, 2 hours.
Honduras after handling fees, paying a guy $20 to drive me back to draw out money at a bank, I was out again, permit to drive in country and the other miscallaneous stuff, Total to get into Hoduras $340. Total time 3 hrs.
Nicauraga, to leave Honduras probably $13 or so with handlers fees 20 or so to enter Nicauraga. Total to enter Nicauraga about $33 if I remember right. It was later and since yesterday morning counting leaving and entering I 've crossed 6 borders. Total time to get into Nicauraga, 1 hour
Costa Rica, leaving Nicauraga with handling fees $24 (of course includes handlers fees) Entering Costa Rica, permit to enter and insurance for three months, with handlers fees $120. I was out of money, my handler settled for $80 for some reason. Total cost to enter Costa Rica, probably with all misco $120 (could have even been more its so hard to keep track of everything) LIke the $10 bribe for not have everything tore apart and inspected leaving Nicauraga. total time, about 2hrs.
OK here's the conservative breakdown for costs of borders to costa rica and time spent, it actually could well be more.
Total cost roughly $900, could well have gone to $1000. I absolutely did not plan spending this much, roughly my entire other expense budget for the trip, and to think I could pay that much on the way back. I'm going to try not to let it ruin my trip, but even without all the handlers fees, the permits, insurance, stamping fees etc, still would have hit $6 to $700.
Ideally it would be nice to speak a little spanish, and have a written outline for each border, a map to get thru, even if it takes forever on my own, know I know what each document is, and what needs to be done in order.
I don't know how to handle this maize on my own. How about flat fees for handlers and state it even before you start. But that doesn't do any good unless you know exactly what the other fees are going to be. Help! This has really hurt my trip, how long I can stay, how I'm going to get more money etc sent etc.
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Old 9 Nov 2008
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If you are in CR why don't get you get some work teaching English or something.
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Old 9 Nov 2008
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You have to remember that if you do not want to be ripped off, then you have to do all the work yourself. It sounds impossible when you do not speak the language, but if you stumble around long enough you will get everything you need to cross which is 99% of the time only an entry/exit stamp and the motorcycle's temporary import permit. It is a very frustrating process to go through (usually takes 3 hours) but in the end you only have a bad headache and are not out $250. The other fees that you have been talking about are all "gringo taxes." Those border runners hang around the borders all day just preying for a rich gringo to come a long.

If you acknowledge a border runner in any way (even by saying "Hi" back to them) then you are on your way to losing the battle. The best method is to ignore them completely and not even make eye contact with them. If they will not leave you alone then tell them to f*** off.

Before you arrive at each border make sure that everything on your bike is locked up and that your paperwork is in your jacket pocket. If you have been using your original title then stop using that and find a place that can make you a good 2 sided color copy to use from now on. When you park your bike try and make sure that it is right next to the building you are going inside and that you can see it from the door.

I am guessing that you are carrying large amounts of cash on you and displaying other signs that are making you look like an easy victim to the border runners. Are you wearing brand new riding gear? Does your bike look brand new? Do you have expensive equipment. Dirty your bike up for the next crossing, where the raggiest shirt you have and hide that new jacket in your pannier. Remember that all these guys are swindlers and if they think they can only get $40 out of you then they will do there best to get that $40, but if they think they can get $250 then they will go for that.

The overall deciding factor in how much money you pay at these border crossings is your determination. It is possible for the richest looking motorcyclist to pay the least amount in border crossings. You just have to temporarily get over that nice guy mentality where you treat everyone with respect and try to set the best example for your country. You only have to act like a jerk towards the border runners who are no good filthy pond scum leaches trying to suck every last dollar out of you because of their advantage with the language barrier.
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  #4  
Old 9 Nov 2008
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and the good news is

you won`t have to pay in South America
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  #5  
Old 9 Nov 2008
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you got well and truly butt f###ed

i just did it last year ,i paid no scammer helpers any where ,i speak about 2 words of spanish ,no means no ,i paid the mexico costsfor the tourist card and got my refund for the bike,about $40 in honduras and pocket change for the rest ,dunno what you were thinking but i think you were well and truly scammed by those urchins hanging around ,makes it harder each time for the rest of the bike guys when you pay these guys ,not needed at all ,but my nick name is cheap aussie dave for a reason
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Old 10 Nov 2008
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English Teaching?

