A great deal of my time and energy this weekend has been spent examining this process and doing research. I’ve spoke with people who have done it, people planning on doing it, and scoured the world wide web in search of the most current and accurate information.
We’ve watched many of our friends head south of the border on their own vessels, and I don’t believe a lot of concern was given to what could and could not go (with the obvious exception of firearms, which are something many Americans have but can not be taken into Mexico with only a few exceptions.) They had their boat loaded with their personal effects and they just went. That is the beauty of a floating home. So when friends had…oh…say 4 cases of wine…it was no big deal. But our situation is unique. We are FLYING to our boat, which we purchased in Mexico. The boat was well stocked with items provided by the previous owner, but we clearly have our own “stuff” that we want to go along with us. The boat, after all, is our home.
We have two options when flying into the country: A- declare our items and proceed to Customs for inspection or B- Play the “red light green light” lottery. This means we go through with our belongings as usual, hit the light, and hope like hell for the green light.
We are opting for Option B. I want to take our personal effects, I want (need) to take some needed boat equipment that will be necessary to safely operate the vessel, and of course there is the furcrew. And per Mexican law, we are limited to $500 worth of items before we will be required to pay the 16% duty. While I don’t have any desire to skirt the law, I also don’t want to have to fork over cash if it’s not needed. And I’ve found in traveling to Mexico and Central America, the official laws and rules are often subject to interpretation by whichever Custom’s official you happen to encounter.
So what have I found?
Well…this list is both mind-numbingly specific ( One device that permits the measurement of arterial pressure?? What does that even mean? I am guessing they mean a blood pressure cuff) and insanely random. (“ three speedboats with or without sails and their accessories??”) This list is one of the best, but what concerns me is that while it’s helpful, it’s from a travel website and not a list that I’ve been able to verify or find elsewhere. THIS list is an official government site, but as you can see it offers little to no specific information other than “Don’t Bring Guns or Drugs.” So I’ve been left to pretty much decide on my own what will be considered goods subject to duty.
So how have I decided to deal with this? In a very uncharacteristic way, I’ve become incredibly organized. I’ve compiled spreadsheets for each of us detailing all of our “personal effects”. I’ve listed out our individual electronics, dates purchased, serial numbers and their purpose as to “personal use for duration of stay.” As “Two sports equipment” are allowed duty free, I’ve assigned us each a set of SCUBA gear. My second “sports equipment” is my paddleboard. (OR…is that a speedboat?? If so they haven’t seen me paddle) We are allowed “4 rods” (I’m hoping reels are included) for fishing. No mention of tackle so that’s listed under T’s second allowed “sports equipment”. I’ve done the same itemized spreadsheet for the boat. As “replacement equipment” is possibly allowed, I’ve attached our boats survey showing the deficient item highlighted, and why it’s being replaced. I’ve done this for the new radio, life vests (human AND canine), electronic signaling device (flare equivalent), safety strobes for our life vests, an EPIRB, our Mantus anchor shaft (bar and spade went down on prior trips), and some other equipment we are bringing. All of these are accompanied by receipts or invoices. We are going one step further and identifying the location of each item in bags color-coded with different colored zip ties. I have an entire notebook with detailed entries. Part of my rational for this is that I have seen first hand how much easier these processes tend to be if I can show an overwhelming amount of paper. People get tired of looking at papers. Looking prepared makes a big difference.
Travis is a bit confused as who has replaced his usually “fly by the seat of her pants” wife, but I think it’s our best option for having a smooth transition into the country with our 8 checked bags, 2 carry-ons, and two furkids. Wish us luck! 68 days and counting!
Peace and Love,
T and H, S/V Brighter Days
*I will update this post after we arrive with details on how it went.
** The process of getting the dogs to Mexico is also very specific and involved, it will be another post completely
*** We will actually be well under the limit provided we are able to find our needed generator to purchase after arrival. If we have to take our generator from the US, well, all this may go out the window and we will reassess. A friend is calling around for us this week to see if we can purchase it locally. It will be more expensive but at 46 pounds and as a potential red flag to Customs that will almost assuredly require us to pay duty there, I’ll gladly pay more and acquire locally.