The route we’re in the process of taking through Mexico is from Tecate, down the Baja California peninsula to La Paz, then from La Paz across the Sea of Cortez by ferry to Mazatlan, after which we’ll be zipping a mere 2,600 kilometres across the mainland of Mexico to the Yucatan peninsula. My sister Nic and my brother Ben and his girlfriend are meeting us on the Maya Riviera, the stretch of white sand beaches, palm trees and turquoise seas south of Cancun. Hopefully we’ll be able to find some great beach life there – a mix of sandy, blue skied calm, sun loungers and cocktails for a couple of weeks will be the perfect antidote to all the road miles we’ve done these last 5 months (I can’t believe it’s been 5 months already!!).
The USA/Mexico border crossing at Tecate was exactly as we’d hoped – a lovely countryside drive up to a quiet and pretty County Park campsite on the US side, followed by a very relaxed crossing into Mexico on the Saturday morning, with barely any queues. Once we crossed we then had another lovely countryside drive to Ensenada on the Pacific coast of Baja, where we stocked up ready for the next leg of our journey through this sparsely populated, wild desert peninsula.
Our nervousness about Mexico melted away the moment we crossed the border and saw the familiar colours, smiles and ramshackle state of things – Latin America as both Mark and I know and love it.
We had hoped to meet up with our friends Jürgen and Clemencia before the border crossing, but fate had other plans. I wrote them an email with the details of our crossing, in the hopes it would be useful for them. Here, forthwith, are these details for anyone else reading this who might want to know what the Tecate border crossing is like with a vehicle:
Potrero County Park, where we stayed the night before ($27) was lovely, but quite cold at night as it is 2300ft up. The road from San Diego to Potrero Park climbs uphill steadily – the road is in good condition and not very busy. The showers at Potrero campsite are pretty rustic. They do get hot but they take a while (unless someone has been in just before you) and eat up your quarters in the meantime.
We had a good experience crossing the border at Tecate. There was no queue of cars and it took 1 hour to get our visas and permits. The Mexican officials were helpful and friendly.
Tecate Border Crossing
We parked immediately before the border crossing, on the right in the Duty Free Shop car park which is free for customers only. We had no problems parking there, although at the end we did buy some duty free alcohol (it is slightly cheaper here in Mexico).
To get your visas and vehicle permit you will need:
vehicle ownership document with VIN number
driver’s licence for vehicle owner
Credit card in name of vehicle owner
Step #1: after parking your motorhome, walk through the 2 brown turnstiles to the Mexican border offices. You will pass the Banjercito (bank) window, on your right, on the way to the ‘migracion’ (immigration) office (up the steps on the right). Later you will pay for your visa and vehicle permit at the bank window.
Step #2: At the migracion office fill in your visa forms. The migracion officer will give you a piece of paper to take to the bank, so you can pay for your visas.
Step #3: take your pieces of paper to the bank and pay for your visas (390 pesos each). Wait for a while 🙂 They will give you a receipt – take this receipt BACK to the migracion officer, who will then give you your visas (we automatically got 180 days).
Step #4: whichever one of you is the named owner of the vehicle needs photocopies of their passport, the vehicle ownership document, driver’s licence and Mexican visa. You can get photocopies at the pharmacia (pharmacy) on the Mexican side of the border after you have received your visas, before you get your vehicle permit.
Step #5: take your documents and photocopies to the Banjercito window to pay for your vehicle permit (about 1170 pesos). Wait again 🙂 You will be given a sticker (the permit) to put on your windscreen. (We had some trouble before we got our sticker as the woman at the Banjercito window hadn’t seen our British vehicle ownership document before and said she couldn’t process it. We asked one of the customs guys, who could speak English, to translate it for her and then it was all fine. Apparently there is usually a women who speaks English at the Banjercito, but she was away from her desk. During all this we did notice that our British V5 ownership document actually says in big letters across the front ‘Not proof of ownership’, so next time we cross a border we will present the inside part with the VIN number first and avoid showing them the front if possible).
Step #6: cross over the border area to the American border offices (along an alley on the other side of the road from the Banjercito). Scan your passports and tell the US immigration officer you are leaving the US. Return the white U.S. entry slip from your passport to them, if you have one.
Step #7: stick your Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit sticker to your windscreen and drive through the border crossing. We were stopped and they inspected/searched the van for about 5 -10 minutes. They wanted us to open some of the outside lockers and, inside the van, they opened some of the cupboards.
Step #8: drive into Mexico! We have felt very safe and at home ever since we crossed the border 🙂 The roads are good, and then suddenly there are potholes so watch out for them.