Quote:
Originally Posted by PocketHead View Post
If you are in CR why don't get you get some work teaching English or something.
Could you elaborate on that? In Blue Moons book about moving to Costa Rica (sorry I don't remember the name of the lady who wrote it) she said it is nearly impossible to get a job here if your not a national born here, ok to start a business and employ Ticans, but even then you can't pay yourself a salary because its difficult to without being an employee. She strongly recommends other options like web based businesses, etc. Where you can live here, run your business from here, but have it based somewhere else. I'm just wondering if you know something she doesn't?
Please comment on where I could find out more about this, usually it takes a degree as well from what I've heard, and I don't have a degree yet.
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  #7  
Old 10 Nov 2008
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Funny thing about the title

Quote:
Originally Posted by gatogato View Post
You have to remember that if you do not want to be ripped off, then you have to do all the work yourself. It sounds impossible when you do not speak the language, but if you stumble around long enough you will get everything you need to cross which is 99% of the time only an entry/exit stamp and the motorcycle's temporary import permit. It is a very frustrating process to go through (usually takes 3 hours) but in the end you only have a bad headache and are not out $250. The other fees that you have been talking about are all "gringo taxes." Those border runners hang around the borders all day just preying for a rich gringo to come a long.

If you acknowledge a border runner in any way (even by saying "Hi" back to them) then you are on your way to losing the battle. The best method is to ignore them completely and not even make eye contact with them. If they will not leave you alone then tell them to f*** off.

Before you arrive at each border make sure that everything on your bike is locked up and that your paperwork is in your jacket pocket. If you have been using your original title then stop using that and find a place that can make you a good 2 sided color copy to use from now on. When you park your bike try and make sure that it is right next to the building you are going inside and that you can see it from the door.

I am guessing that you are carrying large amounts of cash on you and displaying other signs that are making you look like an easy victim to the border runners. Are you wearing brand new riding gear? Does your bike look brand new? Do you have expensive equipment. Dirty your bike up for the next crossing, where the raggiest shirt you have and hide that new jacket in your pannier. Remember that all these guys are swindlers and if they think they can only get $40 out of you then they will do there best to get that $40, but if they think they can get $250 then they will go for that.

The overall deciding factor in how much money you pay at these border crossings is your determination. It is possible for the richest looking motorcyclist to pay the least amount in border crossings. You just have to temporarily get over that nice guy mentality where you treat everyone with respect and try to set the best example for your country. You only have to act like a jerk towards the border runners who are no good filthy pond scum leaches trying to suck every last dollar out of you because of their advantage with the language barrier.
For the most part I did do most of that, old sweatshirt, money hidden except for fifty to a hundred in my bill fold, had my papers ready. I was using a copy of the title and one of the handlers said the guy new it was a copy and wanted the original and wasn't even going to let me in un less I paid that bribe, of course with five guys standing around watching every move they all see me reach for more money.
Doing it yourself makes sense, no matter how long it takes. I would just like a basic list, from start to finish of what needs to be done to leave a country, and what needs to be done to enter it. And what the basic costs should be. Then I would be more then happy to strike out alone and go stumble around looking for the appropriate window for the task. I do worry about leaving my bike, I can make sure everything is sealed, but I cant lock anything up, I don't have that equipment, granted if I continue to do this kind of travel I probably will invest in a different bike, and equipment etc.But for now just knowing the basics of what is being done, and how much it should cost without a handler is a great help and a place to start.
Its worth noting I was planning on studying Spanish for a month while I was here, so the return trip certainly will be a little easier that way, and also I do plan on contacting the American Consule, and also embassy's of all those countries to find out exactly what the fees are before I leave. Then have those prices with me, and the embassy or consules of those countries numbers with me, and get receipts for everything. To me the handlers are just part of the problem, its everyone their dealling with who are getting kick backs that are in a position of authority that are just as bad and are allowing it to happen.
Anyway all your advise is good, especially just ignore them and don't make eye contact, or perhaps just running them over might be a solution. And be willing to do it all yourself, like I said the one thing I worry about is my bike....be left for an hour or more.... thanks again
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Old 10 Nov 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nanagosa4 View Post
Could you elaborate on that? In Blue Moons book about moving to Costa Rica (sorry I don't remember the name of the lady who wrote it) she said it is nearly impossible to get a job here if your not a national born here, ok to start a business and employ Ticans, but even then you can't pay yourself a salary because its difficult to without being an employee. She strongly recommends other options like web based businesses, etc. Where you can live here, run your business from here, but have it based somewhere else. I'm just wondering if you know something she doesn't?
Please comment on where I could find out more about this, usually it takes a degree as well from what I've heard, and I don't have a degree yet.
Hmm I haven't heard anything about it being impossible, I've found several IT jobs on job-sites which seem OK (I don't have a degree either). I guess it depends what you do but I assume it'd probably pretty hard to get something cool such as bar work.

