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Opening a bank account in San Pedro

Posted By: 4woats

Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/14/10 09:25 PM

Hi
We are coming to the island for the first time since we purchased our condo. Looking forward to the holiday.

We are planning on opening a back account. What bank would people recommend and what paperwork should we bring with us?

We will be bringing new sheets, light bulbs various things for the condo.
What should we expect form Belize customs people?

Thank you for you help
4woats smile
Posted By: BeBelize

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/14/10 11:02 PM

See my response re. the bank account in the other thread. We worked with Ms. Flor Nunez, who deals with the International branch of Belize Bank. She was a pleasure to deal with and very helpful.

As for your other questions, I hope someone answers the question about customs. We currently have a condo under construction on Ambergris Caye, and I'm very curious about how customs is going to work as we'll be bringing a fair amount of goods with us when we move down, and will not be in the QRP at that time, so it will not be duty-free.
Posted By: GwenA

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/14/10 11:20 PM

It's always best to bring used things, or things that look used (cut tags off, don't have things in packaging, wash the sheets so they don't have the folds in them, etc). Duty on used stuff is much less. Light bulbs here aren't that expensive, but th country is really at a loss for nice lamps. Are you sending down a container? There are different rates for different items.
Posted By: 4woats

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/14/10 11:26 PM

Hi Gwen
We are planning on bringing 2 sets of sheets, two comforters,a hair dryer, towels, CFL light bulbs - do they have these on the island?
We are planning on packing a box and having it as checked baggage.

Good Idea or bad or do you have some other thoughts?

Thank you Carolyn 4woats
Posted By: lovey and thurston

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 12:20 AM

If you are bringing other luggage, pack some of the items in among your clothing. Don't make it so obvious you are bringing in a box with just household furnishings. The comforters, put in a large trash bag or some of the storage bags used for taking the air out.Use your vacum to suck the air out and make them compact and wrap them up tight with strapping tape. Do consider buying things like dishes, glasses, and cooking utensils on the island or B.C. They have a good selection now and it is much easier than dealing with bulky items. Check out Mirab and some of the other stores in the city for lamps. Lot more available now, or be creative and make something interesting from clay pottery, santos etc. We have created lamps from many interesting pieces found on the island that can be very unique. Use this first trip to see what is available before shipping.
Posted By: 4woats

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 12:51 AM

Thank you for your helpful information. Do you know what the duties and tax % are?
4woats
Posted By: ragman

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 01:15 AM

I've made several trips in the last year and the advice above is very good. The way we do it is we bring 4 suitcases. The smaller fit inside the larger for the return trip. We remove tags and wash as stated above. We usually have some obvious new items that are in their package and we declare them. We have found the customs people to be very polite and fair.

Now as far as how much you are going to pay. I think it depends on who the customs person is and what mood he is in. I have never been able to figure it out. I usually tell them that it is small household items. They always look at everything but I've never been questioned yet. Sometimes I think I'm a little to honest but what the hell we are not talking about that much money. If I had to guess I would say about 33% of what you declare. wink Be sure to have cash and some small bills because that has been an issue with people in front of me on two occasions trying to make change. Once you bring in one load it gets to be old hat and nothing to really worry about. What Gwen said about lamps was absolutely true with us. We had quite a time to find any that my wife liked. We probably spent more wondering around Belize and Mexico looking then the lamps cost. Good luck, relax it will be fine. smile
Posted By: ragman

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 01:27 AM

The other part of your question about banks. I use Belize Bank and I went in to see Ms. Flor Nunez, if I remember right. She was not in and one of the other Bank people helped me. I brought recommendations from 2 or 3 banks. Statements, a recent 1040 (I think) ect. Again what I brought was over kill and they looked at a few things and opened the account for me, no problem. I was armed with the cell phone number of a respected businessman on the Island who would vouch for me but it was not needed and a lot of my paperwork wasn't either.

