Negotiating our way out of corrupt Belize

Normally, when a taxi pulled up to our condo building we were either welcoming new friends or saying goodbye to them. This time was different. The taxi was for us and we were leaving Belize. A bittersweet moment as we looked forward to our next adventure, but still wanted to keep this one for a little while.

We were heading to Chetemal, Mexico via water taxi from San Pedro. Our plan is to slowly make our way to Cancun, where we are flying out of. We’ll be spending some time in the states to sell the rest of our stuff and then flying off to Bali.

We drove to the Water Jets water taxi station on the lagoon side of the island, dropped off our bags and then went to our favorite chicken taco joint on the island, Nery’s. They make the BESTEST chicken tacos and watermelon juice and we devoured several dollars worth, using up our small change from Belize.

Sharing a Horchata at Nery's

Sharing a Horchata at Nery's

Negotiation 1: Port and Mexican Holiday Fee Scam

Back to the water taxi station, the office had opened and we went inside to purchase tickets. One way tickets to Chetamal are $30 US. We were prepared to pay our $60 fare, when the gentlemen behind the counter added an additional $60 US Mexican Holiday Fee on to the bill. I did notice a computer printed sign that stated every ticket would have to pay an additional Port/Mexican Holiday fee of $15 US, but I didn’t expect it.

My initial reaction was – “No way, no one told me about this, this is a junk fee”. So that is what I told the gentleman behind the counter. Here’s how our conversation went:

Him: “Because it’s Mother’s Day in Mexico (and Belize), you have to pay the fee”

Me: “I’m not paying the fee because of a holiday, that’s not a reason to have a fee, it doesn’t make sense.”

Him: “Well, you could leave tomorrow when it’s not a holiday”

Me: “That is not an option. This is a junk fee, I bet Mexico never sees the money”

Him: “I assure you they do.”

Me: “Then I’ll pay the Mexican government the fee when I get to Mexico, but I’m not paying you now”

He turns to the older lady sitting with him behind the counter and they have a discussion. Meanwhile, a line of people wanting to purchase their tickets has formed behind me that stretches out the door.

Him: “She (meaning the lady he just spoke with) said you can pay only one fee and it will be for all four of you – $15 US instead of $60.”

Me: “I’m not paying the junk fee.”

Mr. King (speaking to me): “How long do you want to stand here and argue with the man?”

Me: “Long enough to not pay this junk fee.”

In the end, I paid the extra $15 for all four of us only to save my husband the embarrassment of me waiting it out. I would have won, mind you. Unless someone can convince me otherwise, this is a completely bogus fee. Any thoughts? Why would a water taxi company in Belize be collecting fees for the Mexican government?

Note: after doing some Google research, I have found this to be a scam.

Upon entering Mexico at the water terminal, no immigration officer checked to see if we had paid the ‘Mexican holiday’ fee, further confirmation that this was a junk fee. But, as a bonus since it was Mother’s Day, I was able to go to the head of the immigration line and got a free taxi ride to the bus station.

Negotiation 2: Belize Immigration

After paying the ticket and junk fee, our next stop outside the office door was Belize immigration. A simple podium desk awaited us with one of the most non-happy immigration officers. We’ve seen this lady every month for six months and never once have we seen her smile.

Our lovely immigration checkpoint.

Our lovely immigration checkpoint.

Luckily, most of the time we dealt with a very gregarious, young immigration officer during our monthly visa extensions. But this time, we have her. Mr. King goes up with all of our passports and, without looking at him, she says “$30 bz”.

The departure fee for leaving Belize via water is $7.50 bz each (a steal compared to leaving by land or air, which has a departure fee of $37.50 each). 
Mr. King tells her that we don’t have to pay for the small children and, again, without looking at him, she says “Okay, $15”. Mr. King gives her $20 bz and of course she does not have change and then waits on the next few people until she gets change. Mr. King gets his change, we get stamped and, just like that, we change our emotions from missing Belize to waiting to get the heck out.

Belize, why are you so corrupt?

It’s one thing to negotiate with a street vendor, but a government official representing Belize is another story. The above two incidences bring up lots of conversation of the open embezzlement and corruption that we have witnessed in our short time here. Why did we have to remind the immigration officer that small children do not pay the Belize exit fee? She knew this, yet withheld the information.

Everything in Belize has a price that can be paid as a bribe to the appropriate government official. Want residency quick? A $15,000-$30,000 payment will do the trick. Need a permit for a vehicle on the island? $3,000 and it’s done. And on, and on. This is open knowledge, this isn’t even a secret! What a shame, I say.

