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Central America and Mexico Topics specific to Central America and Mexico only.
Photo by Ellen Delis, Lagunas Ojos del Campo, Antofalla, Catamarca

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!

Photo by Ellen Delis,
Lagunas Ojos del Campo,
Antofalla, Catamarca

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Old 6 Mar 2023
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Updates as of March 2023

I've been using the very useful OP as we work our way south. I'll update this post with any changes/updates as we come across them.

USA to Tijuana border
Nothing has really changed since the OP. Just be aware it's pretty easy to miss the area where you need to get your documents, and end up in downtown TJ without papers (happened to us). Stay in the right-most lane, as you round the shallow curve & see the 'nothing to declare' gates ahead of you, turn right into the little car park instead of going through the gates. Most traffic will just be racing through the gates, so keep an eye out for the car park entry.

Mexico Chetumal to Belize Corozal

Mexican exit stamp same as OP. There is a lot of discussion online about whether or not you need to pay the tourist tax on exiting Mexico. Most reports I read say that it is covered in the price of your airline ticket if you flew in, and that you need to pay it on exiting if you crossed overland. We presented all the receipts we got at Tijuana and our (very friendly) border guard in the little hut confirmed our tourist tax had already been paid. So check your Banjercito receipts before handing over the 25USD

You still have to pay for fumigation, though for us it was hypothetical – there was no actual cleaning done. You’ll still need the receipt to get across the border so best to pay the small fee.

We put a 30-day stay on the little slip we had to fill out, and picked a Corozal hotel at random from google maps for the address. This raised an eyebrow since we didn't have a reservation (we actually wild-camped) but they didn't question it much and gave us our stamps anyway. We were told both inside the customs office and outside that we had to pay 7.50USD for the bikes. Might be a scam, but both the men who told us were wearing uniforms, so we just paid it.

Belize to Guatemala

The Belize exit fee is now 40BZ/20USD. Bike exit stamp is still free.

Fumigation is required & is 32QTL/4USD. You ride along the footpath to the right of the fumigation station & they spray down your bike with a hose.

We were not charged for the entry stamp in our passports, but we were told the photocopies we had of our passports were not good enough to get the SAT for the bike, as we needed to show the entry stamp. Exit through the back door of the customs office (opposite where you came in), turn right and walk across the road to the row of food stalls. One of them has a photocopier & will charge you 2QTL per copy. For the SAT you'll need a copy of passport, drivers license, & vehicle registration.

For the SAT they'll check your vin & issue you the paper, but you don't get the sticker till you've paid. Cost is 160QTL if you walk up the road to the bank (about 15mins & you should ask the official what the hours are) or 200QTL if you pay at the same place you got the photocopies.

No insurance available at the border but you can buy online from ealvarado@todoriesgo.net. Just drop him an email - he's super helpful.

Best to pay for everything in QTL if you can - the woman with the photocopier & taking the SAT payments will take USD but you'll get a bad rate. There are money changers both in the car park by the customs office & by the fumigation area but you'll need to haggle a lot.

Also, you will get a de facto 'helper' unless you are very firm in saying you don't want help. There are a few of them latching on to any foreigners who come through.

Guatemala to El Salvador

We crossed at La Hachadura, via the CA2. As you get near the border there will be a long line of stationary trucks blocking the lane. You'll need to overtake them all - for about a kilometer.

As you arrive at the border there will be a small car park on your right, with a few tiendas around the edge. There is also a place here where you can get your photocopies if you need them. You'll need a couple each of passport, license, vehicle registration, and Guatemala TIP

Immigration and aduana is the blue and white building on your left, across the street from where you parked. First you take your passport to a window on the sidewalk down by the border gate. They will scan your passport, stamp you out, and give you a Salida receipt. Next you walk left, back towards Guatemala, around the SAT building. The aduana office is around the other side of the building.

Here you need to hand over your TIP, and a photocopy of your passport, license, vehicle reg, & tip. They will come out to where you parked to check your VIN, then give you a receipt for your closed Guatemala TIP.

Drive ahead, across the big steel bridge, past another long line of trucks. An official on the brige will check your closed TIP& add another stamp. Rid on towards the white building with the SAT logo, keeping to the right.

Park up next to the abandoned vehicles & head in to the aduana building for your new TIP. You'll hand over another copy of your passport, license, & vehicle reg & you'll need to complete a form listing details about your vehicle, and passport/address. There will be quite a few irrelevant lines, that you can just leave blank. Double check when you get your TIP that they have all your vehicle information correct.

Ride on and join the line of traffic leading around to your left. Your paperwork will be checked once more, and you are in.
We weren't charged anything for the crossing.

El Salvador to Honduras (El Amatillo)

Complete prechequeo online and print before you get to the border.

