Moving to Mexico. Logistics and practical stuff.

keep-calm-welcome-to-mexico-1First things first. I have decided that “Mexico is the best place to retire” and so living in Mexico means that I have to move to Mexico. So, how will you accomplish this?

My story: After I had made my decision to live in Mexico I also decided to sell just about everything I owned. Since my home sold in 2008 for 65% of the purchase price in 2006 (gosh what fond memories those days were) all I had to sell was the rest.

I sold my 1996 Jaguar xj6 (sniff sniff) and bought a mini-van. Yep, flashbacks to when the kids were all less than 10 years old. The mini-van cost me $1,200 and it would serve as a moving truck so to speak and storage place while I looked around for a new home. Looking back the plan was the best for me out of all possible options. Those options were: just like I describe here, have a moving company do everything, have a packing company ship everything or arrive with a suitcase and nothing else from a flight to Mexico.

I also had decided that if I was really going to live in the best place to retire (Mexico) then I should never look back and so a storage locker full of maybe a $1,000 worth of “stuff” that might end up costing twice that over the years was not in my plan for success. I know many people who have stored items for years only to regret this boat anchor of a mess later on in time.

I packed almost everything in cardboard boxes and each box was numbered and contents described for the Mexican Customs (aduana) officials at the border. Clothes were on hangers inside inexpensive plastic garment bags and larger items wrapped in bubble wrap. For security reasons I bought some window tint that blocked out 95% of sunlight and so even with a nose pressed up to the glass the contents was impossible to see. Along with my stuff I knew I must have a detailed list of the items and their worth and aduana (customs) would need to see this. My value shown was about $3,500 and aduana charged me $120 on import duty. How much they charge you will depend on your attitude, the officer’s attitude (that day) and how organised you appear. If memory serves me Mexico allowed me no more than $4,000 of items before I needed to hire the services of a broker to import the items. The broker fee was not cheap at all and you need to decide for yourself that value.

I was living in Tucson and so my border crossing was Nogales. The entry point into Mexico was only just to slow down and I was waived on my way. However about 20 km down the road is the first the car import gate and then the customs check point.


In Mexico no one has a copier on any government office, well not for YOUR use. So arrive at the car import place with 4 copies of Passport, car registration, car title and some cash. The fee for the entry permit is about $30 and another $200 to $400 for a deposit on the vehicle, depending on the cars model year. The deposit is returned to you when you remove the vehicle from Mexico, IE you drive back over the USA border. Your permit is only for a temporary import permission as is good as long as your resident visa is valid and so only for a maximum of 4 years in the case of a residente temporal status by the driver. In 2014 there was a LOT of fuss about residente permanente not being allowed to own a vehicle that was imported via the temporary permit. The details of this mess can not be explained here and so please ask at your Mexican Consul for the latest info, in writing if possible.

Now some would say “don’t stop and take a chance”. Why ask for trouble for a few hundred dollars in fees? At the check point I had a choice, pull over and declare what I had or go thru the gate. The gate opens after you press a button and a random red or green light allows you to pass. Or not. It is most often green and this system is employed at airports and road crossings. A red light could mean trouble if you have more than $300 value in import items and you never declared those things.

Now I am really on my way. Full tank of gas, GPS working fine, cell phone with international plan working, passport with visa, telephone numbers of Mexican Tourist police in my phone just in case. I was also told to only have a few hundred pesos visible in my wallet and stash the rest of my cash inside the van. Would you believe that I forgot exactly where I put all that cash a week later? I digress… The purpose of all this was in the event that police pull me over and try to extort money from me for a traffic violation that never really happened.

Tucson, AZ, USA to San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico - Google MapsDuring my 1,300 miles journey I was never stopped by the police. I did destroy my vans fuel pump after I drove over the mother of all speed bumps in Guadalajara at about 5 mph. The van stopped and gasoline was pouring out of the vans rear and I was stopping traffic in both directions NOT GOOD!!! Five men came out of nowhere and pushed me safely off the road. The men came up with a plan (amongst themselves since I spoke zero spanish). They pushed my van about 5 blocks, up down and around and into a dirt yard. The mechanic greeted me and within 15 minutes had diagnosed the problem! His helper then got on a motorbike and went to buy a new fuel pump. This all happened around 1pm and by 6pm the mechanic came to my hotel, which I had decided was a good idea to get since I thought I would be staying in this one spot for days, he handed me the keys and asked to be paid $120 for the part and $30 for his labour. Wow, inexpensive, fast and so courteous.

As you can see from the map here my journey was via Mazatlan, a beautiful beach city that I visited in November 2012. I had continued with my Mexican residency application in that immigration office and was informed that I need to complete that process at the same office within 90 days. However BEFORE arriving in Mexico one MUST have a visa resident stamp in your passport. So your first step is to apply at your local Mexican Consul office. This first step of the process can NOT be done inside Mexico.

A useful place to head at this point would be to CLICK HERE – a website that was run by Rolly Brook, but please come back here.. otherwise I will miss you! Rolly was the defacto place to go to for the latest info on life in Mexico. Unfortunately Rolly passed away February 2015 and so I will search for a site nearly as good and update soon.

With my Residente Temporal in my hand (in the form of a green plastic card) I am now free to continue my journey to San Miguel de Allende. You will need plenty of cash pesos if you are heading anywhere in a “cuota”, a toll road, some as much as 120 pesos per leg. Very few restaurants take credit cards and for security reasons I do not recommend them when travelling. Pay for gas, hotels, food and tolls with cash. ATM’s are easily found and that’s the best way to access cash in Mexico.

After my Guadalajara adventure with the fuel pump the journey was uneventful. Upon arriving in San Miguel de Allende I parked my van in a secure paid parking area for 800 pesos per month and only removed a suitcase of items since I stayed in a small hotel for the first 2 weeks while searching for an apartment to rent. Thats a whole different story to be told later.

Please let me know if you have any questions regarding this article’s topic and I will do my best to answer or find the answer for you. Cheers and welcome to Mexico (soon)!


About John Arnold