You need to make some groundwork and consider some logistic, when traveling on your own. You can go on your own even if you don´t prepare yourself, spontaneously, but that would cost more and it would be very time-consuming, believe me. Previous arrangements are valuable when traveling with kids and when we our time for travel is limited. If you have all the time on the world (we are not there yet 🙂 ), it is not necessary to plan that much. Maybe sometime somewhere 🙂 .
1. Rent a car
This logistic information will be especially useful for those that want to travel around Mexico and Belize by rent-a-car. Traveling by rent-a-car itself was easy, our experiences are positive and we highly recommend renting a car there. With our own transportation we can go to less touristic places that would otherwise be unreachable or traveling there would be time consuming. The roads are well maintained, driving was safe and even-tempered.
We read many forums on the internet before we left and we were a little frightened as there were so many negative reports about renting a car as we haven´t seen for other destinations. As I understand in Mexico laws and regulations are loose and sometimes there exist local “rules”. But we didn´t have any problems, we obeyed traffic regulations and haven´t been stopped even though there were regular police controls.
2. From Mexico to Belize by car
Our first plan was to rent a car only for traveling around Mexico and to go to Belize by night bus. However, after gathering some information about local transportation in Belize, we changed our mind. We wished to independently explore nature, historic sites and whatever comes on the way, but in Belize public transportation exist only between cities and larger towns. To go to more or less touristic places you have to hire a taxi, that is not cheap, or take touristic tours, which are expensive. So we decided to rent a car for the whole trip.
It would be more expensive to have two separate car rentals, and renting a car in Belize is much more expensive than in Mexico, so we had to figure out how to cross border with rent-a-car.
3. Booking rent-a-car and insurance many months before the travel
As it is the most expensive to rent a car on your destination – as it is everywhere on the world – we made a reservation a few months before our trip on Rentalcars.com.
We chose agency Europcar, because it allows crossing Mexico-Belize border on checkpoint near Chetumal. For 500 EUR we rented automatic car for 5 persons for 20 days with basic insurance against third person (PLI) and comprehensive insurance CDW/LDW with deductible cost of 1.600 USD. This insurance is valid only in Mexico, so we needed additional insurance for Belize – I will write more about that later. It is very important to have comprehensive insurance without deductible cost, we got additional annual insurance on www.icarhireinsurance.com that covers complete comprehensive insurance (against theft as well) for Mexico and Belize as for all other car rentals anywhere on the world.
4. Pick-up the car
Picking up a car on Cancun airport is a little bit specific as you meet agency representative in the lobby of an airport and then you drive with him a kilometer away to the lobby of rent-a-car agency. When you are there, your negotiation position is not very good as you are quite far away of other agencies. Otherwise all cars that we saw on Europcar were in good condition and we can recommend the agency.
Driving through Mexico isn´t stressful, you just have to be aware of speed bumps on the beginnings of towns and villages. Those are normal size in Quintana Roo federal state (on east side of Yucatan peninsula) but in Yucatan federal state they are awful. They are high and steep, so jeeps have to stop and climb over. They lie on the beginning, at the middle and on the end of the village, sometimes even in between. Normally they are labeled with traffic sign, but sometimes they aren´t and in case of tree shadows or bad asphalt it is hard to notice them in time. Driving through villages from Celestun to Chetumal was therefore trial for our patience.
6. Crossing Mexico-Belize border
We recommend preparing in advance for crossing Mexico-Belize border.
For spending more than 7 days in Mexico you have to pay tourist tax when leaving the country. Mostly tourists aren´t aware of this fact as this tax is included in plane tickets. So, if you come to the Mexico by plane and leave the country without additional border crossing, you are covered. But if you leave Mexico and come back for more than 7 days, you have only one tourist tax paid for, and the other one you still have to pay. The information on forums says that you have to pay that tax on bank or on the airport double price. We came back from Belize to Mexico for less than 7 days so we didn´t have to pay the tax for second stay.
Checkpoint near Chetumal has two border crossings, east and west. We used east, but we recommend west. I assume that east checkpoint is used for locals, but we were able to cross as well.
