The biggest item on my day's agenda was crossing the border into Mexico with Rudy and the zillion things I was bringing with me (all for personal use), including computers, a flat-screen TV, my daughter's bed, clothing, cookware and other household stuff -- oh, and I needed to get a temporary vehicle importation permit. I had researched ahead of time the requirements for this and was prepared with everything I thought I needed but was nervous nevertheless. It had taken me a full day to pack everything into the car in L.A. and was dreading the thought of having to unload it all if a customs agent requested a thorough inspection. Thankfully, the agent who reviewed my immigration paperwork welcomed me back to Mexico after my two decades abroad without further ado.
DAY 3: CROSSING THE BORDER - FROM LAREDO TO SAN LUIS POTOSI, MEXICO
DISTANCE DRIVEN: 456 miles / 773 km
TOTAL DRIVE TIME: 8 hrs
LODGING: Ibis Hotel (Carretera 57 #105, San Luis Potosí, México)
Once I entered Mexico, I was immediately bombarded by "amigos" offering to guide me to the CIITEV module located a few blocks away to handle the vehicle importation process. All they asked in return, of course, was a tip for their services. After showing proper ID, I accepted the offer and followed an amigo to the CIITEV offices.
My first challenge was what to do with Rudy. I couldn't leave him in the car (the temperature was already reaching 88F) and I was quickly informed dogs aren't allowed inside CIITEV's facilities. So I did the only thing I could: told the security guy that Rudy was my "therapy dog," meaning he is allowed to go with me wherever I go. This caused some confusion but in the end, I was able to get him in. Phew!
I got in line to have my paperwork reviewed and pay the $51 USD fee for the permit and the $400 USD deposit required in guarantee that the vehicle will return to the U.S. once the 6-month permit expires. One thing I didn't realize was that I also needed to purchase Mexican car insurance on top of my U.S. insurance. Luckily, several insurance companies have modules that sell the necessary insurance right there and then, credit cards accepted. So I walked out of there a couple of hours later with the permit, insurance, and my "therapy dog."
On the Road, the Mexican Way
I rushed out of Nuevo Laredo taking Carretera 85D towards Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, and connected later with Carretera 57 S to Matehuala - San Luis Potosí. I have to confess I wasn't quite prepared for the stress of fighting for my right to share the road with the charge of Mexican truck drivers racing each other on Carretera 57 S. I grew up in Mexico City and learned how to navigate its busy streets like a boss back in the day, but after being away for so long, I quickly realized that my "Americanized" way of driving wasn't cutting it on Mexican highways. Cars at speeds way above the posted limits kept pushing me out of their way getting too close on my heels. Freight trucks jumped into my lane without a warning or signal to pass slower vehicles. Everyone seemed to be rushing to get somewhere before nighttime so I did the same, driving on edge all the way to San Luis Potosí.
Lodging was at Ibis Hotel in the city's industrial zone. Simple, clean, and extremely functional, the place is perfect for travelers. It offers tasty food service right in the lobby, at a great price. My carne asada with guacamole and cold Dos Equis Lager were pure heaven. Our room was pretty small but comfortable, and it included free WiFi. Both Rudy and I got a much needed restful night.
Make sure to bring with you plenty of Mexican Pesos in cash when you cross the border. If you're stopping at the CIITEV module in Nuevo Laredo to get a vehicle importation permit, you'll find an ATM and Currency Exchange there. Use it. Once you get on the road, it's a real challenge to find an ATM and you'll need cash to pay for tolls, which can be expensive in Mexico. Also, some gas stations only accept payment in cash and might not take your dollars.
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