Surviving the Mexico Run

If heading South of the Border is not on your bucket list, it should be. For one thing, if you live in North America, you can ride there. For another thing, hey! another country to ride in.
Here’s what you need to know.
THE SETUP
You need to plan for the trip like you would for any other extended stay, with the following additions:
  • Get a passport. If you don’t have one, you need one. Getting a passport is fairly easy, but it takes a couple of weeks to get your application processed, unless you go to a US State Department passport office and pony up the money for an urgent application.
  • Get a decent picture. When I got my passport done, I checked at the clerk’s office at the courthouse to find out what I needed to do. I was told the No. 1 reason for applications getting kicked back is an improper photo. The clerk’s office directed me to a specific store that did such pictures exactly to specifications.
    Your passport needs to be good for 6 months longer than you’ll be in Mexico. In other words, if you plan to stay until the end of May, your passport must expire no sooner than the end of November.
  • Driver’s license. An International Driver’s license is acceptable as well as your state-issued license.
  • Bike registration. This is a critical point. Your bike’s paperwork must match the information on your passport and driver’s license.
  • If you trailer in, Mexico allows one ride per person. You can’t loan one to a friend. He’s got to own it.
    If you are making payments on your ride, you need a letter of authorization from the bank holding the title. The letter needs to say you have the bank’s permission to bring your steel steed into Estados Unidos Mexicanos.
  • Credit card. Again, this needs to match your driver’s license, passport and bike paperwork. If your card is issued through a local bank, call them and tell the card department where you are going and when you will be back. You don’t want your card being canceled 250 miles away from the US border.
  • Make extra copies of the paperwork. You may not need it, but it is better to have it and not need it. A dozen sheets of paper take up hardly any space.

    CHECK IN

    Mexico sells “tourist cards” for about $26. You’ll need one and keep it with your passport. When the officer asks how long you will stay, say “six months” no matter how long you actually plan to be there. The tourist permit is only good for six months. You’ll also give it back when you leave.
    Temporary Vehicle Import Permit (TVIP): You’ll shell out about $40 for this and it too is good for six months. Sometimes you’ll be asked to pay a bond, which could be as much as $400. This is to prevent you selling your ride while in Mexico. You do get this money back when you leave Mexico, provided you remember to turn in the TVIP.

    INSURANCE

    Some US policies will cover you when you ride in Canada or Mexico. Call your agent. Keep a copy of your policy showing that you are covered when out of the US.
    Some companies also sell policies to cover you when you ride in Mexico. Getting a Mexican policy is a good idea, whether or not your regular policy covers you.
    Mexico has an added incentive to get insurance. Mexico Mike has a blog about trips to the land of sombreros and tortillas. Mexican laws are a bit different. For one thing, if you have an accident and don’t have insurance, you will be a guest of the Mexican government. As Mike says, “If you do not have Mexican auto insurance, you will go to jail until the damages are paid. I know. I did. I now travel with Mexican auto insurance, have had accidents, and have not gone to jail.”

    HELMET

    Laws vary across the Mexican states on helmets. If the local law requires helmets, locals may be able to get away without wearing a brain bucket. You won’t. Take one, wear it.

    TOP THE TANK

    Buying fuel in Mexico ranges from easy to next to impossible Veterans who know they are going into sparsely populated regions carry Jerry cans. This video explains what it’s like buying from the Pemex gas stations.

    MILITARY CHECKPOINTS

    Mexico actually has military checkpoints on the road. These are nothing to be concerned about, provided all your paperwork is in order and you’re not doing anything illegal. Ride Stop N Go said you can expect your bike to be inspected and the saddlebags searched. All in all, it’s not bad they say. This is done with an eye toward protecting tourists.

    WHAT ABOUT THE WATER

    Independent Traveler says try to avoid water from local sources. Bottled water from sealed containers should be safe. Soft drinks are safe. Some people say Mexican Coca Cola is better than US Coke because Mexico requires it be sweetened with cane sugar, not corn syrup.
    If you do suffer an attack of Montezuma’s Revenge or just need a pit stop, don’t expect much in the way of facilities on the road. Be sure to pack some extra toilet paper. You will be stepping behind a bush to answer nature’s call.

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