Crossing into Mexico

We crossed into Mexico from Laredo, TX early this morning. What a day! Here is my report for others who might be planning the same thing.

Entering Mexico

We crossed on Bridge #2, which is the end of I-35. We were pulling a trailer, but I made a mistake and got in the “Nothing to declare” line. They sent me back, and I had to make a u-turn on the bridge — pulling a trailer.

Lesson #1: Get in the right line. LOL. If you’re moving, that’s probably the one with stuff to declare.

This was my view, as we waited our turn:

They had us open the trailer, and they looked at our inventory. Ours was NOT a consulate-approved menaje de casa. (There was just no way the timing would have worked for us.) So we had to pay duty of $5000MX. I was fine with this.

We did not have to unpack the trailer. We didn’t have to take the dogs out of the car, and they waved off their paperwork. The guards were friendly people with little-to-no English. (A major goal is to learn Spanish while we’re here, and we’ve started, but we’re not ready for a conversation.)

Aduana

Next we had to drive through Nuevo Laredo to get our visas stamped and the TIP for our car and trailer at Aduana.

Lesson #2: Know where you’re going.

The way is NOT marked, and it’s a bit convoluted. I used this page…

http://panamrace.blogspot.mx/…/entering-mexico-via-nuevo-la…

…but more importantly, I figured it out, turn by turn, on Google Maps the night before. (There’s one road that isn’t labeled on Google Maps as described on that page, but you can follow the instructions and see what they’re describing. That weird turn IS weird, but there’s an arrow, and other people will likely be turning there too. You’ll be fine.)

We stopped on the way and changed our money. We didn’t have to. There is a place to do that at Aduana.

Lesson #3: Aduana has a disorganized parking lot not made for trailers, and there are a TON of people and cars.

But it is incredibly well organized. You start in the line on the left end of the building, and simply go in order, whether you think you need to or not. One good thing is that only ONE person from the car needs to go in. (This was nice, because I could stay with the dogs and keep the A/C running.

Lesson #4: Know what paperwork you need, and have originals and copies of it.

We had… passports with visas, drivers licenses, marriage license, car title, trailer title, car registration, trailer registration, health certs for dogs, and Mexican car insurance.

If you don’t own your car or trailer outright, you’ll need a letter of permission from the bank or whatever that owns it.

Step 2 or 3 in the process at this building is copies. Even though we had copies of the above, we went through this line anyway, because we got paperwork in step 1 that needed copies.

Lesson #5: Make sure everything is correct before you leave.

If you have a residence visa, for example, you need a CANJE stamp, not a Tourista stamp. The person doing our TIP missed the trailer the first time through — I caught it, though, and we got it straightened out before we left.

After all this was done, we were ready to head toward San Miguel de Allende.

Lesson #6: There are several ways to get to wherever you’re going. Don’t panic.

The driving is pretty much like it is in the States. We had an on-board navigation system, and it DID work — but not all do. That said, by husband also used Waze on his phone, and he really helped me know what to expect.

We drove from Nuevo Laredo to Monterrey to Matejuala on the first day — sticking to the highways and toll roads. (Bring lots of money for tolls and gas.)

Lesson #7: There are fewer gas stations than I expected.

The lots are gravel with pot holes. There’s nowhere to park a trailer or potty your dogs. We actually didn’t stop (other than gas) until we got Matejuala. Poor puppies. There are no rest stops, per se.

Lesson #8: When you get gas, make sure they zero it out before they begin pumping. Give them no money before. Insist they zero it. Pay what it says in cash — count out the money you give them clearly.

The first gas station attendant tried to take advantage of us. No one else did.

Lesson #9: Pay attention to your driving!

The lanes are narrow, there are lots of trucks, there are lots of curvy steep climbs, and if there is something blocking a lane, they don’t post signs! Holy crap, we were almost on some things before we saw the flagger. Scared me a couple of times!

You are responsible for getting out of the way of faster cars. Stay aware and be considerate.

We are spending the night at the Las Palmas Midway Inn in Matejuala. Very easy to find and dog-friendly. I really love this little place!

This was a tough day — the toughest of the trip — but really nothing went wrong. It was just long and stressful. Patience and flexibility are the key.

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We’re on our way!

We’re on our way to Mexico!

Friday didn’t go as smoothly as I’d planned, but we stayed flexible (and tried to be patient), and it all worked out.

The movers were supposed to be at the house by 8am. They were going to get all our remaining furniture and stuff out of the house (and transport it either to the donation site or dump), so the maids and carpet cleaners could do their thing. They, however, were down a truck and couldn’t get to us until 2pm. Panic!

Just then, our lawn guys arrived. We asked them if they would like to earn some extra cash. What lifesavers! They emptied out entire house into our yard, so the maids and carpet cleaners could work. They are not only fantastic lawn guys — truly — but fantastic people, as well.

The maids came on time, and did an amazing, thorough job. The carpet cleaners followed, and again, great people, great job. The movers showed up at 2:00, and made quick work of the load. (Honestly, I wasn’t mad at them. It wasn’t their fault!)

While the movers were working, I picked up the dogs and ran the final errands. We were on the road by 3:30.

Of course, 3:30 on Friday afternoon means we were sitting in traffic. Sigh. We pretended we were on Mexican time and tried to be patient. Fortunately, we were going only as far as Yelm (near Olympia) that evening.

We spent the night with our dear friend Leslie at her wonderful, remote cabin. Oh, I just loved her place! Horses and woods. I was ready to give up Mexico and just move in.

But we had places to be and people to say goodbye to. So early Saturday morning, we were off, heading south toward Portland. We met our friend Greta, and our friends Myella and Jason, at a diner/truck stop in Ridgefield for breakfast, then continued on to Hood River to say goodbye to Polo’s co-owner, Kari.

