The Mexico to Guatemala border crossing was our second one of this trip.
We were just as nervous for this one as we were when crossing into Mexico. After spending a month in Mexico we got accustomed to it and we had both never been to Guatemala, so it was a totally new country!
The process for getting into Guatemala begins before you even step foot in the country. Thanks COVID!
To get into Guatemala you either need to present a negative PCR test (within 96 hours of entering country) or a negative antigen test (within 72 hours of entering country).
We chose to do the antigen, because in Central America they’re way cheaper and more accessible than PCR tests. So, we went to Farmacias Del Ahorro. It’s a pharmacy chain throughout all of Mexico that offers antigen testing for 350 pesos ($17 USD). The process is pretty simple, you go to their website, find a location where they administer tests, go to the location, pay and set up an appointment. We went around 4PM three days before we knew we were crossing and got an appointment to come back later that day at 7:30. You basically just sit, let the doctor poke up in your nose and wait for 15 minutes until your results are ready. We both tested negative! (Always a huge relief no matter how careful we are). The doctor then prints out your results and signs them.
To cross the border into Guatemala you need to have the original test results and copies (they hold onto the copy).
The night before we crossed into Guatemala, we drove to our final destination in Mexico. Tapachula. Tapachula is about 45 minutes to an hour away from the border crossing at Tecun Uman so it was the perfect place to stop for the night.
Early morning on March 1st, we made our way to the border. Before heading to the border we found a place to make copies of our COVID tests, you only need to hand over one copy and keep the original but we made two of each of our results just in case. Border crossings love copies.
To exit Mexico you go to their immigrations building and wait in line to be stamped out of the country. There were three lines when we were there. Mexican passport, Guatemalan passport and Foreigners. We waited in the Foreigners line and when it was our turn to get stamped out of the country the immigrations official asked us for the receipt from when we paid our tourist visa fee for entering Mexico. We didn’t have it. Not because we lost it, but because we weren’t given one. SO make sure when you pay for your visa you’re given a white sheet of paper that serves as your receipt and proof of payment. If you do not have it you will need to pay the fee again when exiting like we did. It was $56 for both of us, I was pretty annoyed we had to pay again and even with the proof of payment from my bank the guy wouldn’t budge on us having to pay the fee again.
Once we got that sorted out we hopped back in the car and drove through the exit Mexico toll. It was 15 pesos (75 cents). Make sure you have cash on you for this part! We didn’t and had to exit the border crossing area to find an ATM back in the town. it was a pain since we had just gotten stamped out of the country. Luckily the guards were nice and let us run back into the country without going through immigrations again. You’ll also need cash if you’re importing a vehicle into Guatemala. They don’t accept cards.
Once you’re out of Mexico you drive over a bridge that connects Mexico to Guatemala. The first thing you do when you arrive into Guatemala is have the car fumigated. It costs the equivalent of $5 USD. All you have to do is pay and then wait 30 seconds while they fumigate the outside of the car.
Next stop is to park. When you’re approaching the Tecun Uman border crossing there will be a building on your right, followed by a parking lot and another building with a sign that reads “SAT” in blue letters.
Walk to the first building and outside there will be a nurse sitting at a little table with a thermometer and hand sanitizer. He/She will ask for your original and the copy of your COVID test and take your temperature. If all is good they’ll keep the copy of your test and hand you a little white piece of paper with your temperature written on it.
Next step is to take this paper into the immigrations office in the building right next to the table, talk to an immigrations official, fill out your tourist card, get your passport stamped and you are officially welcomed to Guatemala!
If you’re not importing a vehicle that’s all you have to do to get into Guatemala and you’re free to go explore, but if you need to get a temporary import permit for your vehicle the next stop is to go across the street where you can make copies.
Here you’ll make a copy of the Guatemala stamp that was just made in your passport. Once you have a copy of the stamp you’ll go into the building that says “SAT” and go up to one of the windows on the right hand side when you walk in. Talk to an aduana (customs) official and they’ll ask for your paperwork to import the car. They ask for originals and copies. Here is where my giant binder full of copies of all our documents comes in handy. I handed the woman behind the glass a copy of the title of the car, a copy of the front and back of mine and Keith’s licenses, a copy of each of our passports and the copies we had just made across the street of the Guatemalan stamp in our passports. She then hands you a receipt and you go to the booth across the room to pay for the TIP. It is 187 quetzales or ($26). They do not accept cards or American dollars. If you need to exchange currency you can go across the street where you make copies and there will be people standing outside who will exchange money for you. I don’t recommend exchanging a lot just what you need because their exchange rate is low. I exchanged $100 at 7.2Q per $1. At the ATMs throughout the country I was able to take cash out at 7.4Q per $1. It’s not the biggest difference but it would have added up.
Once you pay you need to bring the receipt back to the person you handed all your copies and paperwork to and he/she will come out to your car with you to check the VIN number, make, model, etc., and bring two police officers to search the vehicle. It’s pretty straightforward. They ask you to open the doors, pop the trunk and will rummage around your luggage. They went into both of our duffel bags pretty intensely, but they were nice and we joked around about how hot it was. Everything else in the car they kind of just poked around in and asked what things were.
After this is done you just go back inside and wait for the aduana/customs official to finish typing up your paperwork. Once it’s done she’ll hand you the paperwork and put a sticker on the front windshield of your car. Your car is now officially imported into Guatemala. We were given a 90 day import permit and were on our way.
It took about 3 hours to cross the border from exiting Mexico to entering Guatemala. I would definitely get there earlier in the day in case you have a long drive ahead of you. Our next stop was was Quetzaltenango which is 3 hours away so we got on the road as fast as possible to avoid driving at night. We got to our Airbnb as the sun was setting. The drive was slow because of traffic and because you literally have to drive through clouds because of how high the elevation is at some points. Driving through clouds is fun, but also super difficult when you’re going through windy mountains and you can’t see in front of you. It was a beautiful drive, but I would not recommend it at night. I would however recommend crossing the Mexico to Guatemala border at Tecun Uman.