I did NYC to Yaviza and back between November '12 and May '13. I'll add my $0.02 on top of a lot of good information already posted. Note that my experience stops at Panama and my not be completely applicable further south.
Originally Posted by Airhead Wrangler
Bring your passport, drivers license, registration, and title and hit the road. You'll pick up the rest as you go. Insurance can be picked up at border crossings relatively cheaply. Don't believe anyone that tells you their insurance is valid in North AND South America.
Airhead Wrangler is correct, but I'll add a couple of suggestions. On the title, leave the real one at home. My personal opinion is that it's just too much of a risk to be carrying it on the bike.
What I did, and it worked perfectly, was to carry a high-quality, double-sided color copy of my title for each border I intended to cross. I then carried a the same number of black and white copies, but I kept all but one of the color copies separate. At each crossing, I'd offer up the black and white copy and if they demanded the real title, I'd reluctantly produce the color copy as the "real" title, stressing that it was a very important document. At every border but Belize and, I believe, Panama heading south, the B&W copy was sufficient. Where I was pressed for the real title, the color copy was never questioned.
I'd also add this was a New York State title, not sure if there are nuances to other states' titles which would make this difficult (holograms, embossed stamps, high-security paper that says "VOID" when you copy it, etc.).
Of further note, a few borders (sorrry, I can't remember which) didn't even want to see the title, since NYS titles don't show the licence plate number. For those, the registration card was sufficient.
I'd also suggest carrying a few B&W copies of your passport, licence (both sides) and registration. Not all borders (again, sorry, I can't remember which) wanted to copies of any other documents and having them ahead of time can relieve some aggravation trying to find the copy spot. At the very least, it will save you some coin.
Originally Posted by csustewy
And just take it easy at every border crossing. Relax, smile, be friendly, and expect each crossing to take up most of your day. If it's a fast one, then wow! so much extra time, and if it takes a few hours longer than what you might think should be necessary, well, that still fits with your schedule.
On border crossings, I found it generally useful to use a helper. The official ones will have a name tag of sorts, although the validity of said document is relative. Crossing from Nicaragua to Honduras, I even had one do an awesome job of washing my bike while his buddy was inside dealing with paperwork. That the wash (of a very filthy GSA) cost me all of $2 and the dude looked like John C. Reilly only added to the awesomeness.
Agree a price ahead of time, only crossing from El Salvador to Honduras and again from Honduras to El Salvador (both times on the SV side) was I extorted for cash on top of the agreed price and even then for like $5-$10 more.
I eventually found it easiest to also agree on the amount of time it will take to cross. At the Nica/CR border, there was an incredibly long line at immigration. One of the helpers asked for $20, I told him I'd give him $25 if he could get me through in 30 minutes. He literally ran to immigration, spoke with the guard at the door and got me to the front of the line (the hippies were angry that day, my friends). When all was said and done, it took 32 minutes by my watch, which was good enough.
As csustewy said, do it with a smile, make it fun for you and the helper and it should generally go smoothly. They're pretty good guys who work for sh!t money, so don't sweat $10 or $20 to make things much more pleasant. It will be hot and standing around in the sun and humidity in riding gear can suck.
I know some folks abhor the idea of paying for what should be a free/low-cost crossing. I heard a story of a German dude on a moto who waited all day at the Honduras border because he refused to pay on principal, only to pay in the late afternoon as it was starting to get dark. Perhaps that's a bit of ADV rider myth, but given my experience, it seems entirely plausible.
The helpers were truly helpful when I had a family member pass away while I was in Esteli, Nica and needed to get back to Mexico City ASAP. I did the Nica-Honduras-Salvador-Guatemala crossing in one day and it wasn't fun, probably one of the most unfun and profoundly frustrating days I've had on a bike, but I managed three Central American crossings in one day that I think would have been impossible without greasing the skids a bit.
I think in total, crossing each border twice (except for Belize as I went from Guate to MX on the way back) I paid $250 over six months in helper "fees". To me that was certainly worth greatly reduced aggravation and relatively (and sometimes genuinely) speedy crossings.
Originally Posted by americanthumper
Does anyone have any experience with this ferry crossing and what the process is for all the paperwork to bring the bike into mainland mexico?
I took the ferry from La Paz to Topolobampo, but I believe the departure port is the same. You can show up the day of departure. I actually went to the terminal ticket office a few days in advance and was told to just show up the day of. As OK Lucinda mentioned, there really aren't spots for motos, so you sort of just park it where they tell you; I can't imagine them running out of space.
I, and three other riders just tied our bikes together with a greasy rope they had on board, through the I-beams on the ceiling, and then lashed them to a railing, with the bikes parked facing the starboard side (we were worried about side-to-side rocking knocking the bikes over). It was all good, but if I were to do it again, I'd bring a couple of tie-downs. The other guys all had bikes they could afford to bang up (KLR, DR650, Super Sherpa), I was the only one with a then five-month old, 3,000 mile GSA.
Aside from that, enjoy the comfy chairs, the beers and the lounge singer on the ferry; truly a spectacle to behold.
The only paperwork I was asked for in La Paz was the Mexico temporary import documentation, which I had taken care of back in Tecate. As Two Moto Kiwis mention, you'll also need to pay a few small port fees.
Side note, make sure you take care of the paperwork at the U.S. border crossing. No one stopped me nor did I ask and I ended up in Ensenada without any documentation. I didn't realize at the time that all of Baja is a frontier zone and you can travel from the U.S. and drive around there quite happily for a while without paperwork. Technically you're allowed a 72-hour stay south of the border, but I met a bunch of folks who I suspected had been there for a while longer.
Originally Posted by Two Moto Kiwis
Great advice above, Insurance is mandatory in Mexico, cancel ANY insurance you have north of the Mexican border as the paper is useful for the toilet.
Mexico - Mandatory - $124 US min.
Belize - Mandatory - $15 US From memory
Guate - Optional - Nil
El Salvador - Optional - Nil
Honduras - Optional Nil
Nicaragua - Mandatory $12 US.
Originally Posted by crashmaster
Panama: Mandatory $12-$15
The insurance info above is correct to my recollection, but keep in mind this is only liability coverage.
I planned on being (and ultimately was) in Mexico for a few months so I purchased full coverage from www.bajabound.com
. I think it was a $1000 deductible on damage, $500 on theft and liability coverage mirrored my U.S. liability coverage. For 6 months (the shortest term it made sense for me to get) and $30,000 of coverage, I think I paid less than $600. They require you to have U.S. insurance in parallel which for me wasn't an issue as I had cars and other bikes that were still in the states, so canceling my insurance wasn't an option.
One final note, while liability coverage is indeed mandatory in MX, I was never asked to show proof that I had it. I brought it to the aduana (customs) window when I first crossed, but the person at the window couldn't have cared less.
I think that's about all the info I can impart. But I'll reiterate what lots of others have said, relax, smile and remain calm at even the most frustrating crossings, the frustration will be fleeting but the experience will stay with you; enjoy it!