If you have no commitments and a motorcycle then you could ride to an area with lower unemployment or somewhere with lots of Americans so you don't need to speak Spanish.

Also I'm not sure if it's illegal but you can also tutor peoples English, try going to a university and put up notice of your services on a pin-up board or in free local classifieds. Tutoring pays well and you can work your own hours. Please note though that I haven't done any of these thingsm, only a bit of research however they seem feasible.
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Old 10 Nov 2008
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another thing, how come you're not flying back? Petrol adds huge costs, you could just take your time getting to where you're going then sell your bike to a local and fly back also you won't have to pay for borders twice.

There's a dude on the HUBB who buys bikes in Uruguay, dunno what his offers are like but maybe worth checking out.
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Old 10 Nov 2008
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I didn't know that you could get a refund for import permits on the way out of the country, but only if you pay cash... Having only crossed one border, US to Mexico, I have only done it once and almost certainly paid with a credit card. Live and learn.

I didn't know that Amex Traveler checks aren't accepted easily. I will be traveling mostly from major city to city and expect that the bigger banks will still except them. I have run into a small bank in Mexico that would not take them. And then there was the time last week that I signed the wrong line on the travelers check! I checked with a bank manager, who disappear for 10-15 minutes and came back saying something in Spanish, but the message was "Nope." I called Amex later and they said to tell the bank to call Amex and they would "make an exception." I'll bet that will take some real arm twisting to get the cash. So much for "Don't leave home without them."
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  #11  
Old 10 Nov 2008
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In my opinion, your biggest ally at Latin American boarder crossings (or any boarder crossings for that matter) is preparation. Speaking the language is negligible (other than please and thank you) but knowing what fees and procedures are required ahead of time is priceless.

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  #12  
Old 10 Nov 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nanagosa4 View Post
Outside of learning Spanish (which unless you did border crossings down here all the time I don't think would help that much) I like some advice on if anyone can give it about border costs in C.A.
I just spent ten days driving down from Texas and this is how my expenses lined up at the borders, and also time waited.
HOLY CRAP!!

I'm sure you know this, but you were cheated left and right. I've never heard a story this bad before. Most of those border crossings cost in the neighborhood of $10. Honduras is the most expensive at a little over $40, followed by Mexico at more than $20. A couple (Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Belize) require that you buy insurance at the border; it's typically around $16. You may have misunderstood the Mexican process; the second swipe of the credit card is just an authorization so they can theoretically charge your card if the bike overstays its visa.

Learning Spanish is not really all that necessary, although of course knowing even a few words will certainly help. The most important things:

* Research the border crossings ahead of time. Know the process yourself. Horizons Unlimited is *filled* with information about how border crossings work. You can also check advrider.com. Most border crossings actually follow the same very simple process, after you do it yourself (without helpers, or following them very closely and making them explain it) it becomes quite easy.

* Pick your border crossings carefully! This is probably the most important part. Do not cross on the interamericana if you can avoid it - Nicaragua/Costa Rica is the only place you are forced to do so. The sleepy border crossings are actually quite pleasant. Some of my favorites have been Sixola (CR/Panama), La Mesilla (Mexico/Guatemala), El Paraiso (Honduras/Nicaragua). The first two didn't have "helpers" and even at the Honduran crossing only one guy half-heartedly tried to pull the "banks are closed" scam and was easily ignored. It *is* worth a day of travel out of the way, plus you will find that the lightly-traveled roads to the remote crossings are quite beautiful.

I really would suggest a week or two of spanish classes - even without the border crossings, they will make your experience in Latin America *much* more fun.

In places where you are mobbed with helpers and you feel that you need one, you might try asking "who speaks english?" and only going with one that you can clearly communicate with. It will only take a few sentences to verify it. Then make sure you understand each step and what each will cost ("What is the next step? Exactly what does it cost?").

BTW in the couple times that I used helpers I only paid them $5. I didn't negotiate ahead of time, I just decided that is what it's worth. Nobody complained.

Jeff
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Old 10 Nov 2008
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Just as an additional 2 points.

I found if you hit the border about 8am most of the crowds aren't there yet, the officials aren't grumpy, much more tranquilo.

