Our family of 5 travels the world full-time in a 4×4 Sprinter Van, which has taken us to over 40 countries and counting. We wanted to start documenting some of our border-crossing experiences to help others do the same. Below will you find the steps to prepare for the crossing, how to exit Guatemala, how to enter Belize, which crossing we took, and the extra steps needed to cross with your pets.
- The Basics: Don’t show up to the border unprepared. I explain the basic steps we do beforehand here.
- Agriculture: While in Guatemala (driving north towards Belize), there was an agricultural checkpoint. They didn’t take anything from us but once we got to Belize, their agriculture department took all of our fruits, vegetables, and eggs. Nothing was allowed.
- Pet Health Certificates: If you travel with pets, you must have a current health certificate. We got our certificates from a veterinarian at Hospital Veterinario Antigua in Antigua, Guatemala. These certificates are very expensive in Guatemala. There is a simple version (which is the normal one in other countries) and a complex version (which gets sent out for government approval in Guatemala City). If you travel by air, then you need a complex certificate. From our experience and from the experiences of fellow travelers who shared their experiences on iOverlander and Facebook, you only need a simple certificate (and cheaper version) for overland travel. We paid 550q for each simple health certificate, and we paid a 180q flat fee for both cats’ exams. On the simple cert, make sure they list your current rabies shots and the other shots as well. We didn’t have those listed which caused some delay in the agriculture offices. They ended up accepting an old health certificate that had those other vaccines listed in addition to the new certificate from Guatemala. They are also concerned with external and internal parisite control.
- Pet Import Forms: You need to fill out the Belize permit to “import live animals” form, and send it to the email listed on the form. This process could take up to 5 business days so you need to fill this out at least that many days before your anticipated crossing date. Once approved, you will receive your completed form stamped and approved form back via email. This form is valid for 90 days and you will need to share this form with Agriculture when you are at the border.
- Belizean Dollars: There are a few things you need to pay for with cash at the border. We didn’t exchange money ahead of time but did so at the border via the exchange people walking around with cash in their fanny packs. Their rates were fair. Also in Belize, they also accept US dollars (2 Belizean dollars = 1 US dollar).
CROSSING VIA MELCHOR DE MENCOS
We decided to cross into Belize near the middle of the country at Melchor De Mencos. Before you get to the actual border, you will have to cross a small bridge and pay a toll of 40q. We camped at the fire station near the border the night before so we could have a more relaxed day. We got to the border at 9:15 am and were officially in Belize at 11:45 am.
Before you enter Belize, you need to exit from Guatemala. The exit building is at the actual border so it’s impossible to miss.
- Immigration: When we got inside the building, we first went to the immigration counter to return our tourist visas (FMM) and get our passports stamped out. Our agent made a point to show us that each passport had been stamped out. This is something you should always check going in and out of a country to save yourself from future headaches.
- TIP: After that, we went to the other counter to cancel our van’s temporary import permit (TIP). That involved giving the agent our TIP paperwork, peeling off our TIP sticker from our van’s windshield, and having the agent place the sticker on our TIP paperwork. The agent confirmed that our TIP was canceled but did not give us any receipt or proof that we did so.
We did not pay anything to exit Guatemala.
After we were done exiting Guatemala, the gate was lifted so we can enter the customs area in Belize. We’ve been so immersed in Spanish-speaking countries that we were taken aback when everyone started to speak English here on the Belize sside. It made the process a lot easier for us since our Spanish skills are elementary.
- Fumigation: The first thing we had to do was to get the outside of our van fumigated. It cost us 10 Belizean dollars (cash only) and you will get a receipt for the fumigation. You will then park your vehicle just before the main building where all the offices are located.
- Immigration: The first counter you will reach is immigration. You will have to fill out one visa form per person with all the typical information plus your destination. We did not get charged for entering Belize but we did have to pay when we exited the country. It was 40 Belizean dollars each for all 12 years of age and over. We did not get our passports stamped at this first counter. We got stamped just before exiting the building.
- TIP: We told customs that we wanted a Transit TIP. This is a free permit you can get for up to 7 days. We told our customs agent we wanted to transit through Belize and only needed it for 24 hours. He then stamped the main driver’s passport with a Transit TIP stamp that was dated and told us that we had to exit the next day. Then he told Dan (our main driver) to drive the van through the booth outside in order to pay for the TIP while the rest of us stayed in the building. It cost us 30 Belizean dollars. (Side note: The agent was inquisitive about the amount of tobacco and alcohol were bringing in. Nothing else.)
- Agriculture: Next for us, because we had pets, was the Agriculture office. The agent wanted to see our recent pet health certificate that listed the cats’ vaccinations (the simple version was accepted). He also needed me to email him the approved Belize Pet Import permit. He photocopied everything and charged us 45 Belizean dollars (cash only) for each cat. We left with a Landing Permit for the cats. (Side note: Our Guatemalan simple certificate only had rabies listed. He needed to see that the cat had their other vaccines as well. He ended up accepting our old Mexican health certificate that did have them listed. He was also concerned if the cats were up to date with their anti-parasite treatments, internal and external.) Since we were inside the Agriculture office already, the agent asked about produce, meat, and eggs. He ended up walking to our van to take our produce and eggs. I think if we didn’t stop at this office, we would have driven in with our supplies without issue.
- Immigration Control: After the TIP was paid for and the pets were imported, we were sent to the final counter in the main building to get our passports stamped.
- Insurance: After we exited customs and were officially in Belize, we had to buy insurance at the border. It was a small building with a red roof immediately after we exited the gate. It cost us 12 Belize dollars (cash only). You will get official paperwork in your hand and also get a sticker to attach more paperwork to the windshield. As we drove through Belize, we were stopped once at a police roadblock and they wanted to confirm that we did have insurance.
Hope that helps some of you with the Belize border crossing. Safe Travels!