Sitting in quarantine on Angelique in Florida is no more fun than you sitting at home. We do similar things to keep ourselves busy and healthy. Writing for me is a blessing. It has become something I look forward to rather than dread. When I started blogging, I wasn’t sure what to write about and how to go about it. I just knew I wanted to keep track of what we were doing and share it.
I thought I would share about Mexico. I think it is our most favorite countries we have visited, to date. We have spent the most time there and came to love it.
“What should you expect when you travel on your boat to Mexico?”
First, getting into the country is different than traveling inside of the US. We have to check in at customs & immigration. This requires us to go to the national office, sometimes close by and sometimes not. We also may be required to visit a bank, to pay the immigration office, occasionally they do not take cash. You would need to pay the bill at the bank and bring back a receipt. Then we would need to head to the Port Captain’s office to check into the local port. Sometimes these were not physically close and required a taxi or the marina’s office folks to cart us around. In some countries like Costa Rica & Panama we hired an agent to get us checked in/out. This was very valuable when we started reading the complications of moving from place to place in these two countries. Mexico is cheaper and simpler.
When we go to these offices we take all our critical documents needed to check in. Dan created a “Boat Book” with plastic sleeves for sliding in and out all the documents. This book holds all the vital paperwork needed to get in and show a customs/immigrations officers & Port Captain’s office. We are also often asked for copies of our documents and have a small printer we can use to make extra copies.
This book holds:
- US Coast Guard National documentation
- Liability insurance
- Import or cruising permit (TIP – Mexico)
- Zarpe – Arrival and departure documents (we have saved them all)
- Dispatcho or Arribo – Port Captain exit and entry documents
- Homeland security decals
- Radiotelephone license – FCC
- EPRIB registration
- Ownership of boat, bill of sale
- registration for all vehicles (boat, dinghy, waverunner, motorcycle)
- titles of all vehicles
Red fonts documents are required frequently, we carry the others in cases we need them.
Most countries also require you to purchase a travel/cruising permit for your boat to be in their waters. Mexico has a “TIP” Temporary Import Permit. Mexico’s TIP is a boat & owner specific permit that lasts 10 years. If you are buying a boat and you plan to take it to Mexico, make sure the previous owner has canceled their TIP, or it will cause you issues. You could possibly be sent back if you are not prepared. We entered in Ensenada and had worked with the local marina staff months and months before we entered. See, we had a TIP that was not canceled and the owner would not help, as he said it had already been canceled and it wasn’t. But the previous owner did give us the contact information in Ensenada of some folks that had helped him and we were able to get everything in-line before we arrived. We don’t recommend this approach, if at all possible, have the last owner cancel the TIP.
You need to remember that every time you move you are required to check “out and in” of each next major port of arrival/departure. You will need to visit the Port Captain’s office to accomplish this. If you are staying in a marina, you can ask for assistance. You will get different level of assistance in each one. This seems really hard and complicated. But once you figure it out and have a process for it, it isn’t as hard as it seems. Well worth the time for the experience.
We also joined a boat rally and we highly recommend this, as it gives you new people to meet, a place to ask questions and you learn a lot by just being with people that have done it before. From the West coast there are two different rally’s, The Baja ha ha & the Cubar. Either one is fine.
Now you are ready visit Mexico and have some fun! See the sights etc. As you start to interact with the local community, remember you are the guest! Most importantly, be kind and courteous to these folks. They will be excited to see you and take your money, of course. Tourism is their livelihood. For the most part Mexico is very inexpensive, especially if you are living with the locals and not in resort. So, if the marina is in a resort area, take the time to travel to the local farmers market, shopping store and don’t buy from the expensive stores near the resort.
Because you are living in Mexico and not just visiting for 1 or 2 weeks. You will be exposed to more of the ongoing daily culture. You have to go grocery shopping, buy stuff to work on repairs on your boat, etc. We enjoyed being more ingrained in the culture of Mexico. We got comfortable and knew our way around some of the towns really well. You will start to notice all the uniqueness of the country which you should embrace. Those that try and live a US life inside a foreign country will first, not experience the real country and second, be really disappointed.
“YOU have to have an Open Mind and accept that everything is different”
You “should not” expect to see the same type of cities, roads, houses, restaurants, grocery stores, laws, taxis, sidewalks, attitudes, approach, style of speaking etc, etc, etc. Mexicans are much more about relationship building. They want to have a nice greeting before they get into the topic in question. Americans, right to the point! Understanding this is critical to building relationship and getting what you need & want. They are different and you should try and understand the uniqueness of their culture. At the shipyard in Puerto Vallarta, we had OUTSTANDING quality of work, very affordable pricing due to using a personally recommended project manager, who was a great communicator, super attentive, involving family members in their business. This was able to work because we accepted how they did business in a slow, relationship, family, and holiday considered way.
