Bold Backpacker Balks at Border Bullies

BETHEL GUATEMALA — A backpacker frustrated with corruption at the border and being taken advantage of decided to make a stand today at the remote border crossing from Guatemala into Mexico. The fee at issue was very minor, only $5us, but it was principle, reports Wren Schultz, that made him refuse to pay.
   Many countries charge an exit fee upon leaving their borders. Some charge this fee only when leaving via airplane and some at all border crossings. When flying in and out of a country, the exit fee is often included in the price of the ticket.
   Just two days previous, Schultz, a self-styled traveler "in the know", paid $18.25us to cross from Belize into Guatemala. "In Belize, the price was clearly marked and they even gave me a receipt," Schultz reports. "The guys in Guatemala just whispered among themselves and made vague threats."
   Schultz reports that the rest of his busload of mostly backpackers unquestioningly paid the fee. "The border people

Across the border, after the attempted bullying and a 30 minute boat ride
claimed that their system was down, and that is why they couldn't scan our passports or even let us talk directly to the border agent," continued Schultz. When he asked for a receipt, or to see an official form proclaiming the fee, a series of first unofficials, then officials came out to hem and haw about why neither of these things existed, and what would happen if he didn't cough up the money.
   A similar $3us fee was requested at the entry point 2 days earlier, which Schultz paid, claiming he was caught off guard. But after thinking about it and hearing about other travelers' experiences, he was ready.

   In the end, he got his passport stamped along with everyone else. "I think I might have also seen the border agent give me a knowing you-caught-us-good-for-you smile," Schultz said, obviously pleased with himself. The threats of accumulating a ridiculous fee for when he next returns to Guatemala will likely be shown false if he ever decides to return.
   Schultz does admit that the border agents were just trying to make a buck and were actually very friendly about the whole thing.

Wednesday March 17 2010File under: travel, Guatemala

Toggle Comments (10)comment?
on Wed 17th Mar, 2010 10:51 am PDT lebnjay said:
hope you didn't pay the ridiculous taxi fees they try to charge to take you from that entry point into town.Are we gonna get a recap of where you have been on this trip? Headed to Palenque? We know a great archeologist there (Alanso Menendez sic) that has a little mayan designed sauna (mescal) and may offer tours of palenque as well. He has a house in that silly little tourist collection of hostels right before the park.
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on Wed 17th Mar, 2010 02:43 pm PDT Dave said:
I'm slightly confused.. you didn't pay $5 but you did pay $3?
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on Wed 17th Mar, 2010 05:57 pm PDT Mom said:
Let's not be trying any of that standing up for "principle" stuff crossing into the U.S. from Mexico--especially in Juarez. It appears they don't take kindly to Gringos talking back.
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on Wed 17th Mar, 2010 08:31 pm PDT Mom said:
Furthermore, I'd rather not see the continuance of this alliterative string such as "Bold Backpacker...Buried Beneath Baja "
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on Thu 18th Mar, 2010 04:53 am PDT Horge said:
Seems to me like something's up buddy. First bullied in San Antone, and now again in Guatemala. Maybe wearing the same T-shirt on both occasions bearing some awful insult in Spanish?
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on Thu 18th Mar, 2010 04:54 am PDT Horge said:
Also, you didn't mention where this article was published originally, besides BdW...
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on Sat 20th Mar, 2010 11:44 am PDT Wren said:
@lebnjay: I was part of a through trip, so no taxi. As for a recap, you'll have to wait until I see you. As for Palenque, if my serious case of las touristas subsides, I plan to head over there tomorrow.

@Dave: Correct. $5 > $3, but there is also all that stuff about being prepared, etc.

@Mom: no worries. I learned my lesson and now know it is better to avoid border checkpoints completely and will be sneaking across the border back into the US.

@George: This article was originally published in the USA Today. Didn't you see it? Oh wait, they probably don't have that over there.
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on Sat 20th Mar, 2010 01:56 pm PDT Sean said:
I can't wait to read about the bold back packer saving the president from terroristos while simultaneously getting the archeologist chick
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on Sat 20th Mar, 2010 03:53 pm PDT Mom said:
A case of Las Touristas, eh? I guess this brings up that long unanswered question, "Did the Johns Hopkins experiment in Guatemala (pre-BdW days) give you a placebo or did the experiment fail?"
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on Mon 22nd Mar, 2010 04:16 am PDT Horge said:
Good question. How did that cup experiment end up? Did it help cure Montezuma's Revenge or something?
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