San Jose Del Cabo .
I just landed at SJD (Cabo San Lucas, Mexico) I thought it would be beneficial to the group to share my experiences. First off I am very a very experienced traveler and have cleared Mexican Customs at least 30 times. This time was just a bit different and not just because of Covid-19. At my check-in in the US I was directed to fill out an online questionnaire about my Covid-19 possible exposure.
It also asked for what seat you were in and contact info (email and phone). I assume that this was for Contact tracing. I filled it out and took a screen cap of the QR code generated at the end of the questionnaire (thinking I might need it later).Waiting for the flight was uneventful. There was a whole lot of plexiglass up everywhere and not may stores or restaurants open in the terminal. There was a disturbing amount of single use plastics being utilized in the airline club (I asked the bartender to fill up my water bottle with her beverage gun and instead sh gave me 5 small plastic cups of water to pour into my bottle. Mask use was a high priority on the American Airlines flight that I was on. The person behind me was reminded twice to where his mask. Once off the plane we we all put onto a shuttle bus for the short trip to the terminal. The Bus was not as packed as some others I have been on, but there certainly wasn't any real attempt at social distancing. Prior to getting into the Immigration hall we had to fill out a form asking us if we had knowingly been exposed to Covid-19. This form asked me the same questions that I had answered on the online questionnaire. I filled it out and handed it to the agent. He looked it over, signed it, and handed it back to me. No one else ever asked for it. It wasn't scanned in or anything....so I'm, not really sure what the point was, but as a frequent traveler to Mexico, I am not surprised by this. After collecting my bags I headed to the Customs hall. When I handed in my customs form the agent asked me about my bags (3 checked bags and 2 carry on). She asked me what was inside the bags and I answered, truthfully, saying "1 is scuba gear, another is clothes and the last is for my camera." She asked how many cameras I had and I told her, truthfully, that I was traveling with 2. She then specifically asked me if I had a housing. I said "yes" (no point in lying about it). I was directed to a separate table in the hall where my carry-on bag and my UW camera bag were inspected. The Agents seemed only to be interested in my housing (a 4-5 year old Subal). They asked me very specific questions. They asked me how old it was and how much I could sell it for (not how much was it worth or how much I paid for it). When I was asked about how much I could sell if for I laughed and said that IF I could find someone to buy it I wouldn't expect to get more than $450USD for it. I asked them about what was going on and they informed me that since the value of what I was bringing in exceeded $500USD I was subject to a 19% duty. I told them that it wasn't for resale and I was going to be leaving with it. They said that it didn't matter. In my mind I see the dollars adding up (we all know how much a full UW photo kit costs). The agents stated that "it's not that much, don't worry". He went on to say that they just assume that the rest of the gear is valued at $500 and so I would only be responsible for the 19% on the housing (valued by me at $450). When i pushed back on this He changed the value to $350USD and informed me that I would have to pay around $57USD for the duty. Doing a quick time vs. money evaluation I agreed. I was then led into an office where a woman charged my credit card the $57USD. She also recorded the serial number off of my housing. I was given a receipt and a form (on which was a description of my housing and the serial number) that had both been stamped with some sort of official looking seal. The woman expressly told me to retain the receipt and the form as this was a one time fee and that as long as I had the same housing and the form, I would not be charged again. I repeated it back to her just to make sure that nothing was lost in translation. I then collected my bags and went outside the arrivals hall to brave the gauntlet of taxi drivers.
Throughout the the entire experience the Mexican Customs agents were professional and polite. I have travelled in Mexico for years and am have had experiences with the "mordida" (bribe) and this had none of the feel of that. While I didn't like having to pay more money, it is their country and their rules. I felt the agent worked with me a bit and wasn't trying to take advantage of the situation; I travel with 4 strobes that are at least $800 a piece, never-mind the multiple dome ports and all the rest of the stuff that goes along with this crazy hobby.
My advice to anyone dealing with a similar situation is to remain calm, remain respectful, and work with the agents to get to a reasonable number. Do not attempt to lie or conceal what you are traveling with...it won't end well for you.
I hope this helps other travelers.
Oh, I also asked my driver and the management at the hotel I am staying at prior to departure about what they plan to do about the upcoming Covid testing requirements for people returning to the US via air and they said that all of the hotels and resorts are working to have onsite rapid Covid testing for guests that conforms with the requirements of US health officials. I have faith that the Mexican toursim industry will be on top of this latest change.