The grocery stores are different and not like the US, but if you are continuing to be open minded and trying new things, you will find new and interesting foods. Also the food expectations should also be open minded. You will not find perfect shaped or clean fruits and veggies. We also think everything needs to be refrigerated, which isn’t the case. Eggs are not washed and not refrigerated, meat out in the open & food carts are often scattered along the road sides.
Another way to enjoy the experience is to learn the language. Spanish isn’t that hard. Neither Dan or I knew any Spanish, but worked hard to learn what we could as we went along. Now, we certainly can’t hold conversations, but we learned how to ask questions, greeting, small words that helped us along the way. It helps with the locals valuing you and your visit, if at least try and speak some spanish. Of course you can take a class, use an app – Duolingo and practice as often as you can.
It is also really important to understand you can NOT get the boat parts in Mexico that you can expect to get in the US. BRING spare parts and/or have redundancies of items. Also any speciality lubes/oils etc. Carry them into Mexico on your boat. We cannot stress this enough. Bring spare starters, alternators, pumps, impellers, turbos, and lots of nuts bolts screws electrical connectors and plumbing parts, etc… Having something shipped not only takes a long time but crossing over the border, customs gets their cut. Sometimes 30-50% of the shipments retail cost.
For fun you might want to consider bringing kayaks, paddle boards, bicycles, snorkels gear, scuba gear, games and playing cards, & DVD movies. Also if you plan on anchoring out and visiting islands as we did up in the Sea of Cortez, you should consider a smaller lightweight dinghy that you can pull up on the sand. This is one mistake we made, ours is too heavy to haul up on a beach.
Internet & Phones add another complication. You get internet at marinas, but it isn’t as fast as US and surely isn’t as reliable (staying up and working). If you go in remote areas you will get no service, internet or cell. It is very spotty as to where you will have service in areas like the Sea of Cortez. Phone service was an unexpected issue we experienced. You are thinking…. You won’t have this issue because your US phone plan says = “USA, Canada and Mexico”. We didn’t expect to have an issue either. BUT, just before 3 months time T-Mobile told us they would cancel our plan and numbers if we didn’t go back to the US before the 3 month time. Depending on which plan you have you are only allowed 3-6 months in Mexico until they cancel your plan. This is for Verizon, AT&T, & T-Mobile. We personally went in and asked while we were home trying to solve our problem. We ended up buying Mexican phone numbers that we could fill with data and make calls. BUT it was extremely hard to keep filling up and we really weren’t happy with the service. There are lots of folks that buy these type of plans that either live or travel to Mexico often and they do fine. It just wasn’t okay for us. We asked some of our friends, Dean and Roxane what were they doing. They told us that they are on an AT&T plan with their adult kids, the more people the better. The plan that AT&T uses for large groups allows no more than 50% of the usage from Mexican travelers. So that is what we did, we have these awesome friends that let us join their AT&T plan and it is working out great!
Getting Cash is an interesting issue and I do recommend getting Mexican Pesos, you will need them. Yes you can use your Credit Card at restaurants, grocery stores, etc. but taking a taxi, tipping, farmers market, street vendors, a quick drink, you need cash. What I recommend is to use your debit card in a machine to get cash. Yes, you will be charged a fee and the conversion rate at the moment in time that you get the cash. But this is the easiest and best exchange rate. PLEASE use a debit machine attached to a local bank and be aware that there are thieves that can scan your card if you are not careful. You need to pay attention to the fee and the conversion rate, which are both set by the owner of the machine. The fee is a one time transaction fee, so pull out as many Pesos as the machine will allow in one transaction. All machines we went to have an option for “english”. That was nice.
Mexico is one of our most favorite places to visit/stay. We were in Mexico for a 1 year+ in many different areas. I’m sure we will be back. Dan and I feel Mexico is a very safe place to be. As long as you are aware of your surroundings, just like in the US. Pay attention and enjoy. I often went places by myself, either on a shuttle bus, taxi or Uber. (Available in the bigger cities). I only once felt a little uncomfortable. NOW there are cities where there is a bit of unrest, like Acapulco, so I would not act the same in this city and we were extremely careful there.
If you are open-minded to new adventures and new ways of living and don’t expect the same from Mexico as US, Canada or Europe. You will really enjoy yourself.
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