The stop in Hood River was a treat! We went to an off-leash park next to the river where her brood and ours got to have a wonderful time in the sand and water.

Jay snuggles with one of Kari’s girls

Isn’t Polo handsome?

The whole gang

After we said our goodbyes, we were on the road. We spent Saturday night in Pendleton, OR, and then today we drive to Salt Lake City.

Sadly, tomorrow Jay flies to Florida for a work-related class, and the dogs and I continue on without him. We’ll meet later in the week in Oklahoma City, and then do the final phase of the trip together.

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Getting close: We leave July 28

We leave for Mexico in just over a week.

Oh my God.

We leave for Mexico in just over a week.

We’re making a final push to get rid of our stuff — and we’re doing well. We’re donating most of it, but a few “specialty” items, like my saddle, my dog grooming table, and Jay’s games, we’re taking the time to sell or rehome.

A friend’s son has been helping us move stuff. We’ve been loading it in the trailer, and then driving it to the donation sites. This gives me practice driving the trailer. I can tell you that driving a loaded trailer is MUCH easier than driving an empty one. I can also tell you that backing up sucks worms.

I have a motley to-do list for this week:

  • Sell my saddle, our pull-out sofa, and my Earth boxes
  • Wash and repair my teddy bear
  • Check on Rosa (my retired mustang mare)
  • Pick up my new eyeglasses
  • Meet my girlfriends for a final lunch
  • Make all final purchases and ensure they’ll be delivered somewhere we can get them
  • Box and inventory everything we’re taking with us
  • Return work equipment I don’t use
  • Stop all services at this house

Next Thursday, we send the dogs to the kennel overnight, and we pack the trailer. Friday morning the movers come at 8, followed by the maids at 9, and the carpet cleaners at noon. We hope to be on the road by the middle of the afternoon.

Wish us luck!

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Moving to Mexico: Visas

One of the questions we’re asked is how long we’ll be in Mexico. Honestly, we don’t know. Our plan is for this to be the FIRST stop on our travels, not our final destination. We want to remain flexible, but right now, we anticipate being in San Miguel de Allende for a year — longer than we plan to stay in other countries. Why? Because we want to take the time to learn the language before we move on.

When Americans go to Mexico, they are required to get a visa. That visa determines how long they can stay and what kind of activities they can do while there (i.e., earn money!). There are several types of visas. At a high level:

Visitor visa

This visa is granted at the border when you come in and is for tourists and business people who will be in the country six months or less. It cannot be renewed, per se. You have to leave the country when it expires. You can, however, come back right away for another six months.

This, obviously, is the easiest visa to get. Note that although it can be issued for six month, it doesn’t have to be. It’s up to the person processing the application at the border. You cannot legally work in Mexico with this visa.

Temporary residence visa

This is the visa that Jay and I got. This visa is for people who want to stay longer than six months, but less than four years. This visa is initially issued for one year, but it can be renewed (without leaving the country) up to three additional years.

Some temporary visas allow the holder to work in Mexico, others do not. A key requirement for this visa, though, is that you have to prove you have sufficient funds to live here and/or a steady source of income. Our visa does not allow us to work in Mexico (for a Mexican company), but we are allowed to work remotely for our US-based job.

You have to apply for this visa at a consulate in your country of origin. You could not, in other words, come to Mexico for a vacation and turn your visitor visa into a temporary residence visa. Once you start the process in your home country, you do a second part at the border, and then the final process is done via Immigration in the Mexican city you’re residing in.

Once you enter Mexico with a temporary visa, you cannot leave until the visa process is final –which takes about seven weeks. If you do, the visa is void, and you have to start over at the consulate in your country of origin! After the visa is finalized, though, you can go in and out of the country as often as you like.

Permanent residence visa

This visa is for people who plan to reside in Mexico indefinitely or who eventually wish to become Mexican citizens. You don’t have to be a temporary resident first; you can jump right to permanent resident status if you meet the criteria.

There are pros and cons to the decision of temporary vs. permanent residency — it’s a subject worth far more discussion than this short post. If you’re interested in learning more about the different visas and their requirements, just Google. There are tons of pages out there with in-depth information. Just be sure to check the date, because the information changes occasionally. The best source is always the official source. We used the consulate in Seattle as our official source:

https://consulmex2.sre.gob.mx/seattle/index.php/es/english/visa-requirements

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Working the checklist: Bought a trailer

Spent yesterday in Marysville buying a cargo trailer. It’s 5′ x 10′ — a couple of feet longer than we had originally planned. When we drive to Mexico, this is what we’ll transport all of our belongings in. The car is solely for people and beasties. So stuff either fits in the trailer, or it has to go!

As the main driver in the family, I drove home from the dealer. This was my first time pulling a trailer. (Nope, I’ve never pulled a horse trailer.)

I pulled the new trailer from the lot in Marysville all the way to our house in Fall City, which on a Saturday afternoon ensured I got lots of practice with starts, stops, merging, changing lanes, curves, straights, and TRAFFIC. (Also bumps. Lots of bumps.) It was an entirely successful trip, though, and I got lots of practice going forward.

I got a little practice backing up. Before we even left the dealer, we pulled into an empty area, and Jay taught me the principles of backing up and turning the trailer while in reverse. On the way home, we stopped at Safeway, and while he ran inside to grab a few things, I practiced parking (and using reverse to straighten the trailer between the lines.

When we got home, we decided to pull into the driveway, then back it into a spot at the front of the property. I nailed it on the first try. (Jay was very impressed. He was impressed by how well I had parked it at Safeway too, though that took me more than one shot.)

I’ll get more practice over the next month as we use the trailer to transport a bunch of stuff from the house to whatever charity ends up with it.

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