Proper Documentation is the Key to RV Travel in Mexico and Central America
By Guest Author Jim Jaillet
Good planning will help you enjoy your RV trip to Mexico and Central America with NO DOCUMENT PROBLEMS!
Documents are very important in Mexico and Central America. Border crossing personnel, police, military, and whatever other miscellaneous officials always wonder what you are doing in their jurisdiction and will constantly ask you to present your documents for inspection. You should always carry some form of identification, ideally your passport or, even better, a laminated copy of it in a safe place on your person. Always make sure you carry all the appropriate, properly completed documents at all times. If you cannot produce them, you may find yourself in jail!
That said, DO NOT LOSE YOUR ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS becomes the next most important issue. My best advice is to make copies and store them in a safe place as soon as possible!
Generally, copy machines are readily available. However, when we passed through a remote border crossing into Honduras, the only copy machine in the village did not work and we found ourselves stranded! We waited for two days and "no, sorry," but they did not know when the repairman would arrive. We lucked out when one of our travel companions remembered he "once owned a thermo-fax copy machine," wondered if it still remained in his rig, and if yes, could he find it? Fortunately, he found it and although it took the entire day to make enough required copies of all our documents, we finally proceeded on ourjourney. If not for the copy machine, we might still remain in that village today! Many people now own a computer and a flat scanner costs about $30. I now own a scanner and would not go to Central America again without one.
Now regarding a safe place to store your documents. Prior to my departure, burglary or theft of my money and documents became a paramount concern. So that I could sleep better regarding my concern, I bought a fire-proof safe at Wal-Mart for about $60. I securely installed it in an out-of-sight location in my motorhome and I did sleep better at night!
What documents do you need?
* A Passport with at least six months remaining from the entry date into the country. On my trip through eight countries with 14 border crossings, all but 2 of the 24 pages became stamped in some manner. Make sure enough blank pages remain in your Passport for your planned trip.
If you need more blank pages, you can get them at no cost. Any U.S. Post Office carries the form to request blank pages:
* A valid driver's license, and in addition, an International Driver's License is recommended. You can get the International license at most AAA offices for $10.00. Make sure you get a Category B for vehicles in excess of 3,500 kilos. I got one before I left and never showed it once during my whole trip.
* A valid vehicle registration in the name of the driver.
* A valid vehicle Title of Ownership in the name of the driver. If other than the driver, a notarized letter of authorization.
* A Bill of Sale, if you bring a bicycle. If you do not possess a Bill of Sale, ask a friend to make one for you prior to your trip departure identifying brand, color, and most importantly, the frame number.
* A written prescription(s) for any drugs in your rig or on your body being taken at a doctor's direction. Without a valid original
prescription, you could face a serious situation.
* All entry documents (visas, vehicle permits, insurance, etc.) associated with your current country of visitation.
Officials will always want to see the originals of all documents. With the quality of today's color copiers, I would make copies of all these documents and use these when dealing with officials. I highly doubt most officials can discern the difference. If an official should challenge you, you can always provide the original saying you did not want them lost or stolen. I consider it a good rule-of-thumb not to let my original documents out of my possession or at least my sight.
Jim Jaillet is the author of Panama or Bust - A 343 day adventure in a motorhome! Jim has been an RVer for more than 40 years. He has been on the road living in his motorhome full-time since retiring at age 55 in 1995. He is also an avid historical reader. He hopes to be the first 100 year-old active RVer. Learn more about Jim and buy his book at www.panamaorbust.com
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