On checkpoint you have to:
– show FMM (Forma Migratoria Multiple) that we filled in the airplane and validate on checkpoint immediately after landing
– pay tourist tax (official wanted me to pay but after consultation with coworkers he excepted printed mail with airplane price divided, where “Tourism Tax (Non Immigrant Law)” was specified. For that mail I was “fighting” with Bravofly agency for 10 days, as the structure of airplane ticket wasn´t shown when the tickets were booked.)
– show permit to export the car, issued by Europcar (they had the best references among agencies that allow exporting their car)
– show copy of car license
– have car insurance for Belize (basic insurance). We did that at Atlantic Insurance company. 30 BZD (15 USD) is explicit price for basic insurance (PLI) for 10 days and you can pay with credit card or cash. That is really important as we could have serious problems without that.
– have your car disinfected, which is very important and obligatory, and you have to pay 10 BZD in cash for that. Don´t try to save some money on that, and the receipt for the disinfection should be in your car all time of your travel through Belize. We heard stories of people that didn´t have this receipt when police control stopped them and they had to pay high penalty. Desinfection is done on west checkpoint.
Important! There is no bank or exchange office, but you can get BZD on Mexican side in exchanges in Chetumal (by outrageous conversion rate).
Then there was Belize border police and customs, where we got special stamp for exporting a car. This stamp was important when going back to Mexico.
Other car passengers must cross the border by foot, only the driver can drive in the car. Employees at Mexican and Belize borders were friendly and helped us through all the procedures, everything was non-stressful, but it lasted an hour and a half.
7. Coming back from Belize to Mexico
On checkpoint you have to pay Belizean “exit tax” 40 BZD (20 USD) for persons older than 11 years. The payment must be in cash and, let me repeat there are no exchange office or even cash machines. Formalities regarding a car take place in a special office but everything is quite easy as employees are very friendly.
We were bounced on east checkpoint so we went to the west one. We filled in FMM and saved them to the airport.
In Mexico the prices of gasoline are much cheaper than in Slovenia as we had to pay 0,70 EUR per liter. In Belize it was the opposite, the prices are at least twice as Mexican.
The official currency in Mexico is Mexican peso (MXN) and in Belize Belizean dollar (BZD).
In Mexico you can get your money on cash machine, where exchange rate was 1EUR = 23 MXN on January 2017. Provision for withdrawal was between 2,60 and 3,00 EUR. You cannot change money on banks (nor Dollar or Euros), but exchange office had exchange rate 22,50/23,50.
At leat 10 BZD you should have for car disinfection before entering Belize, as payment in USD is not possible. You can get BZD in Chetumal´s outrageous exchange offices, but not on the border.
Cash machine of Belizean Scotia bank takes 2,50 EUR of provision, on bank account the exchange rate was 1 EUR = 2,10 BZD. USD is common for paying in Belize (restaurant, hotels, taxi…) by the rate 1 USD = 2 BZD. But government officials on borders and airport accept only BZD in cash.
Paying with Mastercard or Visa was possible almost everywhere, except on gas stations.
Official language in Mexico is Spanish and in Belize is English.
In Mexico it would be helpful to know Spanish as it is obviously standard with tourist. We were communicating “intuitively”, and we borrowed some words from Italian, which is similar. But with good mood and politeness we were managed to communicate with government officials as well.
I would like to say something about parking in Belize City for several days. Locals confirmed the information we got on forums that there is big chance of car theft, so we parked on the airport. The price for taxi from airport to harbor (in Belize City to Caye Caulker) was 35 USD and for the opposite side 30 USD. Yes, expensive. When we came back there were wheel clamps on the car that were removed after paying 18 BZD (9 USD) for parking per day + additional 4 BZD (2 USD) for “exit fee”. We had to pay in BZD in cash. Cash machine is on the airport, but as security guard told us it often doesn´t work.
Every travel is full of adventure, mostly good but sometimes there are some bad ones. With a little preparation in advance we can avoid some bad experiences and stay focused on the things we went on our trip for.
Mexico and Belize are definitely countries that offer so much beautiful to their visitors. With rent-a-car it is possible to experience them easily, so we highly recommend it.