Oct 3, 2009, 8:00 PM
Post #12 of 30
All of Baja is a "free" vehicle zone, so no temporary vehicle importation permit is required. In Sonora, the "Hassle-Free" vehicle zone extends from the border along the west side of Hwy 15 south to the Km 98 checkpoint south of Empalme (near Guaymas). This is the last place to obtain a vehicle permit. Once you pass this facility, you're supposed to have the "All-of-Mexico" sticker (decal) on your windshield and the papers to go with it. But no one checks, so you could just cruise on by. Beyond that point, without a sticker, your vehicle would be in Mexico illegally.
As bournemouth says, the next problem is on Hwy 15 at the Sonora/Sinaloa border where traffic with non-Mexican plates is diverted off the highway to check for the sticker. But I've seen new-ish pickups with California plates just ignore the sign and keep on going. I have no idea if they had a sticker or not. You could by-pass this checkpoint by driving inland at the Masiaca turnoff in Sonora and proceeding south on unpaved tertiary roads to El Fuerte, Sinaloa, and then back to the main Hwy 15. Any foreign-plated vehicle on back roads will attract attention, though, especially this time of year because of clandestine agricultural activities in the area.
Between there and Guerrero, you will likely encounter several road stops manned by Federal Highway Police. They're mostly looking for seat belt violations, but if they get suspicious, they can ask for your papers. If you don't have them..."Poof!" There goes your vehicle. These Federal officers are supposed to be bribe-proof. Ditto for the Army, which has numerous checkpoints along Hwy 200 that runs from Tepic, Nayarit, south along the coast. (I've been told that the Federales, the Aduana police and the Mexican military are the only entities who can legally seize your vehicle.)
So...could you make it? Probably yes, but even one small screw-up that results in an encounter with the authorities could cost you your vehicle plus a lot of money and perhaps some jail time.
Don't forget to stop at the border or at an inland checkpoint like Km 21 south of Nogales to get a tourist card (FM-T) for yourself. At least you'll be in the country legally, even if your vehicle isn't.
Before enlightenment: Chop wood, haul water.
After enlightenment: Chop wood, haul water.