Well when we woke up Tuesday morning and didn't have any running water at my house, I should have known it was going to be one of those kind of days. Bill and I had been wanting to plan a trip to Chetumal, Mexico with our friends Emily and Barry for some time now. We all had a "wish list" and wanted to do some shopping at the American styled mall and Sam's Club Warehouse just over the Mexico/Belize border in Chetumal, Mexco. Bill and I mainly needed to go to Mexico to see if we were going to be able to find some prescription medications we needed. So we all planned to take the 7:30am water taxi Tuesday morning because the earlier water taxi was cheaper, only $50.00US round trip. Bill and I had been to Chetumal in 2010, so this would be our second trip there.
We had planned to get up at 5:30am. This would give us plenty of time to walk down to the water taxi and arrive by 7:00am in order to complete all of our paperwork for immigration and customs. I actually woke up at 5:00am so we even had enough time to grab a johnny cake with cheese and ham at the local deli. Two sandwiches and a diet coke was $7.00BZ ($3.50US). Barry and Emily live a little further out from town so they were going to catch the local water taxi to town. Emily calls at a few minutes after 7:00am to tell us they had missed the water taxi into town and they were on their way walking. Walking really really fast and hoped to make it in time. No problem we are on BELIZE time and the boat left 30 minutes late.
On the boat and headed to Mexico
Barry and Emily
Check out the guy giving the peace sign in the back left.
Getting every thing ready to be checked by the drug dogs.
Here we go, we are starting the search.
Ooops, the drug dog got a scent. Oh no that is Barry's bag. Could it be drugs?? Nah, it's peanut butter bars. At least we know the dog can find your stash of food too.
Waiting in line and filling out paperwork for immigration.
Watch out, Barry just grabbed someone else's backpack. Maybe they have better stuff in their bag.
After a 5 minute walk from the water taxi we arrived at Sam's.
Looks pretty much like the one back home in the states.
Look at all of those pastries. Can you say sugar and calories??
Check out all the wines they have from Mexico.
They even had an organic section.
We arrived at the mall and headed straight to a store called Chedraui. It is a grocery/department store. You can find just about anything you want here. Designer clothing, pet items, gifts, stuffed toys, food items, wines, liquors, toiletries and fake crocs. You name it, they have it at Chedraui's.
The cashiers at Chedraui liked Bill's beard and beads.
After a shopping extravaganza at Chedraui's we headed over to the food court for lunch. Barry and Emily decided on the fajitas. Bill had a McDonald's cheese burger and I had the chicken nuggets. We had planned on finding a nice Mexican restaurant but there just wasn't enough time on this trip. After lunch, our next stop before we left the mall was at the casino for $1.25US coronas.
The food court at the mall.
Mcdonalds pricing in pesos.
McDonalds, it's whats for LUNCH!!
Having lunch at the mall food court, only the finest food for us!!
It is illegal to bring these beers back in to Belize.
Barry's favorite beer is Corona, can you tell?
It was now time to find a cab and head back to the water taxi. It was 1:30 and we were told that the taxi would be leaving at 2:00pm Belize time. It was only like a 15 minute cab ride and remember we are on Belize time...so we figured we would get there and have plenty of time. Boy were we wrong.
A little cab decor hanging there in the window of the cab.
We tell the cabbie that we need to go to the water taxi. We can tell he really doesn't understand and we say San Pedro. He goes, oh ok no problem. We are having fun and laughing, then the cab driver pulls over and we look up and we are at the bus station. We go no, no. We need to go to the water. Some how between the four of us, we get the cab driver to understand where we need to go. It is ten minutes till 2 now. Sure enough though in a few minutes we can start to see water, so we know at least we are heading in the right direction. Then we see the boat dock and the water taxi and we know we are good.
Bay of Chetumal where the water taxi docks.
We jump out of the cab, grab our big suitcase that we have decided weighs about 75 pounds and head to immigration. We are the last four to have to go through. We show our passports and then we are told that we have to pay a $25.00US exit fee per person. We look at each other because we know this is not right, there are no exit fees from Mexico unless you have stayed over 7 days. So we argue with this guy and tell him we are not going to pay it. He is getting madder and madder and tells us we have no choice. He is speaking Spanish most of the time, so we understand very little of what he is telling us. We do manage to get out that he is telling us we have to go to some bank down the street somewhere to pay this fee. By this time one of the guys from the boat comes up. We tell him what is going on and while he agrees we are right, there is nothing he can do about it. He tells us if we have to walk to the bank, we are going to miss our boat. We ask him to try to please wait for us and we would hurry. So then this girl appears and she says she will show us where the bank is. So off we all go to this bank to pay our monies so we can get on the boat back to Belize. Just as soon as we crossed the street, the guy from the water taxi hollers for us to come back. Now there is a girl from immigration who is going to gladly take our money and she will go to the bank and pay our fees for us and we can go ahead and get on the boat. Although we were not happy about it, Bill and I finally just decide to pay the money so we can get on the boat. This guy from immigration was not going to back down.
Now we are finally on the boat and heading back to Belize. We decided once we arrived back home we would get on the Internet and see what we could find out. Sure enough Barry finds something on the Internet that states it is a big SCAM and has been going on for years. We knew there was something up because there were other Americans on the boat and they were not charged this fee. Because we were running late and trying not to miss the boat, they saw an opportunity and we were taken advantage of and scammed!!!
This is what I found: According to a press release dated January 25th, 2012 from the Embassy of Mexico to Belize and reported by the San Pedro Sun on January 25th, 2012. There is an entry fee called DNI ((Derecho de No Inmigrante) and it is $294.00 pesos, approximately $45BZ ($22.50US). It also states that the following are exempt from this fee: Tourists who stay in Mexico less than 7 days and holders of the FMVL border card staying less than 3 days are exempted from this charge, as well as FM3 and FM2 holders. We were in Mexico approximately 4 hours.
The good news is our water finally came back on around 8:00pm Tuesday night. The bad news is our electricity will be temporarily interrupted tomorrow between 8:30am and 11:30am this morning to conduct urgent repairs and install infrastructure on the distribution system in the area. Good thing WE LOVE Belize!!