Crossing the border, the most daunting part of my trip. I had already packed my possessions and rented out my house. There was no turning back. The only thing between me and my new life was the border.
I chose to cross the border at Columbia which is just south of Laredo, Texas, and feeds into Nuevo Leon, Mexico. I chose this crossing because it was one of the closest borders on my drive, but also because it was a very popular suggestion by other tourists. I was told it was also one of the easiest borders to cross for tourists, especially ones traveling by RV. I will only speak about this specific border in this article.
What to Expect at the Columbia Border Crossing
I stayed in San Antonio the night before crossing. It was only two hours to Laredo and I would be able to cross the border around noon, as suggested by other travelers. I arrived at the border around 11 am. I came up to four or five lanes, each with a gate arm at the end. I waited for the car in front of me to go through the gate, then I entered the lane. I waited for a red or green light. If you receive a green light, the arm will raise and you may go on your way. If you receive a red light, an alarm will sound, the arm will raise, and you will be directed to veer right over to an officer. The officer will then search your vehicle and may ask some questions. The lights seem to be random and automated. If you do receive a red light no need to worry. I received a green light as I went through, but the car in front of me received a red light. I observed his search, which consisted of the officer opening the door to do a quick visual search. He inevitably did not see anything suspicious as he let the man pass. As I watched other cars pass through the terminal, I was expecting a red light to be a rare occasion but that was not the case. As I said, I believe it is on an automated system, so if you receive a red light do not panic, you have done nothing wrong. Answer the officer’s questions and you will be waived on.
Paperwork at the Columbia Border Crossing
After, I went through the gate and parked on the right-hand side in a small parking lot, and entered the building to apply for my Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM), and Temporary Import Permit (TIP). To obtain my FMM, I went to the door furthest from the parking lot. I entered and found a very empty room. I considered myself lucky for not having to experience a long line and the predicted wait time of 2 hours. I found the man responsible for issuing the FMM. I filled out the form and it was stamped; a fairly simple process. Then I was directed to the TIP line. This line took about 30 minutes with 5 people ahead of me. It is incredibly important that you have all your documents in order before getting in the line. I had proof of insurance, copies of my passport, license, original registration, and original title. I also needed a copy of my FMM, which I didn’t have because I had just received it. Luckily there is a copy store inside the building and it can be copied for very little money (around 5 pesos per page), however, you do need to have pesos to pay for the copy. Once I got to the front of the line, I gave the officer all of my documents. He issued the TIP and I paid him in dollars, although they do accept credit cards. Once I received my TIP, I was ready to hit the road!