Mexico/Belize Border Crossing

The Mexico border crossing didn’t warrant an entire separate blog post, simply because it was pretty easy and, aside from our troubles finding the Banjercito, we had no issues. Belize was a whole different story.

First our troubles started with the banks. It was a Monday when we planned to cross, and that was because we knew we needed to change money to either USD or Belizian Dollars (fixed 2:1 exchange Belizian to USD). We heard there was no bank at the border crossing, so we needed the right currency to pay our fees. The ½ hour drive from Bacalar to the border turned into 2.5 hours of driving around Chetumal trying to find a bank or money exchange that was open. For some unknown reason everything was closed due to some holiday we didn’t get the name of. Then, the only change office we DID find didn’t change money FROM pesos TO anything else. They would only change foreign currency TO pesos. Crap and double crap. After a last ditch effort circling town one more time it came down to two things: 1) go back to Bacalar and try again tomorrow, or 2) empty everything off the back racks, yank out the spare tire from inside the Jeep, dig out the lock box and raid our emergency cash. We went with option two, but let’s just say someone was having a bad day and decided breaking his tool box was a good idea at the time.There may have also been flying zip ties and a few stomps accompanied by cursing like a sailor.

Frustrated, hot and annoyed, we finally made it to the Mexican line. When we went to get our passports stamped, he asked for 306 pesos each. We heard this could happen, but we had already paid coming in (at a cutthroat exchange no less) and weren’t about to pay again. Scouring our records from the beginning of the trip, we came through with our receipt, and got our stamps to exit the country. Always keep your receipts – and ask for one if you don’t get one.

Moving on; it’s time to turn in our sticker and get our vehicle deposit back. The Banjercito office is right next to the guy in the little Immigration booth, and the woman there spoke perfect English, so we had no issues with that. She snapped a picture of the VIN and we were on our way.

At the Belizian border we had to get a little fumigation treatment for $11 BZD before going to the customs office. The oh-so-helpful porter on site decided to guide us through. We didn’t need his help but he pointed stuff out and started following us around. Oh well. We hit the immigration counter first, and the robot, I mean lady, inside the box asked where we were going for how long and why, then stamped our passports. Afterwards, Mike went to get the Vehicle processed (just a stamp in his passport after showing his license and our registration) while I was sent to BAHA with the dogs.

Surprise, surprise our import paperwork is not complete. Super. Wonderful. Can we catch a break today PLEASE? The paperwork takes 3-5 business days to complete after submission. We ACTUALLY waited until the 5th day before crossing, figuring if it was late we might have to wait a few hours, no big deal. The BAHA officer, however, said that since it wasn’t done yet, it could be days until it’s completed. Yup, DAYS. So here we are, in “no man’s land” between borders, and we get told we can either pay a fine of $200 BZD per dog PLUS the inspection and import fees of $70 BZD per dog to cross (total equivalent is $270 US), or we could go back. As in, go back to Mexico, repay our visa fee and vehicle import crap and wait a few more days before crossing again. Hmmm…. Well that sounds like an awful lot of pocket lining to me. Besides, we only had $200 US ($400 BZD) so we couldn’t pay that anyway. When we said we would just wait at the border, he was shocked.

So…. Long story short (sorta, kinda, OK not really, but whatever), two hours later he agrees to write the landing permit without receiving the final approved import form. The final amount we paid to get the dogs to cross from Mexico to Belize – $70 BZD ($35 US –  I thought it was per dog but the fee is per permit), plus the Vet paperwork and a new rabies shot for Barley in Chetumal of approx 500 pesos (about $40 US). The vet stuff was only approximate because Barley also got a full groom and I don’t remember how much that cost us.

After clearing things up with BAHA, we hit the insurance office, and for $60 BZD we were insured for a month – the same period we had for our visas. That porter from the beginning got a $1 US tip, which we didn’t want and/or need to give him since we didn’t want and/or need his help, but he had the nerve to actually ask for a cigarette too. As if the tip wasn’t enough. Sorry buddy, we don’t smoke. We should have just taken the $1 back.

So, the customs agents were born without personalities or the ability to smile, the BAHA office was a huge hassle, and the porters are ungrateful, but at least the insurance guy was nice and gave us sorta, kinda directions to Sarteneja. Total time spent from Bacalar to Belize: 6 hours. Oh well. Welcome to Belize.

(For more detailed information on crossing to Belize with a pet, see Neli’s Post of their experience. She’s very detailed (especially for a dog) and I totally used it as a guide.)

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