Alrighttt so crossing the Mexican border!!! What a rush!!
We planned for this for months. We were so excited and anxious. We got our negative COVID tests in Austin, we sorted all our paperwork, made copies, had our passports ready and had everything in order, but it was still beyond exciting and nerve wracking. Not because we thought Mexico was gonna be scary, but because we would officially be out of the U.S. during COVID in completely new territory living out of our car and the unknown is always a little terrifying.
We crossed at the Colombia crossing, a bit north and west of Laredo. I’m in this group called the Pan-American Travelers Association on Facebook that recommend it instead of Laredo which we were originally thinking of taking. I also use the iOverlander app and this crossing was highly reviewed. So we figured it was our best option.
We left Austin at 9 AM, filled up the tank, checked our tires and were on the road. We were at the crossing around noon. When you’re approaching it for about 20 minutes there is straight up NOTHING around you. It’s just one straight road surrounded by dirt and open space. Once you arrive you go through a toll, you pay it, there’s a little service station where I stopped to pee and then you keep driving to the actual border crossing. Once there you park your car in a lot. We were the only people there aside from a semi-truck crossing, so there were plenty of spaces to park.
After we parked we went to immigration/customs, paid the taxes and visa fees ($59.22 for both) for traveling in Mexico (these are usually included in the price of a plane ticket), filled out the FMM (the little form you get on a plane when traveling internationally), signed our names and got our passports stamped. This part of the process took maybe 10 minutes. They even let us pay with a credit card.
We were officially welcomed to Mexico!
Next we walked through a narrow hallway into another open room where you pay for the TIP (Temporary Import Permit) at Banjercito for your vehicle. For this part of the process we needed the title of our car and a copy of it to leave with Banjercito. The car is in my name, so we provided my drivers license as the person who is taking out the TIP has to be the one the car is registered to. If you’re driving someone else’s vehicle in or the driver is someone other than the person the car is registered to you need a notarized letter saying it is alright for you to be driving this car into Mexico. For our 2016 Subaru Crosstrek the TIP cost $72.38, however Banjercito puts a hold on your card for $400 ($100 more or less depending on the age of your vehicle) when you get a TIP. The hold is a deposit while your vehicle is in Mexico. The country does this so that you don’t overstay the length of the TIP (180 days). If you fail to leave the country within those 180 days you forfeit the money and I’m not sure what the consequences would be once you actually were to leave the country. Getting the TIP for the Suba took about fifteen minutes. I was also asked to provide a copy of my passport, which I had handy. When you exit Mexico and cancel your TIP at one the little green and white buildings, you will be refunded the money.
I believe you can also purchase a TIP in advance through Banjercito’s website, but we didn’t because we’re not THAT great at planning. It was so easy in person though especially since we were the only ones there. It’s probably a totally different story though if there are others crossing at the same time.
In this room we also had the option to buy Mexican car insurance, but we had already purchased some online from Adventure Mexican Insurance Service a few days before. We weren’t asked for it when doing the TIP and from what I’ve heard/been told a lot of people in Mexico drive without insurance, but we figured we would get it to play it safe. We bought a 6 month plan for $243.20. We’re not spending six months in Mexico, but it made more sense financially to buy a six month plan than buy a 30 day plan for this round through Mexico and another one for when we drive back.
Another thing we did to plan for this border and every border we’ll have to cross is make copies of our passports, drivers licenses, the title of the car and print out copies of negative COVID tests. We carry these copies around in a big folder with all the paperwork we could possibly be asked for if we’re ever pulled over. We also carry around copies of our passports instead of our actual passports in case we ever need to show ID. I’d rather not risk losing my actual passport while we’re out. I don’t think this actually happens, but I’ve heard rumors of police asking for identification, then refusing to give your passport back until you’ve paid a bribe. So far every interaction I’ve had with Mexican officials has been pretty pleasant, so it could be bullshit, but who knows.
Mexico didn’t require a negative COVID test to enter, but we got some just in case they asked and because we like getting tested. We didn’t want to be turned away in case the border crossing rules happened to change that day. That would suck.
The last step when entering was getting the car searched. We were asked to open the trunk and our cooler, then asked if we had any weapons or drugs in the car. Unfortunately we didn’t have either so the process was pretty quick. The officer poked around in our car for maybe thirty seconds and that was it.
Overall our experience at the USA > Mexico border was a nice one. We were in and out of there sooo quick and hassle free. I recommend the Colombia crossing for anyone who is trying to make this trip from Texas. The facilities are clean, open, distanced, have good airflow and the officials are very nice and happy to help with any questions.
Once we crossed the border we were elated! We were so excited for this adventure and were still in somewhat shock that this trip was actually happening! We got on the road and were on our way to Saltillo.
¡Bienvenidos a Mexico! ¡Orale!