Having planned on camping the night before, we had stocked up on eggs and bread. So, we cook up a wonderful breakfast next to our Cabana, and say goodbye to Michael and Isabelle.
It’s also time to say goodbye to Mexico, and hello to Belize.
An hour and a half later we roll up to the border. I’ve already researched the process, so I hope it goes smoothly. We go to immigration and turn in our Tourist Cards. There is some confusion as Rebecca’s doesn’t have a receipt attached to it (it’s part of her plane ticket, which they won’t accept). So, we reluctantly pay the $35USD fee. I’m sure the immigration officer will buy his wife something nice with it.
The next step is to remove the temporary import on the motorcycle, and get my deposit back. I’m told to go across the road to another building (customs – aduana). Once there I discover that they cannot refund my deposit at this particular border, but can do so at one about 2 km away. I’m a little irritated that the gentleman at immigration didn’t know this as I had shown him my temp import papers. But, my biggest concern isn’t that, it is that we no longer have Tourist Cards, and we have been stamped out of Mexico. The girl assures me this won’t be a problem. I chuckle to myself, knowing it won’t be HER problem at least. I can hardly wait to see what happens at the other border if we have to go through immigration without Tourist Cards. $35 USD each this time!?
As I leave the building and head back across the street to the bike I’m told I can’t walk that way. I guess I’ve technically already left Mexico. Instead, I have to enter a line of about 100 people waiting to cross through a security checkpoint. It’s 1 pm, and the heat is unbearable. This, combined with the stupidity of the red tape is making my blood boil. I join the line, and several locals keep telling me to cut to the front, and go through a different gate. As I walk towards this other gate, another guard tells me “no” and points back to the line. Unbelievable. A few other locals in the line explain to me to just cut to the front of this line as I have no baggage to be looked through. Once at the front, the original guard who told me I couldn’t walk across the road waves me through the gate. It would have been so much easier to just let the gringo cross the road and get on his bike…
So, with the heat at 36 degrees, the humidity at 100%, and my frustration level at 11, we head off to find the other nearby border. It’s not too far away, and the immigration officer who greets us there is just as confused as us. He wants to see our Passports and Tourist Cards. We explain they’ve been cancelled and stamped out, and that we just need to get the deposit back for the bike from the Aduana. He eventually directs us to a building 3 buildings down from his. Arriving there, they want to inspect our luggage. I try to explain that we are not arriving from Belize, and that we are not trying to enter Mexico. They want to inspect regardless, and see our Passports. I’m very frustrated, and trying to explain we just need to go inside the Aduana and cancel the Temp Vehicle Import. They still want to inspect the bike first. The guard points at one pannier. I open it and he looks inside, lifts up one bag, and nods okay. He really never inspected anything, but it did take me 5 minutes to undo all the gear strapped on top of that pannier and rear rack so he could glance inside that particular pannier. He now directs us to a different building, back in the direction we had already come. Arriving there we finally find the first helpful person, who directs us to an entirely different building (walking distance from the original immigration officer).
We’ve finally found the right building!
I get my refund, they take a photo of the bike’s VIN #, and we’re done… at least the Mexican side. Now we have to enter Belize.
I’m not sure I have any patience left… but here goes.
We arrive at the Belize immigration and customs office – it’s air conditioned. They give us a map of Belize, ask how long we’re staying for, stamp our passports, and make a note of my bike in mine to ensure I take it with me when I leave Belize. There is a small fee for all this… I can’t remember how much because I was simply in shock how easy, friendly, and efficient the whole process was.
The next building after entering the country sells vehicle liability insurance. We drop in there to get some for the bike. The gentleman at the counter there is friendly, give us lots of recommendations on things to see and do, offers cold water, and we joke around with him in his air conditioned office. 15 minutes and $30 USD later we’re on our way to enjoy Belize.
What a difference 100 yards and a familiar language make.
Clearing the border town we stop at a roadside restaurant (Slim’s) for lunch, and experience even more Belizean hospitality along with the national dish of rice and beans, with tender, fall off the bone roast chicken. I think I’m going to like Belize!