Crossing into Belize was straightforward, although a little bit more involved than crossing into Mexico 2 months earlier because of Leika. We won’t cover the general crossing in detail, since many others have done so already (example), but here are just a couple of notes. Overall the process took around 1:30 hours.
To cross over the border with a dog, you need to 1) get a health certificate from a vet (we went to this one in Tulum, based on Paws on Tour recommendation); 2) file some papers with BAHA (the agricultural authority in Belize). We sent an email to BAHA requesting the required forms and sent photos of the filled out documents back to them. Technically processing these forms takes 5 business days, but Nikki managed to get them to do it in 2 (and I would assume they could do faster as well).
The fees for the dog amounted to B$75! Same as 2 people visiting Belize. It’s crazy.
Other than the dog, the procedure was as expected. Stamp out of Mexico, return our temporary import permit for Mexico, then cross over to the Belize side, stamp in as a visitor to Belize and get a temporary import permit for the car. We heard that you aren’t allowed to bring fruits, vegetables or alcohol into the country, but the customs officer didn’t seem to care about any of it (we hadn’t used up all our produce…).
Before we left Mexico, we filled up on diesel and also filled a spare canister just in case, as diesel prices in Belize are quite a bit higher than both Mexico and Guatemala. We didn’t fill up the tank again until Guatemala.
Our first stop in Belize was Orange Walk, and the difference to Mexico is striking. The supermarket had high prices and little selection, and the produce selection of the market was equally limited. We quickly moved on to our camp spot for the night, at the ruins of Lamanai. On the way there, we passed through the Mennonite community in a town called Shipyard, where we felt like we were back in Pennsylvania Amish country. Horses and buggies everywhere, a lot of cultivated fields, and neat houses. Quite a contrast to dusty Orange Walk.
At Lamanai, we were the only car camped in the parking lot (free camping!), and it was a quiet night except for the howler monkeys that were letting us know about their presence. Their sound is so eerie, especially when there’s nobody else around. Leika definitely didn’t feel that comfortable being outside by herself…
The next day, Nikki’s birthday, we started exploring the ruins early in the morning, and we had them all to ourselves save for the few people working at the site (the trick we learned at Monte Alban, always show up when the place opens). Most people take a boat out to these ruins, which doesn’t arrive until 10:30am. Having this archaeological sites all to yourself makes it so much more rewarding to visit. We spent a few hours walking around the sites, occasionally seeing some monkeys (who thankfully did not throw feces at us).
We continued on to the caves of Nohoch Che’en, where you can try out Belize’s national sport, cave tubing, spending a few hours floating through this huge cave river system. Our guide Oscar was great, giving us awesome info on local plants and trees on the way to the cave. He’s a hard-working guy, commuting to the cave for 2 hours each way every day. I don’t envy that.
The next day we went on to San Ignacio, debating what we should do. We were both pretty excited for Guatemala, so we decided to relax for the rest of the day with a few Belikins (the local beer). Later in the afternoon, we met Mona and Jan, who I’m sure we’ll meet again down the road. Their new trailer, built in Oaxaca, seems pretty sweet.
This short impression of Belize was pretty mixed. After spending a week in the Yucatan, we weren’t that excited to spend more time on the beach, especially with pictures of recent snow that make us miss being up north right now. The sights we did see were pretty impressive. Frankly, things don’t seem to work nearly as well as they do in Mexico. Most of the work seems to be done by the Mennonites, who produce the majority of fruit and vegetables, as well as the Chinese, who run virtually all the stores that we’ve seen. I’m sure this place is great for a beach vacation, but I’m not that intrigued by the country itself.