Renewing Mexican Visas and Car Permits


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Published: December 7th 2011
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Puerto Escondido - Tapachula - San Cristobal de las Casas


Thursday we left Puerto Escondido. We had a two-day drive in front of us; we were planning on driving to the Guatemalan border, renew our visas and car permits, and then drive to San Cristobal de las Casas. Easy, right?

After a somewhat uneventful drive, we spent the first night in Juchitan. We didn’t want to drive any further as there were no bigger towns or cities that would have hotels. We got up the next morning and followed a hotel employee to the parking garage. Our car was totally boxed in; the only way we could get it out would be to move one of the other cars. The hotel employee handed David the key so he drive it out of the way (I guess he couldn't drive a stick). As soon as David put the key into the lock, the car alarm started going off. Then the car had no reverse. We had to push the car out of the way, all the while the car alarm is still going off. A great way to start the day! We then drove on to Tapachula. Right after we got to La Ventosa, there were lines of trucks and busses stopped on the road. At first it looked as though it may have been an accident, but the trucks seemed to go on for about 10 miles. We stopped and I went up to one of the busses and asked a few Australian tourists what was going on. It turns out that the truckers were on strike and were using their trucks to close the road. The Australians had been there since 2 AM the previous morning. The Australians also told me that if we decided to just go past the striking truckers, they could potentially destroy our car. What to do?

We were sitting in the car, looking at the map, and trying to figure out what to do when suddenly these two truckers came up to the car. One of the guys basically said, in Spanish, that we could take a detour. Or did he say he wanted to rob us? We’ve got to take more Spanish lessons! We decided we should go for it. We started down this pot-holed road, which quickly gave way to a dirt road. It went under a wind turbine farm, which, if you’ve never been near one, can be quite loud. There were about 10 cars on the road going both directions, so we hoped we were on the right road. About 30 miles later after bumps, ditches, washed out roads, we finally made it back to the main road. We had the road to ourselves, because of the strike. Going about 75 mph, I noticed a big blob in the middle of our lane. As we got closer, it started to move. It was a huge iguana! I’ve never seen one so big!! Luckily,as David braked, the iguana had the wherewithal to run.

We decided to go to Talisman, the last point before you go into Guatemala to get our visas renewed. We were warned about how aggressive the “helpers” were. When we drove up to Talisman, about 20 "helpers" swarmed our car. They wanted to "help" by taking our passports and registration and doing the work for us for a small fee. Well, we weren't going into Guatemala; we just wanted our stuff renewed. These people were really aggressive and they were basically forcing us down a side street, running in front of us, behind us, tapping on our window. Finally, somebody who looked official told us in English (yay!) that we had to first get our car renewed, which was all the way in Viva Mexico, on the other side of Tapachula. While it was on Highway 200, it was NOT near the 8KM marker, like Lonely Planet said. The gentleman at the car permit place was quite helpful; he told us we had to go back to - wait for it - Talisman to renew our visas!

We drove back to Talisman, this time prepared for the “helpers”. When they started to swarm and try to force us down that side street, we just kept going forward. I can still hear the tap-tap-tapping of the man’s fingernail on my window! We parked in a parking lot on the right-hand side right before the gate going into Guatemala. After explaining to the cop what we were doing, we went into the passport building and stood in line. We got the form from the guy behind the desk, filled it out, and presto-changeo we’re renewed! It only cost us $26 because I didn’t have a receipt from my first visa. Now we had to drive back to Viva Mexico and talk to the gentleman to renew our car permit. All-in-all, it was quite smooth and we were back in our hotel in about 4 hours.

So, we're legal again for another 180 days. Sunday morning we drove 6 hours to San Cristobal de las Casas. Both Google Maps and our GPS clocked our trip at 3 hours. Well, Mexico has speed bumps, or topes. Topes can be anything from a little vibration in the car to a 'hit the bottom of your car and wreck your oil pan'. There are usually 3 topes of various shapes and sizes whenever you come into a town. The road we took yesterday went through almost every small town in Mexico - we must have hit 600 topes! The topes ended just about the time that we were losing our patience.

San Cristobal is even more beautiful than I remember it, but last night it was wicked cold! It's about 7000 feet above sea level and they have no heat! It probably wouldn't be so bad, but we just came from an area where it was 85 degrees. We had tons of blankets and comforters on our bed. The floor tile must have been 40 degrees; even the bottled water that we use when we brush our teeth was cold!

We went to see our new house this morning. We can't move into it until tomorrow. It's about twelve blocks from our hotel. It's funny, we were freezing when we left here this morning, but the long walk over the hills, combined with it normally warming up, left us sweating when we stopped for breakfast. I can’t wait to stay in one place for more than a couple of days!

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