Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Bullies at the Belize Border Crossing

Since I started researching this trip I had heard stories about the Chetumal border crossing.  This is the main border crossing from Mexico to Belize.  It has a reputation for being sketchy despite all the official buildings and staffed by the biggest bunch of bullies in both countries.  Chetumal has gained its place in infamy with the Mexico exit tax border scam.  There is no registered exit tax to leave Mexico but the internet reports that officials often charge passengers leaving $20 for an exit stamp.  Unfortunately after years of scamming and no one to check these federales for being bad people, it's become an almost legitimate thing.  I had to get to Belize City to meet my friend Ryan and start the next portion of my trip and was in no mood to deal with border patrol.

My options as far as I could tell were to take the overnight bus from Tulum to Belize City or bus to Chetumal and then take another bus to Belize City.  Both options involve a border crossing at Chetumal. Joy.  I chose the overnight bus because I figured I was getting ripped off either way and at least that bus would save me a night accommodation.

The bus left Tulum at nearly 1am, luckily I met a couple of girls from England to chat with for a couple hours at the bus station. A very well air conditioned nap later and we reached the border crossing buildings at 4am in the morning.  It was raining and everyone was in a mood.  I pulled $20 out of my wallet, hoping that I wouldn't have to fork it over but not very optimistic about it.  I shoved my wallet back in my bag preparing to take it with me when they announced "no bags."  Annoyed, I dropped my backpack without thinking to put my wallet back in the locked pocket.  As we waited, I thought I saw a shadow rifling through where I had been sitting.  I convinced myself that it was my imagination colored by all the negative things I'd heard about this border crossing. Wrong.

I finally got into the border office, our rotund border officer was announcing 'veinticinco dólares o tresciento pesitos.' What?!  I grumbled back to the bus for another $5, cursing a system that I knew full well had bigger problems to deal with than scamming border guards.  I grabbed my wallet, flipping through the bills I noticed something was off. A 500 peso note was missing from my wallet.  Paranoid shadows my foot! 

In the grand scheme of things I made a rookie mistake by not securing my money and it only cost me about $45 and a chunk of pride.  It could have been a lot worse After dealing with the second most grumpy border patrol to enter Belize and a warning to take a cab for the half mile from the bus station to my hotel, I was exhausted and aggravated.  I had three more border crossing to make in the next 5 days and this was how it was going to start?!

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