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Old 07-10-2013, 11:56 AM   #1
americanthumper OP
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Question Insurances/Paperwork

I'm planning to ride from Seattle to Argentina on my XR650L with my friend on his KLR650. Departure date of October 1st 2013. We are wondering what paperwork we need for each country including visas and mandatory insurances. Does anyone know of a good resource to find this information? We don't want to get half way and find out we didn't apply for some piece of paper and cant cross a boarder. Or get pulled over and taken to jail for not having the right insurance or whatever other paperwork. Thanks for any comments!
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Old 07-10-2013, 03:00 PM   #2
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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.
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Old 07-10-2013, 06:08 PM   #3
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+1 on Airhead Wrangler's comments.

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.

Enjoy the road!
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:40 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by csustewy View Post
+1 on Airhead Wrangler's comments.

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.

Enjoy the road!
This is an excellent comment. But knowing the rules in advance is a good idea sometimes. They're aren't many. In more than a dozen crossings recently even the bad ones can be quite interesting and worthwhile experiences, if you accept things for what they are, not what you expect them to be. However I had a unsuccessful crossing once because I re-entered Guatemala after expiring a previous TVIP (after cancelling correctly, on time) and re-entering without the required stay-away period. I recommend having an understanding of durations and re-entry rules unless you're riding a straight line through. If you're intimidated by how to get this information, as I was, and your Spanish is crappy, as mine is/was, then ask the various people here who 'Godfather' their various jurisdictions. For instance, Guaterider for Guatemala, Salcar for Nicaragua.
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Old 07-11-2013, 05:07 AM   #5
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I compiled this information in '09 so it could be a bit out of date

South American Country info

But, bring the documents mentioned by Airhead Wrangler and you will be ok.
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Old 07-12-2013, 01:58 AM   #6
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I hope to be leaving around mid Sept , so we may meet along the way
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Old 07-12-2013, 03:21 PM   #7
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Hi guys we will be a bit ahead of you but we are travelling very slowly so may cross tracks yet ... hopefully!!

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.

Same process every border, clock yourselves out then cancel your bike TVIP, cross to new country border, clock yourselves in first then clock in the moto and get a new TVIP, same every border, you will have to do varying amounts of unnecessary photo copying at each border, not much but they want it.

As noted above, kingpin of the situation is smile and keep your cool, have LOTS of water with you.
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Two Moto Kiwis screwed with this post 07-18-2013 at 08:56 AM Reason: Hond & Nica added
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Old 07-24-2013, 09:20 PM   #8
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Baja Ferry Crossing

Thanks for all the good info everyone. I'm trying to book our ferry tickets from La Paz to Mazatlan and the web site says "no availability" out to infinity... I can't seem to get anyone on the phone.

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?

Thanks!
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Old 07-24-2013, 10:53 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by americanthumper View Post
Thanks for all the good info everyone. I'm trying to book our ferry tickets from La Paz to Mazatlan and the web site says "no availability" out to infinity... I can't seem to get anyone on the phone.

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?

Thanks!
Make sure you have your TVIP etc done and dusted in Tijuana or you will run into trouble and they will NOT let you on the boat, when you get to La Paz it will all fall into place, just check prior to your arrival the sailing time to the different ports.

You have to pay port fees and a small park fee as well which they say nothing about and this is at the point where you enter to the ferry itself, you won't need a room on the Ferry as the reclining chairs are comfy enough.

Hope this helps
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Old 07-25-2013, 12:17 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by americanthumper View Post
Thanks for all the good info everyone. I'm trying to book our ferry tickets from La Paz to Mazatlan and the web site says "no availability" out to infinity... I can't seem to get anyone on the phone.

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?

Thanks!
Did this crossing in January. The bikes are loaded down in a deep dark hole with lots of room for a serious number of bikes, so they in reality can't be out of bike space. I'd just show up. No cabin, no problem, a big video room with comfy seats to sleep in.

The paperwork process is the same as some of the best fronteras and pretty modern and no problem but be patient. If I remember correctly no photocopy runs.

However I had a reservation on the boat, had a great cabin with a killer shower so I wouldn't exactly know how miserable you're gonna be.
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Old 08-07-2013, 03:36 PM   #11
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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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Airhead Wrangler View Post
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by csustewy View Post
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.
+1

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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by americanthumper View Post
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Two Moto Kiwis View Post
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by crashmaster View Post
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!
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Old 08-07-2013, 03:47 PM   #12
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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.

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Old 08-07-2013, 04:35 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markharf View Post
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.

Mark
Mark,

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:

Southbound
US-MX: nada
MX-BZ: MXN300 (this was to the immigration guy, I admit got ripped off here) / $2-3 on the BZ side
BZ-GT: nada
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

Northbound
PA-CR: nada
CR-NI: nada
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
SV-GT: nada
GT-MX: nada
MX-US: nada

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,

Matt
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Old 08-07-2013, 06:16 PM   #14
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Yup, you do what makes sense for you--then adjust for what works. But you can draw on the experience of others, and they on yours, just so none of us have to reinvent the wheel each time.

I've never had to provide a title--real, fake, photocopied or in any other form--at any border in Central America. But FWIW I met an aduana official at the El Salvador/Honduras border who had a looseleaf book with samples of titles from all 50 states, including detailed illustrations and descriptions of all security features--microprinting, iridescent ribbons, watermarks, holograms, you name it. You can't duplicate any of that on a color photocopy, and if you know what to look for the copies are blindingly obvious.

That's why I say aduana personnel are lazy: mostly they don't want to go to a lot of trouble, but if they decide to get tough and you can't provide a genuine document, you're sunk (at least to the extent of negotiating, then paying, mordidas in the hot sun when you'd rather be riding briskly down the road). And I figure each time I pay over the odds I'm setting up the next rider for more hassle, more negotiations, more frustration. It's not just a question of what I'm willing to pay.

My bike titles are painted with map seal so they never rip, stain, decompose or even wrinkle. Amazing stuff. I carry them, as I said, with my passport. I haven't lost either one yet, and I don't intend to start now. Why would I keep a title in my jacket? Why would you? That's where I keep the fakes and the color photocopies.

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