Originally Posted by markharf
You overpaid your helpers vastly. The going rate, even for gringos on brand new Bavarian bikes, is US$5 or less per border--a couple of bucks is normally sufficient. For $20 or $25 they should carry you across on a gilded litter, change your oil, set valve clearances and have you home for a five course meal.
Plus: I've had a couple of occasions where I wasn't going anywhere without a genuine title--and yes, I carry a convincing color copy as well. Photocopies don't include any of the security features which all titles incorporate, and aduana personnel aren't stupid--merely lazy.
Besides, what's the risk? You carry a passport, right? Carry your title wherever you carry the passport.
I should have checked my math and been more specific. $20-25 was about the most I paid, save for getting completely ripped off at the SV-HN border heading south (~$60 when all was said and done).
If I remember correctly, my helper fees were something like this:
MX-BZ: MXN300 (this was to the immigration guy, I admit got ripped off here) / $2-3 on the BZ side
GT-SV: nada, so much so that the immigration official on the SV side said, in English, if anyone asked me for money to let him know because it shouldn't happen
SV-HN: $60 in total, this was the worst and I had such a pleasant experience crossing up to this point that I wasn't prepared for the scam, this was exacerbated by stupidly not having enough USDs and having to exchange MXN at a usurious rate
HN-NI: $5-10 on the HN side which is chaotic and disorganized, another $5-10 on the NI side
NI-CR: $25, as mentioned above to get in front of an hours-long wait in the immigration line
CR-PA: nada to leave CR, $5-10 to enter PA
NI-HN: $10 out of NI, $10 into HN, including the bike wash (on both sides the guys did literally all of the paperwork, I simply sat outside with my bike and enjoyed a cold drink)
HN-SV: $30, ripped off here again, but was in such a hurry to get back to Mexico City I just paid instead of arguing
So, I guess in total it was actually closer to $200 over six months and 15 border crossings. That works out to a bit under $35/month or $15 per crossing. Had I paid $5 per crossing on each side, I'd be looking at something like $130 in total (excl. the U.S. crossings). I'm willing to eat the difference. I'm certainly not saying this is a choice everyone should make. We all have different budgets and goals. This is just what worked for me and I only feel I was ripped off at the SV-HN border on the Pan-American, but that place is a sh!tshow and they have a monopoly on the crossing unlike almost ever other border in CA; I'm still unhappy about it.
I sort of look at perhaps overpaying (certainly between SV-HN) in the same way I look at bringing my GSA vs. my WR250R or even my Super Sherpa. All of the bikes would have gotten the job done and provided me with an awesome experience, but I was willing to bear the extra cost of the GSA, sometimes financial in gas and oil, sometimes physical by picking the thing up alone, for the convenience and speed.
On the title, a good color copy of an NYS title looks pretty close to original, and is only really discernible as different if compared directly to said original. I did caveat this to say that some titles may have security features that might make this a challenge.
It's almost a moot point as I was only ever asked for an original at, I recall, two borders, everywhere else the B&W copy sufficed when it was even requested. A few borders only needed the registration with the plate number. This may not be everyone's experience, perhaps I was lucky?
As to the title, of course I carry my passport, but it's a durable, bound document that I've taken, figuratively, to hell and back, not a single piece of paper that's going to get mangled in my jacket. The passport is also replaceable at an embassy in-country, rather than requiring me to interact with the DMV from 3,000 miles away. The color copies with me and the original at home (only a couple of days away via FedEx if I really needed it) was a setup which worked well for me.
I wasn't suggesting that the aduana people are stupid, but the chances of one knowing exactly what a NYS title feels like without having an actual original for comparison was such a low-probability event that I'd rather take that risk than have my title with me to lose.
Thanks for keeping me honest on the math!
All the best,