Here’s a trivia question. How much money do Indian and Chinese nationals have to spend to get a tourist visa and enter Belize? No idea? Take a guess and scroll down for the answer.
“Belize is a paradise”. Backpackers in Peru ingrained it in my subconscious. It seemed like Belize is a backpacker hotspot. Those who had visited would not stop talking about the diving and the snorkeling. Those who hadn’t, discussed their plans of visiting Belize and other stuff that interests young backpackers. Later in my trip, an elderly couple talked about the ruins and caves of Belize. I was hooked. History beaches.
Fast forward 3 years. My cousin was planning a trip to Belize. I forwarded an itinerary I had planned for my possible future trip to Belize.
Plan: One Week relaxing trip to Belize
|1-3||Ambergis Caye or Caye Caulker||Relax on island, Dive the Great Blue Hole, snorkel|
|4||San Ignacio||Transit to San Ignacio. Belize City. Cave tubing.|
|5||San Ignacio||A Mayan Ruin like Xunantunich|
|6||San Ignacio||Actun Tunichil Muknal|
|7||Guatemala||On to Tikal|
But then I encountered a snafu.
So, whats the problem?
When I first checked the visa policy, it seems painless. The Belize embassy notes in Florida indicate :
Please note that as of May 23, 2015, holders of a valid U.S. Permanent Residency Card OR a U.S. Multiple entries visa no longer need a visa to enter Belize, including at the port of entry of Belize.
Great. Or so I thought. The Los Angeles Consulate gave me a totally conflicting answer. They agreed that visa is not required. But, apparently, Indian citizens have to pay USD 250 for a ‘security clearance’!
A seven working day Security and Immigration clearance is required for nationals of the countries listed below. Also the visa fee is $250.00 for a single entry visa. Bangladesh, Burma, Colombia, India, North Korea, Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Thailand.
Are you screaming “discrimination!”? Wait for it. The biggest discrimination is reserved for Chinese citizens
For Nationals of the People’s Republic of China, Security and Immigration clearance is required. An application fee of $100.00 along with a visa fee of $2,000.00 applies. A repatriation of $4,000.00 also applies if the applicant is not a resident of the United States.
Yes USD 6100 to get a tourist visa! You can get a US permanent residence (green card) for cheaper. Even if you are a permanent resident of USA, a Chinese national has to pay USD 2100 to visit Belize!
Are you thinking this is the most ridiculous tourist visa policy ever? Well, hang on. We’re not done yet. Let’s say you think Belize is worth it and sell your grandma to pay for the visa fees. You think you can finally enjoy ‘paradise’. You merrily board the flight in your flippers and land in Belize.
Brace for it. You are in for a shock. Your diamond studded visa is not enough. You have to shell out more money to enter the country. And this one, they won’t tell you until you arrive. Sneaky tactics.
This is from Timatic, the manual that airlines agents see to decide if you can enter a country:
Additional Information: - Visitors must hold at least USD 50.- per person per day and documents required for their next destination. - Nationals of Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka must pay a repatriation fee of BZD 1,200.- on arrival. - Nationals of China (People's Rep.) must pay a repatriation fee of BZD 3,000.- on arrival. - Extension of stay possible for those listed under visa exemptions.
Yes you read it right. Chinese Nationals need to pay another BZD3000(~USD1500) to enter Belize. Indians are somewhat lucky. They have to pay only BZD1200(~USDD600)!
Italy recently decided to allow Chinese police to patrol Rome and make Chinese tourists feel at home. Countries around the world are taking measures to make their country more inviting to Chinese nationals with an insatiable travel appetite. Belize is still stuck in the 19th century, asking them to pay USD 5600-7600 for a tourist visa. Nationals of the Indian subcontinent are more fortunate. They have to shell only USD 850. Good for me. One country off my list.
Have you visited Belize without paying the ludicrous fees? Let us know.
All photos in this post are used under the Creative Commons license with due attribution.