How to Sell A Foreign Vehicle in Belize, Part 2

Benque Belize

For Part I, click here.

To recap, my last day in Guatemala, at least on this particular tourist visa has been a disaster. While the trip itself to the Guatemala-Belize border went fine, all things considered, things had definitely taken a turn for the worse. Customs officials in Guatemala had just informed me that I’d be unable to bring the vehicle back into Guatemala for at least 90 days. Needing time to ponder my options, I headed towards Belize’s immigration building to at least check myself into the country. On with the diary:

Entering Belize

7:05 p.m.: I drive through the “fumigation” machine at the Belize border. For the honor of letting my car be sprayed with what I suspect is just water, I pay $10BZD. I park the Jeep to the side and walk towards the Customs/Immigration building, paperwork on hand.

7:09 p.m.: The lines are much thinner than I expected for a Friday night. In fact, there’s just one person ahead of me in line.

7:10 p.m.: The Customs official asks how long I want to stay in the country. I ask for 90 days, which is the maximum for US citizens. She takes one look at my passport and decides that because it says I was born in the Dominican Republic, Dominican rules apply and says she’ll only give me 30 days max. I call it BS, in nicer words of course, but she tells me that it’s the law and blah, blah, blah. It’s useless trying to explain to her that I’m a US citizen as if my passport wasn’t obvious enough. She says if I want more than 30 days, I need to travel to the capital (Belmopan) and ask for an extension.

I’m always baffled as to why Belizean immigration seems so intent on keeping tourists outside the country. In my experience, they always seem to want to limit visas to the minimum requested number of days and not one more hour. I suspect it’s a way to get more money from tourists, should they want to extend their visas. At this point, I don’t want to make a scene and just want to move on to the next checkpoint.

7:15 p.m.: After getting my passport stamped, I head over to the Customs desk, which is right behind the Immigration officer’s desk. I hand in my paperwork.

For the next 15 minutes, the Customs official, obviously bored, decides to ask 1,001 questions. How long do I plan to stay? Where I’m going? Why do I want to go camping? Do I have a reservation? Where do I want to go next? And on, and on, and on… The officer tells me all about the law regarding importation of vehicles. That I can’t sell it, don’t I dare sell it, but if I do sell it, to pay the duty fees first. Makes me read the “selling your vehicle in Belize” disclaimer (twice!) and sign my name to it. Even after signing the disclaimer, he stills keeps badgering me about my trip. If I had to guess, this was obviously McDonalds’s Trainee Night.

After enough pestering, the Customs official asks me to bring my vehicle around for inspection.

7:35 p.m.: I pull my vehicle up to the immigration post and get out. The official checks the VIN and proceeds to look through my belongings and on to another round of questions.

“That doesn’t look like clothes for 90 days,” he tells me as if hoping to catch me saying… something.

“Have you ever heard of a contraption called a washing machine? It goes ‘swoosh’, ‘swoosh’, ‘swoosh'”, I tell him while placing my hands on my hips and gyrating them clockwise. I kid – wish I had the nerve to do that. Instead, I tell him that I like to “travel light”.

After a few more inane questions, including whether my flashlight could be mounted to a sniper rifle (“Well officer, gimme enough duct tape and I could make it happen!”), he begrudgingly lets me go. I honestly have no idea what he expected out of his interrogation, but whatever I did finally convince him that I did want to hang out in Belize (me and my silly ideas of fun and relaxation).

7:45 p.m.: I finally drive off and head towards the insurance place, just a quarter of a mile down the road. As expected, the place is now closed. Another officer at Customs had told me that I long as I stayed near the border, I should be OK to come back in the morning and buy insurance.

Thinking Things Over

I pull over to the side of the road to call the wife and break her the news. Fortunately, Guatemalan cell phones do have coverage near the border, which makes communication a breeze.

