Shopping in Belize is like…
Well you could say it’s like a box of chocolates – Forrest Gump – because it IS true that you never know what you will get, but I was going to say it’s like going on a scavenger hunt. My husband and I used to be part of the “Sports Car of America” club a LONG time ago when we had a cool little Datsun 260Z (yeah this was before they changed their name to Nissan.) We used to go on scavenger hunts around our home town to find things on a list.
In Belize you write a list of things you need – say you need 10 items. You go to your “favorite” little corner store (and yes, there is literally a “grocery” store on every corner) and you look for what you want. Sometimes they have everything – sometimes they don’t. So you go to the next store, and they may have one or two items that are on your list but not everything. So you repeat this down the road until you find everything on your list. At first, it may be very frustrating – but you just have to think of it like those old scavenger hunts that many of us did as kids!
A few weeks ago I was doing my weekly scavenger hunt shopping trip and I remembered a little store that has almost everything on my list – almost every time. As I was driving to it, I noticed that there is a store nearby called “Fry’s” Store. A “Fry’s” here? Erm – well no, not exactly. It’s a cute little grocery store – just like the one down the road where I normally do my shopping. They have pretty much the same stuff as the store I usually go to – the only thing that varies is price. It can be from .05 cents to $1.50 different for the same thing depending on which store you go to, so sometimes, you have to shop around if you are really trying to save money.
We are quite lucky here in the north though, since we are so close to the Mexico border and Chetumal is only 4 miles across the bay from Consejo Village (by boat) or just 15 minutes to the border by car, and now since we are Residents, we don’t have to pay the “exit” fees any more. We often make a “Sam’s Club” run about once a month. Yes, there IS a Sam’s Club in Chetumal, and a Wal-Mart, and now, a Home Depot as well! Woo Hoo! There is also an American style “Mall” – they call it the Plaza de Americana and it has a movie theater! Double Woo Hoo! We don’t go to a lot of movies there, but most of the really big movies do come there in English with Spanish subtitles. It’s a great way to see a movie very inexpensively AND it’s a great way to learn some Spanish – by reading the subtitles as you watch. I’ve learned several words from watching, and no, not the cuss words! 😀
One thing to remember about shopping in Chetumal though, is that you are limited on what you can bring back across the border. They will charge duties on large ticket items like TVs, cameras, computers, etc., and they don’t allow meats or fruits or veggies – you can get those in Belize! We get stuff like toilet paper, coffee (ground coffee – which is sometimes hard to find in Belize, or very expensive) and like many of my friends know – I love my coffee!
So have fun while shopping in Belize – make a game out of it, make a list of what you want and places where you know you’ve found it, take a trip down to the local open air market for your fruits and veggies and when you really can’t find it and have to have it (COFFEE!) Go to Chetumal if you live in the north, and stock up on it! Please be sure to check with Customs on what they will allow you to bring across – you can find more information on importing stuff here: http://www.customs.gov.bz/ but as always, ask at the border and they are usually very good about letting you know what they will or will not allow you to bring back, or what you will be charged duties on. One thing to remember is that duty fees can vary, so make sure to ask what the fee is if you are looking to bring back a specific item.
And, WELCOME TO BELIZE!