Although this type of system has made several government officials rich, it depletes the citizens of Belize. Instead of money going to government programs, schools, roads or medical care it goes into the pockets of already well-off government officials. Sorry citizens of Belize – you lose. There are many uneducated children and adults (who can’t read) in Belize, simply because they cannot afford to go to the public schools, which charge $150/month for each child, yet government officials steal thousands of dollars per month and put it on their own pockets. Fair? I don’t think so. Who would elect these people?

During our 6 month stay we had the opportunity to witness a full election process. There was a lot of yelling and screaming and riling up of citizens for particular political parties, that is just the norm everywhere. But what we witnessed on election day was insidious. Voters being paid directly by political parties $100 bz for their vote, a gentleman that was paid $400 bz to fly from Placencia to San Pedro by a political party to cast his vote for that party and on and on. When stories of vote tampering came on the news, there was no surprise.

And how about all the money collected for the bridge tolls on Ambergris Caye for the last 8 years? It was never used to maintain the bridge and now it is falling apart and needs $300,000 worth of repairs, but there is no money. What happened to 8 years worth of $10 tolls?

Oh, Belize

Oh, Belize. You are so beautiful on the outside and so ugly and decaying on the inside. Unless your government can provide its citizens with a positive example, you will be doomed to being rats grappling at each other for the left overs. What a shame to a country full of rich diversity and beauty.

As we pulled away from the dock and headed toward Mexico waters, there was a movie that was playing on the boat about the overfishing of Belize waters that summed up what I was feeling at the moment perfectly:

“I love my people, I detest the government” – Local Belize fisherman

Goodbye Belize. We still love you (despite what I wrote above).

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71 Responses to “Negotiating our way out of corrupt Belize”

  1. Mary May 12, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    The sad thing is that I think worldwide this type of this is not that uncommon. We have run into loads of it here in Asia. So sad, like you said especially when there are so many struggling!

    Can’t wait to hear about your Mexico adventures. I loved Cancun, be sure to see Cozumel (great diving and cute town) and Chichen Itza:)

  2. zita May 12, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Sad but true..Before the election a couple of my friends from newyork went to Belize to vote they got free tickets and money in their pockets for a week…Belize is getting worse and its really sad ..Ritch getting Richer and the poor getting poorer. .I was a bit upset reading what ur writing but,then I kept reading and you are soo earn right. ..

    • S King May 12, 2012 at 9:45 am #

      I can understand that you would be disturbed by this post. I hesitated for a little bit to publish it, as I’m certainly not a political revolutionary, and don’t like to offend. But I thought that people needed to know so they don’t get scammed.

      I like this quote: “Change means movement. Movement means friction. Only in the frictionless vacuum of a nonexistent abstract world can movement or change occur without that abrasive friction of conflict. ” -Saul Alinsky

      The tide will never change if everyone is silent. I understand that your friends would want a free trip back to their homeland, but that still doesn’t make it right. It is what it is.

      Thanks for reading and confirming that, unfortunately, this is the situation. (And, just to note, Belize is not companionless in the corrupted country category).

      • Tiffany Thompson May 26, 2015 at 9:29 am #

        Traveling to America I have met some extremely rude immigration officers. People with a little power who don’t know how to handle their position usually are.
        If the fee is posted then it should be paid. We don’t go to other people country and haggle with them over the price of things.
        If you have a problem with Belize and the way things happen stay away. You have the option of not going to Belize. Please show me a country that is corruption free.
        Adios cheep-o!

        • S King May 26, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

          Hi Tiffany,

          Thank you for your comment. The issue was not that we did not want to pay the fee – we certainly did pay it. However, in Belize at the time, children were not charged the fee for exiting Belize.

          • Errol May 26, 2015 at 2:23 pm #

            This author is pointing out situations that we as Belizeans should be really concerned about, but we choose to ignore it and treat it like the elephant in the room. I just read an article about Rep. Edmond Castro that was given taxpayers money because he did not have money to bury his mom, or pay bill, this is insane that is why they get a salary. my brother lives in Belize and tells of many instances of paying extra fees for ridiculous things that when asked the agent cannot even give a coherent reason. It truly upsets me and you have the nerve to attack the writer instead of maybe brainstorming ways to stop this? people are suffering in Belize because of corruption and it needs to stop!!!!!

          • Tiffany Thompson May 27, 2015 at 9:27 am #

            S King,

            I do not condone corruption. I see no positives in it and it does hinder the development of developing countries like Belize. I however have a problem with your post, painting my people and the entire nation as corrupt. We have many decent, law abiding citizens in Belize who want to see the country develop and progress. Your piece is an injustice and insult to these good people.

