12.3.08 Bacalar to Corozal, Belize

Corozal Town Travel Blog

 › entry 29 of 57 › view all entries
Laguna Bacalar

12.3.08 Bacalar to Corozal, Belize


We made it to Central America!  Belize is terrific and we’re really enjoying it!


A creative breakfast of grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, yogurt, oranges, and whatever else was in the refrigerator.  It is not easy when you force yourself to eat what you bought with your own free will.  I think that is odd.  Anyway, sparse fridge when done.


Dreading the border, we were well armed with information.

Henry Menzies at Caribbean RV Park in Corozal, Belize
  We had detailed descriptions from:

  1. The Church’s Book
  2. Sanborn’s Travelog
  3. Detailed notes from Joe and Arlene
  4. Henry Menzies from Caribbean RV in Corozal had emailed me terrific directions, which were most helpful.


We only had about 30 km to calm our nerves.  Below are the painful details that actually went quite well. Unless you’re making the journey, don’t bore yourself with this part. Fellow travellers will be acutely interested:  Suffice it to say that we lived through it and are building our confidence. 


While going through the small town of Corozal, we saw a few groceries.

  They looked a bit larger than the normal 12’ wide mini-stores, so I pulled over in the dirt lot.  Jazy didn’t want to get out because it really looked hodge-podge thrown together, she felt scared and unsafe.  We talked about what gave her those vibes and whether it was for assumptions or real reasons and when she determined to give it a try, was thrilled.  The store was extremely well-stocked, was owned and run by a very nice Chinese woman, and we bought nearly $100 in food, milk, (Mexican beer), etc.  We thought the prices were rather comparable to Texas. 


Some interesting things about the process:

  1. no credit cards are taken- cash only
  2. There is no cash register or receipt
  3. each item had been individually priced with a black marker
  4. each item was pulled from the hand basket and the price then carefully added on a calculator on the counter.
    Charles reads up on Belize
      Whew- don’t make a mistake on that one.  I was good in watching carefully while the order was processed.
  5. We asked for a dozen eggs and got them carefully put in one bag (which is now wrapped in a towel in the RV fridge).


Henry Menzies Caribbean Village RV Park was just 9 miles from the border.  It’s located through a small town, then along the bay.  We stopped for a sweet watermelon from the back of a truck.  I was proud of Jazy and Lia for going over to buy it for us.  Then we cut it in half and met Henry at his RV Park to give him a watermelon half as a “Thank You” for the detailed email notes on the border crossing. 


Henry is renowned as the most informative RV’er in the country and has a transit business.  I had an enjoyable conversation with him about politics in Belize, race relations, gas prices (which were cut in half recently down to $3 a gallon- we paid about $2.

Corozal Mom with Texas shirt
50 a gallon in Mexico), etc.  For the first time ever in Belize, a Creole person was elected for their government.  Elections every 5 years, with the former party being in office for the last 10 years and basically running the country into the ground.  So like us, they hope with a new leader changing direction for the country.  But we have to wait another 6 weeks and their hero is already in office.  Henry also live in Chicago many years ago.


We strung the hammock, got out the chairs, watermelon, and guide books and spent a few hours in the lovely shade on a perfect day learning about Belize and its many charms.  It’s important for the kids to involved in learning about a country and deciding what we should do to appreciate it fully.  Now we have a plan to see the Cayes of the coast and the wildlife/jungles of the interior.


Then we walked up to the office and enjoyed talking with the lovely Menzies family. For $5 round trip they will run us tomorrow up to the ferry dock at 6:30 am so we can catch the 7am ferry to the fabulous Ambergris Caye (pronounced “key”).  It is an island off the coast that has wonderful water fun because it is just several hundred feet from the 2nd largest barrier reef system in the world.  The reef system is an UNESCO World Heritage designation. More about that tomorrow.


Also, when I mentioned propane, or butune as is found in the warmer climates (you don’t want it to freeze), Mrs. Menzie got on the phone and within 5 minutes a truck was at Ciao Baby filling up the propane.  I felt bad only paying $17 BZ ($8.50 U.S.) which seemed like so little for all the trouble.  But with only a ¼ tank left, I was worried about where I might find more.  That was really easy.


