Friday, September 21, 2007

A Run For the Border...And Then Another

Brother's, Sister's and my passports 90 day tourist visa came up this week. What that meant for us, was that we needed to renew our visa so we can stay another 90 days or if (cross your fingers) our residency forms are in order we won't have to leave the country again. It's a long story about why our residency is hung up, but I think we have a handle on it now.

Renewing your visa is done by leaving the country. It would be much too easy-peasy to drive an hour or so into Guatemala, have some lunch and then drive back home to Honduras. But noooo....instead, because of a free trade agreement between some of the Central American countries, the closest place for us to renew our visa is Belize. Some people drive or bus to Costa Rica or Mexico.

Our adventure went something like this:

  1. 10am get in car and drive 1.5 hours to Guatemalan border.
  2. Stop for gas and lunch.
  3. Drive into Guatemala about 30 minutes to a port town called Puerto Barrios arriving at 12:30.
  4. Stop at immigration for our stamps to leave Guatemala.
  5. Catch the 1pm water taxi to Punta Gorda, Belize. $22 each way per person.
  6. 45 minutes later we arrive in Belize, cross through immigration. Get our stamps (US$50 each if you are only there for visa renewal)
  7. Go eat a late lunch.
  8. 4pm we get back on the boat and head back to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala.
  9. 5pm get back in our car. Stop at immigration for the stamps to enter Guatemala again and hit the road and rush for the Honduran border because they close at 6pm.
  10. Make a 10 minute pit stop at border gas station for snacks and use the restrooms.
  11. Stop at Guatemalan border immigration for our stamps out of the country. $3 per person.
  12. 5:55 Made it through to Honduras in the nick of time before the border closes.
  13. Arrive home at 7:30
There you have it. We got to see two new countries in one day.

Guatemala seemed nice, but the little that we saw, there were only slight differences from Honduras. Puerto Barrios seemed like a decent port town with lots of options for day excursions to secluded resorts and places to see. Punta Gorda in Belize on the other hand was a hole. It really was. It was hot and the town seems...well, it was pretty much a run down crappy little town that has hopes of being a tourist destination one day. The place we went for lunch was ironically owned by a Honduran. The food was greasy and salty (no surprise) and nothing special. The one good thing was they had this tasty ketchup made in Belize and before we left I picked up a bottle at the grocery store next door to the restaurant.

I was surprised to learn that Belize uses English as their country language. I couldn't tell you how many people I actually heard speaking English though. Maybe 3 or 4 and a few people that I heard spoke it completely broken. The border folks did NOT want to speak Spanish even though Papa spoke it to them at first. They just responded in English. I did hear some Rastafarian English accents going on too.

It was a long and expensive day, but it had to be done. If we didn't leave the country and let our visa expire, it could make it very difficult to get residency since we would have broke the law. Hopefully now, with our new super got it together lawyer (pray!) our residency forms should be filed soon and then we won't have to leave the country again in 90 days. (Pray!)

Here's some photos from the trip:


Megan said...

Good thing you got back to the border in time! What could have happened if you didn't?

Looks and sounds like a fun day! :)

Joanna said...

Wow, what an adventure. Sounds more stressful then it looks. At least you got it taken care of.

Honduras Sprout said...

Megan- we would have had to stay the night in Guatemala, or so we were told.

It was something I don't want to do twice. I'm nervous on those boats too.

Daniel said...

Hey you got to go to Belize....thats always a plus...couldnt you get that sort of thing done in the embassy here in Tegus?

Honduras Sprout said...

Hi Daniel - if it could have been done in Tegus, we didn't know about it and we were down to the final hours of the 90 days. My husband went to immigration in Honduras and they were not very helpful with offering other solutions.

Just hoping we don't have to go again. The part of Belize we went to was a complete hole and nothing worth seeing, unfortunately.