Joined: Sep 2008
On Aduana & Imigracion
A lot has been said and read about crossing Central American borders. About the interminable wait, the complicated procedures, the difficult to find, sometimes absent officials, the non-descript official buildings, etc, etc…
Well, yesterday was border day for us and it went something like this:
At Salvador exit 0755 done @ 0810
At Honduras entrance 0813 done @ 0911
At Honduras exit 1155 done @ 1218
At Nicaragua entrance 1220 done @ 1314
Granted speaking Spanish helps. But then again, anyone with a minimum of knowledge, say... Lonelyplanet phrase-book level, some patience, a smile and common sense should be able to breeze through all these border crossings without any difficulties at all.
I want to debunk the myth a bit. Look for no specifics here. In all cases, when you first arrive look for someone usually at a narrow booth that is dressed in some type of official uniform, they may or may not ask you to show them your passport, but will inevitably direct you to a place to park your ride. Pick a shaded spot.
Next identify the two places that you need to interact with; Aduana (bike) and Imigracion (you).
Ignore the touts for help: no gracias, no necesito ayuda, and smile. You might have to repeat this a few times.
You need vehicle registration or title; Canadians do not have titles for their vehicles, only registrations, and your driver’s licence. Inadvertently an official will fill in a form to transfer your information into an import vehicle form, this may be done by hand, typed or entered in a computer.
You may or may not need copies of that document, and you may or may not have to get it stamped by another official who may or may not verify your VIN. Usually that person is standing outside not very far from aduana
Aduana will likely require 1 to 3 copies of your registration/title, passport and DL, you may or may not have to pay a fee.
Jackie fixing the fixer
The bottom half of your bike gets fumigated, you pay a small fee.
You show your passport you may or may not get a stamp you may or may not pay a fee.
You are likely to have to visit the little shack named “Copias” to make copies of your stamped or completed paperwork.
You may or may not have to show that you have completed all these steps correctly to one final guard/official at a control post prior to hitting the road again.
This process takes anywhere from 45 minutes to 1hour 30 minutes, of course -YMMV-
The copy shop
Exit is quicker
As you arrive at the crossing an official may or may not look at your paperwork and will then direct you to Aduana and Imigracion.
An official will look at your vehicle entry form, and will likely stamp it; you may or may not need the vehicle entry form from the previous country to enter into the next.
Imigracion will look at your passport, and entry form if applicable, they may or may not stamp them.
This process takes anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes.
I got the disease, I can't stop taking pictures of motos
We found it most practical to have a minimum of the local currency left when leaving the country. The moneychangers are there to make a living, so just think of them as the same as the foreign exchange counter at any airport, except; it will be hot, it will be humid, and they are likely to be wearing sandals. Instead of being behind a glass counter, they carry huge piles of cash and a satchel.
Know the official rate for the currency you are changing from/to, ask them how much they will give you for a determined amount, if you can’t say “Cuando” (remember your Lonelyplanet phrase-book level Spanish) just use their calculator. Each time I exchanged the money I used the split the difference strategy, and I was happy with the “fee/commission” I was being charged.
Jackie the quintessential border fixer
So for instance if 400 blue widgets are really worth 1100 red widgets and they are offering me 900 reds for my blues, I just said no, give me 1000, they pout, look at me with pleading eyes, I shake my head and repeat the same number, and the transaction is completed within a few seconds on a handshake to both our satisfaction.
We have found that the time of day (lunch time) did not influence the rapidity of the service we received from border officials. Everybody in an official position, without exception has been friendly and helpful.
Valentino was screwing around with the camera, nothing to do but wait...
Now for the useful tip section:
Before you leave home, or on the road when you have a chance, have plenty of copies made of your drivers licence front and back, your vehicle registration/title, and your passport (photo page).
Find out what the official fees for entry/exit are so you have an idea of the minimal currency you will need for entry. You could also opt to change a small amount of US dollars with the moneychangers into the local currency if you do not have sufficient money left from the previous country.
Lunch in Honduras
Making could use of the J&V stickers
And for a minimum of pontificating:
Just as Americans, Canadians are used to minimal entry procedures between both countries. It always makes me laugh when I hear people commenting or complaining about (now) needing a passport to cross the border between Canada and the US. Europeans have it even easier within the Schengen area. Pair that reality with the heat, the humidity, and the foreign language, and I can understand that the formalities may seem overwhelming for some.
In fact it is very reflective of our low context culture, as Westerners we are largely desensitized to context, and conduct our daily lives in sheep-like fashion, we are lost without signs and indications, we need at least four sometimes eight signals at one intersection, a green left/right arrow, and several lines and other delineations painted on the ground to tell us where to turn, all in the name of safety and order. Victoria, the city where I live is a prime example of that, there is an incredible amount of signage and generally speaking drivers are really bad.
In the rest of the world, with exceptions of course, the more you go East and South the more people rely on context to interact with their surroundings, hence they are used to make decision for themselves, and do not necessarily associate the systematic lack of information, and official conventions to be either a sign of chaos or a treat. As such they are able to navigate a busy roundabout several lanes wide or cross a busy intersection with a single signal indicating the right of way, they are used to dealing with animals on the road without signage indicating a deer crossing for the next 10km. There isn't a stop sign at every street corner...
The same concept apply to these border crossings, you have to rely on yourself to find your way in and out of a relatively easy maze. This warren will have little indications of where the exit is, and you will likely get lost and hit a dead end here and there. You will have to backtrack, although you might get scolded if you make a mistake, you will not get hurt nor loose your shirt.
Both Hall and Hofstede have studied this, and other related phenomena and behaviours that identify broad differences in cultural values and communication styles. Although general, these theories explain a lot about our cultural differences and why certain things happen the way they do i.e.: this thing with traffic, why some airliners crash, why cultures are easily offended, even irritated by the behaviours of others, regardless if they are visiting or visited. It is, to a certain extent related to emotional intelligence, capacity for apathy, awareness of self and others, notions of independence and interdependence.
What is interesting about all these cultural/communication behaviours, is that no matter how cliché many of them are, more often than none they are very reflective of a given group, society, country, culture...
This is not the same thing as a stereotype, where one says: "all Americans are..." As opposed to; when placed in this situation, and facing this decision, Italians are more likely to behave this way, compare to Chinese who are more likely to behave that way (when faced with the same decision/situation). This include things like uncertainty avoidance, low/high tolerance to ambiguity, face saving behaviour, individualism vs collectivism, femininity vs masculinity...
For anyone interested in sociology, communications, human behaviour... these concepts provide a lot of reasons/justifications as to why we are the way we are, and why for so many of us it is difficult to change a behaviour or habit.
Cultural dimension theory; there is even an app for it called "Cultural GPS"
The key factor in my mind is self-awareness and the will to relinquish control.
The ride through Honduras was really nice and shortly after we crossed into Nicaragua we saw lots of animals. Horses, pigs, cows, chicken, goats, you name it we saw them, a lot of them leisurely walking around.
It was also a lot of fun zigzaging around the potholes
The volcanoes and landscape were amazing, barely a cloud in sky.
Tonight we rest in Leon
V@lentino screwed with this post 04-21-2014 at 02:24 AM