Chetumal waterfront

... With many twists and turns

Recently our good friends and fellow bloggers Bill and Debra ( invited us to join them on a day trip to Chetumal, just over the border in Mexico. Chetumal is known as a good place to shop for those of us living in Belize, as there is a better variety of goods available, and prices are much lower than those in Belize. And of course there's the wonderful Mexican beer that is illegal in Belize. 'Nuff said! So even though we'd already booked our reservations in Crooked Tree for the very next day, we didn't want to pass up a great opportunity. It was certainly an interesting day but not without a few snafus.

We'd planned to take the water taxi from Grand Caribe to town instead of walking since we needed to catch such an early ferry to Chetumal (7:30 am). All the southbound water taxis go past Grand Caribe's dock at 40 minutes after the hour, except one. I didn't pay attention and was thinking the first taxi of the day would pass at 6:40 am. So, there we were, out on the dock at 6:35 am -- quite early for us to be up and about -- and my heart sunk when I saw the posted schedule and realized that the early ferry would have passed by at around 6:25 am, not 6:40.

We had no real choice than to start walking the two miles to the ferry terminal, as we figured a land cab might not even make it up to Grand Caribe in time to get us there.

It was a very bumpy ride as the wind was coming from the north, the direction we were traveling, so we were bouncing up and down in the hard seats. We finally figured out that if we sat on the life preservers under the seats in front of us, we could keep from wrecking our backs, but it was definitely uncomfortable. Note to self: Make sure to check the wind direction before heading to Mexico on the ferry again.

Emily, Debra, and Bill

On the trip over, we were able to exchange some Belize dollars for Mexican pesos. 100 pesos is roughly equivalent to $7-8 US dollars, depending on the exchange rate you get. In this case, the boat took a "cut". As usual, you pay for convenience.

On the boat we filled out our entry papers for Mexico, which were all in Spanish. Fortunately, one of the ferry employees was available to assist. The audio-only Spanish lessons we'd been taking didn't quite prepare us for everything on the form, but with his help, we got it done.

Clock Tower from afar

Upon exiting the boat, we were instructed to put our backpacks out in a line so the drug-sniffing dog could give them the once over. We were not frisked or searched in any way, nor did we have to go through a metal detector. Little did we know that we would have to fill out yet another form once our bags were checked. I guess one form was for Immigration and one for Customs.

Chetumal is the capital of the state of Quintana Roo in Mexico.

Bill and Debra were buying a lot of food here, so we told them we'd meet them at the food court, and Barry and I headed on down. We had hoped to go to a decent Mexican restaurant while we were in Chetumal, but as I mentioned before, we were on a tight schedule, so the food court it would be. Fortunately, there was a taqueria there that ended up having yummy made-to-order tacos. I was able to order from the Spanish menu, pay, and get my change from the cashier who spoke only Spanish. The tacos were less than $1.50 US each, a great deal. Barry went in search of another money exchange to make sure we had enough pesos for both of us to have lunch and drinks.


Yep, even a McDonald's and Panda Express

Unfortunately, this incident ended the trip on a bad note. At the time I swore I'd never go to Mexico again, but since I've had time to cool down, I now think I'd go -- but not for less than seven days. If I know I have to pay the fee by law, I certainly don't mind paying it, but I strongly object to government officials taking advantage of visitors (especially those who have just spent good money in their country) and breaking their own laws. Infuriating!

The ride back was uneventful (and smooth, with the wind behind us), and the Belizean Immigration and Customs officers were in good moods when we arrived back at the San Pedro dock, so we sailed right through. We did learn something important, though: while you are normally allowed 1 liter of alcohol per person coming into Belize, the Customs' officer told us that that does not apply to Chetumal because it is "too close" to Belize. So it's okay to bring in a bottle from the US, Canada, or even Cancun, but not from Chetumal! That really surprised me, and I wonder if it's written down in any law book? I mean, where do they draw the line on where is considered "too close"? But, she was in good spirits and let us through. She did say that in some cases they would confiscate the liquor and was giving us a "warning" this time.

Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos on the BeBelize Blog