24 January 2017
San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala
After my disappointing visit in Salina Cruz I decided to have one last nice stay in Mexico before I ended up crossing the border. Looking at the map it didn’t look like I had many choices so I decided on Puerto Arista and was pleasantly surprised.
Founded in 1813, Puerto Arista started out as a port with the main trader being Guatemala. Since the village doesn’t have a harbor, it eventually switched to tourist as its main income. The town is also 1 of 4 turtle sanctuaries in Mexico. I found the town to be very quiet and relaxing. I ended up booking 2 nights at El Dulcito which is right on the main strip.
On the next day I ended up getting luckily and was able to kiteboard for a couple hours. Setting up and launching was a little more difficult though because there was a quite a lot of ATV traffic on the beach. Also many of these drivers where children, so every couple of minutes I had to wave some ATV away from driving over my kiteboard equipment. Overall though, I was impressed with the cleanliest of the beach and greatly enjoyed my kiteboard session. Apparently after talking with a local, I guess I was extremely lucky in getting wind. The local told me that in the 10 years he’s lived here, he has never seen a kiteboarder and wind in general is extremely rare.
In the 2 days I was there, I was amazed with the lack of foreign tourists. I ended up only running into 2 other foreign couples and apparently that is the usual. At night the village does wake up some with many different choices on fantastic street food and little street parties with the local Mexican tourists. All in all, I am very happy that I ended up stopping here for some final relaxation in Mexico.
Being that this was going to be my first real foreign border crossing on my trip, I decided to stop for the night in the border town of Tapachula and start my border crossing early the next morning. Now according to many of the reports I’ve read online, I was expecting a dirty, rundown town and I ended up being completely wrong.
I stayed the night at Hotel Cervantino Tapachula on a suggestion from a local in Puerto Arista and I highly recommend it if you are spending the night before crossing the border. For a little less than $15 USD, you get a clean private dorm style room with AC and they even let me park my bike inside. Also the hotel is located downtown easily within walking distance of the main plaza and offer room service from the restaurant next door. I ended up having some sort of fancy bagel sandwich thingy which was delicious.
The next morning I woke up nice and refreshed and started out for my first real border crossing. Finding the non-commercial crossing ending up being a little difficult but most of the locals were extremely helpful and pointed to where I needed to go. So after accidentally getting lost in the commercial crossing and downtown, I ended up in the right stop.
There was absolutely no line at both the Mexican and Guatemalan crossings and had no problem cancelling my Mexican import permit. Remember to do this, or you won’t get your $400 USD back. Also make sure to cancel your tourist permit because no one is going to remind you to do this. In fact there was no real Mexican checkpoint to ensure you’ve checked out of the country correctly before crossing the border.
Crossing into Guatemala was fairly easy as well. I had some difficulty at Immigration because of my horrible Spanish but after a little help and a little guessing on what she was saying, I was able to muddle my way through without too many problems. Customs was even more helpful due to the fact he spoke very well English. Make sure you get some Guatemalan money before you cross because they wouldn’t take Mexican or US cash. You may be able to find an ATM close by but I ended up finding a decent exchange rate downtown the night before close to my hotel. So after maybe an hour, I cleared both borders without any real fuss and was in Guatemala.
Looking back at my month and a half in Mexico I have to say I am highly impressed. The roads were fantastic with only hitting dirt only twice and that was only due to construction and my choice of route. Everyone I talked to was also very helpful and friendly. I never got hassled by any police or military and I never felt threatened or in danger.
Before my trip I ended up getting a lot of static about how dangerous Mexico is and how I shouldn’t be travelling through it. I’m sorry, but that just isn’t accurate. Sure there are some dangerous places but you can say that for virtually every country. In fact, the most beautiful drive I had in Mexico was through Michoacán which is the most dangerous state in the country. I think a lot of common sense can keep you out of trouble here and just being aware of your surrounds can go a long way. I highly recommend you visit Mexico and if you can, take a motorcycle. You get a sense of connection with your surrounds that you would never get in a car. I have greatly enjoyed my time here in Mexico and I look forward to driving back through on the way north.
Best Part: 43 days of just paradise here in Mexico
Worst Part: It’s going to be months before I get to enjoy here again.