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:
- Getting your passport stamped by Immigration (Migracion in Spanish)
- 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.
Check out the specifics by country for more detailed information on documents and border crossing procedure.