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  #1  
Old 2 Jan 2012
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Central America Border Crossing Info

I have checked the Border Crossing section and all the info seems to be 5 years old or more. Can someone tell me where I might find more up to date border crossing info for Central America? From what I can tell most borders are fairly straight forward with Honduras being the most "interesting". Any info on procedures, preferred crossings, whether to use a "fixer" or not would be appreciated!
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Old 2 Jan 2012
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I posted this information that you might find useful from a trip to Panama and back in 2010:

Specifically Central American border crossings. The smaller, less used border towns really are a lot mellower. Staying away from the Pan American highway with the long lines, busloads of tourists and miles of traffic means that you avoid the long wait times and lines.

I used to live in Oregon and would often ride up to British Colombia from Washington state. It never ceased to amaze me how mellow the Sumas Washington border crossing was going into Canada with little or no wait time as opposed to the busy border crossing just to the west on Interstate 5 where there are generally long lines and wait times and stern crabby border guards.

It's the same way in Central America.

For instance, following the PanAmerican Highway south from Mexico into Guatemala at Tapachula is crowded and confusing. It is down in the hot flat coastal plain. The border folks there are hot and crabby and you can be stuck there for a couple hours. At least I was the one time I crossed there years ago. I prefer to turn inland 30 miles before the border at Huixla and take the winding mountain road (Mex. 220 libre) that climbs up into the cooler highlands and cross into Guatemala at La Mesilla. I have been through this border crossing three times and was always the only person there. No tramitadores (helpers) because there is no business for them. And the border officials are friendly and helpful. The town itself is crowded with vendors and open air markets selling cheap goods to the Guatemalans. So you have to thread through the markets until you get to the border gate. But the place to get your passport stamped and your bike checked in are right at the border gate on the right hand side of the road. So you just park there and walk a few steps to the migracion window to get your passport stamped, and the aduana guy is right there to check your bike paperwork. A few steps to the right is the door to the bank where you pay your 7 dollar entry fee. (I think it was 12 quetzals for bike fumigation which they never did and 40 or 50 quetzals entry fee).

It is even easier coming north heading out of Guatemala into Mexico at the La Mesilla crossing. They just stamp your passport, cancel your bike permit and you pay a three dollar exit fee. Fifteen minutes and you're heading back to Mexico. Easy peasy.

Heading south into Honduras is equally mellow at the Copan Ruinas crossing. It has been paved now and there are even signs pointing to the border, so pretty easy to find these days. You ride up to the border gate and park your bike to leave Guatemala. The Guatemala migracion and aduana are in the building just past the gate on the left.

All the border crossings in Central America have you fill out the same entry and exit form. It is easy to fill in the blanks since they have the English in parenthesis after the Spanish. Nombre (name), numero de pasaporte (passport number). That sort of thing. So you get progressively better at making it through the borders. You don't need helpers at the small Copan Ruinas border crossing. You get the Guatemala exit form at the migracion window and fill it out and go to the Saliendo (exit) window at migracion to hand over your completed form and passport to get it stamped out of Guatemala. Then you go to Aduana where you hand over your stamped passport, license, bike title to get your bike import stamp canceled in your passport. You pay the three dollar exit fee and you're done.

The borders all are slightly different, with different requirements for copies of your documents. But the main thing to remember is that when entering a country, you first go to Migracion (immigration) to the entrada (entry) window to get your passport stamped in to a country and then go to Aduana (customs) to get your bike importation papers squared away.

Entry to Honduras requires 2 photocopies of your passport, drivers license, bike title and bike CA-4 papers from Guatemala. At Copan Ruinas, the only copy shop is on the Guatemala side next to the police station a block back from the border gate on the left. Although the Guatemala migracion lady made my copies since it was dark and the copy shop was closed and she was very nice. After getting copies you ride up a block or two past Guatemala border gate to the Honduras migracion and aduana building. It is the second dumpy building on the left. I was the only one there, and the corpulent border official looked bored with life as he slowly filled out my bike papers and stamped me into Honduras. But it was relatively quick. Maybe 15 minutes and 625 lempiras (34.00) later I was riding into Honduras. It is a sleepy laid back border crossing. I have been through the El Amatillo border crossing into Honduras on the PanAmerican highway and the difference is like night and day.

Heading south out of Honduras is relatively painless at Las Manas or El Espino. Both are mellow, there is much less to do getting out of Honduras than getting in. Just fill out the exit form hand it over at the Saliendo (exit) window at migracion along with your passport, get stamped out, and then go to aduana to get the bike stamped out. Pay a 2.00 exit fee and you are ready to head into Nicaragua.