7:55 p.m.: I head towards the Trek Stop, an Eco-Lodge near the border, where I could lay low for a bit and camp out if necessary. Which is why I’ve brought along all my camping gear, in an effort to save as much money as possible.

8:15 p.m.: After asking for directions, I manage to find the Trek Stop. I walk in semi-dazed from all that’s happened in the last hour. The first person I meet is Tino, who owns the lodge. Walking into the Trek Stop turns out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made all trip, as I couldn’t have found a nicer person to help me out. I promptly spill my guts out to him and the predicament I’m in. He suggests I try to sleep on it a bit. Good idea. We watch some TV, I drink a smoothie for dinner, and I try not to think about things much right now.

10:00 p.m.: Tino says it’s too dark to pitch a tent outside, so he accommodates me in a room and gives me an inexpensive rate. I crash into bed. The body wants to sleep, but the mind won’t let it. Eventually, I somehow manage to fall asleep.

The Next Day…

6:35 a.m.: Wake up a little too early for my liking. I head over to the Trek Stop’s restaurant and decide to treat myself to a nice Belizean breakfast (fryjacks included). Since the restaurant has Wi-Fi and I have the laptop with me, I decide to make it my home-base for operations.

Trek Stop Bungalow in Belize

Trek Stop Belize

I connect my laptop and start searching the net for solutions. After googling for a few hours, these were the options available to me:

How To Sell a Foreign Vehicle in Belize

Drive the car back to the US: This is the costliest option. Driving my car back to Florida would not only result in a huge gas bill, but I’d also have to factor in lodging, Mexican vehicle insurance, plus a mandatory credit card deposit, refundable upon exiting the country. And it would still leave me the problem of having to keep the vehicle out of Guatemala for 90 days.

Keep the car stashed somewhere in Belize: This option is possible, provided you hand Customs a letter explaining that the car was checked by a mechanic and deemed “un-driveable”. Lying to foreign officials? Never a good idea, so I crossed that one off the list.

Park the car at Customs: For 15BZD/day, I could let my car sit at Customs’ parking lot. Letting the Jeep sit for close to 90 days at Customs meant racking up a bill of over $600. But then I’d have the same problem again of having to take the vehicle out of the country in 90 to 180 days, depending on which Guatemalan Customs official I chose to believe.

Sell the car in Belize: In order to sell my car in Belize, I’d have to first pay import taxes. Which are ASTRONOMICAL. Well, at least when you think what one would deem “fair”. While Belize’s taxes aren’t the highest in the world, it’s not cheap either. For the pleasure of importing my car, I’d have to pay 65.43% of it’s “book value”. This value is assigned by a Customs official and it fluctuates based on whether he had an argument with his wife that morning, had a great breakfast, wore itchy underpants… in other words, subject to their mood and whims. Oh, and there’s the fact that any tourist changing their mind and wanting to sell a vehicle AFTER going through Customs is subject to a 500BZD fine.

After researching for most of the morning, the most logical conclusion was to cut my losses and sell the Jeep. It was definitely becoming a drag since I still had to keep paying insurance and registration in the US. Sometimes, you have to let go if you truly want to have freedom, and the car was next on the list.

1:30 p.m.: To sell the car and find a buyer, I first needed to find out how much would a buyer have to potentially end up paying in duty fees.

Online, I found the name of Stephen Kuyler Sr., a highly-recommended auto broker in Belize. After a little digging, I found his e-mail address and told him about my problem. Stephen was gracious enough to answer my questions, give me an estimate of the duty fees for my car – 3,500 BZD, and send me the name of another broker closer to the side of the border I was in. If you ever want to import your car to Belize, this is the guy to talk to:

Stephen was gracious enough to answer my questions, give me an estimate of the duty fees for my car – 3,500 BZD, and send me the name of another broker closer to the side of the border I was in.

