This article talks about how to safely cross the border from Mexico to Belize, covering the main questions that pop up. We’ve included prices, procedures and the company we recommend you use.
Upon arriving in Bacalar, we started to think about our next movements and heading to Belize. Being so close to the border we were pretty sure this would be an easy trip as most of the transport in Mexico had been very straight forward, but as we did some research it seemed it was a little more complicated than we first thought.
You could get a local bus to a town near the border and then a taxi and then another bus the other side, but that had to be done before midday or else there could be no buses. Plus we wanted to travel on a Sunday, so factor in the possibility that there may be no buses at all!
All the journey information was quite conflicting and people had written about long, complicated border crossings which we hoped to avoid in the heat. Then on top people had written that they felt like they were being ripped off at the border, having to pay an exit tax. It was not turning out to be as simple to get to Belize as we imagined.
We then found an ADO bus that leaves on a Sunday at 4.45 am and costs 450 pesos. Annoyingly the Saturday departure was in the afternoon but this wasn’t offered on a Sunday. The Bacalar ADO stop is literally on the side of the highway and we had no inclination to walk in the middle of the night with all our stuff to the side of a busy road, so that ruled that option out.
Getting slightly concerned about our next steps and being the first border crossing of our travels, we spoke to our hostel. They quickly sorted everything. We got a transfer, direct from our hostel for 570 pesos, Bacalar to Belize City. We weren’t offered the boat ticket to Caye Caulker but if you are, don’t bother. You’ll get it cheaper at the port in Belize City.
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How to cross the Mexico – Belize border
For a hassle-free border crossing, we recommend using the below agency. They were organised, helpful and talked us through every step of the border crossing. Highly recommended and with only a small bus you aren’t waiting long for everyone to clear immigration.
Marlin Espadas – Travel Agency & Tour Operator
Tel: 983 837 3929
Explaining the exit fee at the Mexican border
To clarify the exit fee, at the border you will have to pay 558 pesos or USD $30 unless you can prove you’ve already paid the Mexican tourist tax. If you fly into Mexico a lot of airlines include this in the ticket price and it should appear as an itemised amount saying – Mexican tourist tax.
We flew into Cancun from London with TUI. After much searching online we did find a little article saying that TUI definitely doesn’t pay the tourist tax. I sent TUI an email to clarify and I got an automated response saying they would respond in 28 days. To their credit, TUI did get back to me a few weeks later to say the tourist tax is not included. Our flights from the UK were ridiculously cheap though and having not found the tourist tax on the itemised bill, we were expecting to pay $30 each.
Everyone has to pay this exit fee, you aren’t being scammed and it is totally legitimate. There are often a lot of exit fees charged whilst travelling through Central America. The Mexican border fee just happens to be quite a lot of money, but it’s just something you have to pay. Just make sure to check your itemised items on your flight ticket – no need to pay it twice!
Our experience crossing the border
We were told the shuttle could come at 7.20 am so we waited patiently until 8.15 am when it finally arrived. That allowed us to grab a coffee and some biscuits (breakfast started at our hostel at 8 am) for the journey.
We were piled into a van with our bags and we set off, only 4 in total to Chetumal. Here we picked up some more people and made our way to an office. Here they supplied coffee and some breakfast (toast & cereals) and gave us the Belize entry forms to complete. They also had toilets for people to use.
They were really helpful trying to help various people work out if they had to pay the tourist tax and if not, print out documentation to prove they had already paid it. Showing Mexican immigration that you paid on your phone doesn’t count apparently.
After this short break, we then jumped in another van, now full with slightly more people and the bags were put on top.
We got to the border and went into the immigration office, individually or in couples. Handing over our passports, the piece of paper we received from immigration when entering the country and USD $30 to pay for the tourist tax.
Knowing we hadn’t paid previously it was relatively hassle-free for us but we noticed that people proving they’d already paid took a little longer to get their stamps. We have since spoken to other tourists who said they weren’t sure if they’d paid the tax but managed to persuade the border staff they had and they didn’t have to pay. Those stories seem to be the exception, not the rule so just be prepared to pay and make sure you have enough MXN pesos or USD to pay or you’re not getting through immigration. Paying by card is not an option.
We have a Revolut card which has been an absolute game-changer for cash withdrawals. We were able to change our money into MXN pesos at very good rates. If you get the Revolut metal card you get lots of benefits including being able to withdraw up to £600 a month without any fees, airport lounge access, 1% cashback when spending outside of Europe and some other useful insurances which you might find handy on your trip.
After immigration, we got back onto the bus and a short while later the driver had to get out. It looked like he had to pay a fee for the vehicle to travel into Belize, but this was done very quickly and soon afterwards we were on our way.
Then you arrive at Belize immigration. You have to take all your bags with you, so down came the rucksacks and off we trundled inside. Some friendly guys inside recognised our British accents and were really friendly. Watching the group ahead we saw them completing the lower section of the entry form and we noticed we’d missed out the final section, so completed that quickly whilst in the queue.
We went up to the window together when it was our turn. Unsure how long we’d be in Belize we asked for 20 days. He asked us our travel plans and after explaining a rough plan, he checked our passports and stamped them. We were now in Belize.
You then have to go through Customs but if you have nothing to declare you walk through and outside our bus was waiting for us. After some very impressive lifting, our bags were on top of the bus. Moments later we were on our way.
We eventually arrived at the bus station in Belize City at 1.10 pm (Mexican time). However, this is now 12.10 pm because Belize is one hour behind. There is a boat to Caye Caulker at 1.30 pm, which meant we had time to get our tickets and get lunch before jumping on the boat.
Heading to Caye Caulker
If you are planning on making an onward trip to Caye Caulker, you will be greeted at the bus station by people offering you discounted tickets. We had no money so had to go to an ATM and we found that a taxi driver gave us a discount voucher that was better than the deal being offered in the bus station.
So if you leave the bus station and make your way to the port ($5 USD taxi) you’ll get a better deal.
We got a taxi with a lovely taxi driver who also offered to drive us anywhere we wanted in Belize. Sadly the option of cruising around Belize in a taxi is slightly out of our budget but should you need a friendly taxi driver, feel free to contact Ismael on +501 636-1919. See picture below for further details.
When we got to the port we left our baggage on some trolleys and headed to the front to get our tickets. With the discount, we paid $27 USD for two return tickets from Belize City to Caye Caulker.
With a little time to spare and rather hungry, we got some jerk chicken at the port. A glass of rum punch was thrown in for free. There were no toilets in this restaurant but you only had to pay a dollar to go to the public toilets which were clean and just across from the restaurant.
The food was great and devoured quickly before the boat arrived, which was ideal because we saw someone trying to eat rice on a fast-moving boat and it didn’t work well!
We hope this article on how to safely cross the border from Mexico to Belize, makes your border crossing easier. We were sad to say goodbye to Mexico but heading over the water to Caye Caulker we were excited to be in Belize.
Let us know how your border crossing goes!