Just over a week ago we blew the dust off our backpacks (or in this case with it being the moist jungle, wiped off the mould and the stale stench) and hit the road.
After 3 months of being stationary we were more than ready for it. Those itchy feet need scratching…
First we had to say goodbye to these pups. A tear or two was shed.
For the last few months our lives have revolved around them. They followed us everywhere, even to the toilet if we had let them (we didn’t). We will miss our shadows.
Leaving our Mexican house sit means a new beginning. Despite being in this country for over 4 months it feels like we’re only just starting our adventure. We spent 30 days in Playa Del Carmen renting an apartment and then the next 3 months house sitting in Xcalak.
It is time to explore…
Border Crossing Bribes
First up we headed to Belize to renew our 6-month Mexican Visa. We are renewing it early because we are near Chetumal, a town close to the Belize border, and it would run out during our next house sit in May.
This was our first border crossing and rumours are rife of corrupt border officials demanding bribes to allow you to do a quick spin around and return to Mexico, rather than having to spend 3 days in Belize as is compulsory. (We may explore Belize in the future, but right now we want to do Mexico justice and see more of its delights)
To be honest, we wanted a corrupt border official. We got one!
Unfortunately after the official spent an extremely long time examining our passports and called in another dodgy colleague to re-examine them, they asked us for the princely sum of £160 (3,600 pesos) for our speedy return to Mexico.
The first guard was all happy and smiley until we said, “thanks, but no thanks”. Then his demeanour turned grumpy and sullen like a hormonal teenage girl. We were gesticulated to carry on with our journey towards Belize and no more words were spoken.
We aren’t keen on frittering away our hard earned savings. £160 seems a bit frivolous, especially when there is no urgency in our loose plans.
Maybe we went wrong by being honest to the officials about what we wanted to do. If we’d headed silently to the Belizean border got our passports stamped, waited a little while and headed back, who knows we may have slipped back through anonymously…
Instead we continued onwards through the free zone towards the Belizean border control, with no real clue as where we would end up staying and no Belizean dollars in our pockets. Time for a real adventure!
A change of plans
We’d set off that morning thinking we’d probably be back in Mexico in time for sunset, tacos and a strong margarita. Now we had to rethink our plans quickly(ish).
This is not so easy in the midday sun, in a new country, with our backpacks weighing us down. We were hot, tired and cranky.
First up we took a nice long sit in the shade, taking the time to digest the situation.
When landing in unfamiliar foreign lands I am always hyper aware that my obvious Western features combined with the fact that I have my entire belongings on my back make me stick out like a sore thumb.
In my mind I think we look like a huge target, just waiting to be ripped off in some elaborate scam. Internally I tell myself to calm down and not dismiss everything a local tells me as a ploy to separate me from my money, I am being ridiculous.
Thankfully it was easy, and like in the other 99.9% of cases my paranoia is not needed. After passing through Belizean passport control we got in a taxi and set off to the nearest town of Corozal. On route we found a cash machine and then got dropped of at the Sea Breeze Hotel, taking the last available room. Our luck was in!
We did some quick research on where to stay just in case our bribery plans failed and this place was a bargain!
At the end of the day we had our feet up on the hotel balcony, whilst sinking a beer with a beautiful ocean view as the backdrop.
The dock outside Sea Breeze Hotel
The whole experience of the day is what I love about travelling. It’s a combination of excitement, nerves, hope and completion.
I can’t wait to discover new places, but there is always anxiety brought on by the unknown. Will I get through the border? Will I find a place to stay? Will I get ripped off?
Yes. Yes. No.
I hope everything will turn out fine, and take a mini leap of faith that it will.
And it did.
I’m never a huge fan of border towns; they are usually a place you have to go through to get somewhere good. On first glance Corozal didn’t impress me. It’s full of crumbling wooden buildings, serious faced people, and weird convenience stores.
By the end of the 3 days my opinion changed. Granted there isn’t much to do, maybe a couple of ruins and a boat trip, but it has a nice laid back vibe.
Stern faced locals quickly open up and smile when you chat to them. I lost count of the times people actually crossed the road just to talk to us, asking ‘where we from?’ ‘headed?’ or offering us directions or tips.
Kellie making some fury friends at our hotel
Kellie even had 3 children run up and hug her for no particular reason. I can’t tell you their ages as I’m crap at judging such things, but they were at least 3 feet high, had mini Caribbean accents and huge grins.
Time killing over, we got on a bus back to Mexico, which is much easier and cheaper than navigating it yourself. The stern faced female ticket conductor approached on the bus, making us a little edgy, but then the usual smile appeared and helpful tips on how to cross the border…
Soon enough we were in Mexico, struggling to understand the language, but feeling right at home and back in our comfort zone. Bienvenidos a Mexico!!
Tips and stuff…
Getting to the border from Chetumal – We got a cab to the border from Chetumal for 60 pesos. The other option is a bus, which cost roughly 20 pesos each. The bus takes you all the way through to Corozal (or further if needed). If we were doing it again we would definitely catch the bus from Neuvo Mercado. On the Belize side we got a $20 US dollar cab to Corozal.
FMM Fee – Before you leave Mexico you have to pay 300 pesos as an exit/entry fee. This is not a scam as widely reported on the Internet. You can pay the fee at a bank or at the border. They stamp your FMM to show you have paid. Sometimes your airline includes the FMM fee in your ticket price, this is usually shown on your ticket so you have evidence to show at the border.
Hotel – The Sea Breeze Hotel was £20 a night. It does an excellent breakfast for £3, has a bar, Wi-Fi, a sea view and a laid back owner with two cute dogs. Plus it had cable and we got to geek it up by watching Game of Thrones!
Pie tip – Chunkys do great meat pies. Mmmm pie. Just ask a stern faced friendly local and they will point you in the right direction.
Getting back to Mexico – If you have no transport, get a bus; it’s so much easier than doing it yourself in taxis. From the bus station the buses seem to come every half hour. They are $4 (Belizean) and take you all the way to Neuvo Mercado bus station in Chetumal. The bus conductor tells you when to get on and off as you go through the border sections. Cheap and easy!
Belizean border fees – Currently it’s $37.50 (Belizean) each to cross back into Mexico.