Nicaragua actually sprays your bike and charges you a 1.00 and then it is over to the entrada window at migracion for the form to fill out before getting your passport stamped. And then to the line to pay the 150 Cordoba (7.50) entrance fee. They require insurance. But there are ladies with clipboards wandering around. Just ask for the person selling mandatory insurance (seguros obligatorio). I need insurance is "necesita seguros obligatorio" in Spanish. It costs 12.00. Then it is over to aduana to hand in your stamped passport, bike title, license and insurance to get the bike stamped into Nicaragua. I went through Las Manos on the way south into Nicaragua and came back north through El Espino. Both were easy places to cross. I was expecting it to take longer getting back into Honduras heading north, but it was pretty painless at El Espino. Three dollars to leave Nicaragua and the same procedure of filling out an exit form, getting passport stamped, getting bike stamped out. And the same two copies of everything to get back into Honduras. But I was the only person there in the middle of the day and coming back into Honduras at El Espino was surprisingly painless. And the insurance I got in Nicaragua was good for the trip back north, so hold onto it for the return trip if you aren't continuing on to South America.

The most time consuming border crossing I faced was the Nicaragua/Costa Rica (Nica/Tica) border at Penas Blancas. There is only one way in on the Pan American highway and it is a zoo. In the hopes that someone will save some time crossing this border I am going to give a detailed explanation of the convoluted process. Especially if you don't speak Spanish, it is confusing to get through this border. You will know you are getting near as you pass miles of trucks parked on the right hand side of the road. The truck traffic is backed up for miles at all the busy PanAmerican highway border crossings. Eventually you get to the border gate and a guy will come running up insisting you pay a 1.00 for a municipal parking tax. This is legit. He gives you a receipt. The next step is to stop for the man at the border gate with the clipboard. He enters your moto license number on his clipboard and gives you a slip of paper. Hold on to this paper. It needs two signitures later in the process of getting out of Nicaragua. Then you go behind the Aduana building on your left to the migracion building behind it. You get an exit form at any migracion window. There were busloads of people and long lines in the Saliendo (exit) lines at Nicaragua migracion, so you have plenty of time to fill out your form in line. You hand in the filled out exit form and passport and get it stamped. Then head to the payment line to pay your 3.00 exit fee. Then you look for the aduana official wandering around the parking lot between migracion and aduana buildings. He has a badge hanging around his neck on a string. You need to have him sign the piece of paper the gate person gave you. Then you need the signiture of the police guy (policia). He is supposed to be at a police shack near aduana, but I tracked him down in the air conditioned duty free liquor store. You need his signiture on your slip of paper before they will process out the bike from Nicaragua. He is supposed to check your VIN number, but he signed it without even looking at the bike. Then you can go inside the aduana building and hand over your passport, license, and bike title and your precious piece of paper with two signitures in order to get your bike stamped out of Nicaragua. And you are free to head down the road a short way to enter Costa Rica. The first stop in Costa Rica is the bike spray booth on the right where you pay 3.00 and they spray your bike. Then you go to the migracion building down the road on the left and get in the entrada line at migracion inside the building. There were busloads of people backed up outside the building and they were letting 50 or so in at a time. It took a while. You need a copy of your passport and bike title during the process, and there is a copy shop inside the migracion building. They also sell the mandatory insurance that is necessary for the bike. It was 7400 Colones (13.00). After getting your passport stamped you need to go across the street to the initial aduana checker. He looks over your paperwork and checks your VIN number and gives you the okay to head to the main aduana building. This is more of a warehouse down the road and to the right around a huge parking lot of semi trucks. At the aduana building, you fill out a form that was all in Spanish, so if you can't read Spanish you may need help. Then stand in line and get ignored while they wait on the truckers, until they finally take your title, insurance, license, copy of title, and stamped passport, and stamp the bike into Costa Rica. This whole process took two and a half hours on the way down and one and a half hours on the way up since I knew the routine. Which is why I avoid the busy PanAmerican highway crossings whenever possible.

