The Bane of the Banjercito

We were going to write a post about this a looooooonnnnng time ago but never got around to it. Maybe it’s because just thinking about paperwork makes me yawn and this is all about paperwork.

Okay, we’ll do it though. For the sake of trying to be a helpful blog, I’ll suck it up and type it out for y’all. 🙂

When you bring your vehicle into mainland Mexico (- not Baja), you need this cute little red sticker called the Temporary Vehicle Import Permit. You get it at the border evidently? We are not sure. It’s not necessary in Baja, so Overlanders traveling through Baja usually just get it in Pichilingue, when they are boarding the ferry to the mainland.

he told me to put away the camera

Here are some cute pictures of the kids when Mikey was busy dealing with all that paperwork:

our hoodlums waiting for the paperwork paperwork! at pichilingue

It costs $200 which is your refundable deposit based on your promise that you won’t try and sell your vehicle in Mexico. When you leave with your same vehicle, you get it back.

sort of like the customs check at pichilingue

Since we were originally planning on crossing to mainland Mexico in February, we went ahead and got the sticker in January. Well, our plans sure did change! So, completely unexpectedly, we had to return the sticker, get our deposit back and have our names free and clear from suspected vehicle-selling.

First we went back to Pichilingue and asked to return the sticker. The lady there said no can do – but she said that we could do it either at Ensenada or at the border. We went on over to Ensensada – it seemed more manageable than Tijuana, but once we finally found the building there, we were told that we couldn’t do it. It had to be done in Tijuana at the Otay Mesa Border Crossing.

Okay. So.

We went on over to Tijuana. Nervously. It’s not our favorite place, and we get so spun around driving there! But we finally – after over 2 hours of wandering around, finally! – found the place that was marked at being the place for Temporary Vehicle Import Permits. But the thing was, we could only find the SIGN, we couldn’t find the actual BUILDING. Mikey asked a guard and he said that the place to deal with the permits had changed, you couldn’t do it there anymore. He told us it was on the other side of town. Of course.

We checked in with another person and she said the same thing and advised us to hire a taxi and follow it.

After wandering around some more, we did just that…

the border

and the taxi driver dumped us off at the border, where we realized we were on the ONE WAY, no-stopping lane bound directly for San Diego.

in line... again... the line to the border crossing

NOOOOOOOO. Talk about total deja vu! I mean, really, right?! Me and Mikey were groaning all over the place. Two border crossings in one day…again….

the man with many hats! border

We went out to San Diego, turned around, re-entered Mexico. We were thoroughly checked, then let loose to figure out where to go and FINALLY after another hour or so of wandering around and checking at Pemex Gas Station after Pemex Gas Station, we found it – on this small side street, snuggled between a bunch of big buildings.

bancierto office

Like pretty much every other experience we’ve had like this, it took us 4 hours to find the place and 15 minutes to get it done.

We really wanted to have a nice bulleted list of super helpful advice for you Overlanders reading, but all we could come up with was this:

  •  have a good song playlist available to help keep you calm
  • choice refreshments too
  • if you hire a taxi to follow (- which is a really good idea), make sure the taxi driver doesn’t dump you at the border (we think ours may not have heard us right; to avoid that, we’ll definitely ask our driver in the future to repeat where he heard us say we want to go)
  • allow for a full day to get it done
  • plan something fun for the finish? I ended with a question mark there because we have 3 kids and for us, “something fun” depends (at minimum) on noone crying, noone being too tired, no diaper blowouts, no bloody noses or hurt feelings – and sometimes that’s simply too much to ask so we just go to sleep.

 Good luck and may the Border Gods be with you!


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is a deaf blogger, global nomad, tech-junkie, cat-lover, Trekkie, Celto-Teutonic-peasant-handed mom of 3 (one with Down syndrome and one gifted 2E).
She likes her coffee black and hot.
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