If you ever want to import your car to Belize, this is the guy to talk to:

Stephen Kuyler Sr. – Belize Auto Broker

stephenkuylensr@yahoo.com

Cell #: 501610-4213

Office#: 423-8011

3:30 p.m.: I called up the broker Stephen had recommended. This broker advised that in order to avoid Customs’ fine, it was better to properly check the car out of Belize first, then sell the car to the prospective buyer before walking over to Guatemala. Basics of the plan worked out, all I needed was a buyer willing to pony up the duty fees while I would get the difference in cash.

Finding a Buyer in Belize

12:00 p.m.: Found a buyer! We agreed on a price of $X,XXX + duty fees, so I wouldn’t have to put anything out of pocket. Now the trouble was carrying all that money around, plus a bunch of assorted luggage, or as much as I could get out of the vehicle. I did a sweep of the vehicle and took out what I could carry with me.

2:00 p.m.: I make some phone calls and find out that the latest direct bus, from Melchor de Mencos to Guatemala City, leaves at 8:00 p.m. This is more than enough time to take care of the sale and make a run for the bus station.

Taking the Money

But first, there’s the pesky detail of actually having to safely carry the money with me. Belize has tight currency controls. If you want to send anything overseas in an amount higher than 2,000BZD, you must first get a permit from Belize’s Central Bank. Even Western Union has this restriction (not to mention, exorbitant fees).I decided to send part of the money via

I decided to send part of the money via Western Union to myself in Guatemala. As for the rest of the money, it could either be converted to dollars at a bank or in Quetzales at the border. To avoid the double fee of converting the money to dollars, then Quetzales, I decided to change the rest into Quetzales at the border, which is the only place where I could change Belizean Dollars into Qeutzales.

3:00 p.m.: After a quick trip to the Western Union, it was time to head to the border.

The town of Benque Belize

The town of Benque Belize

Before crossing, I changed all the money I had on me into Quetzales and distributed it among my luggage. My main concern was my bus running into a Police checkpoint and having to convince Police or the Army that this was not money I’d acquired in a drug deal.

3:15 p.m.: I take a deep breath and head towards the Immigration office, hoping it all goes well. And that I don’t run into McQuestion-A-Lot again. The passport stamping goes well. I pay my exit fee and then I head over to the Customs area. I’m relieved the personnel at the Customs’ area is not the same from two days ago. The officer remarks that my stay is much shorter than I’d anticipated. I tell him I need to go back to see my family. He doesn’t ask further questions and checks my vehicle out of Belize by canceling the permit.

3:35 p.m.: I speed-walk as fast as I can to the vehicle and drive my car to the checkpoint. I get my car in line behind a couple others and slowly drive past the gatekeeper, whom I wave goodbye to. As I proceed to the parking area, I notice a Belize officer wave at me, asking me to come back.

Uh-oh.

The officer approaches me and I walk towards her. We meet half way and she tells me that she just needed to check my paperwork one more time. We walk back towards the building.

She checks my paperwork one more time and apologizes for the gatekeeper letting me through so quickly, before the final check. We laugh about it, I say it’s fine (no, really! We all make mistakes!) and she hands me my paperwork back as I walk back to the car, jello-legged.

Transferring The Title

The buyer meets me in the parking lot in No-Man’s land between Guatemala and Belize. I hand him the keys, sign the title over, and shake hands. Luckily, there was a “runner” waiting in the parking lot willing to drag me and my bags across to the other side. He offers to give me a ride for whatever I want to give him. Since the bust stop for Fuente del Norte is less than a quarter of a mile away, right after the Guatemalan bridge, I figure it can’t be much.

3:50 p.m.: A bored Guatemalan Immigration official stamps my passport, giving me a fresh 90 days. From there, the guy drops me off at the bus station. I pay him 20Q for the quarter-mile long ride.

7:45 p.m.: We start boarding the spacious, air-conditioned double-decker bus. For an extra 40Q and a total fare of 220Q, I get to ride in the more spacious reclining seats on the first floor. The attendant says we’ll be arriving in Guatemala City at about 6:30 a.m. the following morning.