Ride past the long line of trucks. Pull up to a covered area for a check of your passport and El Salvador TIP. Take a right at the roundabout (signposted estacion aduana) past the gates, and the trucks, around to your left, and park where there are spaces for inspection of trucks & buses. The office for cancelling your El Salvador TIP is at the back of the warehouse area behind the search area, with a sign on the door saying to knock & enter.

Drive ahead, take a left at the fork (not right, which the signpost says is towards Honduras - this is for commercial vehicles only) till you get back to the roundabout by the first checkpoint, & take a right.

Ride ahead till you get to a little cluster of buildings. The green shop up the steps on your left will do photocopies. After you get the copies you need ride under the covered road & park on the left hand side. At the window you get your passport scanned & your TIP checked.

Drive straight ahead across the bridge,, hand over your exit receipt and the police will check your TIP again. At the end of the bridge is a kiosk, you need to park outside & go in for a covid check (temperature scanner). Ride ahead to the firk in the road, there is a big blue SAT building in the middle of the fork Park at or near it & go in.

For entry to Honduras use the windows on your right. $3USD for entry stamp. TIP is in the same building, on the other side - the window is covered in travellers stickers. $787 Lempira per vehicle, must be in exact change and USD is not accepted. The woman behind the counter was friendly though, and carried on working on the paperwork while I went out to get cash from the money changers. You also need 1 copy of passport, vehicle registration, license, and your cancelled El Salvador TIP. For some reason it takes much longer here to get the TIP paperwork done than at other CA borders, so plan for at least 45mins.

We were not asked to fumigate the bikes. Final check of new paperwork at the gate, and that was it.

Honduras to Nicaragua (El Espino)

Complete prechequeo online and print before you get to the border.

Drive ahead to the kiosk/gate thing. They will check your passport, license, and proof of covid vaccination. Then they will give you a customs form that you will need to fill out when you get to the next building.

Drive ahead, straight through the fumigation area & park up on the left outside the aduana. Immigration & Aduana are different offices in the same building. At the immigration kiosk, pay 13USD & show proof of your prechequeo. USD only, and they wouldn't accept notes that were too shoddy.

At the desk next to the xray machines, show your completed customs form & one officer will come out to check your vehicle. Drones are not allowed, and they will also be looking for anything listed as contraband on your customs form. In reality the check is very half-hearted and minimal. then you go back inside, they add your details to a big ledger & your get a stamp on your form.

Across the hall from the xray machines is the window for TIP. Show your completed customs form, passport, license, reg, and get a new TIP. Check carefully that the vin, name, and license plate on the new TIP is correct - they can fix any mistakes pretty quickly. No photocopies needed for this - they'll refer to your originals & give them back after.

Next window on your left you pay for the fumigation you didn't get, and get a form (2.20USD)

Drive ahead to the gate & your passport & TIP will be checked again. We were never asked about insurance, but it is mandatory & there are regular checkpoints so get some. We still had insurance from Guatemala that covered us here. If you don't buy it at the border, it might be difficult to find online after.

Nicaragua to Costa Rica (Penas Blancas)

This one's a hassle. Usually the crossing takes us about 2 hours - this one took 5.

Drive past the long row of trucks, stop at a blue kiosk to collect your customs form. Ride ahead and a guard in uniform will check your passport. Ahead & slightly to the left is the car park in front of the aduana. Ride in and park (close to the building, on the right side is best if you can).

Walk into the immigration building. At one of the kiosk windows, hand over your passport for exit stamp & pay $3USD. There will also be someone standing by the entry door collecting $1USD. Apparently one is a national exit fee and the other is municipal?

Walk back out to the car park and over to the little white hut/buildings. Find someone in uniform to check your customs form. They might ask you to unpack your luggage & take it back in to the immigration building for x-ray scanning (they picked two of our bags at random). At the xray machine you'll get another signature on the customs form. Back at the carpark, at the white hut you hand over the customs form, a copy of your license, and a copy of your bike registration, and you get another signature on your customs form.

Next go to the door to the left of the immigration entry - it says no hay pasa in big letters above the door, and is technically the side of the immigration for entry into Nicaragua, but this is where you get your TIP closed. There are six kiosks here, but only one is tasked with TIP for both entry & exit so it's a long wait - up to an hour. Best to ask around before joining this queue, since hopefully they'll come up with a better system soon.

Now you can ride ahead to the Costa Rica side, past the big immigration building on your left, and park on your right. Walk back to the immigration building for your passport stamp (free) and if you took any bags in with you you'll need to pass them through another xray machine on your way out.

Across from the immigration building is a small building labelled 'Aduana'. You need to hand over a copy of your registration, and you'll be given a signed piece of paper with your bike details. Ride ahead, and follow the curve of the road around to the right. Pull in to the carpark in front of the grey building.

Inside, you hand over your passport & buy the mandatory insurance - $39USD for a bike. In the same room, after you get your insurance paperwork, you can get your TIP.

Leave the car park and head right - there will be one final check and you are done.