In terms of paying anything I didn't get a stamp for, I think I paid a kid $2 to shine my shoes after he looked after my bike for 2 hours in stinking Nicaraguan heat (maybe a little more). Handed a few coins out to another kid who just pointed to the right office and was friendly at Honduras (I speak Spanish). You can get through relatively easily being courteous and making an effort. Stand in front of officials desk, nice friendly buenos dias and a bit of confidence goes a long way.

Basic process :
Passport stamp out
Aduanas stamp out
Passport stamp in
Policia charge sometimes,
Insurance is bullshit except Costa Rica where they wouldn't let it slide.
Aduanas stamp in.

Any of these charges should be totalling circa 10-25 bucks at the upper end, some borders don't charge you.

Hope your trip is looking up soon.
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Old 11 Nov 2008
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This might help. Some great info here, but it is a little dated.

Central America Ride Planning and Road Wisdom - ADVrider

All the advice here is good.
Anyone who has not been there cannot imagine the frustration and anxiety of crossing a Central American border, in the heat and humidity, noise, dirt, and crowds and general chaos.
I did alot of research before our trip and "thought" we were prepared.
I had a list of spanish sentences, like, "Donde es el officina de Aduana?" but as soon as I opened my mouth my poor spanish gave me away.
Unfortunatly you have to resort to "No Gracias" very loudly and firmly to get rid of the "helpers".
Then you are on your own to decide which way to the office you need.
By the time we reached Honduras I had a pretty good routine of how to get through.
There ARE Real Helpful people at every border but it is very difficult to tell who they are. Most will point you in the right direction, and if you get three people saying the same thing odds are you are on the right track.
Immigration is usually free, and my tactic was to watch the other people ahead of me in line to see what if anything they were paying.Usually if there is a cost it is posted, and very cheap, $1-10.
Always loudly question "why"(por que?), when asked for money.
Aduana(customs) is a little different, as there are more oportunities to get money from you.
Sometimes they pretend not to like your paperwork or want to strip search your bike.
I was always Pleasant and persistant( I usually freaked out before and after crossings) that every thing was OK and that no money was forthcoming.
This worked every time except the Military checkpoint just south of the Costa Rica-Panama border. The "Jefe" was determined to get something from me. So alone in his office with five of his men he asked if I could help them out. It was very hot and I asked how much cost in Panama. He looked surprised and said .50 cents so I handed him Three of the five dollars I had and told him to buy everyone a . He laughed and took the money knowing we had reached a stalemate. All of his men knew how much he had taken from me and what their share was for. Plus it had cost me alot less than what he was hoping for.
You will find that Latin Americans have a great sense of humour and "if" you can keep yours it goes a long way to smoothing out procedures.
Bien Viaje
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Old 11 Nov 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cameron View Post
This might help. Some great info here, but it is a little dated.

Central America Ride Planning and Road Wisdom - ADVrider

All the advice here is good.
Anyone who has not been there cannot imagine the frustration and anxiety of crossing a Central American border, in the heat and humidity, noise, dirt, and crowds and general chaos.
I did alot of research before our trip and "thought" we were prepared.
I had a list of spanish sentences, like, "Donde es el officina de Aduana?" but as soon as I opened my mouth my poor spanish gave me away.
Unfortunatly you have to resort to "No Gracias" very loudly and firmly to get rid of the "helpers".
Then you are on your own to decide which way to the office you need.
By the time we reached Honduras I had a pretty good routine of how to get through.
There ARE Real Helpful people at every border but it is very difficult to tell who they are. Most will point you in the right direction, and if you get three people saying the same thing odds are you are on the right track.
Immigration is usually free, and my tactic was to watch the other people ahead of me in line to see what if anything they were paying.Usually if there is a cost it is posted, and very cheap, $1-10.
Always loudly question "why"(por que?), when asked for money.
Aduana(customs) is a little different, as there are more oportunities to get money from you.
Sometimes they pretend not to like your paperwork or want to strip search your bike.
I was always Pleasant and persistant( I usually freaked out before and after crossings) that every thing was OK and that no money was forthcoming.
This worked every time except the Military checkpoint just south of the Costa Rica-Panama border. The "Jefe" was determined to get something from me. So alone in his office with five of his men he asked if I could help them out. It was very hot and I asked how much cost in Panama. He looked surprised and said .50 cents so I handed him Three of the five dollars I had and told him to buy everyone a . He laughed and took the money knowing we had reached a stalemate. All of his men knew how much he had taken from me and what their share was for. Plus it had cost me alot less than what he was hoping for.
You will find that Latin Americans have a great sense of humour and "if" you can keep yours it goes a long way to smoothing out procedures.
Bien Viaje
Wow, great advice, could not have summed it up better then that.
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