This article is part of our Border Crossing Report series.
Border name: Melchor de Mencos
Between cities: Benque Viejo Del Carmen, Belize and Melchor de Mencos, Guatemala
Cost to exit Belize: BZ37.50 ($18.75 USD)
Cost for visas: Q20 ($2.60 USD) per person (unofficially)
Cost for vehicle: Q18 ($2.34 USD) for fumigation, Q160 ($20.78 USD) for Vehicle Import Permit
Total time: 55 minutes
We left our campsite at The Trek Stop in the small town of San Jose Succotz at around 10:30am and reached the border crossing in about 15 minutes. We parked off to the right and headed into the Belize immigration office on the left side of the road.
There are two desks in the building. At the first desk we paid the BZ$37.50 exit fee. There was a sign above the desk explaining what the fee was for - BZ$30 processing fee and BZ$7.50 environmental protection fee.
Then we headed onto the second desk and had our passports stamped. The friendly guy at the desk told Kobus to have the vehicle import permit canceled at an office next to the first desk. From there he was walked to the other side of the building where permits are issued for people entering into Belize. The guy wrote down some stuff and told Kobus the permit was effectively canceled. He didn't need to check the VIN number on the car.
While Kobus handled the vehicle permit, Jessica and Jared waited outside the Belize immigration building. Kobus returned to the car and drove through the Belize exit point. They checked the canceled permit and waved him through. We changed our leftover BZ$80 at a not-so-great rate of Q3.50 to BZ$1 in order to pay the Guatemalan immigration costs.
Safely in no man's land, our next stop was to have the car fumigated. It was sort of like a drive-through car wash - much more thorough than the tire squirts we got crossing into Belize. Make sure your windows are rolled up as you drive through!
After the fumigation we stopped off to the right to pay the Q18 fumigation fee, and receipt in hand we headed across the road to the Guatemalan immigration building. The desks are in the back of the open-air building, the immigration lines were on the right side marked with "Entrada/Entrance" and "Salida/Exit" signs.
Our passports were stamped, and the lady told us there was a Q20 per person fee. We've heard that this is a questionable fee, and it is possible to get out of paying it by demanding a receipt and firmly refusing to pay. We didn't feel like making a scene, and since everyone else was paying without question we just handed over the money.
To the left of the immigration lines are lines for vehicle importation. We handed over Kobus' paperwork, the fumigation receipt and car title, as well as a copy of Kobus' ID and the car title. The man at the counter had us fill out a form with our basic contact information, including an address in Guatemala. We used the address of the Jaguar Inn, where we'd be staying in Tikal.
The guy typed in our information, and added the VIN and license plate number from our car title. He handed us a printout of that information and told us to head to the counter on the right wall to pay the import fee. The cost was Q160, the cashier stamped the paper and gave it back to us. Then we went back to the same guy at the vehicle import desk, he gave us a sticker for our car, a printout of the import permit and a receipt showing that we paid. He returned our original documents, but retained copies of the title and our driver's passport.
At that point the paperwork was done, we piled back into the car, put the sticker in the upper-right of the windshield and drove up to the border. The guys with guns took our paperwork, checked it with his colleagues and waved us through without looking inside our vehicle.
We heard that we would be stopped and asked to pay another fee just across the border. Apparently it's a municipality tax that foreign vehicles must pay upon entering Melchor de Mencos. The border official on the Belize side told Kobus that this should legitimately be Q10, although we've heard of people paying Q40 or more. Luckily we weren't stopped, we didn't even see the guard until we passed and she stopped the guy behind us.
All told we were in and out in under an hour. The vehicle import processing took the longest time, perhaps 30 minutes total between filling out the paperwork, having the guy enter it into the computer and paying the fee.