Border Crossing

Crossing borders may be one of the less enjoyable part of your journey, but can make some good stories. In general, border crossings involve two things:

  1. Getting your passport stamped by Immigration (Migracion in Spanish)
  2. Getting your vehicle cleared by Customs (Aduana in Spanish)

These offices at the border are usually separate from each other. You will likely have to deal with both migracion and aduana in the country you are leaving before dealing with both offices in the country you are entering. Check out the specific information by country below for more detailed information on documents and border crossing procedure.

Border Crossing Tips

  • Validate Your Documents :Check the numbers and letters on all documents before leaving customs. You may run into issues when leaving the country if your license number, VIN, color of car, etc. do not match. We have a general list of documents you should plan on bringing on your trip, but each border is different in its requirements.
  • Immigration and Customs Fees : Every border will be different, but often you will not have any currency for the country you are entering when you arrive at the border. You can sometimes pay any fees with the currency of the country you are leaving. It is also handy to have $50 to $100 United States dollars on hand, which if often accepted. The last two options are using a bank to exchange money or using a money changer. You will see money changers, men with large stacks of bills walking around that will exchange money for you. It is a good idea to know the exchange rate before interacting with a money changer though, or you may get a very bad rate. If you don't know, ask one (or two) of the customs officials for the current exchange rate.
  • Arrive early:You don't want to get stuck at the border late in the day and end up driving into the new country at night. Stay at a town close to the border the night before (border towns are usually sketchy) and get up early to arrive early at the border.
  • General conditions and requirements at each crossing varied greatly, even within the same country Therefore, the info provided for each country may only apply to the given crossing, and conditions would likely change over time.
  • Documents required also varies greatly; at some crossings we didn’t need any copies, while at others we needed several copies. In many cases there is a place to make copies nearby, but not always, so it’s good to always have plenty with you.
  • In most cases, be sure to drive straight up to the crossing, past the long lines of trucks.
  • Guys wanting to serve as an agent will flock to you as you approach the border, and how you deal with them will probably change depending on your needs. If you don’t speak Spanish and you find an agent that speaks English, you may want to use him, because it could make the process a lot easier. Sometimes it’s difficult to know which window/office you need to go to next and what documents each person wants from you. If you have decent Spanish, you should be able to complete all the crossings with relative ease on your own, as we did.  If you do use an agent, be prepared to pay a lot more than you would if you try to do it on your own.  

Country Information

Check out the specifics by country for more detailed information on documents and border crossing procedure.

Fri, 02/21/2014 - 17:06

Nogales crossing into Mexico

My wife and I crossed into Mexico at Nogales yesterday. We stopped at the Banjercito in the Mexican consulate in Phoenix for our vehicle import permit prior to the crossing. I highly recommend this step. You will need your original pre-authorization (, original title, original registration, and passport(s) of the person(s) on the title. Also one copy of each. If you don't have the copies or the preauth form, there is a place across the street that will create the form for you for $5. Cost of the permit was $44, plus some taxes, so it came to $53US total. They also charge a refundable $400 to your credit card. You get that back when you cancel the permit. Ours was for 180 days. If you don't cancel within 180 days, you forfeit the fee.

The border crossing was painless. We arrived at about 9am. No line for 'nothing to declare' cars entering Mexico. Some sites have indicated you must use the 'declare' line if you have more than $75/pp of stuff. We had more than that, but we used the 'nothing' line anyway. At the border we got our entry permits ($27US each). They asked if we had a vehicle permit and we said yes. They didn't ask to see it (maybe it was already associated with our passports?). Anyway, they didn't look at it and they didn't look at the vehicle at all. After we got our passports stamped we just got in the car and drove through, all green lights. 


We'll land in Chile eventually.


Mike & Kerry

Wed, 01/22/2020 - 13:14 (Reply to #1)

Hi Mike and Jerry

I just got a question, how long did you stay in Mexico, ? And did you got the refund of the deposit in the border with guatemala?


