In the summer of 2010, I spent a few months in Chiapas, Mexico. At the end of my stay I made an excursion to Belize to visit a college friend who was working there. Of all the excursions in my life this is the one where the most bad things happened. Below I’ve highlighted on all of the things I did wrong..
So, I got a bus from Chiapas and arrived at the Mexican-Belize border with all of my belongings from that summer. The plan was to meet my friend on an island off the coast of Belize–so I had to figure out how to get myself there from the border town of Corozal. The first thing I did wrong was, I did not have any U.S. currency with me. U.S. currency is always an important backup. But in this particular case U.S. dollar is pegged to Belize currency–meaning that you can use a U.S. dollar just as easily as the Belize dollar. Even worse, I had no more that $5 worth of Mexican pesos. My only option was to get money out of an ATM. But neither of the two ATMs in Corozal would take my card. Unfortunately, I only brought one credit card with me. I was in a new country, all by myself, with no money. The good thing was, a bus from the Mexico border to Belize City only cost one dollar. I had $5! So I got a bus to Belize City, where I was convinced that there would be an ATM that would accept my card.
But, I didn’t do any research about Belize before I went, and I didn’t know what was considered safe and unsafe for travelers in Belize. If I had, I might not have walked around in Belize City by myself with my big traveler backpack. Because apparently, skinny girls who walk around alone in Belize City with big backpacks get jacked. Or at least they get pulled aside by Belize City cops who tell them that they are gonna get jacked (cop’s word choice, not mine) and then are provided with a military escort to walk them to the ATM. Which, depending how you look at it, may be just as bad as getting jacked. I mean, since I only had $4 in Mexican pesos (I spent one on the bus, remember?) it probably wouldn’t have been that bad if I got jacked…
Turns out the Belize City ATM didn’t want my credit card either. Good thing I found a girl at the bus station that let me use her satellite phone to call my friend to tell her I would NOT be meeting her at the San Pedro (the island). Actually could she come find me at the bus station? It was also a good thing that when she came to get me, she brought carrot cake. I was very hungry by then.
From there on the weekend went well, except when the ATM ate my credit card. But by then my card was pretty much verified useless anyways. And I didn’t do anything wrong again until we were inland in the town of Belmopan. I was staying at my friend’s place in Belmopan and I left in the late morning to go pick up a money wire at the bank. (Yes, my parents wired me money. It was the only time this has ever happened during my travels. Get over it.) I was about to leave the house and I thought, it will probably rain. Especially since it was rainy season and I was in a tropical area. It will probably rain. But, I did not take an umbrella, because I was lazy.
And it ended up raining a lot. It was almost the worst rain I was ever caught in. It might have been the worst. By the time it was over, my shorts were so heavy with water I had to hold them up so they wouldn’t fall down. So I waited in line at the bank to get the money wire, leaving a trail of puddles behind me.
Once I had my cash I was off. Bus to Belize City, then to Corozal, and across the border. Then I did another thing wrong. I arrived to a new country after 5pm, with no local currency and no credit card. No one would change or take my Belize money. I was about to spend the night in the bus station until someone had mercy on me and traded me some for some pesos. The next day, surprisingly enough, I made all three of my flights to get myself home to Kansas City.
Despite all of my mishaps, my excursion to Belize was one of my favorite trips. Probably because I got to spend time with these lovely folks. They saved me from myself.
I want to go to Belize so badly. It’s one of my dream trips. But I will definitely remember your tips about local money.
You should definitely make it happen! All the cayes off of the coast are gorgeous.
Oh my god, that sounds so awful. I would have had an emotional breakdown. Something happened to me in Germany that wasn’t nearly as bad and I still lost it.
It makes it a lot easier if you have people there to help you out. It’s harder if you’re by yourself, I think.