Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A different kind of border problem

Crossing the border at San Ysidro was surprisingly easy… which makes it that much harder to figure out how we could have screwed up and missed the Immigration Office!

Traffic was very light into Tijuana and we were in the very far left “nothing to declare” lane. We got a green light and sailed on through feeling pretty darned pleased with how the day was going so far.

What we didn’t expect, though, was how confusing and crammed in all the official offices were on the far RIGHT of the crossing, which meant we’d have to cross several lanes of traffic in the space of a very short block to make it over there. And to make matters worse, we couldn’t make out where the office was in the jumble of buildings. After the problems we’d already encountered, this glitch seemed like small potatoes, so we decided to keep on going and try our luck further along.

We crossed at San Ysidro because we didn’t want to do any driving in Tijuana proper and that route allows easy access to the toll road that skirts the city. The signs to the toll road were easy to read, we had a good map and we simply followed all the arrows to Rosarito, Ensenada and the toll road, which was easy to drive.

Once on the toll road we stopped at an official pull-off area and it was there we learned we’d need to stop at the Immigration Office in Ensenada and pay a fine for not having our FM3s stamped in Tijuana. Luckily, the lady who helped us was able to supply a hand-drawn map of where Immigration was located and she was right on the money!

The drive to Ensenada was mountainous and lovely, except for the scores of partially-completed hotels and developments all along the way. A depressing sight and a reminder of how bad things could have been for Agua Viva home owners without Beck and Stan Barton. The drive took the expected hour and a half, maybe more as we were being very cautious about the speed limit.

The Immigration Office was near the harbor and very near a brand new visitor center, which we took advantage of after having our papers stamped and paying $5 each for the oversight. It was only around 3:30 p.m., but George started having back spasms (the stress we’d been under would do it to anyone), so we decided to stop at the Posada el Rey Sol in the downtown area. It was a charming place, reasonably priced with interior parking that looked and felt very secure.

It’s evident how hard a hit northern Baja has taken with the downturn in the economy, as well as the drug violence along the border. There were almost no people out and about and it was a very nice downtown tourist area which should have been filled with vacationers. We didn’t have to wait for a table on that particular Friday night. Ensenada is an especially pretty town (at least in that area) and we hope things pick up for the businesses there soon.

We stopped by Costco that evening and had fun roaming the aisles and noting the differences between a Mexican and U.S. store. It had a lot of the same stuff our Costco in Albuquerque carries, but the size of the store was smaller, with the food area significantly smaller.

There was a Home Depot across the street, but we decided to try our luck there in the morning and that ended up being a big mistake!

Next up: Will it be a wash-out?


The Real Tijuana said...

This account does not make much sense. Mexico began enforcing its requirement of the FMT (not FM3) south of Ensenada but you mention Costco (which is in the northern part of Rosarito) as a place south of where your FM3 was requested.

Unless you are doing business in Mexico, you do not need an FM3 (an immigrant's visa) to come here. Unless you wish to proceed beyond Ensenada, you don't even need an FMT (a tourist visa). People from the U.S. and Canada can visit the border region of Mexico without any visa whatsoever, not even a passport. You can confirm this by visiting any Mexican consular website.

Paula Pennell and George Russell said...

Sorry, but you should have read our previous posts. We now live in Loreto (where we were heading when we crossed the border), which is well south of Tijuana and since we'll be living here full-time, we needed an FM3. Also, we had our
FM3s stamped in Ensenada, which is where we visited the Costco. And, a passport to enter Mexico has been required since June 2009.