By now, dear blog readers, you know what a phobia I have for border crossings. Be it Canada to USA – USA to Canada – in an airport – a car – and now a motorhome. I empty refrigerators and freezers, liquor cabinets and cupboards. I have all pet papers and passports in hand. I fret. I worry. I’m anxious. We’re going to Mexico? Really??
We spent hours on the internet researching travel requirements and customs regulations and while there’s a lot of information out there it’s contradictory, sketchy and leaves much open to interpretation. AND, everyone you talk to has a story or 2. Often not from personal experience – usually recounting an experience from a friend or a friend of a friend. You know how that works!
A few months ago we contacted friends and ‘experts’ in caravans and rally’s – Paul and Lisa Mitchell. They had organized the Rose Parade Rally we attended in 2014/2015. What do you know about traveling to Mexico, Paul? He spoke about a few other caravans, gave us some tips but then said, friends of ours are travelling to Puerto Penasco and anyone who wants to travel with them are welcome. Lisa and I are going to go for a few days also. You need to make your own reservations but we’ll meet up on February 17th and make the trip across the border together on February 18th. It sounded perfect for our 1st venture into Mexico. We were in – I think…
This popular beach destination of Puerto Penasco aka Rocky Point is in the “Hassle Free Vehicle Zone”, which is also sometimes referred to as the “Free Trade Zone”.
These are areas along the international border that have been designated by the Mexican government to have reduced customs requirements. The Free Zone initiative was begun to help promote Mexico tourism and create greater economic growth for the areas along the U.S. border.
In addition, the temporary vehicle importation permit is not required in this Free Zone. However, if you travel outside of the Free Zone, you have to pass through the interior customs checkpoint, and pay a $400 deposit to obtain a Temporary Vehicle Importation Permit Sticker, and display on your windshield. Temporary vehicle import stickers must be returned at the border when you exit and your deposit will be returned. If you do not return the sticker, not only will you forfeit your deposit, but you also will not be allowed to apply for any future Temporary Vehicle Importation Permits.
But, even in the Free Zone, you still need to purchase insurance. If you plan to drive your car, truck, van, SUV, motorcycle or motorhome across the border, even if you will be staying inside the Free Zone the entire time, you need to have a valid in-force policy that includes Mexican liability insurance coverage – and, you need to carry it with you at all times and in all vehicles. We spent hours researching this requirement and ended up purchasing our Mexican insurance from Lewis & Lewis in L.A. After calling and speaking with a “real” person we completed the application on-line, the credit card payment was processed and a few minutes later we had our policies – for the motorhome and the pick-up truck.
Some U.S./Canadian insurance companies will put your existing policies on hold and waive payment of their monthly premiums if you are in Mexico longer than 60 days. The insurer for our truck was willing to do this – but not the motorhome. The option for the motorhome was to cancel the insurance and re-apply on our return to the US. While we are currently planning on staying in Mexico awhile, travel plans are always subject to change, so we’re keeping all insurances in tact!
Back to crossing the border…
E-mail from Paul on February 14th – apparently Mexico is cracking down on bringing fresh or frozen chicken, pork and beef into the country. Oh geez – we had been stocking up since there was nothing on the internet about this restriction. Well, they didn’t say anything about “cooked”… We started thawing out chicken breasts, steaks, pork tenderloin and bacon. We grilled, poached, fried and shared with friends over dinner. If they question us at the border we just have leftovers… We still have leftovers!
On February 18th we left our beautiful RV spot in Indio, CA and drove to Gila Bend, AZ (pronounced Heela Bend) to meet up with the caravan of ten other RV’s. The 5:00 p.m. scheduled happy hour was a meet-and-greet, get more detailed instructions, ask questions and get ready for next morning’s 8:30 a.m. departure. Arrangements had also been made for a local guide (Mr. Russ Black) to escort us across the border AND for a police escort through the town of Sonoyta – at the low-bargain price of $25/RV (all funds donated to charity…) and the cash was collected that evening.
We were 1 of 4 RV’s that had never travelled to Mexico so they put us 2nd in line right behind the most seasoned Mexican travellers. Unfortunately, being 2nd in line there are no pics of the entire caravan train – just the coach in front. And Chuck really, really does not like following…
We were driving 85 miles to the border crossing at Lukeville, AZ with a pit-stop at the “Why Not” Travel Store in Why, AZ.
Two hours later we arrived at the border and congregated in a large parking lot to wait for our guide.
Our new friend, Mr. Black, is American but has lived in Mexico for a number of years and is well-known and well-connected. We were all introduced and he discussed the general comings & goings of crossing the border and asked if there were any questions.
Yup, only me!
So when we get up to the gate, they’re going to ask to see our passports and then what kind of questions will they ask?
I think he just shrugged…
He left the group to make a telephone call to the local Chief of Police and the Mayor’s wife and we were off. Coach #1 slowly moved through the gate – What? They’re not stopping! They’re driving straight through!
Chuck, it’s our turn! Here’s the passports. Gosh, they’re just looking at us.
Shhhh, be quiet!
They just nodded at us – that’s it?
We moved on down the road and stopped and waited for the other coaches to get through the border and where the policia were waiting. They were going to escort us through town and stop the traffic at a busy intersection where we had to make a left turn and then an immediate right turn to get all 11 RV’s out of town.
Sixty-five miles later and escorted by the guide (in the white van), we pulled into Puerto Penasco and the Reef RV Park – with the Sonoran desert on the right and the Sea of Cortez on the left. Wow – lots of sand!
Well, that was way too easy!
But, a Facebook friend reminded us – Your re-entry might be interesting. Another posted …strip search and Mexican prisons.