Moving to Lake Chapala – Part 2

January 19, 2013

Moving To Lake Chapala : Part 2
This several part article  may be getting the cart in front of the horse a bit, but assuming many of you will ultimately be actually taking action to live a Caviar Lifestyle on a Tuna Fish Pension I’m going to share some tips about how to relocate you and your stuff here to Lake Chapala. Here’s Part 2
A disclaimer: Please verify the information before relying on it. Laws change, businesses close and new ones open etc.
Now let’s talk about driving your car down.
Of course, you can drive down on a tourist permit and visit, but your tourist permit is valid only for up to six months. However you come in, initially, I think it’s good to come in with a tourist permit and get your Resident with the help of one of our local immigration specialists.
You may be able to obtain your car permit before arriving at the border from a Mexican Consulate in North America. You can even now obtain your car registration permit on line.
At the border, if you have not already obtained your Tourist Visa you can get it at the border and also obtain your car permit on the Mexican side.
It depends on which border crossing you use as to where you get your car permit.
There will be a cash bond (A credit/debit card can be used), to issue a car permit. The amount varies with the value of the vehicle. When you leave the country with the car for good you will get back your money.  
You must stop and have the sticker removed if ever hope to get another vehicle in the country.
The auto industry here in Mexico does not want foreign cars coming into Mexico that might be resold after they’re here. It is possible to nationalize some foreign cars. That’s a very complex operation and the rules change frequently and will not be addressed here.
Now let’s assume that you’re bringing a U.S. or Canadian plated car into Mexico and you’re driving in from the United States. You cross into Mexico and go to the appropriate place to get your car permit.
Again, that can vary depending on exactly where you cross into Mexico. Sometimes it’s right at the border. Sometimes it’s 20 miles inside the border. You never know except that it varies from border to border crossing and is subject to change.
A few more points on getting your car permit. The designated driver and the ownership papers for the car must be the same person.
If your car is mortgaged, in other words, if you’re making payments on the car, or it’s otherwise encumbered, you must have the permission of the lien holder or the bank that’s doing the financing on your car to give you written permission to bring the car into the Republic of Mexico.
Most of the banks and credit unions are familiar with this procedure, and they have a stock letter and they just fill in a few blanks and sign it for you and it’s not a problem.
The permission is best notarized.
Sometimes if you’ve just bought the car, however, and have not made but maybe one or two payments on it, the mortgage lender or the finance company may insist that you make several more payments.
I once bought a car, a new Ford Expedition, and I was ready to make the five payments, but they said, “No, no, no. You can’t write one check.” They made me write five individual checks to make the five payments. I had just put a big down payment, but they wanted five other payments made under their rules.
So I wrote five checks and then they issued me the permission letter.
Now, you’ve obtained your car permit (Temporary Importation Sticker) and it’s been placed correctly on your car windshield. Currently the permit is placed in the center of the windshield behind the review mirror.
When you leave Mexico, on a tourist visa, you would stop and they would remove the sticker. Be sure and get any refund due to you from your deposit previously made when obtaining your car permit.
To get your car permit you’ll have to have Mexican car insurance. I highly recommend that you buy that before you get to the border to save money and get a good policy.
Mexico car insurance policies are available on line, but buyer beware. No doubt some are excellent and some may not be.
There are several local firms. Greta Berg Parker Insurance is one that we use personally and we’ve had excellent results with her firm. She sells all sorts of insurance, not just car insurance. She’s been in the area about 30 years or more. Her entire staff, are bilingual, so you’ll be very comfortable doing business with them.
Their rates are very competitive. The nice thing about this firm is if you were to have any kind of a wreck, they will send a representative from the Insurance company to the site where the  wreck occurred, whether you’re at fault or not, and then they will work on your behalf at the scene to be sure that the reports are done right correctly and your rights protected.
They follow through with any repairs that might be needed with the other side or with your car, depending on the type of insurance, you purchased.
As I understand the emerging rules for obtaining a Resident Visa you must now do that before arriving in Mexico at a Mexican Consulate.
For registering your Resident Visa for our area once you arrive I recommend using one of our local Immigration Specialists. Their fees are reasonable and competitive with each other and well worth the money (especially if your Spanish is weak).
They do all the local paperwork for you and make it all happen without hassle.
You can contact me at for a recommendation
for an immigration specialist that would be best for you and your individual circumstances.
On the Road to Lake Chapala: Driving Tips for Mexico
I highly recommend driving only during daylight hours. Pace yourself. Don’t drive when you’re unsure how long it will take you to get to a stopping place for the night.
When you think it’s going to be dark before you can get to the next town or place where you can get lodging for the night, go ahead and stop at the first available place.
You do not want to be driving in Mexico at night. This is true even on the modern toll roads, because sometimes the toll roads will have gaps or places where cattle can get on the road or there may be a car broken down without lights.
It’s just better to travel during daylight hours only. Things just look different at night. It’s not more unsafe from a standpoint of robbery or things of that nature; it’s just less safe driving at night.
You don’t see potential obstacles as well, the highways are often not marked well for after dark driving, and you greatly increase your changes of getting lost. Being lost in the dark in Mexico is not a good situation, so please drive only during the daylight hours.
We recommend using the toll roads. Now, I admit I’ve driven for many years on the free roads. I have my own favorite free route from Laredo, and I like it very much, but my wife insists that we drive on the toll roads because she feels more comfortable driving on the toll roads.
The fees using as many of the toll roads as you can from the Laredo border here will amount to about $100 USD. Most people feel its well worth the cost, because you’re less likely to get lost and the roads are better quality and are better patrolled as well.
