How to travel overland from Mexico to Belize

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Who says international travel is just about flying. Traveling overland is the best way to see more of a country outside tourist towns that have been heavily influenced by western tourism. Whether you’re after western standards and convenience or a long and thrilling adventure there is transport to suit everyone’s comfort and budget when traveling overland from Chetumal Mexico to Belize.

I’ve just finished volunteering at a hostel in Chetumal Mexico and almost every backpacker that walked through our doors asked the same question: “What is the best way to get to Belize?” After doing a lot of research and talking to locals I realized a huge amount of the information online was outdated or incorrect! From boat schedules to bus prices, very little of what was written matched what companies actually offered or what locals suggested.

In this post, I share four ways of how you can travel overland from Mexico to Belize so you can choose the right method to suit your budget and travel style and hopefully after reading this you won’t run into any surprises on this part of your epic adventure along the “Gringo Trail”.

Chicken Bus
The local bus or chicken bus leaves every 30 minutes from the Nuevo Mercado in Chetumal and takes approximately 3-4 hours to Belize city and costs $7 USD. If you want to continue traveling from Belize to Guatemala, you need to transfer in Belize City to a bus heading for San Ignacio this costs $5 USD. When you arrive in Benque Viejo (just past San Ignacio) exit the bus and take a taxi for $2-3 USD to Melchor border crossing. Once you have cleared customs walk across the bridge into Guatemala and take a combi (shared public van) to Santa Elena for 30Q then take a tuk tuk to Flores for 5Q per person.

Travel hint: Prices may very depending on your ability to negotiate! Remember don’t accept the first price offered unless it’s the same as or close to the price listed within this post.

Express Water Taxi:
Two companies run express water taxi services departing from the Chetumal Boulevard at 3:00pm. Both Belize Express Water Taxi and San Pedro Water Taxi cost $50 USD to San Pedro and $55 USD to Caye Caulker. Both options take 90 minutes to San Pedro where you clear customs and a further 30-60 minutes to Caye Caulker. The company’s operate on alternative days so either purchase your ticket at the pier on the day of departure or check each company’s schedules online Belize Express Water Taxi and San Pedro Water Taxi to guarantee you purchase a ticket for the company running on your departure date.

Travel hint: Belize Express Water Taxi and San Pedro Water Taxi are currently in a turf war to become the Monopoly boat taxi provider between Chetumal and Caye Caulker and will sell tickets for days they are not running so the customer doesn’t book with their competitor and has to travel with them the next day.

Thunderbolt Boat:
Thunderbolt boat is a small boat company that runs continuously between Corozal, Sarteneja and San Pedro. The boat leaves Corozal at 7am and returns from San Pedro at 3pm. The trip takes about 2 hours and costs $25 USD or $45 return. You pay for your fare once on the boat so arrive at the Thunderbolt 15 minutes early to secure a seat.

Marlin Espadas Express Bus:
Marlin Espadas is a large company that runs a “western comfort” Express bus from Tulum, Bacalar and Chetumal, Mexico to Belize City and Flores, Guatemala. Marlin Espadas picks passengers up from their hotel/hostels and drives them to their private bus station in downtown Chetumal where free breakfast is provided. At 9:30am the bus leaves Chetumal and arrives in Belize City at 12:30pm or in Flores at 5:30pm. The trip costs $25 USD to Belize City and $40 USD to Flores.

Travel hint: When leaving Mexico you are required to pay a 390 peso departure fee. This can be payed at a Mexican bank or at the border (border officials may or may not pocket the money no receipts will be provided). When exiting Belize you are required to pay a $15 USD departure fee if you are transiting through within 24 hours. If you stay longer than 24 hours in Belize you are required to pay a $20 USD departure fee. This is paid at the border when exiting the country. A receipt is given as confirmation of payment and you can even pay with credit card!
Aleisha xx.