Arriving in Guatemala

6:45 a.m.: We arrive at the terminal in Guatemala City, after an uneventful ride. I even managed to sleep for a few hours in semi-comfort. A half-hour later I’m reunited with my wife, grateful to be back together.

The whole experience has left me no desire to engage in further border-crossing shenanigans. I’ve rethought my whole travel strategy and have decided I’m not ready to leave Guatemala just yet. I really like this place and I’d rather we leave when we feel it’s time, not because there’s an invisible schedule pushing us to move.

Up next? Now we need to find a car locally, which I’m sure will be yet another story to tell. The fun never stops here.

*****

More about living in Guatemala here: https://www.okantigua.com/guatemala-expat/

*****

Driving from Antigua Guatemala to Belize, Part 1

Ruta al Atlantico Guatemala

After a whirlwind 72 hours last week that saw me leave home with my prized Jeep and return empty-handed, I figured the story deserved its own kind of post. So… welcome to my Belize-trip running diary! I thought driving from Antigua Guatemala to Belize would be somewhat easy, but turns out the biggest problem would be awaiting me at the border.

Heading to Belize

8:01 a.m: I finally load the last of my bags onto my Jeep and say goodbye to the family. Wife is so pissed that I’ve refused she go on the trip, it takes some nudging before she grudgingly says goodbye. I asked her for understanding, as I did not want to drag the family for the sake of saving time and money. She doesn’t quite buy it but resigns herself to stay home on this go-round. Little did my family know that it would be the last time they’d see the vehicle we affectionately called “Mister Boxy”.

8:10 a.m.: Stopped for gas at the local station. I did not want to totally fill-up the car, as cheap gas here is of dubious quality. The nearest Shell gas station with “V-Power” gas is on the Pan-Am Highway, just as one enters it from the road coming from Antigua.

From experience, I now only trust Shell V-Power gas to not mess up the electronic sensors in my car. Any cars I drive from here on out in Central America and beyond, they’ll get the good stuff. Who knew I would turn into a “gas snob” this late in life? The gas station attendants check my tires’ air pressure (low), water level (a little low), and oil level (fine). I tip him 10Q after he’s done and twenty minutes later, I hit the road again.

Antigua Guatemala

On my way to Belize

8:37 a.m.: One last stop by Antigua’s Post Office to see if my Jeep’s new registration and license plate sticker have arrived (they hadn’t). Even though they’d been sent a week before, via Express mail, I later learned they didn’t arrive in Antigua until Saturday, the same day I was back in town from Belize.

Boys and girls, DON’T EVER rely on important mail getting down here quickly, especially when you need it. Always add a two-week lead time in addition to the normal time you expect to get it otherwise. Or you can NOT BE a cheapskate like me and ask for delivery via DHL if it’s that important.

Bummed out, I head towards Belize with a scanned copy of my new registration, hoping it doesn’t cause any trouble at border-crossing time. I print the scanned PDF of my registration using the heaviest stock paper I can find, to lend it an air of “officialness” to it and hope for the best. Nothing I can do now but duke it out at the border if questioned.

Antigua Guatemala

Leaving Antigua

Antigua Guatemala

9:22 a.m.: I finally arrive at the Shell Gas station. The bill comes up to 575.05Q and after a longer-than-usual wait, for a pump to become available, I start to fret I won’t be able to make it to the border by 7 p.m. It’s an 8-10 hour ride to the Peten Department and I’m in no mood for getting stopped by the Guatemalan Police for speeding.

Driving Through Guatemala City

There are too many unknown variables when one travels in Guatemala. Accidents that hold up traffic for hours. Often, groups that feel wronged by the government decide to block the main roads for hours to prove their displeasure, as the teacher’s union did the previous day, paralyzing traffic on the Periferico for 6 hours.

