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Advice for Travel in Mexico

PASSPORTS
You do not need a valid passport to get into or travel in Mexico, however if you do have one you should use it. An original birth certificate AND a government issued photo ID or an expired passport will work fine as well.

CUSTOMS
You will need a customs declaration form when you travel in Mexico. Tourist permit forms are available at airport in Mexico, if the airline you are traveling with does not offer them to you. When you fill out the immigration form put Casa Pacifica, San Francisco in the state of Nayarit for your destination in Mexico.

Once you arrive, take your forms to the immigration area and queue up in the lane sign posted for foreign visitors. At the desk, an immigration official will inspect your documents, write a number of days on the Tourist Permit that your permit will allow you to stay in Mexico for, stamp your Tourist Permit and Passport, return a copy of the Tourist Visa to you and ask you to proceed to customs. Important! KEEP YOUR TOURIST PERMIT SAFE for your departure! If you do not have your permit with you when you leave, you will need to undergo some Mexican Immigration red-tape.

Once you have reclaimed baggage, take it and your Customs Declaration Form to the exit gate, where you will be presented with a Red/Green Traffic Light. Below the traffic light is a button, which you will be asked to press. If the light flashes green, you walk through without being inspected. If the light flashes red, your bags will be inspected, either casually or thoroughly. It is rare to come up red, but if you do just say everything you have in the bag besides basic needs are gifts for the house you are staying in.

When you travel in Mexico do not pack your camera in your check-in luggage, there have been several instances where cameras have been stolen out of luggage, so this goes for all valuables- pack them in your carry-on. Also, keep an eye on your carry on luggage when going through security check points, x-ray machines, ect… (High crime in Mexico City, low crime in Puerta Vallarta, extremely low crime in San Pancho.)

Regulations
Mexican regulations limit the value of goods brought into Mexico by U.S. citizens arriving by air or sea to $300 U.S. per person and by land to $50 U.S. per person. Other travel-related items may also be brought in duty-free. Amounts exceeding the duty-free limit are subject to a 32.8 percent tax.

Customs Allowances into Mexico:
New & used goods for personal use, e.g. clothes, personal hygiene products, footwear
20 Packs of Cigarettes
50 Cigars or 200 grams of tobacco
3 Liters of alcoholic anything (wine, spirits, et al)
Up to 12 rolls of film
Up to 20 music CDs
A Laptop computer
Any sporting equipment (e.g. golf clubs, scuba gear, bike) for personal use

When you travel in Mexico items for personal use will be allowed, new or used, but only in quantities that are commensurate with the definition of 'personal use'. If you are carrying large quantities of one item or if the Customs Inspector believes you are trying to commercialize your goods, then you may be interviewed further.

When you travel in Mexico be aware that drug offenses, even small amounts of 'soft' drugs, e.g. cannabis/marijuana are likely to land you in a Mexican prison …don't expect your consulate to bail you out in this case because it won't be able to! 20-25 year prison sentences for drug and serious arms related offenses are not uncommon.

MONEY AND CREDIT CARDS
It's best to call your ATM credit card company before leaving the States to begin travel in Mexico to let them know you'll be in Mexico; otherwise, they sometimes decline withdrawals after the first one. Unlike most places, the rates for changing money at the airport are excellent. They have always been over 10 pesos to the dollar, so it's wise to stock up there.

You often cannot use credit cards when you travel in Mexico. In San Pancho, credit cards are not generally accepted (except at Costa Azul and La Ola Rica). You can easily pay with US dollars, but the rate is 10 to 1. There's a place to change money next to El Indio, the little market in San Pancho, but again, the rate isn't as good as the airport. The airport now has three ATM machines; so if one is broken, keep looking. Even if they have a limit of $3,000 pesos per transaction, you can make several transactions. Remember that a hundred pesos is only $10 dollars. There's also an ATM machine at the HSBC bank in Bucerias, which is about halfway between Puerto Vallarta and San Pancho, and there are a couple in La Penita, which is 20 minutes north of San Pancho.

Tipping
Tipping is customary when you travel in Mexico. Tipping in restaurants is between 10 and 15%, and is NOT included in the bill in San Pancho. Maids in Mexico work for the tips. Please be generous - this is their income. When you travel in Mexico you will find that tipping is also appreciated for many other small services - at the airport, at gas stations, for tour guides, taxi drivers, people who cook for you, etc.

Useful Telephone Numbers

American Embassy: Telephone from the United States: 011-52-55-5080-2000
Telephone within Mexico City: 5080-2000
Long distance telephone within Mexico 01-55-5080-2000
http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/emenu.html

U.S. Consulates General
American Consulate Guadalajara, Jalisco Tel [52] (33) 3825-998/2700
http://www.usembassy-mexico.gov/guadalajara/guadalajara-eng.htm

U.S. Consular Agents
Resident consular agents have been designated in other locations in Mexico to assist U.S. citizens in serious emergencies. Puerto Vallarta: Zaragoza #160, Col. Centro, Edif. Vallarta Plaza, Piso 2 Int.18, telephone (52)(322) 222-006

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