Saturday, August 8, 2009

Belize/Mexico Border for the Weekend

Now that business is slowing down a bit as fall approaches and our condos are not packed full with renters, Allan and I decided to go south to the Mexico/Belize Border for the weekend. The border area is called the "Corozal Free Zone" and it's filled with shopping and our main attraction - casinos. So we hopped in the SUV and drove 3 1/2 hour south for a bit of adventure and relaxation.

The drive down was quite interesting. Once your are south of Tulum, which is 45 minutes south of Playa, the landscape turns into thick jungle, a reminder of what the Riveria Maya was once like some 40 years ago or less. Thatched roofs supported by sticks peered out of the thicket. We looked for signs of monkeys or cougars but did not see any. We also heard horror stories about the road conditions - it being a one lane highway with no dividers, and one is essentially taking one's life in one's hands upon deciding to venture down it. Now they are repaving the highway and widening it so most of the trip was quite pleasant. Even the short parts which were down to one lane, and crazy drivers who were passing at every opportunity without regarding to life or courtesy, Allan and I both felt it was old hat. Driving down from the border to Playa we experienced many such scary stretches, some of which were along roads hugging mountains where one had to dodge 18 wheelers coming in almost every direction.

Arriving at the free zone was quite a surprise. We did not expect to see a customs booth. We were told we didn't need our passports and that we could bring our car in no problem. Perhaps that is true but we were scared nonetheless and we decided to pull over. A Belizen gentlemen (noticeable by his very dark skin and Jamaican sounding voice) approached the car. He addressed himself as a "hustler working for tips" who was going to help us. We explained that the permit allowing us to import our car into Mexico had long since expired, but since we were on Mexican work visas called "FM3s" we didn't need to renew. Additionally since we had a car loan, our name wasn't on the title, a requirement for importation, less one has a notarized letter from the bank allowing importation. That letter is sitting on the desk of my condo in Playa.

The "helper" explained "no problem", just rip off the sticker, attach it to your vehicle import lettter (which was sitting in my glove compartment) and follow me to the customs booth to cancel this permit and get a new one. After humming and hawing for a few minutes, trying to decide if he was going to rob me in a dark alley, I gave in to faith and followed him. And by chance the import office had closed. The helper instructed me to return the next morning at 7:30 Belize time (8:30 Mexico time) when the office opens. Apparently it is a short walk from the hotel we are staying at so it is no problem. So we drove through customs without issue (they don't stop you going into the free zone - only out), turned left into the Princess Hotel and Casino parking lot, walked into the casino, over to the lobby, reserved a room and then proceeded up to my room slightly nervous for tomorrow, hoping I can easily get a car renewal permit and not have to leave it in the free zone for God knows how long!

Playa del Carmen Condo and Villa Vacation Rentals

1 comment:

dick said...

This was interesting and helpfull to me as I want to drive to Belize early next year. We have a Condo in Puerto Aventuras and stay from November through April. I get a little antsy in paradise so we went to Merida for the pre-lent festival last year, but I was told Belize is not worthwhile so I'll be interested in your next facebook or blog entry re your opinion.samantha1