Pan-Am Highway Guatemala

On my way to Guatemala City

9:54 a.m.: I arrive at the Periferico, the main road that connects to the “Ruta al Atlantico” and that joins the country’s Pacific coast and Atlantic coast. Traffic is moving along fairly well, so I’m glad no strike has been planned for today.

10:02 a.m: I totally screw up at the fork in the road after crossing Incienso Bridge and go left, instead of right, which dumps me onto Zone 1 and the heart of Guatemala City. For someone new to Guatemala, this would’ve meant a two-hour delay, easy.

Guatemala is fairly confusing to drive around in. They lack easy overpasses and one must often have to drive miles just to find a “retorno“, or point of return. It’s like no-one at the transportation department has ever taken Civil Engineering 101 here. At the very least, you’d think the obvious move would be to place a sign saying “Zone 1 – Left, Ruta al Atlantico – Right” to at least give drivers a fighting chance.

Fortunately, I’m familiar with the layout of the city, having visited (and gotten lost in it) many, many times, so the delay is more annoying than a real schedule breaker.

Ruta al Atlantico Guatemala

Road to the Atlantic Coast

10:09 a.m.: Having backtracked all the way to Roosevelt Avenue, I reenter the Periferico. Hey, at least I had a 50/50 chance of choosing the right fork on the road the first time around.

10:23 a.m.: I’m semi-slogging through traffic. Maybe because of nerves, I decide to buy some fried-plantain chips from a street vendor to at least have something to munch on while making note that I left my driveway almost two-and-a-half hours ago and I’ve yet to make it out of the city. The reason why I want to arrive before 7:00 p.m. is because that’s the time the Belizean insurance office closes. It’s hit-or-miss whether you can find an agent after-hours, so I don’t want to run the risk of driving around without insurance.

10:35 a.m.: I dodge my first Police checkpoint as I exit Guatemala City. There’s definitely an art to this. You stay as far left to the side of the road and like a football running back behind the lead blocker (usually the biggest truck or chicken bus you find), push through without making eye contact with any of the soldiers/Police stationed on both sides of the road.

I’ve successfully avoided being pulled over for months, a feat considering I was driving a big SUV without a license plate in the front, as it’s required here. This is the biggest wildcard as far as time of travel, as each time I get pulled over could bring a round of questioning and a waste of at least 10 minutes of my time while Police checks my paperwork out. The Police and soldiers are always pleasant, so I’m not concerned about anything being out of order with my paperwork, just the time-consuming nature of it all.

The scoreboard: Rich 1, Checkpoints 0

On Ruta al Atlantico

11:43 a.m.: I finally hit at a recognizable landmark when I arrive at the exit for Guastatoya, the capital of El Progreso department. Besides being unbearably hot, Guastatoya is known for their huge water-park, visible as soon as one enters the town. If there’s a business more suited for this region than a water-park, I don’t know what that looks like.

11:55 a.m.: I arrive at the turn-off for the Coban region, home to Guatemala’s best natural wonder after Lake Atitlan, Semuc Champey, which has been on my list of places to visit for a long time.  It’s another 4-5 hours from here, should one take the detour and head to Coban.  Not today.  I’m a man on a mission, determined to check myself and my Jeep out of Guatemala today.

12:42 p.m.: I drive by the exit to Zacapa, a hotbed of narco-activity. This is the place where you’ll see roadside stands selling cold grape juice. I’ve heard from a friend that Israelis taught the farmers of this region how to raise and tend to grapevines in the arid climate. I pull over and buy some grape juice, which is a bit fizzy and tastes like sparkling cider. At 10Q a bottle it’s a little pricey, but actually pretty good.

Ruta al Atlantico Guatemala

Fizzy grape drinks at the side of the road

Before I arrive into town, a little Honda Civic hatchback hops on my tail and desperately wants to pass me. I’m moving at a good clip, but he insists on passing me even when big rigs are heading the other way. I slow down a bit and he zooms past me.