        • Errol May 26, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

          This author is pointing out situations that we as Belizeans should be really concerned about, but we choose to ignore it and treat it like the elephant in the room. I just read an article about Rep. Edmond Castro that was given taxpayers money because he did not have money to bury his mom, or pay bill, this is insane that is why they get a salary. my brother lives in Belize and tells of many instances of paying extra fees for ridiculous things that when asked the agent cannot even give a coherent reason. It truly upsets me and you have the nerve to attack the writer instead of maybe brainstorming ways to stop this? people are suffering in Belize because of corruption and it needs to stop!!!!!

        • Helen Smith May 26, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

          It’s easy to turn a blind eye when it’s been going on for decades or when one is benefiting from it, but how do we or why should we morally accept such a situation? We know that this is a BIG BLACK EYE for our country. It’s like saying that if we have a problem with a student who goes to school, is bullied, gets his lunch money stolen, and the People in the School’s Administration either OKs this or does nothing about it, that the student should just stay away and opt to not go to school. I believe we have to do something rather than nothing, if we want to see positive changes.

      • Carlos May 26, 2015 at 2:06 pm #

        You living in one!

        • Crystal May 27, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

          Good one! we are all living in one for sure

    • Sue May 27, 2015 at 9:23 am #

      I first visited Belize in 1999 and have lived here for over ten years. I am a naturalised Belizean. I have purchased and sold property, obtained licenses for driving, running a hotel, running a bar, fishing, handling food. I have applied work permits, residence and finally naturalisation. I have carried out banking, bought insurance, joined organisations, entered and left the country many times and never ONCE have I paid or been asked for a bribe. I am absolutely aware of the corruption in the country, corruption of which you as a visitor have no idea.

      I agree with the writer above, the kind of issues of which you speak are often created by Americans with a sense of entitlement. It is instructive that you spent your time on Ambergris Caye – a place far removed from the reality of mainland Belize.

      If you want to be scammed when you leave a country, and then blacken a country’s name on line, you will find Mexico to your taste.

      Belize is by no means perfect, but it is much more that a pretty place for visitors. It is a young country struggling with corrupt government. If you like Belize, come and visit, stay at smaller locally owned places, and meet the most welcoming and friendly people in one of the most beautiful countries on earth.

      • tom June 4, 2015 at 1:50 am #

        Sue you are so wrong in so many ways, if you have been living in Belize all those years and have done all that stuff with out having to pay bribes..I DONT BELIEVE YOU! I too lived many years in Belize and what this person is writing is hitting the nail right on the head, some just like to keep there head in the sand and thing ever thing is great…I loves the part about the writer saying Belize people will be like rats fighting for the scraps..I use to say that all the time. Why do you guys fight for the scraps when you own the table now? Poor Belize it is just getting worse.

  3. Emily May 12, 2012 at 9:12 am #

    Ain’t it the sad truth? Of course, we had a very similar experience being scammed by a Mexican Immigration official into paying a $25 US exit fee each after only being in Chetumal for 4 hours. The fee is only required if you stay 7+ days. We did everything in our power to get out of it, but could not. We also had an experience with Belize Immigration when we came back into Belize from our boat trip to Guatemala. My husband’s passport stamp only gave him 7 days in Belize, mine 30. I had filled out both our entrance papers and put “30” on both. There was no arguing with the very same Belizean Immigration official pictured in your blog above. We had obviously made a mistake and would have to renew his tourist stamp in 7 days. It is a very sad situation, and I agree with everything you have written.

    • S King May 12, 2012 at 9:34 am #

      Emily, Thanks for your input. I will definitely NOT be paying my Mexico exit fee since we are only staying 6 days here.

      I’m not sure how I feel about all these borders and fees, etc.

      I am sure of one thing: the less interaction with government officials we have, the better.

      • Emily May 12, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

        I’m not sure if the fee will apply or not in your situation since you are not returning to your country of origin after entering Mexico as we were. The rule for entering from/returning to the same country is that the fee applies after 7 days. Not sure about the situation where you are transiting through. You will have to report back. Good luck!

    • Living Outside of the Box May 14, 2012 at 10:57 pm #

      There is no exit fee for Mexico! How absurd they tried (and perhaps succeeded) getting something out of you! Grrrr!! Good for you! Hahaa…Belize officials didn’t try to pull anything on us on our way out…but the Mexican officials tried on our way out of Mexico, and into Belize! GRRRRRRR…it is despicable to see people in authority abuse their power! Ooops…just realized it wasn’t the Mexican officials that tried to make up a bogus fee on the way into Belize…it was the Guatemalan officials. The “helper” standing next to me talked back to them when they made the request for a free from me. They got him to be quiet. But I understand enough Spanish to know what they said, and I knew it was bogus. I said “no way”, and they relented.

