Today we crossed our first new land border into a new country for us, Belize. We had expected to get an early start as we had heard that it could take as long as 4 hours to do the paperwork to leave Mexico and enter Belize. Like most plans it didn't work as planned.
We ended up getting a later start, then decided to stop at a grocery store to stock up on provisions. Our thought was that Belize imports most things and that costs could be higher there. So by the time we got to the border it was nearly lunch time.
Leaving Mexico took all of about 15 minutes. Since we are not planning on returning to Mexico we had to surrender our import permit for the expedition vehicle and have our passports stamped by immigration. Then we went to drive over the bridge to Belize. However, another immigration officer didn't realize we had already got our passports stamped so he demanded we hand them over despite our protests. He then brought them back to the office where Don had to go and take them off the official's desk.
So here's how we entered Belize.
Right after we drove over the bridge there was a small building that housed the office where we had to buy vehicle insurance. The cost was $25bz a week or $60bz ($30us) a month. Since we will be in Belize for as much as 3 weeks we purchased a month policy. There are money changers located right there, so we changed our Pesos for Belizian Dollars (bz). We then had to drive to the buildings housing immigration and customs. Along this stretch are 3 casinos, with more being built. Apparently many Mexicans visit on the weekends to spend their money. But first we had to make a quick stop to have our tires sprayed with insecticide, and pay $10bz, or $5us for this service.
We drove to the immigration office where we walked in and walked right out with our passports stamped. Then we had to drive next door to obtain an import permit for the vehicle. After waiting 5 or 10 minutes an officer came to review our registration and to issue the required document and to stamp Don's passport with the vehicle permit. Then a customs officer inspected our vehicle. We didn't have to provide them with any copies of any documents. This was interesting as we have heard that other borders will require loads of copies.
It turns out that they don't allow importation of cheese or meats that don't have an inspection certificate, nor fruit. Since we had just stocked up in Mexico we were concerned about having much of our food confiscated. Luckily the inspector just told us to dispose of everything properly. The next border we'll have to be more careful about what food products we cross with. I'd recommend not stocking up with meat before crossing.
The best thing about this border crossing was that everyone we worked with were friendly and welcoming. The reason things take time is that everything is hand written into log books manually without the use of computers. Even with this, we went through all the requirements in only an hour and a half.
We then drove down the road to Corozol Town where we got some money at the Belize Bank ATM (which we had also heard was difficult), visited an internet cafe and found the Caribbean Village RV Park to spend the night. The RV Park appeared to be abandoned but we decide to stay anyway. Later we found the owner who collected some money from us for the night. I guess he decided that he would make the same money whether or not he kept the park fixed up, so he chose not to keep it up. Later we walked through the streets of town as our welcome to Belize.