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After hearing conflicting information from lots of backpackers about whether or not we needed to pay a departure tax when crossing into Belize, we spent an hour or so researching it before we left Bacalar. All information seemed to point towards the fact that there is a $25USD departure tax which only needs to be paid if you are departing Mexico by air. Arriving at the border by collective, surprise surprise, the guy asked us for our $25. Knowing that if we paid him, it would go directly into his pocket we refused and argued our case. Refusing to let us pass he sent us back into the border town (25 minutes away) of Chetumal, with instructions that we needed to pay at any of the banks in town. 

Arriving at the bus station, we asked around for the closest bank, only to find out that the bus station is on the outside of town and we needed to pay for a taxi back to the centre. To save lugging our backpacks around town we decided that Ty would stay with them at the bus station and I would go into town and sort out the paperwork. 

We had heard that the departure fee by air could be paid at a bank so despite believing that we were in the right and didn’t need to pay for our land border crossing at least the money wasn’t going into his pocket. Arriving at the bank, using my bumbling Spanish I made my request to pay the fee. After some back and forwarding I came to understand that they didn’t have the right form that they needed to give me the receipt. After much deliberation amongst themselves they said that I needed to visit what was effectively the social security office, to get a copy of the form, and then come back to them. Not wanting to waste money on another taxi ride, I crossed the street to the only other bank I could see only to find that they didn’t have the ability to process my fee either. 

Using the directions provided I hailed a cab to the social security office, only to be accosted by the taxi driver. Lifting his t-shirt to show me a large lump on his stomach and some surgery scars he tried to guilt trip me into giving him money to pay for medicine. I had no cash on me to give him anything had I wanted to, but I resented the uncomfortable situation he put me in. As soon as he drew to a halt outside the building I swiftly made my exit. 

After a frustrating 25minutes at the social security office, me trying to explain exactly what I needed the form for, and them trying to find the right one, only to discover that the form we needed is held at the immigration office. At the border. Are you fricking serious?!!?!?

Not wanting to waste more money on another taxi, I used the frustrated pent up energy I had to walk back to town. Finally managing to get cash out from the third ATM I tried I headed back to the bus station to Ty, and onto a bus back to the border.  We decided for the sake of ease that we would book a bus the whole way through to Corozal (Belize). Back at the border with our old friend, and he tried to send us back to the town again, or possibly somewhere around the corner. Telling the bus driver we needed him to wait, he decided to come and help us out. After plenty of backwards and forwarding I threw my hands in the air and told Ty to just pay the man. 296 peso became 300 – of course he had no change! Despite hating the fact that I knew we were paying his pocket and not wanting to become part of the problem of him thinking he could get away with it, after 4 hours of being messed around I resolved that I next time we would just save ourselves the time and hassle and give in. 

Finally we were on our way - through the ‘free zone’ – effectively 5km of duty free – and across the Belize border with no problems. The guy at the customs stand was pretty taken with all the patches on our bag and made us promise we would get a Belize one to sew on there as well. 

We chose Corozal as our first point in Belize as according to Lonely Planet there were 2 boats a day from there to the island of San Pedro, from where we could get another boat down to Caye Caulker. We had seen friends photos of the island and decided it was a must see on our itinerary.  Arriving into the sleepy, dusty town we found that due to a boat being established directly from Chetumal (in Mexico) there is now a lack of tourists coming through Corozal and the boat only runs once a day. Resigned to stay the night, we walked 2.5km in the hot afternoon sun with our packs on our backs to the one and only hostel on the outskirts town. To find that it had closed down. And none of the neighbours in the area knew what we were talking about. 

We decided to just head to the closest hotel and just spend the money and check in, but luck was not on our side today, and there was no-one there and the office was closed. After 15 minutes in the shade of their front porch, we sighed and headed back to town. Finally finding somewhere to rest for the night we plopped down on the bed and were grateful for the two big fans and the television for a couple of hours. 

We joined the owner of the hotel, a man who would give Basil Fawlty a run for his money, and his friend (Alfrick) for a drink at the bar – discovering that Alfrick was a fellow kiwi, although now living in Belize. We had a really nice time sitting and chatting. The owner made me a couple of delicious cocktails which I wish I could remember the name of! Essentially it was just vodka, grapefruit juice and soda water, but after the day we had had it hit the spot! Alfrick was excited to chat with other kiwis and kindly took us out for dinner to one of his favourite restaurants where I had some seriously good ceviche and we had a lovely evening hanging out with each other before saying our goodbyes.  

Next stop: Caye Caulker

 





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