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Driving from California through Mexico to Guatemala
March 1998

How to import your car into Guatemala - Information here!

I hope this note finds you in good spirits. I am beginning to settle in to my new home. This week I will be opening an office and start offering a variety of services to the the general public and tourist in Quetzaltenango. I have contracted with a couple Internet Service Providers in Guatemala City and will resell their dial up service on a monthly commission basis. Plus I will offer long distance phone calls, faxes and email service to tourist. 

I will also continue to do web page design and marketing. So, if you or anyone you know needs Internet services of any kind please give them my email address and have them contact me. All of my services can be handled through email. 

Here all of my contact information: 

Tom Lingenfelter 
4 Calle 19-48 Zona 1 
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala 

To call from the US dial the following 
011 502 763-4396 

I can be reached at this email address   

Some background info: We are driving a 93 Jeep Cherokee and pulling a 91 Nissan Sentra on a tow dolly full of everything we could take. 

Day 1 

We left Manteca, CA early on March 4th and drove south on highway 99, we then turned east on (58) near Bakersfield, CA and drove through the Mojave Desert. In Barstow, CA we took (40) East and made it all the 
way to Kingman, AZ that day. (11 hours) 

Day 2 

We left Kingman early and headed East on (40) we wanted to see the Grand Canyon so we went North on (64) just this side of Flagstaff, AZ.  This took us to the South rim of the canyon. We drove along the south rim and then went south on (89) which put us on the other side of Flagstaff and back on (40) east. We passed the Great Meteor Crater  and could not resist stopping it really is something to see if you are ever in the area. We then drove to Holbrook and spent the night. (10 hours) 

Day 3 

Right outside Holbrook we picked up (180) south which cuts across AZ and NM. We picked up (10) east in Deming, NM and made it to El Paso for the night. (10 hours) 

Day 4 

Texas is a very big state!!! While on (10) east we encountered our first challenge, just outside of Van Horn, TX we had a blow out on the back right tire of the Jeep. It was a little hairy because I was going too fast but we made it to the side of the road and were able to change the tire with out unhooking the car. We noticed that the front tires were wearing on the outside edges which was not good because we still had 3000 mile to go. So we decided to stop and get the front end aligned and buy a new spare. Even with all this we still made it San Antonio for the night. (14 hours) 

Day 5 

Highway (10) Makes a big loop around San Antonio and since we were trying to get to McAllen, TX we made the loop and took (35) south to Laredo. Once in Laredo we caught (83) south right into McAllen. Because we were pulling a car and had a ton of stuff with us we needed to pay a company (Transmigrantes) to make a manifesto for us. Right before the border there are many of these companies who will do this for a $100 or so. One thing we could have done to save time was to make a list of all electronic items we were taking. This is very 
important if you do not want to pay import taxes in Mexico. We stayed in a flea bag hotel near the border called The International Hotel.  The Trasmigrante company had an office there and many other people who where pulling cars also stayed here. We were able to get a lot of good information from them about road conditions, police stops...etc (6 hours driving, 5 hours getting paperwork) 

Day 6 

Crossing the border. When you reach the border you have to get in line and go through a customs checkpoint. If you get a green (verde) light you can continue with no problem. If you get a red (rojo) light you need to let customs inspect the contents of your vehicle. We got a green light!! Next you need to go park your car in a dirt parking lot and run back to clear immigration, this was just a simple check of our passports and we were on our way. We had hoped to jump on Highway (97) and head straight to the coast, but we got a little lost and  
found ourselves on a little two lane road heading toward a town called Valle Hermosa. Once in Valle Hermosa we were stopped at a military checkpoint, they inspected our papers and let us through. About 3 miles down the road the guy who inspected our papers came speeding up and stopped us again. He told us we needed to go back to Matamoros, pay a fee and get a stamp. Had he not told us this we would have been in big trouble. If you are ever stopped and do not have that stamp  they will make you return to the border to get it. So we turned back and got the stamp! This put us behind schedule but on the right road Highway (180) south our first night we stayed in San Fernando at Las Palomas hotel, very clean with secure parking and a Jacuzzi (200pesos =$23.00). We met an American archeologist (Dr. Brad) there who was on his way to Cancun to teach at the University. He was a great help to us. He had been traveling this route for many years and knew all the short cuts and places to stay. (10 hour including mistake and border crossing) 

Day 7 

We really needed to make up time due to our mistake at the border so we left early following our new friend. We drove for about 6 hours and reached the city of Tampico. There is a toll road bypass that goes around Tampico. It is a good road for a while but then winds through a bunch of small villages and gets very rough. We decided to keep going on the advice of Dr. Brad. We headed for the town of Tuxpan. We had been told not to go into town by others but the Dr. said don't worry plus there are several nice places to stay, so we continued. Once we reached Tuxpan we said goodbye to the Dr. and looked for a place to stay. The first place we saw was the Auto Hotel California so we stopped. Later we found out that Auto Hotels are places where rich men take their prostitutes. This one was very clean and had secure parking for each room, plus cable TV (200 pesos =  
$23.00) I highly recommend these Auto Hotels if you are looking for cheap, clean and secure places to stay, if you don't mind the reputation. Here is where we had our second challenge on our trip. While unloading our car I accidentally locked our 18 month old son Kain in the Jeep. We tried desperately to get him our but nothing 
worked, so we had to break the right passenger window. After cleaning up the glass we put a plastic bag over the window and taped it shut. (11 hours) 

Day 8 

The next morning we left Tuxpan and headed south on a nice 4 lane toll road to Poza Rica once in Poza Rica we picked up (180) again and continued to Vera Cruz. Right before you reach Vera Cruz there is a beautiful 4 lane bypass which will take you around Vera Cruz and all the way to Acayucan. This toll road cost us a total of $40.00 but was well worth the money. We stayed in Acayucan at Hotel Kinaku which is a nice 7 story hotel very clean with secure parking which was a must now that we did not have a right passenger window. (225 pesos = $25.00) The hotel is right downtown with a wonderful view, we were on the 5th floor. (11 hours) 

Day 9 

We headed south on (185) toward La Ventosa once there we took (200) all the way to Tapachula. Tapachula is a big city. We had been told that the Hotel Loma Real was a nice place to stay so we checked in. However, it was the most expensive of all the hotels in the US or Mexico. ($65) We later decided that this is not a good place as there were many other less expensive and just as nice hotels in Tapachula. (9 hours) 

Day 10 

We were lucky because one of my wife's cousins came and met us at the border and helped us cross. When you reach the border of Mexico & Guatemala there are many kids who will help you with your paperwork.   
The best thing to do is choose one and tell him you will only pay for items that come with receipts. Do not give them money to dispense for you. They will help you and then you give them a tip a few dollars is all this takes and without them it will be a nightmare! We then headed on our way to Xela! 

If you want anymore information or if you are coming to Quetzaltenango in your travels please send me an email and stop by for a chat.  

Tom Lingenfelter

Mexican Tourist Road Atlas

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