The Belicean Border Incident
Story circa July 30th, 1999 | Back to Blog Listing

When Dayna came to visit me in Akumal, Mexico, we thought it would be fun to take a weekend trip to Belize. Akumal sits about 180 miles north of the Belician border and is a pretty comfortable ride on any of their major bus services. In fact the problem isn't so much getting to the southern border of Mexico, it's getting onto another bus service that will take you across.

Keep in mind that when I was living in Mexico in 1999, it wasn't necessary to travel with a passport. In fact, I had traveled to Mexico many times with just my driver's license and birth certificate, and this summer's trip was no exception.

Anyway, we arrived at the border and crossed the bridge into the border checkpoint. The first step of this process is to give up your Mexican visa. We did this. In a legal sense you're now no longer visiting Mexico, but you also haven't technically been granted access to visit Belize yet either. We crossed into the country and walked through a very low-tech border agency. They asked to see our passports and of course we presented them with our driver's license and birth certificates. To make this part of the story short, they effectively just laughed at us and said they weren't going to let us in. I spent some time discussing and eventually arguing with them, but they said we would have to go back. It didn't look like we'd make it past the armed guards either.

This was obviously very disappointing for us, but we headed back towards Mexico to get back into the country. Unfortunately, and as you may recall reading from above, we no longer had Mexican tourist visas. Normally this isn't a problem when coming from Belize because you just show your Belicean visa. Except we were never issued one due to the whole passport / birth certificate misunderstanding.

So here we were, essentially standing on the little Rand-McNally line that graces the map's borders of Mexico and Belize and I'm now having to discuss with armed Mexican soldiers why I don't have a visa either from Belize or from Mexico. Fortunately my Spanish had improved pretty drastically that summer and so after just as few minutes, I was able to speak with the person who had taken our visas not twenty minutes earlier. He reluctantly shuffled through them and found ours in the mix. I honestly can't recall if they issued us new visas or if they just un-cancelled our previous one, but we were allowed back into Mexico shortly thereafter.

Of course this is all a moot point these days since you can't get to Mexico any longer without a passport, but this is what happened when I tried to go without one.