Crossing the Border into Mexico
Updated: Jan 2, 2021
Getting ready to cross the border into Mexico was pretty stressful. Larry called about getting truck insurance the day before through a company called Lewis and Lewis. We got that helpful advice from the nice American gentleman at the Mexican Embassy. Your regular car insurance doesn’t work in Mexico. It cost $ 638.86 for 6 months. I shopped around for travelers health insurance and the cheapest I could find was $332.80 for a year and I have up to one million dollars of coverage. It sounds great but I was super pissed about having to spend $300 plus on health insurance but I didn’t want to need it and be screwed. I got over being pissed fairly quickly because it was replaced with worrying. At this point, even when trying to ignore what everyone says about Mexico and what the news stations report, I couldn't help but be a little apprehensive about our border crossing and driving through Mexico. I probably drove Larry a little nuts. I told him I needed to know exactly what roads we were traveling on and where we were staying the first night/week. I didn’t want to get lost or stranded on a mexican road after dark. I even made him call the RV Park to make reservations!
We got up before 6am so we could be on the road by 8. I wanted as much daylight hours to drive just in case things went slow at the border or any other delays. From Tucson, the drive to the border should be just a little over an hour. Only one stop along the way. Our conversation was minimal because we both were lost in our own thoughts. We listened to our “Easy Spanish for busy travelers” autobook and drove. We were crossing at Nogales, Sonora. The interesting thing, there is a Nogales Arizona and a Nogales Sonora, Mexico! When we crossed over the border, the road changed immediately. It got narrow and it looked like there was some road construction going on. There were lots of cement lane dividers and I noticed a lot more trash on the side of the road. And BAM!!! All the road signs were in Spanish. Here we go!!!
We got flagged down by the border police. Larry got out and opened the Airstream. The cop stepped inside and took a quick look. That was it. He said “Bienvenido a Mexico” and we drove off. The cops in Mexico all carry assault rifles. There were a bunch of folks standing on the side of the road as we exited. They came up to the truck and said in English that that would come with us and help with the immigration process. They wanted to hop in the truck and help us. Wow!! This was kinda scary because that seemed like the last thing I needed right now. We said, “No, Gracias”.
We knew that the immigration building was at mile 21. The nice American gentleman at the Mexican Embassy had described it in great detail and told us that it’s easy to miss. I was on high alert at around mile 20, we almost did miss it. I had to yell at Larry to slow down and turn off. We actually had to turn in another entrance...I think it’s been added because the first one is too hard to see. The immigration building was the usual white stucco with a Mexican flag out front. It had 4 separate buildings. We arrived a little after 10 am. We knew we had to get permission to stay for 180 days. We got in the first line in the first building with a bunch of other folks. There was only 1 worker for 30 people in line! After you see him the first time, he gives you the immigration card to fill out. There were not enough pens or pencils so we all took turns. Some folks were really good at the process and spoke English so we asked them questions. After we filled out our cards and returned to the clerk, he sent us to another building….which we eventually found. It was their onsite bank or payment processing building. Again, there were only 2 clerks and one that spoke a bit of English. We paid about $60 and got the receipt to take back to the first building to show the first clerk. Now the line was super long! Someone in the line that spoke English told us if we already had stood in this line and just needed the clerk to stamp our cards, to cut in front of all the other folks. I didn’t feel like doing that but it worked. No one was upset.
I felt successful now! We were in Mexico for up to 180 days! I went to use the public restroom. There was a man sitting outside with a tray of carefully folded individual toilet tissue piles and charged 5 pesos each (about 25 cents). At this point, I decided to go back and use our restroom in the Airstream. As I was walking back, I thought about the truck and trailer. We had our own insurance but we still needed to register it in Mexico. I wasn’t sure if this was at this place or another building down the road. We decided to ask around to be sure before we started driving again. We found a nice man that spoke English that was all geared up for his motorcycle. I had spied his bike in the parking lot and took pictures of it. It was covered with stickers from all the places he had traveled. It was so cool. I could only imagine what all he’s seen and how many miles he’s traveled. He told us that we would need to register the truck and trailer at the bank/payment processing building. He was doing that right now. He was traveling with a lady that we never got to meet but she seemed to be helping him fill out his forms.
We went back to the bank and told them what we needed. We got the English speaking clerk. He looked over our truck and trailer documents and consulted another clerk. Oh, Joy! There is some kind of problem….I could tell. The trailer is registered in California to Fehrwood Construction. He asked if we had permission from the company to take the trailer. He needed a letter from the business. Larry tried to explain, HE WAS THE BUSINESS OWNER. That wasn’t good enough. He said he needed a letter. Now I felt we were really screwed here. I had thoughts of being turned away and having to drive back to Arizona. He again conferred with the other clerk. He told us that we needed a letter with the business’ letterhead saying that Larry had permission to take the trailer. He pointed to a little building to the left of where we were standing and said to go in there. We went inside. It was a small convenience store with chips and drinks. We tried to explain our situation with the man behind the counter but he spoke no english. He went to a small patio next door and found someone that could translate. We went back into the store and he got on his computer. This took over an hour but he made us a letter complete with Fehrwood Construction letterhead granting Larry permission to take the trailer. He charged us 100 pesos. That is only about $5.25 US Dollars. Wow!!! During the hour-long wait, I had a picnic lunch on the plastic chairs provided for filling out forms. It was good and helped me calm down. Larry had a Coke in a glass bottle and some Cheetos….plus desert-His cigarette.
Now that we had our letter with the business address in California, USA, we headed back to the bank. We were told to go to another kiosk by the first building to make “Copias”, (copies). When we returned, we got all stamped up plus our holographic sticker, to be placed exactly inside of the window next to the rearview mirror by the driver and was charged 481.18 US Dollars. Ouch! $400 is a deposit that will be refunded to our credit card when we leave Mexico and they take the sticker off. I really really hope it happens that way!
We were back on the road at 12:47pm. It took us a little over 2 and ½ hours to get everything situated for traveling in Mexico for up to 180 days. So grand total for truck, trailer, and health insurance plus truck and trailer registration was $1513.06!!! If you divide it by 6 months, then it adds a monthly travel cost of about $252. When you look at it that way, it doesn’t hurt so much! LOL
I was glad we were back on the road as it would be at least 4 and ½ hours to San Carlos where we had reservations at Tononaka RV Resort. Now on to navigating the Mexican highways. We took Mexican highway 15 to San Carlos and the exit was clearly marked. The only thing that was kinda scary was a “desviacion” (detour). It seemed like we were heading in the wrong direction but magically got back on highway 15 and the signs said we were heading toward Guaymas and San Carlos.
I was so relieved when we found Tononaka RV Resort at 5:20pm!! We made it safely before dark with absolutely no problems at all!!!! This day was a great confidence builder and I was truly grateful for all the help and guidance we got at the immigration buildings. Everyone so far has been extremely helpful. They have tried so hard to communicate with us in English and even helped us bend the rules with the trailer so we could enter…..legally!! Ha Ha Ha You got to love Mexico!