El Salvador – Honduras (Amatillo)
This has the reputation as one of the most stressful border crossings in Central America. We had heard that it is much quieter on a Sunday so we decided that it would be better to cross on a Sunday. This also means that payments can be made to direct to the officials rather than having to pay at the banks.
The first stop is a small shack on the right where you need to get your vehicle permit cancelled. At this point we were jumped on by a whole bunch of tramitadors so we picked one who spoke good English and asked him to help us through the process.
This border is a bit of a Xerox party and after you have your permit cancelled you need to make 5 copies of it. This can be done in a small shack next to the official shack.
After this get back in your vehicle and drive along the road. There is a shiny new bridge to the right but you need to turn away from this to the left. The new bridge is only for Trucks.
You will arrive at a big blue and white building which you shoud park on the right off. This is El Salvador immigration. There is a window for Migracion which you should visit and get your passports stamped.
Once this is done get back In drive over the bridge. Before you cross the bridge an official will take a copy of you cancelled vehicle permit.
The next building you will see is a big and old blue and white building which is the Honduras side of the border crossing. You should park to the left of this building outside a low slung white building that looks a little derelict.
First stop was to go into the derelict looking building where there is an office on the right just inside the door. They are refurbishing this building but it looks like it might be a long time. In the office was a woman sitting behind and she was Aduana and responsible for issuing the import permit for the truck.
I gave her copies of the vehicle registration, my passport and drivers licence and the originals. She had a lot of difficulty filling out the paperwork. This is where our tramitador earnt his money and he went to another office and fetched a massive customs manual which enabled her to look up the codes necessary to process our vehicle. We have found being British can be a problem at borders as Britain can be listed as many things: England, UK, United Kingdom, EU: UK etc. and they are not used to processing British vehicles. Patience is usually rewarded though. It also doesn’t help that our vehicle is a DAF which is not a common vehicle make over here.
Out tramitador at this stage suggested we should bribe the customs woman for doing her job but we declined.
She also came out and did a vehicle inspection including looking inside. This was quick and not very onerous.
The process of getting the import permit took over an hour and this was on a Sunday where there was really no one else around and no queue for Aduana. When we finally had the visa it was only for 3 days. The tramitador had told me that at one stage it looked like we were only going to get a 7 hour transit visa. The 3 days wasn’t a problem for us as we only intended to spend one night but be aware of how long you are getting. This permit was also really expensive and we paid USD37 for it. We had to pay in Honduran currency. The tramitador tried to rip us off at this stage by suggesting that is was USD45 and that is how much we should change.
After she finally issued the permit we went to a copy shop the other side of the road to take some copies of it.
The immigration office is an unmarked door within the old blue and white building. Hand your passport to someone in here, along with USD3 each for the tourist visa and you will get a stamped passport back. There was no paperwork to be filled out here.
After this we drove to the exit where we had to hand over a copy of the import permit and then one last thing was fumigation which cost USD3. Again the tramitador tried to rip us off and told us it was USD6 and then acted all confused when I said it was only 3. You have got to watch these guys. Anyway we paid him USD5 because he had helped with the import permit and we were in Honduras.