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  • Writer's pictureKristin

Mexico to Guatemala by Land with a Vehicle

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

We continued south and crossed in to Guatemala after our nearly 3 weeks in Mexico. When looking up information about crossing the border you might hear about long line-ups, border agents charging ‘random fees’ and people/money changers hassling you. However, we didn’t actually experience any of this! (Not saying it won't happen, but there are times where it can go smoothly.) This post will cover some of the border crossing requirements, as well as our personal account on how the crossing process went from Mexico to Guatemala by land with a vehicle.


Mexico to Guatemala Border Crossing

We crossed the border at Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, Mexico to La Mesilla, Guatemala because we read it was one of the more stable ones to enter. When leaving Mexico you have to go to their immigration office, to get stampede out of Mexico. There can sometimes be an exit fee, but we lucked out that they didn't make us pay it (seems to vary from situation to situation). If you have a vehicle, you next have to go to the Banjercito office next door to deport the vehicle out of Mexico – see the next point for more information about that process.

Truck & people waiting at the Mexican immigration office to continue into Guatemala
Waiting at the Mexican Immigration Office to be Stamped Out of Mexico in Cuidad Cuauhtemoc, Chiapas

However, it was one of the most unique border crossings we experienced because there was actually a section of 4 km where you weren’t technically in either country.

The section of land between Mexico & Guatemala where you aren't officially in either country.
A portion of the 4 km stretch of 'No Man's Land' along the Mexico and Guatemala border

We had been stamped out of Mexico in Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, but didn’t talk to Guatemalan agents or get an entry stamp until four kilometers later. In fact, Connor had to go to the bathroom while we were waiting at Guatemala immigration, so we just passed under the gate and went to a toilet before we were officially stamped in.

The gate that officially lets you into Mesilla, Guatemala
The gate that is raised to let you into Guatemala. (And the one that we passed under to go to the bathroom.)

The tourist permit that is issued at the border is a 90-day tourist permit and covers the C4 countries of Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras. The 90-days is the total amount of time you can spend in those 4 countries without applying for an extension.

Occasionally, you might hear about border agents saying that you owe them an entry fee equivalent to or around 10 GTQ. However, there is no actual fee, so typically if you ask for a receipt they forget about it. However, none of the Guatemalan border agents requested this from us.


Guatemala Vehicle Importation Process

The vehicle deportation process ended up being relatively straight forward for us as well. First, we had to deport the vehicle from Mexico. We provided the importation papers to the agent and they completed things on their end. Typically, when you deport the vehicle out of Mexico, you get back the $400 USD that you put down as a deposit when entering the country. However, they actually let us keep the vehicle import for Mexico because we would be re-entering within the next 6 weeks or so.


Once arriving into Guatemala, we had to import the vehicle into Guatemala. Different from the Tourist permit that covers 90-days in the C4 countries, the vehicle importation permit is just valid for 90-days in Guatemala. The importation fee is much cheaper in Guatemala – only 160 Quetzals ($20.80 USD/$26.53 CDN) per vehicle. We had to provide the Title, Registration, Drivers License and passport for them to import it. There was also a 12 Quetzal ($1.56 USD) fee to fumigate the vehicle; however, we think they might have just sprayed around the base of the vehicle and the tires, if they did anything, as we both completely missed them doing anything.

Vehicle Importation Office in Mesilla, Guatemala
Alex talking with the agent in Mesilla, Guatemala to import the truck.

Payment for the vehicle import is required to be paid in Guatemalan quetzal (GTQ); however, we had looked around in both Tutzla Guiterrez and San Cristobal de las Casas and we couldn’t find any exchange services that carried the currency. So unfortunately, we did have to pay a slightly higher exchange rate by buying some quetzals at the border, but it was one of those situations of necessity. After the payment was completed, an official came out to put a sticker in the windshield to prove that the vehicle was officially imported into Guatemala.


Health Entry Requirements

There was basically just the passport required for each individual, as well as the Covid testing and vaccine requirements that were implemented just 3 weeks prior on January 10, 2022. (Make sure to check for requirements prior to your travel due to changing restrictions.) After these new requirements, a negative Covid test (Antigen OR PCR) were required for anyone 10 years old and older. Plus, proof of full vaccination status (2 doses was considered full) for anyone 12 years old and older.


Once at the Guatemala border we just provided the printed test results, our vaccination proof and had to do a temperature check, then we were clear for all the Covid entry requirements.

The Covid station at the Mesilla, Guatemala border where we got our temperatures taken & documents checked.

The hardest part of this all was trying to find a testing center in San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico which was our last stay before entering Guatemala. We thought we had found a pharmacy (Ahorra) that would do the rapid test, but when we showed up at the location that was specified to us the previous day at another location, they told us “Manana”, which meant we wouldn’t be able to get the test until the next calendar day. We then walked around San Cristobal de las Casas looking and asking and found one - Farmacias Bios - that would do the rapid test, but for slightly more than Ahorra was advertising. However, it was our only choice so we just paid $600 Pesos ($29 USD / $37 CDN), it ended up being equivalent to about $25 USD/$30 CDN dollars than we were expecting at Ahorra.


Overall Timing & Queues

Our time at the Mexican and Guatemalan border was probably about a total of 90 minutes. We spent about 20-30 minutes on the Mexican side and then about an hour on the Guatemalan side. However, both on the Mexican side and Guatemalan side we experienced no queues or line-ups! We were pretty quick to be served in both spots. [We arrived at the border around 1 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.]


Mexican vs. Guatemalan Roads

However, one of the most immediate differences we noticed once crossing into Guatemala was the roads. In Mexico, there were toll roads and 4-lane highways and roads similar to the U.S.; however, roads in Guatemala are only single lane traffic, winding through towns and mountains and overall is a much slower driving experience. Therefore, even though the country looks small on the map, once you start mapping out places you realize it will take you hours to get there!


Returning From Guatemala Back to Mexico

We returned back to Mexico from Guatemala via the Puerto Fronterizo Cuidad Hidalgo border crossing. The vehicle exportation process in Guatemala was straight forward and someone came to look at the vehicle and take the import sticker off the windshield and we got our passports stamped for exit. The Guatemala exit side was very fast, but once we arrived in Mexico the process took almost 2 hours. This was mostly because we waited in line and then had to fill out the necessary paperwork for re-entry as well as pay the tourist fee of $35 USD once again for the tourist card. There was also a small fee to pay to get the vehicle sprayed with disinfectant upon arrival, an inspection for both food products (anything fresh is taken) and then an overall vehicle inspection prior to leaving the immigration area. However, because we never cancelled the vehicle importation from Mexico, we were able to skip that paperwork.


Conclusion

We had read some conflicting reports about how the border process went in Guatemala; however, our process was fairly straight forward and smooth, so we are thankful for that. We highly recommend researching your border crossing from Mexico to Guatemala so there aren't any surprises.

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