12:45 p.m.: I belly-laugh when I drive past the Police checkpoint in Zacapa three minutes later.They’re too busy with a little Honda Hatchback to notice me as I drive on by.

The scoreboard: Rich 2, Checkpoints 0

1:55 p.m.: I drive past the turn-off for the Quirigua archaeological site, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home of the famous monument depicting the “End-of-the-World” Mayan calendar. If they didn’t cash in when they had the chance… let’s just say there won’t be a surge of visitors anytime in the foreseeable future.

Something slows down traffic ahead. Turns out someone is herding livestock, which I slowly drive past.

Ruta al Atlantico Guatemala

Livestock on one of Guatemala’s main highways

2:05 p.m.: Drive past the turnoff to Playa Dorada, a beach known in Guatemala for its peculiar golden sand. Another place on my “must-visit” list.

Through Rio Dulce

2:25 p.m.: I finally arrive at the Tikal turnoff, which leads to Rio Dulce and the Peten region. The road continues onward to Puerto Barrios, which I’ll revisit some time later. As of now, I’m heading towards Tikal.

2:54 p.m.: I arrive at the Shell gas station just before the Rio Dulce bridge. I take my first bathroom break and fill up my now half-empty gas tank for 300Q. I continue on past Rio Dulce, a haven for sailboaters and an area worth exploring.

Rio Dulce Bridge, Guatemala

Puente Rio Dulce

Rio Dulce, Guatemala

Rio Dulce

IMG_0074

Largest bridge in Guatemala

3:35 p.m.:  This is one checkpoint I would not be dodging.  I get stopped by soldiers near the entrance to the Peten region.  They check my paperwork, ask me where I’m going, and I’m allowed to continue on after about 10 minutes.

The scoreboard: Rich 2, Checkpoints 1

I asked the soldier at the checkpoint how far away I actually was from the turnoff to the Melchor de Mencos border. He mentions there is one just after Potpun, that I’m not too far off. I have no idea which turnoff he’s talking about, as I believe I have to reach Santa Elena first, two hours away.

3:50 p.m.: Another mandatory checkpoint. This time it’s an agricultural inspection which everyone has to go through. They’re trying to avoid any Mediterranean Flies, which affect fruits and vegetables, from entering the Peten region.

They open the Jeep’s doors, take a peek and ask if I’m carrying any fruits. I say no, and a minute later I’m back on the road. This one doesn’t count for scoreboard purposes.

4:39 p.m.: I arrive at Potpun, which offers nothing remarkable, except for the chance to say pot-POON out loud for the next five minutes. I’d been driving for over 8 hours now, so maybe I was becoming a bit unhinged.

Another feature of pot-POON (say it, it’s fun!) is how the road winds it’s way around an airport runway in a big U-shape. I’m sure there was a reason for this odd configuration, but I fail to see it. I’m just glad it breaks up the monotony of the somewhat twisty roads I’ve been seeing for a few hours.

4:42 p.m.: Another checkpoint, this one heavily manned by armed soldiers on both sides. I try my Jedi mind-trick of not looking at anyone’s eyes, but focusing on a point ahead on the road juuuuust past the nearest soldier.

Surprisingly, even though I can see with my peripheral vision that every single soldier is staring at me, I manage to travel the seemingly endless checkpoint at 10-mph without a single soldier pulling me over. I still don’t know how that actually happened.

The scoreboard: Rich 3, Checkpoints 1

Melchor de Mencos

4:59 p.m.: I reach the turnoff for Melchor de Mencos that the soldier was talking about. The road looks like something people from Alabama enjoy driving on when they go “muddin'” in their big, lifted-up 4×4 trucks outfitted with swamp-tires. I drive past the turnoff, eyes blinking with a frozen “holy $&@#” look on my face. “There is NO WAY I have to drive through that, right?” I think to myself.