It is natural to be somewhat apprehensive about all of this in a new country but you will see that it works out as long as you go with the flow.
Posted By: wasntme

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 02:25 AM

Just out of curiousity, I'd love to hear the explanation of buying a condo in a foreign country when you dont even know how to open a bank account or how to deal with customs. Wow that real estate agent saw you coming a mile away. (FYI so will the custom agents here)
Posted By: Amanda Syme

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 02:41 AM

You know, that comment is just plain mean. Why would you be so tough on a couple that are reaching out and asking for some advice and want to hear how other people have handled a situation - that is what this message board is designed for.
Posted By: wasntme

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 02:51 AM

Mean? yeah maybe a little. True and poignant? Yup. How many people have you seen consisntently leave this island because they havent done their due diligence.
Posted By: lovey and thurston

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 03:22 AM

And many stay, roll with the punches and find they are living a great adventure. We too came down 28 yrs. ago as "greenhorns". Learned by our mistakes, gleaned advise and tips from many of the locals and expats. And you know, don't think we would have missed the experience for the world. Just come with an open mind, a good sense of humor and you may just be here for 28yrs. too. Don't be in a rush to furnish your condo on the first trip, sometimes the things you aquire over time will be the things you love the most and will make your home uniquely yours. Best, Judy
Posted By: ron

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 05:41 AM

I just tell the customs people what I have with me and show them the receipts. They usually charge me about 20% duty of most household stuff. Its not worth the getting caught. Its a small amount of money and the country can use your small amount of money. If your bringing in lots of stuff then you need a customs broker who knows what things cost duty wise.
Posted By: 4woats

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 01:42 PM

The comment from wasntme was just plain stupid and a waste of time.
Posted By: Phil

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 03:34 PM

4woats. lol with you not at you. You got your first of many experiences to come of getting roughed up, and toughening up. One step further down the road, so it wasn't a waste of time. Welcome. Been here a couple of years now and the best advice I heard from one expat to another (from someone who has now left ironically!?!?!?) "You have got to really want to live here to stay here".
Posted By: Judyann H.

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 06:22 PM

Well said Amanda....
Posted By: BeBelize

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 10:41 PM

Originally Posted by ron
I just tell the customs people what I have with me and show them the receipts.


I don't have receipts for most household goods lying around. How do you handle that?

Thanks...this thread has been very helpful!
Posted By: ragman

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/15/10 11:19 PM

Most everyone doesn't have receipts for everything. When they give you the customs declaration on the Air plane just give an estimate. I usually don't itemize any more but if I had an expensive item I would. When it is miscellaneous household items that is just what I write down with an estimate. I don't offer the receipts unless they ask and I don't think they ever have.

One time on a real expensive kitchen knife set the customs guy lowered the amount that I told him I paid for it. You figure. Relax and don't be too outrageous with your declaration.
Posted By: 4woats

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/16/10 01:15 AM

Thank you all for your wonderful helpful comments. I have all the receipts and plan on declaring the small amount of things that we are bringing.
We are all set with the banking as well.
Any suggestions on things to do while on the island. We will have our 14 and 17 year old with us.
Hope we have good weather.

4woats
Posted By: Cooper

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/16/10 02:14 AM

It was almost 10 years ago when we opened our bank account here, what was hard to understand was the request for two letters of reference from our old hometown and Bank references. We got the Sheriff to write us a letter and my employer...all good. We got a letter from our Bank with account start dates..average balance etc. not at all what they wanted so our account application stalled. We had to go back to our bank and have them write a letter that went something like this...Mr and Mrs Cooper are very nice people, we enjoy doing business with them, they are honest and good....crazy as it sounds thats what the bank wanted...this was Atlantic Bank we are still with them and Happy Customers.....
Posted By: GwenA

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/16/10 02:34 PM

The receipts could get you in trouble. Remember, used items, so they are worth less, so it isn't good to advertise in writing they are worth more. We sometimes use the "sacrificial item" technique. Pick one or two items to leave in wrappers and have their receipts. All other things, don't declare.
We have the lightbulbs here, in fact lots of them. The only light bulbs I ever brought were exotic xenon under cabinet lights.
Duty is different for each item, it's based on whether Belize makes an item, or imports those items. So, duty is often higher on odd things. Don't bring a broom for instance, as they are made here. But, if you bring a swiffer (hard to find here) duty is less, go figure. All of my stainless steel faucets and shower fixtures had less duty than the chrome items you can buy here. But I never kept them in boxes or brought receipts!
Posted By: Noelle

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/17/10 06:32 PM

When we went to open an account on caye caulker (just recently) we were told we needed a letter from a doctor, a lawyer or a priest attesting to our good moral character. It sounds like the beginning of a joke! Obviously, what you "need" to open an account varies from place to place (and probably from bank employee to bank employee).

Also, we were too honest about what we were bringing in, including donations of stuff for the humane society and the school and we were charged about 37% duty. Ouch! Next time we will be more creative in our declarations.