  4. THERESA May 12, 2012 at 9:13 am #

    The last time we took the water taxi to Mexico, we had our Belizean Friends purchase our tickets. Their tickets cost $44.00 Bz, our tickets cost $70.00 Bz. When my friend questioned them about the price difference,t he said..if it cost $70 Bz for locals they wouldnt go to Mexico. The double pricing gets old.

    • S King May 12, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      I often find it very unfair when there is separate pricing as well. And then to tack on a bogus $15 US Charge. I should have made a bigger stink out of it, so that the rest of the people behind me didn’t pay it.
      At least I get to write about it on my blog and potentially warn others.

  5. Andy May 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    It’s always really sad to have to deal with people that are trying to rip you off. It’s even worse when it is government officials in a foreign country. I would have probably just paid the fee since I am not very confrontational. I’m glad someone has the courage to stand up to these people.

  6. Allison May 12, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    You go, girl. I love your spunk.

  7. Brandon Pearce May 12, 2012 at 9:13 pm #

    You’re amazing. I’d probably be more like Keith and want to quit after an initial effort. With your negotiating skills, you’ll probably be able to get some amazing deals at the market here in Bali. 🙂

  8. Jennifer Pearce May 12, 2012 at 9:32 pm #

    Sounds like the government could use someone like you to step in and turn things around for them. 🙂 I don’t know why those people can’t see that they are only ruining their own country with all their corruption and bullying. They can’t escape the effects of that type of behavior forever.

    • S King May 13, 2012 at 6:30 am #

      HaHaHa! The last thing I want to do is deal with governments!
      It really is an unfortunate situation. In Belize City you’ll find a large number of drunks roaming the streets at all hours of the morning, day and night. They’ve given up. There is a saddening loss of self-respect and it is evidenced by the depravity of emotion and the incidences of swearing, begging and brutality on the streets.
      When those you trusted are untrustworthy, who is there to trust?

  9. Sharon Hiebing May 13, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    I’m really sorry for the lousy way your stay in Belize ended. Just to be fair to Belize, however, the water taxi company is privately owned, not government. So Belize shouldn’t be blamed for the company creating extra fees-companies all over the world do that all the time (has anyone stayed at a hotel lately?).

    And voter fraud is also a rampant problem world-wide (in the States we disguise it by calling it campaign contributions and lobbyists)-at least Belize is honest enough to admit they do it.

    In any case, I do hope the next country you travel to leaves you with a better impression than Belize, and we’ll look forward to reading about your next adventure.

  10. Glenn Tillett May 13, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    The article and comments highlight the how the three horsemen of our apocalypse – impunity, subjectivity and uncertainty, continue to ensure our demise as a society and ultimately a nation. As a Belizean I cringe and feel a shudder of shame.

  11. Melody May 14, 2012 at 8:59 pm #

    I live on ambergris caye and am from here originally. It does not cost 150 for public school it is free. Private school is 150. People get scammed because they allow it if more people stopped paying bribes then it would stop but rich lazy americans come and want their papers in a week and how do you think bribes started? I know plenty of americans who waited the whole year to get their residency and five years to get citizenship and i also know people who have been here six months and bought their passports. If more people choose to follow the laws for Belize and quit trying to find shortcuts there wouldn’t be this problem. Lets not even start with politics because thats bad everywhere….why you ask because we let them. Good on you for not paying the fake fee!

    One more note the U.S charges 250 dollars to apply for a visa if you get denied they keep your money anyways and lots of people get denied. I understand if you get the visa but 250 is alot of money for a five minute interview.

    • maxine July 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm #

      thank you for clarifying the school cost..i recently read 15$ per month in a book i was prepared to buy & for a minute i almost lost confidence in the author’s knowlwdge 🙂

    • cunningham May 26, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

      THANK YOU!!! YOU HAVE JUST STATED WHAT I HAVE TRIED TO COMPOSE. Living in Belize is an adventure, no doubt. However, I have observed what I term “ugly americans” who refuse to obey the law of the land because they are inconvenienced. Get a grip folks….. YOU ARE IN THEIR COUNTRY, HANG YOUR US CITIZENSHIP AT THE BORDER AND MIND YOUR MANNERS!!!!!

    • philluppa May 26, 2015 at 5:54 pm #

      I had this same horrific experience travelling through Mexico…so sad to hear this is happening in my beloved Belize.
      But I know these experiences occur in many countries,in many forms…

  12. Travel with Bender (Erin) October 15, 2012 at 3:42 am #

    Maybe we wont visit Belize?

