08 November, 2009

Hoop Jumping

I forgot to mention this before, but on November 3, we got our Belize Driving Licenses. The process was really quite easy - assuming you've jumped through the preliminary hoops before you walk in the door. I'm talking about Permanent Residency. That was the first question the folks at the Corozal Transport Office asked us - "Do you have your residency?" The second was - "Do you have a Social Security card?".

We went again with Doug and Twyla. We've done virtually the whole residency process with them. It's been fun to have another couple to go through it with, to help sort things out, to complain to, and to High-five when we're done with a particular piece.

Since we already had those, the next step was a piece of cake. The Transport Officer filled out a registration form, asked us a couple of questions, such as "Have you ever been denied a license?" and "Have you ever had a license taken away?". Then we signed the form which he then took over to the cashier to have her apply a stamp on it.

He then explained we needed to see a doctor and have them fill out the medical section, sign and stamp it. He suggested we go to the Corozal Hospital, see the hospital cashier, who would point us to a doctor who would sign the forms.

That's exactly what we did. We reported in to the cashier. The Cashier window is actually accessed from the outside, open to the weather, just a bit unusual. After finding out what we wanted, the cashier showed us over to the doctor's office, in this case, the Pediatrician's office.

We felt guilty since it was children's day at the hospital. The hallway was packed with young children and parents and even some nursing mothers. That's always a bit disconcerting for us Gringos. Just whip it out and attach the young one to it, is very common here. Still it takes a bit of getting used to. Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

We were ushered to just outside the doctor's door, and she told us we'd be next. She stuck her head in the door, told the doctor, and went back to the cashier's office. After waiting somewhat self-consciously for around 10 minutes, we got in en-mass to see the doctor. She signed our forms with no problems, and we were on our way back down the hall and out to the cashier's where we paid $10.00 BZD each and she stamped the medical portion of our forms.

Then we hot-footed it downtown to Dave's Photo Studio for the required two passport-sized photos. Dave was very efficient and a good photographer as well. He also said the driving license photos are slightly smaller than passport photos. A few minutes and $5.00 BZD each later, we had our photos.

We quickly headed back to the Transport Office near the Civic Center. A few minutes later, and we were in front of the Cashier's window there. We had the choice of getting a license for one, two, three, or four years.

The cost is an initial $60.00 BZD for the first year. Each year thereafter is an additional $30.00, up to a max of $200. Making it possible to get a license for five years. We only had enough cash to get licenses between the four of us for two years each. We were in a rush to get it done and didn't want to delay by going to Shanti's or the ATM for more money.
Dave's New Belize Driving License
There you have it. From start to finish, about two hours. Heck, I've spent much more time than that at the DMV in Washington State, just waiting to get up to the counter, much less getting it completed.

You may have noticed the license is simply a paper form laminated under two layers of plastic. Belize is in the process of converting their driving licenses to be similar to the US and Canadian licenses - sort of like a credit card with bar codes and security features. As they say, "soon come." Just don't hold your breath.

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