Saturday, February 28, 2015

Crossing from Mexico into Guatemala

Just a heads up: This blog entry is long and tedious... even I feel that way. But I've included every detail of our border crossing from Mexico to Guatemala via El Ceibo for those who are following our blog who are planning to do a similar trip. So my apologies - feel free to skip to the end of this blog and avoid all of the border crossing tedium. Bottom line:

Guatemala, here we come!

Tenosique was by far the sketchiest town we have visited in Mexico, but the people were very nice. Tenosique also yielded by far, the most sketchy hotels. We found one with ample secure bike parking, but thank goodness Ewen and I checked out the room before taking it: we quickly walked out and while I handed over the key, I contemplated how to politely tell the inn-keeper “We’re not taking the room because the last guests poop is still in the toilet.”

We eventually rode by Hotel Rome (which was in Ewen’s little book) and noticed a bike already sitting in the lobby. The owner of the bike, David from New Hampshire, walked out to greet us, and Rome himself made room for our bikes in the lobby. We chatted and decided to all ride over the border together the next morning.

Bike parking in the lobby of Hotel Rome

We set off the next morning after our last Pemex fill-up and made it to the border in under an hour.

Last Pemex fill-up

Look Mom, this is what a baby would look like on my motorbike

We entered the Mexican customs house to turn in our Mexican tourist visa. We were all a bit surprised that he requested the receipt for the visa. Especially Ewen and I. I fortunately, am a pack-rat and seldom throw away receipts… but I did have to search through my paperwork folder for it. Ewen, on the other hand was not so lucky and was made to pay the 306 pesos again. Kind of questionable as no one had told us we needed to hang on to that document. And really, why should you have to? If you have the tourist visa, you’ve obviously paid the fee, right? But, what are you going to do? Argue with the guy whose buddies have some heavy firepower on hand?


Banjercito was open (the guy in customs told me that they were closed Sundays - but fortunately for us they are only closed on Mondays). After the nice Banjercito guy photographed all of our VINs, he stamped out our import documents as proof that we should receive the funds back in our bank account that we had paid upon importing our bikes.

Our bike import papers and the Banjercito guy struggling to see Ewen's VIN on his KLR

We then crossed to the Guatemala side and it became a bit of a hot mess. Literally.

We went into the Aduana and began the paperwork process. We needed to show the originals of our licenses, passports and titles and provide copies.


Because the Transalp is from ’89, Vermont will not issue a new title for it, so all I have is my registration. I kept my fingers crossed that he would accept it without issue.

He did. Whew.

What he didn’t like was that on Roel’s title, his name is listed as R. Bremmers. He was a nice guy and had the patience of a saint, but he was adamant that “R” is a letter and is not a name, and hence Roel’s title couldn’t be accepted by Guatemalan officials. After some pleading on our behalf, he decided to accept another document: Roel’s International Proof of Ownership papers. Double whew.

We had to hike about 200 meters up the road to the shop (in Guatamala!) that makes copies. Not a long distance, but when you’re wearing full bike gear in the heat of the Guatemalan mid-day sun, it was a trek. So I was extra pleased when one of the Guatemalan immigration officials insisted on giving me a ride up the hill on the back of his 250 :D Loving Guatemala already!!

After we turned over all of these papers, we were instructed to head next door to Migracion to have our passports and the copy of our passports stamped. Done.

We returned to the Aduana, handed over the stamped passport copies and signed documents saying we had to pay 160 Quetzales (about 320 pesos, or $23) which was about 120 quetzals more than we had anticipated. Whoa. We had been given 90 days on our visas, but we’d heard that others who had recently crossed had only been charged 40 Quetzals - perhaps they had been given fewer days. I asked if there was a less expensive option, but there was none. 160 Quetzals, 90 days. Oh well.

We then had to take this paperwork to the “bank” next door to pay the Quetzales.

Once paid, we had to take the receipt back to the Aduana, where he gave us documents listing our passport and VINs which we also had to sign. Always pays to have a look at things before you sign them: my passport number looked strange and I realized as I was signing the first document that it was missing a digit. The aduana agent didn’t believe me at first and was quite put off that I would think that he could make a mistake. Then he apologized and reprinted everything for me to sign. He then gave me the import documents for my bike and told me I could put the sticker on my bike or on the paperwork, but that I should put it on the paperworks as you need to return this when you depart the country.

Ewen and David had their bikes fumigated before we did and were charged 25 Quetzales, 5 more than anticipated. We asked the Aduana agent how much it should be and he told us 20. After they fumigated our bikes he asked us for 25 quetzals, too, and when we said “Oh, but we thought it was only 20” without further discussion he said “that’s ok.” Ohhhhhh tourist taxes.

But with that, we were on our way into Guatemala.

Immediate impressions: there are animals EVERYWHERE. Not just dogs anymore. Pigs were roaming around the official buildings at the border, pigs and chickens wandered around soccer fields, mostly staying clear of the players and ball, and horses and cows were all alongside the road… and in some places, in the road.

Equal opportunity playing field, here is Guatemala. Everyone is welcome, including the pigs and chickens

It was a Sunday, and everyone, particularly the girls seemed to be dressed to the nines. Though their houses were mostly a mishmash of different building materials, their skirts and tops were clean, pressed and very cute. I think the guys particularly enjoyed riding through the towns, and I can’t blame them: Guatemalan women are lovely.

On our way to Flores, we were following David’s GPS which is set to shortest route. Eventually, this took us to a dirt road that was lovely despite some incredible potholes. We went through villages that likely seldom saw tourists and people were extremely friendly and curious.

At one point, the road turned into series of massive road-width puddles with cows drinking from the far end. Roel went through first and then the other guys followed. I came through at the end and failed to keep my speed fast enough, coming to a stop after hitting a rock the wrong way and rearing up on a hidden mound in the puddle. Fail. But, I did not drop the Transalp, so I suppose I won a little there (but really just got extremely lucky that when I put my feet down, there was something beneath them . Determined to get to the other side, I throttled out and went through the next puddle without an issue.

And suddenly, this is what became of the road.

Feet down. Cow puddle crossing FAIL!

David riding out of the cow puddle

We arrived at a lovely cheap hotel in Flores, crammed the bikes into the lobby and celebrated our arrival.


  1. Hi Azure.
    I met you guys at the HU gathering in Ontario two summers ago. Last August I rode from Michigan to Prudhoe Bay on my KLR and camped at Ramy's place in Fairbanks. He said you two had been there earlier. That night I read your post on the Dalton and sparayed Pam on my motor. Thanks for the tip! And happy trails en la America del Sur. I rode down to Guatemala a three years ago and ended up spending a month in San Pedro la Laguna on Lake Atitlan.
    Good riding!

  2. Enjoyed reading about the crossing. About to do the same one today (in a van though). Your trip looks amazing and I hope you had a great time. Badass to do it on bikes!! Melissa