I spot a couple young guys sitting at a run-down gas station and make a u-turn to confirm my suspicions that this can’t be the road I have to follow. I ask them if that indeed is the road to the border. They reply in the affirmative. One of them says this road is all “terraceria” or dirt road. Sure, the path is closer he says, but you’ll get there nearly as fast if you stay on this road and take the longer route.

Relieved, I press onward on the pavement.

5:30 p.m.: I hit the Santa Elena turn off, which is on the way to the border. It’s not looking like I’ll make it to Belize by 7 p.m. I decide there’s nothing I can do right now, but whatever I do my mission is to check out of Guatemala before the clock strikes midnight. I’ll deal with insurance later.

5:53 p.m.: I come to the split on the road for Tikal and the Melchor de Mencos border town.

6:02 p.m.: I hit the first batch of rough road, which inexplicably has yet to be fully paved and has been in this state for a long time. It’s not terribly long, although my main concern now is approaching darkness and how lonely the road seems to be. The first time I’m genuinely concerned about the possibility of highway robbers.

6:16 p.m.: Dusk is now turning into night and I’m now positive I won’t make it across in time.

6:24 p.m.: Another checkpoint, this time I get pulled over. Soldiers check my paperwork. I ask how far away I am from the border, he replies I’m practically there.

The scoreboard: Rich 3, Checkpoints 2

Arriving at the Border

6:35 p.m.: I finally make it to the border. I avoid the bridge-crossing fee, since there’s no one at the booth, and park my Jeep, rushing to the Guatemalan immigration desk.  The official (a lady), notices that my passport is due that day. She calls the Supervisor over and both look at my passport disapprovingly. Even though I’m leaving the country on time, they make a show of writing my name and passport number on a piece of paper.  Alrighty then… duly noted I see.  Whatever helps them hold the proverbial hammer over one’s head I guess.

6:40 p.m.: Passport stamped, I head over to the Customs desk to check out the vehicle out of the country. The official looks at me and drops the bombshell. He tells me that the time limit for my permit is done. That in order to reenter the country with my vehicle, I must wait 90 days outside the country.

I. Am. Floored.

I did not foresee being unable to re-enter the country at all. I’d planned to kick back in Belize for a few days, then head back to Guatemala. I plead and brainstorm with Customs officials, who tell me there’s no way the vehicle can re-enter the country, even if I had a different passport to my name (after telling me it WAS possible just five minutes earlier).

Pleading my Case

I plead for probably 15 minutes, trying to figure out if there was any way I could come back in. “No,” they say “it’s a new law that just came out this year”.  The official tells me I can only apply for a 90-day extension once, for a total of 180 days (6 months) before the vehicle is required to stay outside 90 days.

Later, another official tells me that the vehicle must stay 90 days out of the country for every 90 days spent inside the country. As is the usual pattern when it comes to Guatemala’s procedural affairs, one hand has no idea what the other one is doing. Or the official sitting next to the other.

The official, with a smirk on his face the whole time, tells me it’s about dinner time for him. He gets up, turns around and just leaves me there. I wait for three minutes dumbfounded until I ask the other official next to him if there was anything I needed, like a receipt. He says no, paperwork’s done and I’m free to leave.

Half angry, half in shock, I stumble away from Customs towards my car. I change some Guatemalan into Belizean Dollars with a money changer, who proceeds to rip me off (never change more than what’s needed for Immigration in Belize, withdraw the rest from an ATM).

7:02 p.m.: I lurch toward the Belize border without any idea what to do next. Should I drive my car back to the US? Hang back in Belize for 90 days? Where would I live even if I wanted to stay out here 90 days? At this point, I don’t think I fully understand my options. But that would have to wait.

Now it was time to deal with the dreaded Belizean Immigration and Customs Officers… again.

For part 2, click here.

*****

Want more tales about living in Antigua? Click below:

https://www.okantigua.com/guatemala-expat/