(I’m writing this from the hotel room in Saltillo, Mexico. We should be at our house tomorrow around 730pm)
Everyone’s worst fear when crossing the border is… getting flagged by customs.
Well, it happened. Twice today.
You have a 1 in 10 chance of having this happening ever. Michael says the odds of this happening twice is 1 in 100. (My math geek hubby) 😉
The way is works is that when you cross the border you drive up to a spot like you to do to pay at a toll bridge or in a parking garage, and there is a loud piecing siren that goes off. You can get either a green light or a red light. If you get a green light then you keep on driving. If you get a red light you have to pull over to a spot they direct you into. A customs official will ask you questions and to open your trunk. They could potentially take out every single item you have and open it up and start charging all kinds of “fees”. This makes many people fearful and they may get angry -which won’t get you anywhere.
A Mexican adage is “he who gets mad, loses.”
We opened up the car -a feat in itself. The guy asked Mikee about his television and wanted to know if it was new and what it’s worth. (You are allowed to bring in a certain dollar amount of stuff. They don’t want you bringing in stuff to resell -which would be smuggling. The major way the government makes money is through federal sales tax) He asked where we were going and how long we were staying and we just conversed in a calm, friendly, unhurried manner. He let us continue with no problem.
It is worth it to mention that these guys all have assault rifles and there is a tank too. I wish I could get a picture of this, but you can understand the obvious reasons that is not a good idea.
You then drive about 30 miles into the country and there is a SERIOUS customs stop. (tanks, army, big guns)
Guess what? We got flagged to pull over AGAIN!
We have found that even if your spanish is not fluent, it’s important to always try to use it. People will patiently communicate with you and they are even more friendly -just by your simple gesture to show enough respect to communicate with them in their own language.
The second guy also asked about the television and some other questions. He was super nice. He asked us how long we are visiting for and where we are staying. He is from Guadalajara which is very close to our new home.
So, this was something we have always been a little fearful of and it was not really a problem at all.
Yes, it makes me nervous crossing the border. It’s unfamiliar, there’s all the “scary stories”, propaganda, a loss of control. We both get a little freaked out each time. But then, we just say “Hola” to whoever is in charge and take it one step at a time and it’s always been a very positive experience. People here are friendly and nice and they actually work hard at their job. (and their job is not to intimidate people from the US)
HERE IS A TIP: It is helpful to get your money changed to pesos before you drive here. Right away you pay in pesos an immigration fee and for the car permit. (we just paid $35 for all that) And the best roads to drive are toll roads and only pesos are accepted for that too. The area around the border is pretty barren and thus, the importance of this tip.
Just a quick shout out to let you all know that we made it safe and sound to Saltillo. This town is not quite half way to Ajijic but it has nice hotels and food available. We are staying at the Country Inn & Suites. It used to be Country Inn -last week it changed to Park Inn. It is nice and clean and a good place to catch our breath on this journey.
The elevation at the border is 440 feet and tonight we are at 4100.
We welcome anyone who wants to visit. Can’t wait, actually, to open our home up for guests. (we’ll spoil you rotten) 🙂 But, just keep in mind that you do NOT want to drive down to see us. Please get on a nice jet and enjoy a safe, quick, comfortable trip.