From time to time, you’ll see solar powered cell phones along the way so that if you break down, you can use these to get help. They’re marked S.O.S.
You may also see the occasional green angel patrol truck. The drivers are usually quite helpful and are paid by the Mexican government to drive these special vehicles loaded with basic materials for doing minor repairs and to help you to arrange tow trucks and the like as needed.
They are clearly marked as service vehicles in green and white colors.
These vehicles are equipped with emergency lights and can divert other vehicles around you as needed while you wait for a tow truck.
They likely will know the closest place for repairs as well.
It’s a wonderful service. You might have to wait some time, but if you get to one of the toll plazas they can call the Green Angel Patrol to help you.
Or you can use one of the solar powered cell phones mentioned earlier.
Communication Help Aids for Travel in Mexico:
Another trick that I recommend before you begin your drive into Mexico is to make yourself some cheat sheet type index cards to fit into pocket or purse.
One card might be for the gas station, so that when you pull into a Pamex station, (the only brand is Pemex – the Mexican government brand), you will know to be able to say something like, “Tres cientos del verde por favor” which means “300 pesos of regular gas please.”
Not only will you get the gas you need, but by asking for a particular number of pesos worth of gas, you don’t have to fumble to try to make change. You can easily pay in the exact amount which makes for a cleaner transaction. It’s much easier if you ask for 300 pesos of gas and give the attendant a 500 peso bill to count your change as he will likely give you a green 200 peso bill or 2 red 100 peso bills.
You should write the various needed phrases out in Spanish. An on line machine translator should handle these basic phrases for your cards.
Then you write it the phrases out phonetically so you know how to say, “Tres cientos de…,” and they’ll give you 300 pesos worth of the low lead gasoline.
The pumps register in liters and pesos per liter. The price now in Mexico is just over $3 a gallon. Again, it’s easier to give them a set number. You’ll eventually learn about how many pesos worth to ask for after a few trials.
Right now, for my car, it takes me about 800 pesos to fill it up when it’s very close to empty. But don’t wait until you’re almost empty.
Fill it up when you have about half a tank, unless you know that for sure there’s going to be another good station to get your gas further down the road without getting dangerously low on fuel.
Sometimes you come up to a gas station and they’ll have a blue and white sign with a number in kilometers and a picture of a gas pump on the highway next to the station.
What that means is the next station is X kilometers down the road. If it’s a big number of kilometers you should you can do the math and figure out if its best to gas up where you are or risk getting low on fuel.
More and more now, especially on the toll roads, I usually wait until I only have a fourth of a tank before I start getting a little worried about how far the next station might be.
If I the think that it’s going to be a long haul before the next station, if my tank shows less than half a tank I’ll go ahead and calculate how many liters I’m likely to need and give them a round number of 300 or 400 pesos worth of gasoline to get up to a comfort level of fuel in my tank.
The reason I recommend getting 300 or 350 or 400 or 500 pesos of gasoline is so it’s easy to pay the exact amount or quite close.
You’ll be unfamiliar with the money, of course, so it’s easier for you, and I still do it, even though I’m very familiar with the money and speak basic Spanish.
If you happen to stop at a station where there a lot of vendors and hawkers and kids hanging around that want to wash your windshield for a few pesos it’s even better to use the exact number of pesos
When there are a lot of people around distracting you, that’s when it would be easier for somebody to reach into your car and get your camera or something. I try to avoid these busy stations.
I really like to get my gasoline at the more remote stations out in the countryside where there’s not a bunch of what I call “hangers on” around the station.
It just makes it easier. Usually the bathrooms are much cleaner and you feel safer, not from people who might rob you, but just to stay away from the pesky sales people trying to sell you everything from A to Z. 
The remote stations are not as busy and are often cleaner and overall nicer.
As far as places to stay, let me tell you how to determine where you want to stay. There are hotels and then there are motels. Even though it may look like a motel, if it says hotel, well that means that it’s a regular hotel or a regular what you would think of as a motel.
But if it says Motel with an “m” well that’s what you and I would refer to in the States as a no-tell-motel, where you can rent rooms by part of the day, maybe two hours or three hours or half a day or all day or all night.
I mention these, not because I expect you’ll want to stay in that kind of a place, but because they’re almost always spotlessly clean. They are a very good bargain for the money as well. They’re also very easy to check into and out of.
They’re easy to spot as they’re usually painted in garish colors. You don’t have to even exit the car to check in. The idea is that no one need see you except the clerk who takes the money.
You just drive up to the window. There’s usually a slot or maybe a speaker that you talk to. They ask you whether you want so many hours or all night. Just say, “Todo la noche por favor.”
The neat thing at these places, in addition to being spotlessly clean, is they’re very safe.
Here the process after you pay. They’ll hand you a clicker, like a garage door remote control looking device. That clicker will have a number on it. Then you drive on in, usually a circuitous path where it twists around a little bit.
You get into the area where the rooms are and you’ll see a number of garage doors typically with a room above or to the side.
There you just look at the number on the clicker and go to the corresponding room. Click and the garage door opens, you pull in, you click it again, and the door shuts behind you.
Now you, your car and the contents are locked inside a fully enclosed garage. For you, the advantage is that you and your car are safe and sound. The rooms are always antiseptically clean and quite nice.
Usually they’ll have extra nice beds and a big screen TV. We even stayed at one such place that had a whirlpool Jacuzzi in the living area. I’ll warn you in advance, if you turn on the TV, you might run across a pornography channel.
These places are a very good value for the money.
All for now, Siempre tu amigo, Sid
  • Kezlanjeannie

    Sid, only recently did i learn that the personel working in Pemex gas stations do not receive a salary……….So please tip them………they will also check your oil, tires etc.

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