Saturday, December 29, 2012

Corozal Free Zone --Belize Border Crossing--it's different this time...

After 6 hours of travel through Mexico--we were actually looking forward to returning to Belize. Intrigued by the "Corozal Free Zone", we thought we'd take a break and walk around. We parked at The Princess Casino---yes, a casino--table games, machines that take US dollars or Mexican Pesos, a restaurant, track betting---there's another casino, Las Vegas, on the other side of the zone.
Anyway, we walked down the main street of the zone, only about 1/2 way--it was Christmas Eve and very crowded! Bought 2 bottles of Concha y Toro Shiraz--have not seen it in Belize--everything else you can get in Belize, even though you'd pay a little more.

Not sure why a tourist would go into the zone--if you have to leave Belize first, it costs $35bzd to exit the country, then you can get into the free zone. I'm not sure what you'd actually purchase that would save you the $35 exit fee. Belizeans are "not allowed" into the free zone. But we think there's a way to go into the zone without leaving Belize--gotta investigate this further.

So we decide to immigrate into Belize. We go through the same rigmarole as the last time--park the car, enter the Immigration building, get a 30 day stamp--we were told to make sure to get a  stamp prior to the 30 days expiration, then we went to the Customs desk....

The lady took our passports and asked about the car. Yes, we drove it into Mexico, yes, it is in the parking lot. She proceeded to ask us why we did not check out with the car when we left the other day? We explained we thought we did...went to the other building, paid our exit fee and left...No, No, No! We did not return to the Customs desk, in this building to exit with the car...this was not explained to us! Ah Oh--we're in trouble!! She sighed, "I'll let it go this time, but next time it will be $500 fine and full duty on the vehicle"---we must have a stamp placed over the car's entrance stamp to cancel it's separate entrance/exit from the country.

She again explained the procedure as she handed Larry the form to sign--indicating he understood the process...this event would be documented in their "daily diary" so that next time they will see we had "firm notice"---it'll be on our "permanent record"!!! So now did we have anything to claim??? Yes, 2 bottles of wine. Another sigh, "The Corozal Free Zone is for export only, nothing can be brought into the country" but since you came from farther that Chetumal, I'll let it go this time." I offered to pay duty--No.

So with knees shaking, we left the desk. Larry went back to get the car, I walked through to wait for him on the other side of the fence. After I got into the car, I was putting his passport into my purse and noticed my passport was not there. It had to be back at the Customs desk! Crap!

You cannot get back into Customs without leaving the country and re-entering! So, I boldly walked into the Emigration side of the building, told them that I needed their help--my passport was at the Customs desk...I got to use the "authorized only" hallway and proceeded immediately back to the Customs desk. I was greeted with a confused look by the woman who had just castigated us--I asked for my passport, her face blanched as she rifled through the books and ledgers on her passport was on the bottom of the pile! She handed it back to me, meekly----now we're even!


  1. We just came back through after being in Mexico for a week and the people at the immigration desk was cool, but the guy at customs was kind of a "richard" (if you know what I mean), telling me we had to pay customs on 3 bottles of liquor when I know darn well we can bring in 2 bottles each! I called him out on it and he let us pass like he was doing us some big favor. Idiot.

  2. Thanks Sandy! We thought it was "pick on the newbies" day!! We should brush up on the "laws" , eventho they are up for interpretation by the agent--at least we'll feel more comfortable confronting them!!

  3. Babs, I have read all of your blogs with great interest as we will be getting down there one of these days. Sounds like getting back and forth over the border is something that you have to do every now and then, but I think I will keep it to a minimum until I've been down there awhile. Great information and I love the blog!

    1. Anon--thanks for finding us! We'll keep posting as we learn the ropes, this issue will be an on-going one...maybe we should just befriend a Customs agent and get all the insider information...hmmm.