Wed, 01/20/2016 - 18:57
I am now in Granada Nicaragua, and crossing borders cannot be done to quickly when driving a campervan. Permits are required and I could not get insurance in three countries, Guatemala, El Salvador and possibly Honduras. I tried hard to find insurance. Many locals thought I was Loca [ Spanish means crazy.] In Honduras, I was charged $35.00 US for only a three hour drive  through the country. I have to be careful
When I arrived at the El Salvador border, I hired someone that said he was an agent for the country of El Salvador. Badge number #169 never gave me a price until we were all done. His price was $40.00 US. And I questioned what he really did for me? Well, he did help with the translation as well as get me moved to the front of the line which  saved a bit of time. I did pay him, no problem. I thanked him for showing me what needs to be done when I to go through my next 4 countries. In a sense, I guess he helped prepare me, a good thing!
Exiting El Salvador, as well as all the countries I go through, I must go to emigration to suspend my visitor’s visa and campervan permits until I cross the new country line. I have to renew everything again. In most cases, there are big delay's at both ends, very frustrating waiting in line ups. It would be so much easier taking a bus.
  While exiting El Salvador, I saw the back up of many truckers waiting in line. I then decided to drive around them, just like agent #169 instructed me to do ,in order to save loads of time .Suddenly, I had no less than 10 agents all over me screaming and yelling, angry with me? In my loud English voice, I said "no, get out of here"! "I know how to do this myself" ,but they kept on coming. Again, suddenly, one of the agents yelled my name, "Pete".  I looked at him curiously, and asked "how do you know my name"? He said that his friend helped me at the opposite end. He said his friend charged me too much. But that he wasn’t really his friend....Wow?... My solution to the problem of choosing an agent was to pick the quietest one in the noisy group. I told him I am paying $10.00 dollars, US tops!  He was happy with that amount. Can you believe he did not even have an agent # badge, but he did have a name, which I forgot? My Dutch bodyguard Peter [kidding, as if I need a bodyguard but we do watch each other’s back], could see it in his eyes that I was having problems. He knew I paid way too much at the last border. In the end, I gave no name a $5.00 tip but drove away with tons of valuable experience!
It took about three hours driving time through Honduras to the Nicaragua border. We drove through some real bad roads and it was getting dark..It is not a good idea to drive at night, very difficult to spot potholes. I suggested to Peter that we get a hotel once we cross the border and he agreed about the danger. While waiting at the Nicaragua border, we met another nice traveler coming through from Guatemala. He asked me if I spoke Spanish, I said a bit but I get by with laughs and smiles [you know me!].  We agreed that we couldn't do these roads at night, so he and his wife followed me to the next town. They would be a great help  with my Spanish at the border. We got through the Nicaraguan border with ease this time. About ten K’s from the border, there was a road block. I did not know wither they were Policia, or Militar? They waved l me over. Opening my window, I said "I’m English (Ingles)",and he asked me for some "water" (agua)! I said "yes I am drinking one now", and he took it from me and immediately blew a whistle and pointed to proceed. I drove away laughing!...The roads were really good in Nicaragua , ended up driving an hour to a bigger city still with the couple from Guatemala. I gave the couple my card ,thanked them and told them I hoped to hear from them again!
Pete Montgomery from

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 17:34

Visa extension.

We have bought a van in Santiago, and are now in Buenos Aires, the border crossing was fairly simple, but we only got 6 months before we have to return to the country with the car, does anyone know a way to extend this? 

I also made a thread in the General forum.

Thanks ;)

Tue, 01/31/2017 - 15:12

Compro westfalia, furgoneta o combi. y necesito su recomendacion

Pronto planeo salir de Costa Rica Hacia Sur América, por this razon si algun viajero en tránsito TIENE UNA Westfalia, furgoneta, mini caravana, combi o Semejante, párr La Venta, me intereza.


La INFORMACION ADICIONAL Que necesito, Es Que si me trslado una Venezuela en avion podre comprar el Vehículo alla, y Seguir por los demas paises por los demas Paises Sin problemas?

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 11:10 (Reply to #5)

To avoid costs of sending the

To avoid costs of sending the RV from Panamá to Colombia, buy or rent one in Colombia with either of the following:

Wed, 09/13/2017 - 11:13

From the NE USA to Guatemala City (December 1, 2017)

Hello all,

I am travelling by motorcycle SOLO to Guatemala through Mexico on Dec 1, 2017 for a total of 20 days trip only. 3 nights in Guatemala visiting a friend and back to the US.

I wonder if I can do the import paperwork before exiting the USA, so to make it easier while crossing the border into Mexico and Guatemala.

Is it possible to go to their consulates in NYC for these temporary import perimits?



Thu, 09/19/2019 - 04:52

General List of Documents


Can you please share

1. A link to the general list of documents we should carry for border crossing? (link above is not working)

2. Also a link to the country-wise list of documents?