After spending the night in Chetumal Mexico, we were up bright and early ready to cross the border into Belize. Chetumal is the last really populated city you will encounter as you head over the border. This is where it is recommended to stock up on any necessary supplies, as many things are not as readily available in Belize to purchase. We loaded up and headed to Mcdonalds. This is a great place to get free wifi, and of course a familiar breakfast is nice also. After sending messages out to family, of our safe arrival, and eating, we decided to hit Wal Mart to grab some last minute things. We saw that they were building a new Home Depot! This will really be great particularly for those living just across theborder in Belize.
We grabbed some weights to work out while traveling, a campsite folding table, some snacks, and a few other items, and headed on our way. One last stop at the Pemex to fill up is recommended before you cross the border. Fuel is a little over $4.00/gallon U.S. In Belize, it is nearly $6.00/gallon U.S.
It is a short 5-10 minute trek to the border to leave Mexico. The signs are well marked. Its obvious, but in Spanish, Belize is spelled “Belice”. Coming from Chetumal, you will head back in the direction toward Cancun, where you will see the sign to exit just before a bridge.
At that point, you are a mile or two away. As you pull up to the Mexico border, the directions are well marked. There is a small building to your right, that you will drive up to, where you will show your passport, and pay your exit fee of $25.00/ per person, U.S. dollars. They will take Pesos, or U.S. dollars. I am not sure about Belize dollars. He will waive you through after paying your fee.
If you have driven through Mexico, you most likely will have received a car permit for your vehicle. They issue a sticker to be applied in the center of your windshield, along with the actual permit paperwork. Keep this paperwork handy, as it is usually asked for at any of the stops in Mexico and when you leave Mexico. Most likely, you will not be informed by the person taking the exit fee, that if you are not returning to Mexico, or it will be a while, you will need to turn in your vehicle permit.
The process for turning your permit in is pretty easy. After leaving the booth and paying your fee, turn to the left and park at the building across the street to your left. Take your passport and vehicle permit papers in with you. If you paid for the permit deposit with cash initially, you will be issued cash back. If you paid with a credit card, or debit card, you will be credited the deposit back to your account. This fee is determined by the year of your vehicle. It ranges from $200-$400/ U.S. dollars, and is fully refundable.
The attendant will walk out to your vehicle to take a picture of your vin number to confirm it is the same vehicle as you brought in. At this time, either they will ask you or do it themselves, to remove the sticker from your window. The permit is good up until 6 months. You are able to leave your vehicle in Mexico even if you personally leave the country during the 6 months. Just make sure, you remember to turn the permit in within the 6 months or you will lose the deposit and be banned from bringing any other vehicles into the country.
You have officially “checked out” of Mexico! Now drive across the bridge to Belize, through no mans land until you come to a split in the road. Straight ahead is for cargo. All others turn to the left and follow the road to another stop. Look immediately to your left. There is a little white portable building with a covered front porch. Make sure to stop here and get your vehicle sprayed. It will cost $11.00 Belize ($5.50 U.S). They accept U.S. dollars or Belize dollars. Dont forget to stop, or they will make you return to get it done when you go to cross. There are some exceptions, but just get it done. It takes 5 minutes, including paying for it.
Belize, straight ahead! Now leave the spray station and head toward the border crossing building. Ordinarily there is a parking lot. When we crossed, they were working on them, so parking is random. We pulled up almost to the border check point and double parked on the right. The border agent waived us into the customs building.
As we entered, I tried to snap a picture, to which, the customs official said, “No Photos”! So, sorry the picture is blurry. It was dropped a little premature. You walk straight up to the window and show them your passport. They will ask you how long you intend to stay, and where you are headed. They offer up to 30 days, without a renewal. After you get the stamp, you walk between the glass booths to another counter. Here you will show your passport again. We were asked for our registration, original title, and license plate number. They issued a vehicle permit for the same amount of days we were to be in Belize (up to 30). We were informed, and I didnt know this, but if you will only be in Belize, 3 or less days, you do not need a vehicle permit. They will write in your passport that you have a vehicle, but no permit required.
They do a separate stamp in your passport indicating you have brought a vehicle in. You must sign a form that you understand you may not sell, rent, or leave your vehicle in Belize without paying duty. There are no fees for the temporary permit. No duty is required if you intend to bring the vehicle back out of the country. You will need to update your vehicle permit each time you have your passport stamped(each 30 days).
At this time. you are asked to bring your luggage in to be inspected. Each time we have crossed, we always tell them, “Our vehicle is very full due to travelling”. So far every time, they will make an exception and come out to our vehicle to inspect. We had to open doors and our luggage. We were issued the permit and sent on our way.
We jumped back in the Rover and drove it 50 feet to the checkpoint, where we were asked for our passport and vehicle permit again. Again we were asked to open the doors to let the official inspect. I made friendly small talk, which I have found to be extremely helpful in all border crossings, and we were told to have a nice day. We made it!
One last thing before enjoying the exploration of the beautiful country of Belize. You MUST buy insurance. It is the law, and they are more serious about that than actual crimes committed. You can be taken straight to jail if you do not purchase insurance, and your home country insurance will not suffice. We always buy immediatley after crossing at the large building directly in front of you after passing the check point, Insurance Corporation of Belize. The price is reasonable, and drops if you purchase longer coverage. Its about $30 for a week of coverage. Now you are ready, GO!
Next up: Placencia Belize!