Central America

Border: El Ceibo, Mexico – Guatemala

Mexico Side

  • You will drive through a bunch of people waving you on and encouraging you to park with them.  There are many tuk-tuks there as well and you almost want to park here.  Do not.  Go just a little further to the governmental buildings. (These are actual official looking buildings).
  • Park near the end towards immigration.
  • Go first to the Bancomar to export your car. They will want your sticker that you placed inside your car. Bring all your import car paperwork.
  • The Bancomar guy will take a picture of your van, look at the VIN number, give you a receipt for your deposit back, and then you are done with him.
  • If you did not remember your FMA receipt from the initial visa you will have to pay another M$280 for paperwork to get out, if you have your FMA receipt from the bank (not the passport visa) you don’t need to buy this. If you do not have it, buy at the Bancomar place prior to going to immigration.
  • Go to immigration, the office is right outside on the left.  They will look at your passport, ask for your FMA receipt, stamp your passport book, and you are done.

Guatemala Side

  • As soon as you drive across the border, which is about 5 meters from immigration, park right in front of the RV (yes, not so official on this side).  Go into this office (Aduana), give them the originals and copy of driver’s passport and title (or registration).
  • They will send you to the RV directly behind them – to immigration.  Here they will stamp your passport.
  • Back to Aduana.  They will look at the stamped passport book. Then send you for the import fee.  Money changers next door will give you a pretty fair deal especially if you know the exchange rate.  We needed 180 Quetzales for import fee for the car.  Insurance was not required.
  • They sprayed the car for a small fee as well.  Then done.  Fairly easy border.

We arrived exactly at 9 am, when the border opened on Sunday only to have the Bancomar guy be late :D.  So we waited for about 45 minutes.  With our bad Spanish it took a moment to figure out the prerequisites needed, but they were patient with us and we got through fairly well.  I had unfortunately misplaced my FMA receipt so we ended up repaying for mine but I was able to find Eric’s.  But with all the hassle we still finished the border up by 11am.

Border: Guatemala – El Salvador

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Guatemala Side: La Hachadura

  • This border you might run into a line of stopped semi-trucks, drive around them.  “Helpers” might come and try to help you; they will do so for a fee.  I prefer to not use them, especially since they don’t necessarily know more than we do after researching it on-line.  Don’t be worried about going around the semi’s – they are in a different line than people crossing as tourists. They do not get upset.
  • Park at right hand side of blue building – go to immigration for the exit stamp.
  • Walk to 1st building with “Ingreso” on it, here they will cancel you permit paper.

El Salvador Side

  • Park next to immigration on the Right.
  • Get the passports stamped at immigration which is the first office outside.  They will not actually stamp your passport, but they will enter a bunch of stuff into the computer.
  • Next go to the Aduana office, just a little further down in the same building.  Approach the counter and give over your cancelled permit paper, a copy of driver’s passport, and title with originals.  He will enter a bunch of things on a form and inspect the car.  He asked us how many computers we had, how many surfboards, how many cylinders the car was, etc. Then he entered this in a computer while we sat in chairs waiting for him.
  • He handed us back the originals and vehicle permit.  No money was paid.
  • We were not required to buy insurance at this border.

*Some blogs noted that there might be a $5 exit fee and sometimes insurance around $10.

Border: El Salvador – Honduras

Sunday, March 16, 2014

El Salvador Side: El Amatililo

*Note: Some blogs noted that you can be asked on the Honduras side at inspection for proof of warning triangles, fire extinguisher, and spare tire.  We bought some triangles at the gas station right before the border.

  • Again drive around semis. 😀
  • Before we got to the official buildings we were stopped at a checkpoint by a man in a white shirt – very official looking, standing next to a booth.  This was apparently the Aduana booth.  (On the right side of the road).  They wanted 1 copy of permit without stamp. They took our permit and stamped it.  Then they needed 3 copies of permit with stamp.  So we went across the road to get copies.  Gave it back to the official, who will stamp it, check VIN then done here.
  • Drive approximately 3K to official building and take a LEFT!!! (Do not go the obvious way with all the semis.  You will arrive at an official border building.
  • Immigration building – stamp out.
  • Need a copy of vehicle permit w/ stamp for checkpoint.  They will review this and your passport.