  13. Jamie December 5, 2012 at 10:18 pm #

    My family and I were about to go to Belize for vacation. We have an extended family of 10 people. After reading this, we will be going somewhere else instead. Belize don’t get our money and we’ll spread the word for you to our friends and family, and one of our family members is in television business- he’ll share the info for us. No tourist should ever visit corrupt countries!

    • S King December 6, 2012 at 6:31 am #

      Jamie, My intention was not to deter you from visiting Belize. It’s a stunning country with incredible culture and a wide variety of activities and natural resources. It’s well worth a visit or even a move there!
      In my opinion, every country that has a government is corrupt, some more openly than others. If we truly were to NOT go to places that were corrupt we’d all be living on the moon.
      Sometimes corruption is just the normal way of doing business.

      • icysurfer December 22, 2012 at 9:19 pm #

        C’mon now, You are backtracking. Maybe that was not Your intention, but that is the result. Can’t take it back now.

        As far as I can glean. You are leaving, and glad about it.

        • S King December 23, 2012 at 1:15 am #

          Well, I suppose we are glad about it, but we didn’t leave because of corruption. We were just ready to explore more and Asia was calling our name. I didn’t like the nature of our departure, being taken advantage of is not the way I wanted to leave.

        • Helen Smith May 26, 2015 at 9:42 pm #

          It’s not backtracking. She was relating HER PERSONAL EXPERIENCE when she visited Belize. She never said people shouldn’t visit Belize. It’s like talking about an unpleasant experience at a restaurant when you dined there. Then someone tells you they are going to lunch at that restaurant; that’s there choice AND you never said don’t eat there.

      • Chris May 27, 2015 at 10:55 am #

        Are you from the US? Corruption in the US occurs on an even more grand scale than in other countries. It’s built into the political system. Low level corruption is typical world-wide. Get used to it.

        • S King May 27, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

          I’m aware of that…by no means do we travel in a white-gloved plane or with blinders on.

    • Lawrence May 26, 2015 at 11:19 pm #

      When you want to talk about corrupt country, look back on your own country and you will find a lot more corruption than most countries in the world. Belize is like a grain of sand on one of your many beaches so before you try to take the speck out of someone else’s eyes you will have to first remove the log from yours….. Peace out.

      • S King May 27, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

        No country is without it’s issues.

        This is my personal family blog about what we experience traveling…if you want political articles…you’ll find plenty elsewhere.

  14. steve April 13, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    This needz to be exposed more. i have lived in belize for 4 years and was denied entry at the western border without paying a $500 fee.
    the immigration officer threatened to seize my canadian passport if i didnt pay the bribe.
    i refused and an argument ensued. mostly the immigration officer on all the nasty things he was going to do, if i didnt pay him.
    I stood my ground despite the intimidation of being arrested etc etc
    my passport was taken and i was told i would not get it back without paying a $500 bribe fee.
    i hit the news, internet and canadian embassy with my story and heads were rolling. i even got a personal call from the PM as it got so much exposure apologizing. And of.course i got my passport back.
    Word of advice to travellors. squak loud And take pictures of immigration officials and go to news and internet. these people cant work in the dark when u blast them with light on the news.and net with pictures.

  15. D.G.Mohney February 6, 2014 at 9:14 am #

    I lived in Belize about 6 years, and I loved the time I had spent in the Chiquibul jungle, I was prospecting for gold and presious metals, It took 6 months to get a prospecting permit, everybody want something, I first went to Canytano minister,and he wanted to know what was in it for him. I told him I would not give him one thin dime,but I could tell him how it would help Belize, well I didn’t get a permit. So. I wanted to talk to Dito Juan, But, the only way I could was to go to Ditos house on a sunday. I did speak to Dito, and I told him I would like to have a prospecting permit, I told him Honduras welcomes my business and either give me a permit or tell me why I can’t get one. That was on sunday and the next day he called me and said, to go to Punt Gorda and Canytano would sign my permit. I asked Dito what he wanted for doing this and he said, nothing for himself, but If I wanted I could give something to the PUP party. Dito was the only person in the government that did not ask for a money.
    All the police are crooks. The police came into my house and told me the ammunition in my house was not llegal and I would go to jail unless I paid them $ 2,000 u.s., I told them I did not have a gun or ammunition they could go to to hell, they put me in a car and drove around telling me that I would go to jail for a long time, I would not give in so they took me back home to my house and dropped me off. If your a American, or I should say from the States, everybody wants more money for everything. Belize is a beautiful little country and its a terrible thing for the whole country to be ran by a bunch of crooks. People that go to Belize and spend 3 or 4 days will come back and tell people how great Belize is, but, try to live in belize is another thing. Belize was so much better when the Brits were in control, it was safe, now Belize City is a danger to anybody, and cayo is getting that bad also. I will never live in Belize again, I’m going to Panama

  16. marco May 26, 2015 at 10:05 am #

    As a Belizean, I am a shame of the experience you went through in our country.