Good luck!
Posted By: tortuga.chica

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/17/10 07:39 PM

Originally Posted by Noelle
Also, we were too honest about what we were bringing in, including donations of stuff for the humane society and the school and we were charged about 37% duty. Ouch! Next time we will be more creative in our declarations.

Good luck!


Requests for Duty exemption should be directed to:

Financial Secretary
Ministry of Finance
Edney Cain Building
Third Floor
Belmopan
Belize

I did all of my correspondence by e-mail, but unfortunately, I no longer have my contact's information. But if you go to http://mof.gov.bz I am sure they would be able to direct you to someone. They told me I only needed to contact them 2 weeks before I left to get this done, but I recommend at least 2 months. I started my request about mid-May and I finally had the letter in hand about mid-July. (I left for Belize on August 21st) Just to give you an idea how long it took.

They require an itemized list of items to be brought: (3) dozens pencils, (20) childrens toys, etc.

Will also need an address where to respond to (they will mail you an exemption letter to give to customs at the airport (or where-ever your point-of-entry is)

I brought bunch of stuff down for Be Kind Belize on my last visit. I had the duty exemption letter in my hand when I went thru customs and had no problems. Did pay 2% environmental tax on about $200 USD worth of items, but that was it.
Posted By: Noelle

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/17/10 08:27 PM

Thanks phishhippiegirl! How helpful!
Posted By: tortuga.chica

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/17/10 09:20 PM

Your welcome. I thought if someone else can avoid some headaches coming thru customs...I would share my knowledge.

Considering how great the need is in Belize for these donations, the easier it is for visitors like us to bring them in, the better.
Posted By: seashell

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/18/10 02:39 AM

Many years ago around Xmas immediately after Hurricane Keith, I was bringing in a suitcase full of little toys and shoes for the poor kids. I had no receipts, most of the stuff was dollar store items, or good quality used items. Customs wanted duty equal to what I'd paid for the items. The back and forth of it didn't go too well, and embarassingly I lost my cool . . . threatened to burn the stuff before I either paid that amount of duty or left the stuff behind. At that point, it didn't take too long for a supervisor to show up and offer me an acceptable compromise. I wouldn't do it that way again, nor am I recommending my behaviour to anyone else. A person sure wouldn't get away with that here at home, nor would I be likely to try it.

In any event, the year following, undaunted, I again brought in a bunch of stuff for the kids. I was prepared with some receipts, things went a bit smoother but the duty was still ridiculous. A couple of years after that, I again brought little stocking stuffers for the Holy Cross School. Things went relatively smoothly, but that was the end of it for me.

Speaking for myself and some of my friends, we go to a lot of trouble to select these items, pack them, haul them along with us only to find that it is an opportunity for a money grab by the government. I'm sure appreciative that others haven't lost the joy and are still bringing things in, but personally, I'm done with it.
Posted By: tortuga.chica

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/18/10 03:48 PM

Originally Posted by seashell
Speaking for myself and some of my friends, we go to a lot of trouble to select these items, pack them, haul them along with us only to find that it is an opportunity for a money grab by the government. I'm sure appreciative that others haven't lost the joy and are still bringing things in, but personally, I'm done with it.


It was my first time bringing stuff to Belize & it required a little extra work on my part, but it was worth it. Will do it again in a heartbeat.
Posted By: LaurieMar

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/18/10 05:07 PM

I like to pick one special person or cause to bring something down...and that makes me feel good. Other than that, I agree with SS!
Posted By: seashell

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/18/10 07:24 PM

Ah yes, like Laurie, I'm still bringing in a few things for certain people, I'm just not bringing in a suitcase full of toys and shoes for the poor kids like I used to do.
Posted By: TiredOfTheUS

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 11/29/10 10:02 PM


I sust quit asking anything,I'll learn on my own!
Originally Posted by 4woats
The comment from wasntme was just plain stupid and a waste of time.
Posted By: babsaunt

Re: Opening a bank account in San Pedro - 05/17/11 04:48 AM

RE: Bringing items for donation to schools. I have brought about $250 worth of school supplies, snacks,stickers, books, etc. into Belize on each of my past two trips within the last 6 months. On both occassions, I simply filled out the declaration forms showing that I had $250 worth of school supplies and materials and have had absolutely no problem, nor did I have to pay anything. I had all of the items packed together in separate suitcases. The people at customs were lovely. On each occassion I specified the name of the school to which the items were going ... St. Peter Claver in PG on the first trip and Holy Cross in San Pedro on the second.
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