We didn't sleep the best last night. Tossed and turned quite a bit and worried about how our border crossing was going to go. We were up at about 6:00am and got packed up and then found somewhere for breakfast. We left our gear at the hotel room and walked only about a block to a restaurant that advertised breakfast and lunch. It was a bit of a pricey place, but it was right across the street from the bus station so that might have been why. Still, it was good and well presented and the 120 pesos ($9.82) for the two of us including Ruth's orange juice and my coffee was money well spent.
Got the little blue car packed up and we headed for the border. Traffic is nuts in Tapachula! I have never driven anywhere that bad. Red light? Nobody coming, maybe we'll go through. Or maybe not. Traffic zigzagging everywhere...every man for himself! Too funny, but a little stressful. the little blue car made it through without a scratch.
Filled up with gas before crossing the border. Gas is about twice as expensive in Guatemala. You want to arrive full, and leave near empty!
Arrived at the Talisman border crossing at about 8:20am. About half a km from the border, a guy at the side of the road yells that we have to stop. We knew better, and carried right on through. We were behind a military truck and I just followed along with them. The guy who yelled starting running after us, but he was kinda chunky and didn't last too long with running. Soon though, there were three or four others taking his place. They were telling us we needed to pull over, but we knew better.
The little blue car parked up ahead on the right at the border while Kevin ran inside to clear the Mexican paperwork.
These guys are "helpers" and "money changers". They try and sell you Guatemalan quetzales at a ridiculous exchange rate. But we had already taken care of that. They seemed surprised, but eventually left us alone. The helpers try and help you get through the paperwork, but if your Spanish is okay you really don't need them. Plus, you don't know when to trust them because they will try and charge you money at every opportunity. One guy, Pedro, wouldn't leave us alone though. I never agreed to his services, he just kind of tagged along.
Remember how we had lost our Mexican tourist card? Turns out it didn't matter, and they still have not made us pay to replace it. The guy looks at all the paperwork, and I told him we were returning to Mexico in two weeks or so. He says "okay, we'll give you another one when you return. I'll probably have to pay for it then, but who knows??!!
Now, everything I had read says that they need to "check you out" of Mexico. Well the guy didn't stamp my passport or anything, and said it wasn't necessary. I thought this might cause a problem on the other side, but we carried on anyhow. Had to pay 10 pesos (82 cents) to cross the bridge. I hadn't read anything about this, but the guy was official looking and had a receipt to give to us.
Next stop, Guatemala immigration.
Pedro tagged along and I drove the car into Guatemala. Parked at the right side of the road and went in and got our passports stamped. Ruth didn't even have to come inside...she stayed and looked after the car. Too funny. Paid 10 quetzales ($1.35) each for the stamp in our passports. I tried to argue the fact because you don't get a receipt, but for that kind of money it wasn't worth the effort.
Then it was off to the aduana (customs) office to register the car. Pedro said I had to park in a lot at the side and that it would cost 20 quetzales ($2.70) for parking. I argued again, saying why didn't I just stay where I was parked at the side of the road for free, and walk the other 30 metres or so?? Anyhow, eventually because we were already at the lot, backtracking would have been difficult. So we parked and Ruth stayed with the car while me and Pedro carried on to the photocopy place where we paid 5 pesos (40 cents) for a bunch of different photocopies. We already had photocopies of my drivers licence, registration, and passport, but they needed the page that was actually stamped in my passport.
Into Guatemala, the building on the far left is the aduana (customs office). But they make you park in the lot on the right and pay.
The customs lady was nice, and fortunately it wasn't that busy. She checked and double checked everything including going out to the car and checking the serial number. She got all the paperwork ready and then we (me and Pedro) had to go stand in another line at the bank around the corner (same building though) where they needed 160 quetzales for the car permit.
Then we went back outside, paid the parking, and then Pedro asked for money. Now I have to admit that he was a bit helpful (no English though) and he did try his best. I tried to give him 20 pesos knowing that was very little and he griped. So I gave him 50 pesos ($4.20) and he asked for the 20 as well and I said no. So he cost us 50 pesos but at least when he was with me the others left us alone!
Next, we had to pay 20 quetzales ($2.70) to get the car fumagated. I had read that it was 18 quetzales, but they gave me a receipt so maybe it went up. The guard at the gate checked our paperwork one more time and lifted the barrier for us.
We were in Guatemala!
The entire affair took about an hour. Sure, it was a bit confusing and the "helpers" are a bit intimidating. But really, it wasn't too bad. Total cost was 220 quetzales ($30) and 60 pesos ($4.25) so not too bad!
We did the drive to Quetzaltenango, but we're going to tell you all about that tomorrow morning!