    • marco May 26, 2015 at 10:12 am #

      I hope something is done to curb future incidents.

  17. Belizeman May 26, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    Nice to hear a tourist perspective. Its great that you posted this. The BTB is probably bitting its fingers. There is no doubt the government of Belize is corrupted but it starts at the head with the Prime Minister. Soon there will be elections and hopefully this mess will be cleaned up.

  18. Al May 26, 2015 at 11:31 am #

    You hit the nail on the head and bore it deep… Everything you said it true…I am a Belizean but my country and peole are a whole diffrent breed…Depressing and hard to comprehend their action— They would do anything for a dollar and I ,mean anything even murder.. Thats the level Belize has come to-. Severly underpaid is every govermnent worker yet politicians are rich… I do wish you the best in yor endevours-

  19. peter May 26, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Great article and accurate but unfortunately, this is life in most 3rd world countries. Lack of accountability and consequences for their actions. Belize corruption is mild compared to what you will experience in some African and Asian countries. On your entrance into Indonesia, be careful and make sure they stamp your passport while entering. There is a scam where they look like they are but they don’t, then upon exiting Indonesia, they sting you on the way out and threaten to charge you for illegal entry unless you pay a fine. If you refuse to pay the fine, you will just be digging yourself into a bigger whole and they could bring you to the back room where they again try to threaten you with a fine, and should you refuse, they say they will report they found drugs on you. Which by the way, is the death penalty in Indonesia. I am sad to say, I have grown to accept this in my travels to countries that are not as developed and regulated as first world countries. In my head, I justify the reasoning by saying they need it more then I do even though it still gives me a bad impression. It is the price to pay to explore these countries and most times, the price is minimal and won’t break the bank. Principle sometime need to be set aside sometimes in order to keep your family safe when travelling. Paying a 10 fine here or though or not exploring the countries you desire because of principle.

  20. Jody May 26, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

    We have visited Belize 4 times, and then moved here two years ago. I have driven to Belize, flown to Belize via commercial jet, and flower to Belize myself several times. We have got all sorts of permits, licenses etc. NEVER was I eve asked for extra money.

    I am alway polite to all officials. I wait my turn, I am not loud, and respectful in my conversations with them.

    • cunningham May 26, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

      Thank you! We have had similar experiences…… it is all in your attitude!!!!

  21. Luis May 26, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    As a young Belizean who worked in the Tourism industry it’s so sad to read these types of posts made by people who our Government say “Are our number 1 revenue providers”. I worked in the tourism industry for about 6 years prior to getting my current job, which is quite a short amount of years compared to those who have spent their lifetime working in this industry. However, during those years I always tried to be as informative, professional, and environmentally conscious on the way I operated during tours. It is a pleasure for me to be with people who of all the countries around the world pick my beautiful Belize as their vacation destination. Your are traveling to have fun and enjoy some time off and not to get ripped off by some corrupt people of this country. I can say that this is something that happens around the world but can’t be a country that doesn’t practice those sort of things. We the people should start the change don’t wait for it to happen because it never will. I really appreciate these types of post and for a reason I know this will make the headlines in our news cast anytime soon. One thing I will say, Belize is still one of the most wonderful places for people to visit and I encourage you all to visit Belize it’s a small country but with lot to offer.

  22. Leo May 26, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    Hello King family,

    First of all, I am really sorry that your family had such a bad experience leaving our country. It is not my position to apologize on behalf of this country, but I do feel ashamed that this happened. Unfortunately, this is the way things are here, and most Belizeans are so laid back and willing to “leave things to God”, that nothing ever gets done. I spend many nights thinking about moving my family out of this country for the same reason, however home is where the heart is.

    What you have said is no surprise to me, and I am glad you posted this. I hoping this post will make it to the right person/people, who will do the proper investigation needed to stop this from happening again. I hope all foreigners find a way to constructively criticize and report any suspicious activity…especially from government officials.

    I wish you guys a safe trip and good luck with your new venture.


    • S King May 26, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

      We have very fond memories of Belize! Unfortunately, negotiations are part of the ‘tourist tax’ – as I like to call it. Traveling through Central America, they are a part of the experience. It’s not expected with government officials, but it does happen.

