Pause for geography lesson: McAllen is about 8 miles from the US/Mexico border. The border straddles the Rio Grande between Hidalgo, TX and Reynosa, MX. GPS is an invaluable tool to negotiate through Reynosa and beyond.
We stayed at the Comfort Suites www.choicehotels.com on 8th street in McAllen for $79; and took the 10th street route (you could go 23rd street--both go to the same place) to the McAllen/Hidalgo International Bridge and on to the border.
It costs $3 to cross from the US to Mexico in a car, we were not stopped by the Mexican border patrol, all green lights. It is a random red light that tags you for inspection at the border--whew!
Now finding the correct building for all the paperwork takes some negotiating! Thank God for Spanglish!! Yes, it is a language, used by gringos, accompanied by a lot of charades!!
We were given a rudimentary hand drawn map by an Immigration officer, in the 1st gray building on the right (connected to the actual border), to get us to the correct place--about 5 blocks from where we entered the country. There are no signs...not marked at all....the map directed us to another gray building---take a right at the 1st gray building, stay to the left (pass the park) about 4 blocks to where the road dead ends into the 2nd gray building where the signage reads "car permits"... the building is currently under construction but offers ample parking.
Start at window 2: tourist permit-have your passport and itinerary ready--a form will be completed by the official, we opted for the 6 month permit, as we intend to re-enter Mexico at a later date, and want the flexibility to do so.
2nd stop, Banjercito: you will be here for at least 30 minutes. This is where you will pay for the bond and actual window decal--we paid $400 for the bond (refundable at the end of the 6 months when paperwork returned to the aduana at immigration--keep all the paperwork and receipts!) and $48 for the actual decal. The tourist permit, also for 6 months, is $27 per person, also payable here. We paid by international credit card, but they will also accept cash...
3rd stop, window 4: car permit is logged in by hand
4th stop, window 2 (again): passport is stamped, 1/2 of tourist permit is retained.
FINISHED!! WHEW!! The officials are very friendly and helpful--but don't expect them to speak English!! You're in their country!!!
BE PREPARED TO LEAVE MEXICO--it may take 2-6 hours to get back out of the country!!
...FYI there are bathrooms and soda/water machines adjacent to the offices...reentering the US is out the parking lot, to your left.
An interesting aside, as you sit in your car queuing for the border crossing, you will be accosted by peddlers on the bridge, peddling anything from: water, gum, jewelry, new windshield wiper blades, hand woven purses, and large plastic glitter turtles.......yes, glitter turtles!! No, gracias!
The exit fee is $1.95 from the Mexican side. We crossed back into the USA on Black Friday Eve along with hundreds of cars waiting to cross into the US--all the Mexican drivers and passengers were reading their US newspaper department store sales inserts---ohhhh the power of marketing!!!
The US border patrol checked our passports, but we were not detained - Yet another WHEW!
So our Pre-Day 1 ends...relatively unscathed...
Tomorrow starts at 5 a.m..........