We expected to cross at Brownsville, TX, but our GPS instead took us to Los Indios. No big deal, we figured; same process – different location.
Boy, were we wrong.
There was a toll on the U.S. side. Once we made it to the Mexico side, we were asked for the temporary import permit for our vehicle. We didn’t have one because I expected to purchase it at the border based on my research. But what I hadn’t considered was that different locations would be open different hours and days…and this location was closed on Sunday.
We were turned around, made to pay another toll, and had to wait to get back into the U.S. It was standstill traffic for near four hours. Once we made it to the U.S. side again, we were asked if we had anything to declare.
I replied, “I declare that we never made it into Mexico.”
There were no tolls on either side of the border at Brownsville, TX. Instead we paid for our temporary import permit (~$350), our Visas ($48×3), and a surprise duty fee for having three computers when they only thought we should need two (~$500 (this is the one fee I was not expecting)).
Even though we were not expecting to have a duty fee, or to have to unload our van for them to look into every bag and box (we WAY overpacked for this trip), it was a pleasant experience. In spite of my lack of Spanish knowledge, the lady who inspected our vehicle and I were able to communicate well using rudimentary Spanish and English, as well as Google translate. She was kind, understanding, and most of all, patient.
The armed soldiers there were quite intimidating at a glance, but all waved and smiled if you interacted with them at all. While crossing the border looked menacing, the friendliness of all the people we interacted with on the Mexican side can not be overstated. All tried to use some English, especially after I would apologize for my limited Spanish. In fact, based on how limited our grasp of the language is, we might have been more deterred from the trip if my friend Pablo had not told us to go anyway and that it would be fine. He was right.
I’ll end with a bit of dialogue between the woman who inspected our cargo and I that truly represents most of my interactions since entering Mexico:
I said, “Lo siento.” (I’m sorry.) Then, I typed in Google translate and showed her the following phrase on my phone: “Debería practicar mi español.” (I should practice my Spanish.)
She replied in English with a smile, “…and I my English.”