Honduras Side

  • You will reach another checkpoint before you get to the border buildings.  The official will want originals and copies of title, license, driver’s passport.  Then he might try to escort you to Aduana’s.  They won’t do anything with you until you go to immigration first.
  • Drive forward, park in front of large building on the left.
  • Go to immigration in the right building.  Grab a paper at the window to fill out while you are waiting in line.  Need one per person. Stamp is $3 pp.
  • Next go to Aduana in the left building.  She inspected our car first – VIN # only.  She asked for all the specs like make, model, year, liters, cylinders. We were told they would ask us for extinguisher, triangles, and spare tire; but she did not do this.
  • Then back to the office window while she typed things in the computer and we filled out a customs form.  (This took a long time for us as she refused to do anything quickly, answering her cell phone for a chat with a friend and then ordering something over the phone as well).  She then gave us a print out of vehicle permit (make 4 copies of this).
  • You will need for Aduana’s 3 copies of the following: vehicle permit, driver’s passport stamp, registration or title, driver passport, driver license, copies of a receipt of payment (paid her for permit).  She will make all the copies into 3 packets. She will keep 2, 1 will be given away at the checkpoint.

Border: Honduras – Nicaragua

*We did the border crossing from El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua in one day.  It wasn’t bad.  On the Honduras side, we got just enough money changed over for a nice pizza at Little Caesar’s Pizza before we got to the Nicaragua border.  Some blogs noted that there were as many as 14 police checkpoints, we did not run into any but again we crossed on Sunday, which seems to be a magical day for us.  The Honduras side was warned to be a little sketchy.

Guasaule, Honduras

  • Official/police will ask to see vehicle permit, and then wave you forward, STAY LEFT.  Drive past the sketchy buildings to the back, where there are 2 grey buildings.
  • Go to immigration: stamp out
  • Walk around directly behind immigration in the building to a door that requires you to pull a rope in order to enter. (A guard let us in) This is Aduana’s.
  • Cancel permit – they will keep original and mark stamp in passport.

Nicaragua Side

*Stay right while driving

Semis again – you know what to do.

  • Fumigation $3 and keep the receipt (sometimes it is not open apparently)
  • Park outside of grey building. Go into the first door to immigration – get visas $10 pp tourist card fee, $2 tax pp.  (There is an ATM here that gives out Cordobas, but it wasn’t working when we were there.) They will give you a receipt, keep it just in case.
  • Then Aduana office for vehicle permit. They will need originals/copy of driver’s passport and title. They will inspect car and check VIN.
  • Last checkpoint will ask for all paperwork and receipts.

Run for the hills and cold beers after doing all these borders.

Border: Nicaragua – Costa Rica

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Nicaragua Side

  • You will get stopped at a check point; they will check everyone’s passport.
  • Give the vehicle permit to another man at this check point, they will scribble on it and hand it back.
  • Drive to set of buildings ahead and turn left – drive past customs/immigration and park.
  • Go to the Exit immigration window and pay $1 pp exit tax, proceed to immigration window in the same building.
  • At immigration window, fill out your tourist card and take extras for Costa Rica :D. Pay another $2 fee and keep receipt.
  • Head across the street to a window marked Aduana.  This is to the left of the Duty Free shop but in the same building. This man will take your vehicle permit and give you a customs form to fill out.  He will stamp and sign this.
  • He will then have you go get your car inspected by a guy wandering around in a white shirt with a DGA logo.  He will stamp and sign your customs form after looking at your VIN.
  • Then lastly go back across the street to the immigration building and enter at the left side for a police officer to sign your customs sheet.  They also may be wandering about.
  • Keep the customs sheet for the checkpoint. They will take the “overly stamped” customs sheet and keep it.