  23. Reggie May 26, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    This is really sad but true. I’ve seen this happen with my own eyes at the Belize Immigration Buidling to cross to Guatemala. I was once late in the night denied to go in my own country but they had the nerve to let a Guatemalan woman pass to her country without a passport :p and the minute I managed to get in the building they yelled at me, harrased me and beat me for going in my own country.

    I don’t usually open my mouth about these kind of things but I’ve seen it happen so much in Belize and to be honest, most Government officals here in Belize are very very uneducated and very unprofessional and I had the courage onces to tell them in their face how unprofessional and uneducated they are.

    I’m sorry that you had this experience in Belize. Belize is a beautiful country and so is its people don’t let uneducated and unprofessional Government Officals ruin your view of Belize.

    Luckly, you didn’t get the opportunity to meet a Belizean Policeman because you’d really dislike Belize. They are cruel, unprofessional, uneducated and corrupt.

    I hope you have a safe trip with your family. 🙂

  24. jack May 26, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    Belize is such shameful country, I would love everyone know these news, let Belizean shame themselves

  25. belizean@heart May 26, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    Dean King Family its so unfortunate that u have gone through this sour experience I hope that if the water taxi in San Pedro has read about that “BOGUS” fee-because it is a theft that they made/charge and that the persons responsible be fired or suspended because this will continue and others will definately go through this same shamefull experience- their’s a saying that says “when dog eats eggs that will be until thay die”-no matter how hard u try they will continue to be the same…so people like that should be fired for putting our country to pass this shame…I hope the GOB open their eyes and realize that the example comes from above and the blame stops on them because they are tooooooooooo much corrupt and GOB cannot cover the sun with one finger and yes its unfortunate that this has happened to u king family..if Belizeans are being marginalized/ threatened if u are not with the ruling party u no get help at all like one UDP minister mark king said “UDP first,Belizeans second and PUP last- (UDP is the ruling party now) PUP-is the sleeping oposition! and its how the gangs in GOB operate so sad,good thing Belizeans are no longer asleep….Hope one day u can visit us back when Belize can be less CORRUPT!

  26. Thomas May 26, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

    Posting this article to make our country look bad is sad in a lot of ways. In many 3rd world countries there is corruption, it is almost unavoidable as we must struggle to keep up with 1st world countries (like America?) to survive in this world. The political parties available to receive votes always have friends that are crooks. Tourists, especially american tourists, come to see Belize, often going swimming at the reef (throwing garbage and stomping on corals while swimming) and bribe corrupt officials to get quick passports or residency and do a large number of things that add to the corruption. Furthermore, American tourists often don’t want to pay more than a dime for services anyway and expect the locals to be at their beck and call, smiling and providing the best quality of service. These people that you pay have families to feed. Either way, this does not condone the actions of corrupt officials. It’s sad that U.S residents have some sort of grand pride in themselves because they come from big bad America and often take it upon themselves to look down at struggling nations, even taking the time to post articles to put them down further, because it wasn’t difficult enough already to attract tourists to Belize, so that families that depend on tourism can be fed? Good luck in your travels and do remember that in other parts of the world, there are departure taxes. As a traveler you should be aware of this and be prepared for the costs. If you don’t like the procedures for leaving and entering countries, perhaps staying at home is best?

  27. Dennis Jackman May 26, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    Your post was right on. I have lived here for 22 years and have learned to live with it. I wish you and your family well and happy travels.

  28. sam May 26, 2015 at 6:08 pm #

    We sure won’t miss you in Belize. We hope you don’t come back.

  29. Xanadu May 26, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

    It is sad and unfortunate that these things are happening in Belize. However like someone earlier noted, it happens in most countries. America for example…. My husband who has an alien card which provides him residency in the USA is always harassed by custom officials. For the last four times we have returned to the USA from another country, he is pulled aside and taken into another room while I am told to continue through and exit the immigration area without him. While in the room he says that they interrogate him and tell him that they can cut up his green card. They ask him why he doesn’t want to be a US citizen and seem almost hostile because he holds a green card for more than 30 years and does not want to be a US citizen. I am looking into how we can stop this treatment as we are about to leave the country again soon and do not want or need the harassment at the immigrations when returning.

    Anyway, my point is that people are corrupt and devious in all countries and in all social classes. We in America love to point out other country’s faults, but we do our best to cover ours.

    It is not nice being taken advantage of at any time and by anyone however I will never stop visiting and enjoying other countries because of a fear of someone trying to take advantage of me.

    • Crystal May 27, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

      Well said! A round of applause here!

  30. jethro May 26, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

    unfortunately this does not only happen in Belize,but being a small developing country situations like this is highlighted,I live and worked in belize for about 10 years in the late 90,s and always hold Belize in high regards.sorry that you had to experienced this sort of treatment,but I don’t think this is the norm.

