It was a regular weekend party at Perry’s cafe in Shanghai where everyone was sharing their plans for the upcoming Chinese new year. Some were going to Harbin, others will spend time in Hong Kong or Thailand and when asked about my plans, to everyone’s surprise, “Mexico” was the answer, and to cut it short, I am now tired of telling people why I’d chose a specific place to travel and so, unless I am being nice to you, I would simply answer, “next question please”.And ofcourse I cannot forget hundreds of warnings from friends and followers across the globe who thought Mexico could be dangerous and tons of precautionary measures my Mexican friends gave me for a safe trip.
All this information was no doubt valuable and I do understand that we need to be careful no matter where we are, but these things or the fact that there was a shooting incident in a night club at Playa del Carmen just a week before my trip could not really stop me because well, I have to “experience” the world and its people. I am happy that I made it to Mexico and it was worth it for sure.
In order to cut the cost, I had landed in Dallas and took a bus to Monterrey via San Antonio. This helped me saving atleast $400. While waiting for bus at San Antonio, I decided to take a walk around the city. I went to walk around San Antonio river when I passed by this poster which kind of made my day and strengthened my belief that humanity is above religions.
I have to admit that compared to what we are told by the main stream media, what I witnessed and experienced was all love and care back in the United States or generally, anywhere in the world. I will get back to this topic when I write about my trip to US, right now, we need to leave for Mexico and soon it was time to board the bus for Monterrey.
Fun began right at the border crossing. Thanks to the “valuable” passport that I carry and the fact that I was the only third country foreigner in the bus carrying only 6 passengers from Laredo, USA to Monterrey, Mexico, I was well received by two CBP officers before leaving USA. I was asked couple of questions, mostly related to why I came to US if I had to go to Mexico, and if I was carrying a big amount of cash ($30 :p ) and I was good to go.
At the Mexican site, driver led us to Mexican customs building where we had to scan our bags and then we were asked to get back to bus and we were all set to go. I was in Mexico and as soon as I had “climbed the wall”, no one seemed to know English, including our bus driver who was insisting that we should leave for Monterrey, but hold on I said, we need to go for Immigration. Where is the immigration room, I want to see the immigration officer and get my passport stamped, and I was told that once I reach Monterrey, I should go to airport to see the immigration officer ?
Yes, I was in Mexico, illegally…and no one asked me. The driver sounded weird so I told him to give me five minutes and I will be back. I went back to customs office where luckily one lady could speak English who led me to next door for immigration. Turns out that there are two doors right next to each other and you could go into Immigration office and get into Mexico without customs or go into Customs office and get into Mexico without immigration. To my surprise, immigration was extremely smooth and without any questions, Immigration officer gave me a tourist card which needed to be stamped after payment of fees, The bank counter was few meters away and after payment of about $26, I was officially in Mexico.
Excited, I wanted to go and tell the bus driver that this was the right way but… I could not find the exit door and the immigration officer told me to take any door to go out. There was only a door which said, “For Emergency Use Only” but well, I could leave from any door and so I did but well, driver didn’t want to wait for me and I was left alone at the border and driver had gone taking other five people into Mexico without immigration.
Thanks to the nice and helpful custom officer who first told everyone loudly in Spanish what had happened with me and they all had a good laugh. Later she called the bus company and complained about the incident and then ordered a taxi for me to go to the bus stand. She came out with me and told the taxi driver where to drop me. As I didn’t have any Mexican currency yet, the taxi driver agreed to accept USD and demanded $7 for 3-4km trip but I had no option but to take the taxi for $7 whereas the total bus trip from San Antonio to Monterrey was $17.
Nuevo Laredo, the first town after border crossing
Arriving at the bus station, the lady at the counter knew my situation as the custom officer had called her. I was given the ticket to Monterrey and asked to wait for 30 minutes. The lady at ticket counter told me the difference between Taquilla and Tequila :p
The bus took about 2 and half hours and the trip was extremely peaceful, smooth, cloudy and uneventful.
And I made it to Monterrey! ?
Monterrey, full of life.
The time in Mexico was really nice. I loved the nature in Chiapa de Corso and architecture in Mexico city, the people of Mexico, the Spanish language, music and the Isla Mujeres. I will be discussing all this stuff in my coming blogs…
And you must be wondering why did I say “how not to enter into Mexico“, well, during all my stay in Mexico, I was fine. It was just when I was about to board the plane from Cancun for Miami and the boarding staff of American Airline checked my boarding card and collected my tourist card, I came to know that the tourist card was not valid. The bank officer had not stamped it to show the payment proof.
The boarding staff told me that I will have to go back and see the immigration officer (yes, the immigration officer the bus driver had said I can see at Monterrey airport :p ), pay the tourist card fee and for sure find the next flight as they were not going to wait for me. Luckily I had the payment receipt given by the cashier which I thought of throwing away but for no reason, I didn’t throw it. I tried my luck with the boarding staff and after mutual discussions, they agreed to keep that receipt and allowed me to board the plane back to the “Trump’s land”.
So next time, when you are about to enter Mexico and you have the option to choose from Immigration or customs room, choose the immigration ? and don’t forget to get your tourist card stamped and keep the original payment receipt until you have left Mexico. Anything less than this might not bother you during your stay in Mexico but it can definitely give you tough time while leaving Mexico and you definitely don’t want to miss the flight and pay for the next one. ¡buen viaje ?