*Note: we were sent to the police too soon and he signed and stamped the wrong thing, then told us we were done.  It seems best if you get to Aduanas and the inspection first.  The inspector was inspecting other cars with a clipboard and not too hard to find.  The aduana window was a dark window – did not look open.

Costa Rica Side

  • Stay to the right and stop at the fumigation, this can cost CR $2175.  (We were just waved through w/o fumigation).
  • Drive by the building on the left, park on right, close to entry at the fence.
  • Go to immigration and get stamp.  Nice official building.  Fill out your extra tourist card info to hand in.
  • Walk out through the metal detector and conveyor belt.
  • NOW, HERE IS WHERE THEY MAKE IT COMPLICATED.  There are 2 Aduana offices. One is marked and on your right in a yellow building that you have already seen once you head to immigration.  DO NOT START HERE.
  • Go get insurance.  This office is through the fence, past all the parked semis, in that empty looking building at the very end.  Go to the window and give the person here your title, driver’s passport, and license and copy of each. Pay $40 for 3 months. (They will not let you do less).
  • Go to the copy shop which is just down the stairs and to the left in a booth in same area.  You can give him any number of change and he will not give you anything back :D.  Make copies of the insurance and a copy of entry stamp in driver’s passport. 
  • Now go back to the first Aduana building (remember the yellow one). He will want originals and copies of: driver’s passport and entry stamp, insurance, and title.  They will check the VIN and the car have you fill out a paper on the specs of the car, and then give you a sheet to take to second Aduana office.
  • Now go back to where insurance office was, go to the end and go in.  He will ask for all the copies, enter more stuff in the computer and finally hand you a vehicle permit.
  • GET out of there and run for the hills! 😀

Border: Costa Rica – Panama

Paso Canoas, Costa Rica

  • Park next to Costa Rican immigration building on Left. Go to the end that you first see as you drive by.  Fill out an exit form and hand to the window marked Salida.
  • Go left from Salida window and then right to get to Aduana office which is inside a nice air conditioned room.
  • Ask to cancel vehicle permit, fill out a form. Hand over original permit papers and driver’s passport. They will check VIN.  (Ours did not even leave the room)
  • They will keep original but hand back form with stamp for proof of cancel

*We literally were through this border in 15 minutes – it was awesome! In between the 2 countries is a large area of shopping that is duty free.  In the middle is a bank where you can change over the Costan Rican money to American dollars again.  Do it here, it will be your last chance.  Now drive through the crazy area to the largest building – a dirty white building.

Panama Side

  • Park at the other end of the immigration next to fumigation. Now go the small booth across from the main building marked Seguridad.  Get insurance for your car.  They need original and copies of: title and driver’s passport.  They charged us $15.75.  She gave us insurance and a copy of insurance.
  • Now go to immigration.  Some people had to pay for a stamp here; other’s had to prove that they had at least $500 in a bank account.  We just had to have driver’s insurance with the promise that we were shipping our car out.
  • Now we needed to go up stairs to an office and have our insurance stamped.
  • Then down to the office marked Capturo and Manifesto for permit. Make sure if you are shipping across the Darien Gap that you double check every number, that chasis are labeled with your VIN or n/a, and that engine number is also noted as the VIN. Make them do it right or you will have to find somewhere in Panama City or Colon to fix it.  They will want to know from what port city you are shipping from, so know ahead of time. (Panama City or Colon)
  • Then go through the brown door kiddy corner to window you were just at.  A man here will have you fill out a declaration form and check your car’s VIN. He will sign and stamp your vehicle permit.
  • Lastly, pay for fumigation.  Apparently, this changes from day to day as well, we paid $8, and some friends, behind us at a different crossing paid $3.

Our Route

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Central America Tips

Coming soon…


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