Crossing borders in Central America is an interesting experience.
First of all, let me tell you that there’s nothing to be afraid of; most of the aduanas or customs officers are friendly and straight forward.
There are a lot of people walking around usually, creating confusion in the minds of foreigners, but in the end, it’s just a classic example of “disorganized order”.
The best weapon while crossing a border in Central America is undoubtedly patience. Some of the border crossing points don’t receive a large number of people per day, so rhythms tend to be slower and operations clunkier. In general, all South America border crossings are painless and absolutely free of charge; Carnet de Passage is NOT required.
All you need is your passport and your vehicle registration.
Central America becomes slightly more complicated since some countries require a variety of fees to be paid upon entry.
Entering Panama requires insurance that costs $25 USD, plus fumigation charges of $1. Costa Rica requires only a small exit fee ($9 USD) but makes you purchase very expensive mandatory vehicle insurance ($44) upon entry, valid for 90 days.
Nicaragua requires you to purchase insurance for your foreign motorcycle upon entry as well ($12 USD valid for 30 days); the cost is less than the Costa Rican charge, but it has to be provided to the officials to have your temporary import permit released. On top of that, there’s a $5 USD “rodaje” fee to be paid to officials to provide a permit that has to be presented to the inspection police. For your passport stamp, you have to pay $12 as an entry fee. Finally, there’s $3 USD fee to be paid for fumigation of your vehicle.
Honduras and El Salvador don’t require entry fees, but Guatemala does require a $3 USD exit fee.
In all of the above cases you may be required to show your yellow fever vaccination too, so make sure your have proof with you.
Belize does require entry fees (app $20 USD) and exit fees ($20 USD). “Technically”, insurance has to be paid as well (per day) but is not part of the paperwork to enter the country; police may want to see the proof of insurance if you get pulled over. Fumigation is once again $1 USD.
Mexico requires a security deposit of $400 dollars if your motorcycle is newer than 2007 (provided in the form of a sticker which you have to return at the exit border if you want your deposit back) if you are planning to stay for more than 2 weeks with your motorcycle and for a maximum of 180 days, and $84 for your motorcycle. On top of that, you will be required to pay $5 for fumigation, and $40 immigration fee for your passport, which is mandatory and non-refundable.
Remember that these fees can change in the future. Also, you will need copy after copy of your motorcycle registration, driver license, and passport. If you don’t have these already, you will have to find local shops (which usually charge you double) to make copies for you.
Featured Image: A highway in Honduras by Smorales86