BootsnAll Travel Network

Day 1803: Sneaking across the border but not wanting to.


Like most border crossing, I did a little research prior to make sure things would go smoothly. Making mistakes at a border crossing is never a good thing. Weighing heavily on my mind was the somewhat odd requirements put forward on Mexico tourists (not counting the weekend border crossers). The FMT is basically like a tourist visa. It is given to tourists who are looking to spend more than a few days in Mexico or those who are heading farther inland than the frontier zone (20-30kms inland from the border). I had received a blank FMT when I entered from Guatemala and left it blank, in my passport. I had been asked for my passport a couple of times while traveling around on buses and I guess one of them did give me a stamp as I did have it authorized. The only other catch to the FMT is that you are required to pay @$22US as a fee. What makes it kind of weird is that you are required to pay the fee at one of the national banks not at an immigration office. You get a receipt and when you leave you hand the FMT and the receipt in as proof of fulfillment. Well, as it is one of those things that are not required immediately, I of course did nothing until it was time to leave and I needed it. The day before I left I Googled it and found a bunch of info posted by people with all their points of views. In general I gleened that it wasn’t something that could easily be avoided so I decided that maybe I should take care of this rather than waiting until the last minute. Heading into a couple of banks and receiving the “what the hell is that (but in Spanish)”, I just said screw it and figured that at worse I handed the $22 to anyone who would take it and who would let me pass to the other side.

Even though this was to be my last border crossing, San Ysidro (the opposing border town in the US) is not my parents address so therefore I had to figure out how I was going to get from Southern California to Central California. There are not too many chicken buses plying the routes, but I learned there was something close, Greyhound. It was no different, I kept myself in travel mode and looked at all my options in not only getting to Fresno, but also how I would get from the drop off point to my parents house which was way far from any terminals. The general route for most travelers was to cross, jump on the San Diego Trolley and once arriving in San Diego split off from there. Back to day one, my plan had always been to cross from Tijuana and then take an Amtrak train home (thats kinda different). I really wanted to employ this plan but the route would have required taking the trolley from the border to San Diego, grabbing an Amtrak train that would only reach Los Angeles, switch to a bus to Bakersfield (over the mountains, no trains), and then switch back to a train for the last of the stretch to Fresno. Way too much work for somebody who is all over the “fun” of hectic traveling. Another option was a flight from San Diego to Fresno, but being that I am a “hardcore” traveler (or at least used to be), there was no way that I was going to end my trip on a freaking plane. Another huge factor was the time frame. Most transportation with the exception of the plane ended up arriving in Fresno at night which is not a good idea especially when the transport hubs for Fresno are in somewhat sketchy areas at night. I seesawed between sleeping in the bus terminal until morning, paying $50 for an overpriced fleabag hotel, or god help me, a night bus which would arrive first thing in the morning and would make it possible for me to use public transport to get to my parents house. So in the end I booked a night bus on Greyhound leaving in the afternoon right at the border. So, in general, I had the day to waste time so I spent a lot of time at an internet cafe and eating fish tacos.

As evening approached I decided I would leave a couple of hours earlier than planned to compensate for some huge border fiasco that would occur when I tried to cross without my paid FMT. The Tijuana border is the most active border crossing in the world, so I was banking on them having some sort of emergency plan for when somebody didn’t know about the whole FMT thing.

Now, most border points that I have crossed followed a pretty basic order. You go to the current countries Immigration office and get your passport stamped “out”. Next you walk over to the new countries Immigration office and get your passport stamped “in”. My plan was that upon arrival at the Mexico Immigration I could plead ignorance (not exactly difficult) and get this FMT thing worked out. I had even worked it out so I had the exact amount in Pesos stashed in my back pocket so there would be a minimal amount of time necessary. I had walked the route the prior day so I knew the way to the Immigration areas, but had not gone down the sidewalk to see how things worked. I checked the guidebook map and got the spot where the Mexico Immigration office was so I felt a little bit more comfortable walking across the bridge and through the ramps to where lines of people were waiting. For some reason though, things didn’t feel right. My traveler sense is pretty good and so I started trying to figure out what was going on. Just following the walkway, there is no detours so its not like you can get lost of take a wrong turn. I didn’t pass any offices of Mexico flag waving buildings, but the area where everybody was standing in line sure was close to where the cars were passing over to the US side. As there was a pretty long line I had time to re-read the guide book and look at the map. I also asked a couple of people at different stages of waiting if this was the line for Mexico Immigration (in Spanish although one kid didn’t understand me and his mom had to answer, stupid Americans don’t know Spanish), and they all said yea, this is it. So, we moved forward and came to the gates. Beyond the gates was a big brick building and from what I could tell it sure looked like the border check point. Okay, I wrote it off as maybe they had both Immigration offices in one building as I have seen that before. Once we entered the building I noticed that the signing was in English and some combinations. It was odd because the English was the first and larger text and I thought that was a bit nice of the Mexican Government. Then I started to notice that the guards and officers working in the building had American flag badges on. Hmmm. Why would the Mexican Government allow US personnel to just wander around in their section. When we turned the corner I saw American Immigration control. Now, that was sort of not good and possibly really good. Somehow I had missed Mexico Immigration even though there was no way I could have missed it. I figured I was busted, but oh well, stupid tourist is my specialty so I got my stupid tourist face on and gave my passport to the officer. She asked what I was bringing in to the US and I told her tourist crap. She handed my passport back and I headed towards the glass door. I figured it would lead to some sort of second check point like at the airport, but when I pushed through the glass doors, I was outside. I had unwittingly scammed the Mexico government out of $22US. Whoo hooo. What a way to end my trip scamming and saving. America was going to be alright.


2 responses to “Day 1803: Sneaking across the border but not wanting to.”

  1. Acidspike says:

    Welcome home, Steve. Great to see that the border between U.S. and Mexico is so secure and well run.

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