Friday, August 12, 2011

Entering Guatemala

We woke up early, broke down our extremely wet tent and slightly wet sleeping bags, and headed towards Ciudad Cuauhtemóc at the Mexico-Guatemala border.  Being that it was Sunday, there was some concern that the Banjército office would not be open.  That´s the place you have to go to cancel the temporary vehicle import permit.  That´s the step that Mike did not do the last time he was in Mexico on a motorcycle (thanks again to a new passport and a different motorcycle, no troubles with the TVIP).  But this time it was definitely going to happen, and luckily we were able to do it on Sunday.

Pulling into Ciudad Cuauhtemóc, the Banjército and aduana offices are to the left, directly past a large road sign spanning the highway and across the highway from an elevated plaza.  As of this post, the Banjército office is open with the following schedule:
  • 8am - 10pm    Mon - Fri
  • 8am - 5pm      Sat
  • 9am - 4pm      Sun
Checking out of Mexico was an absolute breeze!  The official behind the counter asked for my TVIP, went out to the bike with a camera, double checked the VIN about 4 times, took a picture of the VIN plate, and then went back inside to finish the paperwork.  I waited for less than 5 minutes while he double checked the VIN numbers on the documents another 4 times, and then signed and stamped the cancelation receipt.  Done and done.  The aduana office is the next building over (if you turn into the parking lot following the painted arrows, you will actually come to the aduana office first, but we all know that painted arrows don´t mean that much).  He took our passports, tourist cards, AND the printed receipt for payment of our entry.  Don´t lose any of those things if you can help it.  But with that, he stamped our passports and wished us well.  To Guatemala we go...

This is the view as soon as you cross the signed border into La Mesilla, Guatemala:

You gotta stop in those yellow hashed lines to get fumigated by the agropecuaria.  Thankfully, they let you get off the bike before they start spraying.  Also thankfully, it only cost 12 quetzales (Q12, exchange rate is about Q8 = US$1). 

(after her chem-bath)

We exchanged money with some money changers on the street to be able to pay for that and for the bike import.  The banks were closed, so there was no choice.  We only got Q7 to US$1, but we only changed over US$40, so didn´t lose too much in the process.  Why did we change over US currency in Guatemala, you might ask?  Because we were extremely successful in spending all of the pesos that we had (thanks, Shangri-La!), leaving us a random stash of $40 that was in Mike´s jacket since June.

After that, we went to the next building up, Migración.  The officer was extremely nice, curious about our trip, enjoyed pretending like he was riding a motorcycle, making motions, noises, and all, and gave us the full 90 day visa for the 4 Central American countries.  Free. That´s the best!

Next to the aduana to temporarily import the bike into Guatemala.  They required the following documents:
  • Canceled TVIP from Mexico (a good control for idiots like Mike)
  • Motorcycle registration (or title, or whatever document you choose to show ownership)
  • Driver´s license
  • Passport
The aduana filled out all of the papers for us, handed us a stack and told us to go pay at the bank next door, which was closed.  The fee is Q160 (US$20).  After a knock on the door, a guard opened it, took my papers, my money, and left me standing outside, again locking the door.  He returned a few minutes later with the receipt.  Back to the aduana to finish the paperwork and get the sticker.  We are good until the end of October!  Easy!  All of the Guatemalan entry process took about 30 minutes.

He let us know that when leaving Guatemala, if you cancel the permit that you cannot return with the bike for 90 days.  It is, however, possible to leave the country and tell them that you plan on traveling back through before the permit expires.  They will not cancel it when you leave, but rather it will just cancel automatically when it expires without penalty.  Unless you need to cancel your permit to start the 90 day interval so that you can return as desired, it seems to make sense to leave it open when exiting Guatemala just in case.

Once we were in Guatemala, things changed a bit.  La Mesilla had a different vibe to it.  Landscape was similar to Chiapas, the road followed a river flowing between mountains.

The two things that we noticed initially were that Guatemalans seemed to be into people-moving and selling gas out of jerry cans on the side of the road.  I´m not sure how either of those opportunities sustain themselves, as there is an excess of both, but somehow it works.  And where are all of those people going?

Also, we noticed that the cops seemed pretty nice. There were a lot of them traveling along this highway (is that good, or bad?). But they would always slow down, smile, wave, and honk at us. Cool that they were on our side.

We pulled into Xela fairly early in the afternoon, and had quite the welcoming parade. More on Xela and our couple of weeks in Guatemala soon...


  1. Primo (y Jill)! El blog tuyo es maravilloso y le encanta leer sobre las aventuras. Algun dia me voy a visitarles en cualquier pais. Espero que todo vayan bien en Guatemala...


  2. Are you guys still in Xela? I´m studying Spanish for the next few weeks but would love to meet up for coffee or a drink and share some stories.

    Shoot me an email and we can swap phone numbers (if you have one down here)

  3. Hola Kate! Seria fantastico verte pronto en un lugar nuevo e interesante. Nos encanta hospedar visitantes, despues de conseguir un domicilio, claro. Hablemosnos!
    Tu primo Mike

  4. Hey Sper,
    Sad to have missed you on the road, but hope you are enjoying Xela. We will keep up with you at advrider and on your blog -
    Keep the shiny side up!
    Mike & Jill