  31. Tom May 27, 2015 at 3:57 am #

    We lived in Belize over 20 years ago for 12 years, looks like not one thing has changed in Belize. I told them the very same thing 20 years ago just before we packed every thing we had and left never to return.

  32. Jay May 27, 2015 at 11:32 am #

    Its amazing, how persons find its easy to see the bad in Belize when they can’t dictate the course of things. Indeed Belize like ALL countries have its corruption, do show me a country that does not have corruption. I have done my fair share of travelling and I used to thing Belize was awful, but I have found its nothing compare to other countries, give me Belize any day. I can criticize Belize just like how you are doing, but I choose not to if I blog about everything I hate about other countries gosh the list will go on on. I concur with Tiffany if you found Belize awful, stay out don’t waste your time blogging about the bad about Belize when you can be doing other important and worthwhile things.

    • S King May 27, 2015 at 1:03 pm #

      You didn’t read the last paragraph apparently. We love Belize and travel. No country is without corruption just yet in the world…maybe one day. However, this is my personal family blog about our adventures and I post what we experience. It’s not a political statement.

      Your negatively poised response to this obviously struck a nerve with you, as it has with many.

  33. M.S.Jr. May 27, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    Hello King’s I actually live in Belize….(not for long) I’m sorry you had such a horrible experience on checking out and got charged all those extra fees. I personally have been to many places here and do not get charged extra for anything. The funny things is I usually travel with my family of four also. I’m honestly ashamed and feel my heart sink with what you guys went through. I personally want to say sorry and hope you guys do come back for more adventure. Is there a way I can get in contact with you ? Or email you?

  34. Benjammin May 29, 2015 at 5:41 am #

    let’s call a spade a spade. There are many corrupt government officials Belize from the very top right down to the bottom who wants a bribe for every little thing they do. Trying to hide these issues does nothing well for the country. We need to get them resolved by getting to the root of the problem. I am a belizean and one of my many experiences was trying to get a copy of a certain certificate, when I was asked for $25.00bz to “speed things up”. It never did, but luckily for me I knew a rich guy who was well connected, and he was able to get it for me the very same day, and that was not even through the ones who collected the $25.00.
    These officials (worldwide) always know when to get you. It’s when you are leaving their country and in a rush to get back home, they try all kind of tricks. I am hoping that that person who tried to impose that fine on you and said it was for the mexican gov was dealt with, and the immigration lady was also dealt with as we can remind ourselves, that they could have been one corrupt official that’s giving the whole dept a bad name. The same goes for the police. A couple of police can give the entire dept a real bad name, as there are some good police officers. The crime in the country is being caused by a handful of bad people, and it’s a shame that the “officials” can’t get a grip on it. I have travelled to many countries and my three worst experiences whilst passing through immigration is Guatemala, Belize, and U.S.A. the worst one being in U.S.A. where these officials treat their dogs better than us. Some of them talk to us like dirt. My last bad experience (after being granted several US visas before) was paying for a visa application for me and my son only to transit through Miami on our way to London. It was denied in about five minutes and I lost over a thousand dollars with all the back and forth etc. to our capital Belmopan as I don’t live there. This is non-refundable hard earned cash. I ended flying through Cancun anyway.
    We all have our stories to share, and some of these bad experiences are not limited to third world countries. To those people that say we will never visit Belize after reading this article, I say shame on you as you really don’t know what you are missing. I have never stopped travelling to other countries because of a few bad eggs. There are thousands of other tourists who visit our country year after year and end up living in Belize as well. Some of them are my close friends, as I work in the tourism industry. In 15 years, I have met three nasty american tourists, but I will never say americans are bad because of those three.
    Thanks for sharing your story, and I sincerely hope that some investigation takes place to get rid those bad eggs and that the rest of us good ones continue to strive for a better Belize. I will bear in mind that I have only heard your half of the story. I may get to hear the other half later on, and until then, peace to you all.

    • S King May 29, 2015 at 6:58 pm #

      What a great conversation you are having here. I’m happy to host it.

  35. Belochi May 29, 2015 at 9:27 am #

    Corruption and scams exists everywhere, but are usually kept in check by policing, the press, and citizen action. Seems like you’ve done your part by publishing this blog so the real question remains … why isn’t the press exposing this with great effect and why aren’t government processes in place to stop it. I think we know the cynical answer to the latter question: we can’t expect government officials to police the issue when they are causing it. Is the press owned by these officials too?


  1. Caye Caulker Chronicles | “Belize, Why Are You So Corrupt?” Asks Departing Family of 4 - May 26, 2015

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