Costa Rica to Panama(Paso Canoas)

This one's pretty straightforward, but a little different to the process at Sixaloa where OP crossed.

The Costa Rica immigration & aduana building is pretty easy to miss so keep an eye out for it on your left. Park on the right, outside the pizza place.
First go to the little yellow window to the right of the pizza place, with a sign for impuesto de salida, hand over your passport & pay your $9 exit tax.

Walk across the road with your passport & receipt, there are two windows next to each other - one for entering Costa Rica & one for exiting. Hand over your passport & receipt & get stamped out (no extra charge).

Walk along the side of the building - the aduana is in the same building but not facing the road, its tucked away at the back next to the toilets. In there you get a short form to complete, hand that over with passport & your TIP is cancelled.

Ride ahead to the big grey, blue & red building (keep to the left at the fork in the road). Ride under the big shed roof and park up on the left at the curb.

Walk through to the other side of the shed, passed the fumigation gate and to the left. On the second floor of the building to your left is the insurance office (orange sign says Seguro). follow the corridor to the small office & hand over a copy of passport, copy of vehicle reg & you will get 30 days insurance ($25USD). You get a copy of the insurance for yourself & a photocopy for the Aduana, stapled together with the photocopies you handed over.

Back downstairs, next to where you parked, behind you and to the left is a door to the immigration windows. Hand over your passport, they'll take fingerprints, and stamp you in.

Back out next to where you parked on the same side of the building is the aduana. Hand over your stapled documents & get a new form with your TIP for 30 days (free). There are a few guys in uniform wandering around near where you parked. Find one of them and get them to 'activate' your TIP with an app on their phone.

At least for motorcycles you can just ride around the fumigation station - we were told we didn't need it, and there's no final check on the road.

Panama City to Bogota Colombia

We used Overland Embassy so this one was pretty hands-off for us. You can do it yourself, but I'd recommend them, they were awesome.

Colombia to Venezuela (Cucuta)

This one was nice and chill, if a bit bewildering. You should try to give yourself a full day, as there's a bit of running around to do, and places close for a bit midday.

You can't cross at Puente Internacional Simon Bolivar (the main crossing) as they don't have the ability to close your TIP, so instead go to Puente Internacional Atancio Girardot, about 15 minutes north. It also has the advantage of being a much less chaotic border. Ride ahead through the row of kiosks and pull up at the building on your right with a green sign saying 'sellos pasaportes'. Inside there is a little office where you will get the exit stamp for your passport. Ride ahead and do a u-turn to your left (ignore the no u-turn sign) and pass through the kiosks for entry into Colombia. Just explain that you need to cancel your vehicle permissions and exit Colombia and they will wave you through. Park in the car park for the immigration office into Colombia - on the opposite side of the car park is a little building for DIAN. You'll need to show them the email you received when you first got the TIP - it should have a green 'autorizada' line in it. Also hand over passport & registration (originals - they just need to write down the details).
They will fill out a copy of your DIAN that they already have on file and you will both sign it. You will get an email confirmation that your TIP is closed, but take a picture of the completed form just in case anything goes wrong.

From there you have to ride back towards Colombia, do a u-turn at the roundabout and ride back through the kiosks you started at. This time you can carry on across the bridge to Venezuela. If you have a camera with you, there's a cool photo op of the Venezuela border gate with the mountains in the background

At the kiosk you hand over your passport & answer some questions (occupation, plans for your time there etc) and give a phone number. They will run off and take a copy of your passport. I asked for the maximum stay and they told me it would be 90 days. Interestingly the stamp doesn't actually specify how long you've got. It is free.

After that you are through the border, and you need to get your insurance & TIP in town. Start by following the road ahead and to the right, following signs for San Antonio. About 1km further on you will come to a little town with some hotels. Look for a sign saying 'Todos Seguros' directing you up a side road to your left. 50 meters up the road you'll come to a house with a sign outside for 'seguros'. Here you can buy 1 year insurance for 50,000COP and your 5 year 'fit to drive' certificate for another 50,000COP. Liliana, the very nice woman who gets these documents ready for you will probably invite you into the house to help her find your plate number & vin on the documents. It all seems very unofficial, but it's legit.

Now drive back to the main road, continue on and take a right at the roundabout. You are now driving back towards Puente Internacional Simon Bolivar, but on the Venezuelan side. Just before you get to the checkpoint, turn left and go through the big red gates into the Seniat car park. You'll be directed where to park up, and which door to go through. Hand over your passport, license, registration, and insurance (all originals). They will do all the paperwork while you wait and bring you the completed forms to sign for 90 days TIP - also free.

A few kilometers up the road there is inexplicably another checkpoint where they may ask for your passport and TIP to ensure everything is in order. Otherwise you're done.
Travelling Vancouver to Tierra del Fuego with https://www.coddiwomplers.com/

Last edited by aidanwalsh; 21 Nov 2023 at 00:33.
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