September 27, 2014
...From Hopkins Beach, I took the shortest route to the Guatemala border, Hummingbird Hwy. I stayed dry. So far, so good.
The border is located between the towns of San Ignacio (Belize) and Melchor de Mencos, Guatemala.
The formalities are simple and straight forward:
1) Park your bike near the border guard.
2) Pay 37.50 BZD exit fee.
3) Get exit stamp in Passport.
4) Get approached by an "official" money changer" and exchange your Pesos (1 US$ = 13 Pesos) or BZD ( 1US$= 2 BZD) for Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ).
I negotiated 47 GTQ = 100 MexPesos . He offered 40 GTQ =100 MexPesos.
NOTE: You will need to pay your vehicle Import fee for Guatemala in GTQ.
5) Show stamped Passport to Belize Border Guard.
NOTE: There is NO fumigating for bikes. No matter, what people tell you, my bike was not being fumigated.
At that point, it started to pour hard. Luckily, the border guard sat under a covered station. I asked him, if he could drag out the procedure until it stopped raining. No other traffic was behind me, so he agreed. Thanks, man!
After that, I arrived at "Noman'sland". The area between Belize and Guatemala. Not sure, who has jurisdiction over that. I didn't care at that point.
I park my bike in front of the Immigration/Customs hall:
1) Immigration officer stamps Passport with a 90 day tourist visa.
2) Same counter, different officer. He wants the following plus see originals:
a) Copy Passport
b) Copy Vehicle Title
c) Copy Drivers License
3) He enters everything in to the system, and has you fill out a Customs form.
4) Walk over to the Cashier and pay 160 GTQ.
5) Customs officer inspects vehicle.
6) You sign a form. He issues you a vehicle permit.
NO purchase of vehicle insurance required.
You show your Customs form and Passport to Guatemalan Border officer and your are in Guatemala. Viola!
The entire process would have taken only about 45 minutes. But with the rain delay and the computer system being down, around 3 hours.
While I was patiently waiting, I met a German couple on a 12 month journey. Those two had shipped a VW Camper from Germany to the US, toured several of the 50 States and were on their way to Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego. Impressive!
I forgot to mention, immediately after passing the border, I had to cross a bridge with a bridge toll of 20 GTQ. Glad, I had exchanged money, when I did.
Took the long and unpaved road north of Lago Peten Itza, because I was hoping to find a scenic camping spot lakeside. To my disappointment, all lake front property was private and gated. That idea ended up to be a no-go.
I then decided to try my luck at a town called Isla de Flores. Isla de Flores is a lively, picturesque little place connected via bridge with Santa Elena and San Benito. It has lots of restaurants and cafe's on the waterfront. The "boardwalk" comes to live in the evening, when vendors offer their goods from their open-air booths. Boating and swimming are possible as well, even after dark. However, I have to admit, it was it bit challenging to navigate my heavy bike through the small and rocky streets. But I managed.
Unfortunately, as I found out, hotels on Isla de Flores only have street parking, because of tight space. Since I needed secured parking, I was recommended Hotel Explore Lodge in Santa Elena. They let me park "Big Bertha" right in the hotel lobby. Very convenient.
A large, clean room was 195 GTQ/night, coffee and wifi complimentary.
Initially, wanting to stay only one night, I ended up staying two. My plan was to visit the Maya ruins of Tikal the next day...