Not Ready for the Pipe and Slippers yet..... A journey by Motorcycle through the Americas
Not Ready for the Pipe and Slippers yet..... A journey by Motorcycle through the Americas

Adventures in Brobdignag – the Mexico / Guatemala border



From everything I’d read as research before the trip the biggest challenges around logistics were going to be with the Central American border crossings.


I arrived at the border between Mexico and Guatemala after a nice 40 mile ride early in the morning. Leaving Mexico involved paying the departure tax of £15.00, getting the passport stamped, trying to find out where to get the bike’s import cancelled and refunded (‘no, that happens in X – 45 miles back up the road’), I wasn’t going to put another 100 miles on that day, so it looks like I might have made a larger than expected contribution to the Mexican economy; paying the 20p to use the road between the two countries then dealing with the Guatemalan side. 


Mexico - Guatemala border

I was there for 4 hours. A flavour of some of the discussions:


  • ‘No, I am not an Indian Citizen – the page of my passport that you have copied is a visa not the main page’
  • ‘No, the bike is not Spanish - it was  manufactured in Spain, but is registered in the UK’
  • ‘Here, this little picture of a motorcycle on my licence shows that I am qualified to ride it’
  • ‘Yes, this is the only document we have in the UK that shows ownership of the bike’
  • ‘Yes, I will come with you to the local lawyer who will produce a notarised document (for $35) that states that I am who I say I am and so is the bike; but why?’
  • ‘OK, I will go with you to the bank to pay the import tax,  get the 4 copies of the papers stamped, then signed by me before returning to the border post’
  • ‘Please feel free to half-heartedly spray some disinfectant of the bike for 'fumigation' purposes -  it costs how much?’
  • 'Sure, I will take a rickshaw to go the 200 yards to the bank - how much?'
  •  ‘I thought you worked for the government; why are you asking me for money. I will need a receipt for that’




The final barrier before Guatemala

There are, I think, two options as to how you respond to all this.


Rail against the ineptitude, corruption and feel duped and ripped off as a foreigner travelling solo.

Or, if you’re going into a country where:

  • The average earnings are just over $2700, equivalent to about £5.00 per day – if you have a job of course.
  • 75% of people live below the poverty line, with 58% being in ‘severe poverty’.
  • 60% of people are aged 24 or under and fewer than 6% of people will see their 65th birthday
  • There is less than 1 doctor  per 1000 people compared to almost 3 in the UK.

You could feel glad that you've got an opportunity, however small, to redistribute some of your first world wealth and that's probably no bad thing.

Bike cleaning
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© Kevin Ford