We took the short walk along the bay into town.  Our first stop was for a map at the White Sapphire Gift Shop where we found one, as well as a local wood-carving of a dinghy ($8.25 U.S.), a $20 phone card (which is really just a receipt that has a PIN number on it for you to type in when you make a call), and some postcards. 


We really enjoyed the shop owner who was very nice and then we noticed her “Aggie Mom” shirt!  Her daughter went to school at Texas A&M (about an hour from where we live) and is now the Chair of her Chemistry Department as a professor at University of Belize in the capital city of Belmopan!  Impressive. Then we visited a well-stocked office supply store, another grocery store, etc.  A fun outing to see the town.


Finally we ended up at the Chinese Restaurant for dinner to go.  Shrimp fried rice, pork fried rice, and chicken chow mein for a grand total of $12.  And we have SO much food that we will be eating this for too many days.  The boxes were completely packed full and I think one dinner would have sufficed for the four of us.  This was very different from Mexico where the portion sizes were very small compared to the U.S. (like only ½ the size).


While the town looks rather scruffy, like in Mexico, the people seem very different. There seems to be a little tension in the air that I cannot put my finger on, like they might not like tourists too much.  I feel it mostly with some of the men who look a little scary, to be honest.  But the women are all quite friendly which makes the contrast strange. Other men, like Henry and the Watermelon-seller were very nice.


The country has less than 300,000 people total, but they get over 1,000,000 visitors a year (counting cruise ship visitors).  Half go to Ambergris Caye and most of the rest to Belize City (which we will avoid.  If the Church’s call it “intimidating” it must be really bad).


Do you know how small Belize is?  It is only 174 miles long and 68 miles wide, which is similar to Massachusetts.  It has potable, but high in calcium, water.  School is mandatory and the higher education system is strong. 


There are many Chinese people here, I’m told, because it was easy for them to get a passport in Belize. Then one could apply as a Belize citizen to go to the U.S., which was also relatively easy.  Apparently the Chinese people here are doing well enough to buy many of the shops in the town, although one resident suggested that they did not tend to branch out in the community beyond their Chinese community as much as one might hope. While Lia is enjoying being around them, she is not happy that she cannot speak Chinese, so I’m hoping we can help with that later.


There are many races in Belize, one of which is called Garifunas,  from the 17 Century African slave ships landed.  We just missed their Nov. 19th Garifunas Day where the culture is celebrated.  Apparently, the fusion of races has resulted in people getting along very well, regardless of race – terrific to hear.


There is also a large Canadian Mennonite population in Belize.  Most of the churches here are Protestant and the population is largely Christian. 


I’m off to bed- must get up at 6 am!  Bags are packed and we’re ready for an exciting day in Paradise tomorrow.


Border Crossing Info:

You need to know what you’re doing, what you want, what they will need, where you’re exiting, how long you’re staying, and what to do regarding insurance, vehicle stickers, and immigration timeframes before you enter.  Then you will know not to miss anything and not to fall for things (happened twice to us on this crossing.)  Also know what they tend to seize at border crossings.  It pays to research this and be prepared.  I studied multiple sources in great detail just to survive.  But now I think I’m starting to understand it better.


Just remember that you’ll always be on the right side of the road with your rig:


  1. We paid 100 pesos per person to get “Double Entrada” stamped on our Mexican Tourist Permits.  Otherwise, we’d only get 15 days in Mexico upon our return trip through the country, which is not long enough.  Plus, we’d have to pay $23 per person again for new ones.  I had stickies on every person’s permit that requested it in black sharpie. I requested it with confidence and a smile.  I didn’t ask for, nor get, a receipt for the 400 pesos paid.  We did however get the double entry stamp in each one.  I had heard that the 100 pesos “work around” had increased to 230 pesos per person, so I was just happy with the lower fee.


  1. Argued with the Mexico Tollbooth person about why he wanted me to go to the banjercito (bank at customs) if I had a Double Entry permit and after the second or third time of asking why in my excellent Spanish, he finally seemed to get it or give up and said to go straight then and have a good trip.



  1. We drove up to the Belize office for insurance on the right side.  Of course a “porter” is there trying to be helpful, acting like he’s directing me into a parking spot in a big open area.  Of course I know now to just park wherever I need to, regardless of whether it is official.  Then he tried to act like he worked there and help with the sticker, which I declined and stuck on myself in the lower passenger side, and then he still asked for “soda money” when I left.  Over the top, I thought, and declined by feigning cluelessness.  Needed title, driver’s license, and $15 U.S. for a week, required.


