Edit: Resolution as an answer.

I entered Mexico nearly one month ago on a bus crossing from TX to MX. I crossed at around 2am and never was it directed or suggested to handle my immigration paperwork at that time. I was confused and anxious about entering Mexico and how the next few weeks would play out so neither did I ask nor check that I had done what was needed. After just a 10 minute wait I hopped on my next bus which took me to San Luis Potosi and later to Mexico City.

I stayed in the city for a few days, spent a week in Guanajuato then took a long night bus to Oaxaca city. Never was I stopped by immigration or reminded of the necessity of a visa until I arrived at a coastal town where my uncle lives. I told him about my crossing and he immediately realized that I didn't have a stamp or visa and was surprised I had made it all the way to Oaxaca without being stopped.

I have a flight from Mexico and a family wedding in two weeks so my uncle has suggested I cross into Guatemala to try to get exit and re-entry information so that I may then take my flight from Cancun.

I am currently in San Cristobal de Las Casas, less than a day's travel from most crossing points and want to handle this within a couple of days so that I can get this mistake behind me and ensure it does not affect my departure plans. Should I go straight to the large crossing city of Tapachula to handle this or a smaller, less touristed area. Do you have any suggestions as to how I should present this to the officials? Ideas about what I might expect as a response?

My spanish is pretty functional and I should be able to get across what happened.

Thanks a bunch, I appreciate any thoughts!

  • 4
    What is your citizenship? How long have you been in Mexico, and how much longer do you want to stay? Commented May 15, 2015 at 23:14
  • Hey Nate! I am a US citizen, have been in mexico for 3.5 weeks and will be leaving on the 27th of May, putting my journey at just over 5 weeks.
    – jkrone
    Commented May 16, 2015 at 14:47
  • It would be better to add your solution as an answer to the question.
    – JoErNanO
    Commented May 20, 2015 at 6:56

2 Answers 2


I'm guessing you were on a Mexican bus that only had Mexicans on it besides you.

I was the only gringo on such a bus out of San Antonio years ago and was fortunate enough that one Mexican on the bus told me at which point I had to get off the bus and go to a certain office to get my tourist card or I would have trouble later on.

I'm Australian but I recall US citizens didn't need more than a drivers licence unless they travelled beyond a certain limit into the country.

It's well known that losing your tourist card is a no-no in Mexico. Immigration agents have been known to take advantage of people missing theirs to solicit a bribe. I find the immigration officials at Mexican borders more likely to be sketchy than those in offices in the city.

As San Cristobal is a very well established town for both tourism and expatriates I would expect it to have an immigration office. And a much better chance of having some English speaking staff, if you need that. I would go there and explain the whole story rather than going to the border. They will have a procedure for this. I don't know if there will be some fee. Hopefully you can avoid a bribe.

You won't be able to leave without handing in the tourist card which you don't have. And we don't know how much they might hassle you first.

Please let us know what happens. Good luck!

  • 1
    Hey hippietrail. You're right, I think I was on a Mexican only bus - there were only about 8-10 of us riding through. I will look for an immigration office here in San Cristobal and ask for advice. I worry that they will direct me to the embassy in Mexico city or some other arduous route, though. I am really enjoying Chiapas and would like to resolve this in just one day.
    – jkrone
    Commented May 16, 2015 at 15:18
  • I was lucky because I'd flown to Mexico before and knew about the tourist card and was worrying that it didn't seemed to be mentioned on the bus. Commented May 16, 2015 at 15:21

I didn't receive much helpful feedback and through some hours searching, I didn't learn much either. BUT I did it and it was super simple. Here's how it went down.

So, I didn't tell the whole truth. I have actually been in Mexico for 9 months, 7.5 of which I was working on the Pacific coast. It is the case that I did realize in Oaxaca city that my not having documentation was a problem and so I went to the immigration office there. There was a woman who I talked to who suggested, kind of under the table, that I should try to cross into Guatemala as that was the direction I was headed. I traveled from Oaxaca city to a town on the pacific coast where I inadvertently found a job that would need me for about 7 months and, after talking with the owner, we decided that it really wasn't an issue as I was staying in one place and wouldn't have much interaction with government officials. It was actually a good thing, as I wouldn't have to travel to Guatemala to renew my 6 month stay in Mexico. So I did that. I stayed and I worked and while the job was, really, very stressful and I wouldn't do it again, I had no major issues. A couple times I avoided being the point man for the job and averted incidences but that was just precautionary.

So that ended about 2 weeks ago and I do have the flight coming up. I knew that I should get my visa taken care of as soon as possible so I made my way to Guatemala. I crossed today. At first I tried to play it real sly and just cross the bridge without getting an exit stamp and confront the issue but I was turned around by some pollsters on the Guatemalan side. After returning to the Mexican side, I got passed around a little until I spoke with an official who handles, among other things I'm sure, lost papers. I explained my situation truthfully, without note of the duration of my stay: that I crossed at 2am, never received or was told to get documentation of my entrance, and that I was told by a Oaxacan immigration official to pass through to Guatemala. I showed them my plane ticket and told them that I was to stay a few days in a mountain city before making my way back to Mexico to catch my flight.

As a side note, the border bridge really wasn't bad though my stay in Tapachula was disheartening as I was lied to and intentionally misdirected. The Ciudado Hidalgo bridge was not more than a kilometer and takes under 10 minutes to walk. I ended up crossing it 3 times and wasn't buggered after telling the taxi-men that I wanted to walk the bridge to see the river and the money men that I had already changed my moolah.

I hope that this helps others who find themselves in a similar situation. I imagine that this approach will hold true for the next few years, until there is a change in their approach to immigration, maybe something more digital and less porous. I've learned to always get your papers and in general that I sometimes let big things slide without realizing their necessity and rightfulness. I should not have stayed as long as I did though I do think I benefited the community and people with which I worked. I should have put my foot down with my employer and taken time off to fix this.


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