Friday, December 24, 2010

Filling in the Blanks: Your Tourist Card and you...

Remember that tourist card that you took the trouble to get stamped at the border in Tijuana? Well, if Emigration is ever going to check it, it will be here in Guerrero Negro:

Guerrero Negro is the town on the border between the states of Baja Norte and Baja Sur. This checkpoint serves two purposes: First the Agricultural Dept. guy will ask you if you have any fruits or veggies- if you do, they'll be confiscated. Second, sometimes there will be an Emigration guy there and he'll ask to see your passport and stamped tourist card. If you've got it he'll swipe your passport and wave you through. If you don't, well then you'll have to deal with the consequences.
There's all kinds of misinformation floating out there about the tourist card. Here's what I know: If you're going to be in Baja longer than 72 hours or if you're crossing over into Baja Sur you'll need to get a stamped tourist card. In all the years I've been coming down here, I've only ever been checked for it three times. So, if you were a gambling man and you decided not to bother with the card- odds are that you'd have no problem.

Once, I didn't have the tourist card stamped (you can pick up the tourist card in the U.S. but you can only get it stamped at the border in TJ or in Ensenada). I was told that I had a week to go to a bank, pay the fee and get my card stamped. That was it. On another occasion a young friend of mine flew into the U.S. without a stamped tourist card. In the airport, at the emigration check, he was pulled out of the line, escorted all the way past everybody to the bank in the airport and required to pay for the fee (I think he had to pay a small penalty as well). I think he may have done okay- he had to pay the tourist card fee but he got to bypass the long line.

Baja Tip: Just take the time, pull over at the border and get the paperwork squared away. If you do that, you'll have no worries. If you don't, in my experience, not much will happen to you... but why risk it?

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