March 29th, 2016
It took us nearly two hours to cross this border. First, you stop at Mexican immigration to hand in your visa; well since our visas were issued upon our return to Puerto Vallarta at an airport in January, this was not “standard” procedure and we had to park and come back to the booth on foot and go inside it, to pay our departure tax (this would have been included in an airline ticket out) and get our exit stamp.
Next, it was over to the “banjercito” to cancel our vehicle permit to get our $300 deposit back since we were not staying beyond the six month limit. This involved a wait in line of nearly thirty minutes and the procedure took about fifteen minutes which involved the agent going out to the truck to confirm the VIN, take a picture of both the VIN and the vehicle, remove the window sticker and then go back inside to process the refund to our credit card.
Then we drove over the bridge to Belize and across the “free zone”. There are casinos here! You park, go into immigration to get your visa as well as your departure document for later. Visas here for both Canadians and Americans are free of charge and are for 30 days only – you can extend them if you like by going to any immigration office. Then you walk about six metres to Customs to get the vehicle permit. This part was very time consuming as it’s all done by hand in a book with carbon paper. Even though they have a computer and they input everything into it, they don’t have a printer! To top it off, they guy almost finished it when he realized he’d made a mistake and had to start over. So that process took almost another half hour. Afterwards, when he gave us the permit to read and sign, we found he’d made two mistakes which he corrected by hand, thank goodness. You then escort him out to the vehicle so he can see it, confirm the VIN and have a look inside. He never asked us about dairy, meat or alcohol so our hidden beer etc. was put away in vain.
So the next step is to pay a fee which we believe is for the vehicle permit but we’re not exactly sure but we got a receipt for it so it must be legit. Then it’s off to pay $10 BZD to get the tires fumigated before crossing the immigration check point itself. The final step once you are in Belize officially, is vehicle insurance at the Insurance Corporation of Belize, which is $60BZD for the thirty day length of our visa/permit so only $1USD a day.
Sidebar: (1) Belize uses dollars which they call “Belize dollars” and they are 2 dollars for one USD so a pretty easy conversion. You apparently have to be careful when getting prices to be sure which dollars are being quoted. (2) Despite being a commonwealth country, Belize uses MPH for speed limits but they do drive on the right. Belize used to be British Honduras until 1964. As we have not purchased gas as yet, we cannot report whether it’s sold in litres or gallons just yet but we’ve read it’s in gallons.
By now it’s after 4 our time (Belize is an hour behind the state of Quintana Roo) and we go into town to find an ATM, groceries and then meet up with Christine & Mark. Turned out they found us parked at the Scotiabank and told us they’d checked out the planned camping spot and it was not great nor could they find anyone to ask about it. They did scout out the free beach camping as well and then found a small hotel that said we could park there and although we’d get no services, we could use the pool. We followed them to check out the original place one more time to see if anyone was around, we opted for the hotel parking lot as they both wanted to charge the same amount: $20BZD. The Almond Tree Hotel was right on the water and the parking lot was across the street. There was a nice breeze most of the time and the pool was most clean and refreshing. We spent about an hour in it before going to make dinner.
So our first night in Belize was good and as an added bonus, there were no dogs barking or roosters crowing here. It’s the little things in life.
After some yoga by the pool Wednesday morning, we checked out the town market for fruits, veggies and beer before heading northeast to Sarteneja on the coast.