  1. Fumigation straight ahead.  Stay in rig. Pay them $5 U.S.  They spray the tires using chemical through a long hose.  They’re supposed to have you go straight forward for it, but my guys asked me to pull right, causing confusion then on the directions.



  1. Don’t go right to Cargo from fumigation. The guys working there didn’t have a clue and had to wiat for their superior to get off the phone, by which time I’d determined that this was not the right place.  So I turned around and went back.  (Later, one of those guys tried to intercept me just before Migration and said something about charging me a Duty- I told him that I would just go through these steps first and he left.  I think he was either confused or trying to pull a fast one.)  So *Go Straight* after you stop with fumigation on your passenger side to what they call “Immigration.” Park on the fence on the right.  While Caravans might stop just outside the fence, another helpful person “porter” who looks rather official and I’m sure is there everyday, had me pull up within the fence area.  Whatever.  It is right across from the large building that is now on your left.  Take in all your paperwork and go inside the glass door.


  1. There are two counters.  You have to walk through Migration counter for the personal visas (or tourist permit- whatever it is called, it is just a stamp in the passport with your dates within the country written in) before you can enter Belize.  There was no fee, but they hit you when you leave, so don’t get too excited.  I think it is now $35 per person, regardless of how you came and exited (plane, boat, overland).


  1. The second booth is right behind Migration.  There I gave passports, title and registration for the RV to the slowest moving human in existence.  But he was nice enough and he finally (30 minutes?) got the info logged into his ledger by hand.  I had to tell him where I planned to exit the country (San Ignasio) and when.  We told them we’d be in-country “about a week” and they gave both us and the rig until 12/25/08.


  1. Then Mr. Slow Guy accompanied us to the RV to inspect.  .  I really think he was trying to catch us on things, but all paperwork was in order.  The VIN number on the title matched the one on the RV (and he was SO careful on this one- good grief!  He even looked on the door edge panel and then again used his finger to try to tell if a 6 was really an 8 on the raised VIN in the windshield corner.  But I knew they all matched and I checked the work on the Insurance and Mr. Slow Guy to make sure they wrote it write on their paperwork).


  1. Mr. Slow Guy seemed to do the Agriculture inspection, but then Agriculture guy came on and did it.  They seized nothing, although I offered a few orange slices and the yucky Mickey Mouse hamburgers, but they didn’t want those either (pre-packaged, they said).  He opened up a few cabinets while I was glad nothing fell out and hit him, I admit that several cabinets looked in desperate need of organization.


  1. Then I quizzed him on whether I should exchange money at the little booth in the corner (we didn’t because
    1. everyone takes U.S. dollars and
    2. if you can find an ATM then you can get Belize money without using up your U.S. cash that you’ll need at other borders, and
    3. Tip:  Bring a LOT of U.S. cash because you cannot get it while you’re out of country.  Local ATM’s spit out local currency obviously).
  2. We did tip the “helpful” man in the driveway a dollar (okay, they’re making a living), and we headed on down the road.


Thoughts on this border:  Relatively easy!  No traffic, a single road entering and exiting from and to non-populated areas, with enough miles before the first town- all this made it much easier to figure out what to do.  This is a terrific border in which to cross.  Not a traffic jam or a streetlight in sight from start to finish.  Really, we saw a busload of backpackers clear through Migration before we followed them in the door.


Also, English is spoken in Belize!  WHO-HOOO!  It is so wild to be able to understand and be understood.  I could read all the signs and the documents.  It is so freeing!


The people at this border crossing are relatively non-threatening.  There aren’t many people around, there are plenty of places to park, and the streets are nice and wide.  The only money paid was for Mexico’s Double Entrance visa, insurance, fumigation, and any porter tips.  No copies of any documents were needed.  Again as into Mexico, I did not have to show the “Permission to take a Minor” from Ned, nor did they even ask about his whereabouts or if he knew I was taking the kids out of country..  All-in-all a very simple border crossing.






Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Laguna Bacalar
Laguna Bacalar
Henry Menzies at Caribbean RV Park…
Henry Menzies at Caribbean RV Par…
Charles reads up on Belize
Charles reads up on Belize
Corozal Mom with Texas shirt
Corozal Mom with Texas shirt
Corozal Town
photo by: rjgalvan77