The Mexican/Guatemalan border is more of a drive-through market than a border crossing. You need to find your own way between the necessary buildings and hope you did not forget to have something done on the way. Nobody will tell you where to go.
We started out on the Mexican side, where we got our passports stamped as exiting Mexico. Then, we went to another office to have the temporary car importation permit cancelled. This was all pretty easy and did not cost us anything. The border patrol men were watching tv and wanted us out of the way quickly.
4 km separates the Mexican and Guatemalan customs, we therefore drove on in no-man’s land until the market/border sprung into action. The first stop was a fumigation station for the van. It is supposed to kill bugs or something on your vehicle before entering Guatemala. This cost us Q40 = $5. It’s supposedly cheaper for smaller vehicles. Next stop was to get our tourism stamp. We had to wait a little while for no apparent reason, but that is just the way it is! We paid Q10 per person as a tourism fee. We did not receive a receipt, so I am not sure where/who this fee goes to.
If we did not have a vehicle we would now be good to go. Since we do have a vehicle, we had to stop by the vehicle importation office which is right next door to the passport office. There was nobody in the vehicle office, so we had to wait. And wait. And wait. Finally they show up and started processing our case. They need the original title of the vehicle, the passport of the owner and drivers license. What seems to not be such a complicated process end up taking a long time. I really do not understand how it can take this long! They take the copies that are necessary so you do not have to worry about that. The import fee is Q160 and must be paid at the nearby bank. They wait while you go and do this. In the end you get a sticker on your windshield and you are suddenly good to go! Yay! It is by no means the most complicated border crossing we have been to, but keep calm and have lots of patience as this process in our case took two hours.
By the time we got through the border and were on Guatemalan roads it was later then we would have liked. We made it to Huehuetenango for the night, but did not have much extra time for unexpected events, such as a landslide taking out the road, making this the main highway:
Tips for the border crossing:
– Have a meal before you reach the border. Being hungry does not help anybody’s patience.
– Exchange money before you reach the border. You will need Quetzals. The money exchangers at the border are just waiting to rip you off. It saves you hassle (and probably money) to take care of this somewhere else.