Heading south into Panama there is a nice tranquil crossing on the Carribean side at Sixaola, or the mellow crossing in the mountains at Rio Sereno. The Sixaola crossing is totally laid back and kind of cool since you are crossing the Sixaola river on an old railway bridge thumping over planks nailed down to the railroad ties between the rails. This trip I went through the relatively new Rio Sereno crossing. Sabalito is the closest town to the border on the Costa Rican side. It is a few miles past San Vito. When you come into Sabalito there are no signs to Rio Sereno, Panama that I saw. I had to ask. The right way was to head through the little town of Sabalito down maybe a mile out of town on a two lane paved road. Past a school on the left and down a straight stretch. I remember there was a soda tienda on the right just before the road had a 90 degree curve to the right. That was where there was a left hand turn onto a paved road (unmarked) that led to the border. You go down that road a short ways (like 2 blocks) and it turns into rough gravel where it Y's at a school. You go on the left gravel fork at the school and continue down the gravel road. I think there were a couple minor forks that were driveways. Anyway, it's not far. Maybe 5 miles or so to the border. The gravel road comes to an intersection at Rio Sereno. Right before the intersection is the Costa Rica migracion up a slight hill on the left. Easy to miss. You have to get a photocopy of your passport at the 2nd grocery store around the intersection to the right down the steep hill. They have a copy machine. Then take it back to Costa Rica migracion and they'll stamp you out. He left my bike papers open so I didn't check it out since I came back through Rio Sereno on my way north. Really cool dude. No cost to exit Costa Rica.

Then you go to Panama migracion which is the building up the hill to the left across the street from the intersection. They need a photocopy of your passport as well. No cost to get stamped in. Then across the street downhill to Aduana for the bike. Mandatory insurance is available around the corner for 15.00 from a cute skinny Panamanian chica, and they want a 1.00 to spray the bike. But no other cost.

Hopefully this info will help you out. I made it through all these borders without any helpers. And I'm not too bright, and don't speak much Spanish.

Kindest regards,
John Downs
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THANKS! This is just the kind of info I was looking for!!!
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Old 3 Jan 2012
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That was a great post, John!

I posted something after my 2010 trip as well. If you simply search my name you should be able to find the post.


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Look under each countries listing on Drive the Americas site for border crossing info. Lots of good stuff.

Central America | Drive the Americas




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Thanks!

Quote:
Originally Posted by BcDano View Post
Look under each countries listing on Drive the Americas site for border crossing info. Lots of good stuff.

Central America | Drive the Americas




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Some great information guys
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Thanks for all the good info. I have travelled a lot in the US, Canada and Europe, but I am a Latin American virgin and really appreciate all the good info on border crossing. I take it is a little different that crossing into Ontario!

Any info on buying liability insurance at the borders. I'm going to buy the Mexican insurance on-line, but I am not really sure about Central America. I DO NOT want to ride without liability insurance.

Also the TVIP thingy on the windshield you get when crossing into Mexico... do you have to give it up when crossing into Central American and then get a new one on the way back up, or do you just keep it and surrender it on the northern exit?

Thanks!
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Old 5 Jan 2012
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Quote:
the TVIP thingy on the windshield you get when crossing into Mexico... do you have to give it up when crossing into Central American and then get a new one on the way back up, or do you just keep it and surrender it on the northern exit?
In 2010 and spring 2011 I crossed into Guatemala and was allowed to keep the TVIP it all depends on the agent, some say now it has changed and you do give up the TVIP
In 2011 I also had to give up my tourist permit and buy a new one on the way back.
Guatemala allows you to keep it for the return trip and Honduras allowed me to keep it also , only of I returned at the same crossing Los Manos, they put it on a desk in a pile of papers a foot high and 3 weeks later it was still there for my return!

You are not required to put the permit on the windshield, I kept mine in my important papers
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Skip Sal

I had the most problems going into and out of El Salvador. Yes I was on the pan am. I say skip that country and you will have a better attitude about Central America. Also have 5-6 extra copies of the documents they are going ask you for. I.E. Vehicle title, registration, your home drivers license, photo and holder info page of your passport. That way if the border xerox is broke you can still get through. No one asked me for photos when I crossed last October. Dave
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Old 22 Jan 2012
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Good work John

That post says it all. You are right on with regard to the little crossings into Guatamala, Honduras etc. Nothing further needed.
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Thanks

Thanks for taking the time to write this up John, great information.
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I have just come through to TDF and despite the warnings of the border crossings taking hours, I was thru each time in under 30 or 40 mins. Maybe just lucky with timing.

I know it is not the worst place in the world to cross a border!

Cheers
Delb
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This was great info! I am heading down for the first time this October and have a better understanding of the procedures now. Like the idea of avoiding the big borders especially being a newbie. Stressful enough first go round.
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Lest we forget

Another great C.A. border read is at....
Central America By Motorcycle: Border Crossings
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