I recently read a post at travel-stained.com about a border crossing controversy. I couldn’t help but remember my experience crossing the Belize – Guatemala border two summers ago.
I don’t know how many of you have tried crossing borders by car, but it’s not an easy task. Especially when your car is a rental car. Before you enter the country, you have to go through this whole ordeal with having the trek pre-approved by the rental car company. You’ve got to pay a fee, fill out a ton of paper work, and get the right people to sign off on it. Even after that, you then have to fill out MORE paper work at the border, and pay MORE fees. It sucks.
Bro and I we’re driving from Belize City, Belize to Tikal, Guatemala; about a 3.5-4 hour drive. When we reached the border mid-to late afternoon, we had had a long day already, and just wanted to reach our destination. The border patrol made us turn off the road into a little, out door shack where we could fill out our paperwork.
The immigration officer had definitely woken up on the wrong side of the bed. He made our lives hell. “We didn’t do this right, we signed in the wrong spot, we didn’t have the right paper work, yada yada yada.” When we got everything straightened out, he asked us for the other copy.
Yes… we needed another copy. For what? I don’t know. Luckily, there was a small shop inside the free zone – a borderless area between Guatemala and Belize – that had a copy machine. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in walking distance, so we had to take a cab.
Now, Bro does speak Spanish, but (no offense) with an American accent. I could see how some could get confused. A cab driver offered to take us to and from the copy center for 20 pesos TOTAL. We agree, and headed over. When we got back to the border, the driver requested 40 pesos. Bro, previously annoyed from the immigration officer, was appalled and said “No pagar!” (No pay) and walked away…
Probably not the smartest idea in a foreign land that’s not the safest of places. The cab driver lingered around, giving us the death stare for the entire time. Needless to say it messed with our heads a little. We didn’t know what would happen, but of course we thought the worst. Threats, harassment, damage to our car, all these were running through our heads.
Finally, Bro caved in and went over to the driver, and paid him 40 pesos and we were on our way. It was definitely a nerve wracking experience, but now we know, just pay your driver!