Travel is more than a seeing of sights.

It is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.

Miriam Beard


International travel options to/from Guatemala-north

Option Palenque – Flores

The Guatemalan state of Petén is surrounded by Mexico and Belize in its north. Flores, by its destination, is also closer to Mexico and Guatemala than to many other touristy places within Guatemala. As I enjoyed my time in Guatemala so much, I considered to not head from Palenque to San Cristóbal and stay within Mexico until my trip to Chile. Instead, I took a shuttle (colectivo) from Palenque, Mexico to Flores, Guatemala.

Not too many travelers of Mexico head to Guatemala, however, still enough to have colectivo-shuttles heading down south every day. Honestly, if you don’t check out Tikal (Flores isn’t worth the stay if you don’t check out Tikal), you’ve missed something. The Tikal National Park with all its Mayan temples is much more beautiful than Chichén Itzá or Palenque in Mexico.

On this route, you will most likely be in one shuttle until the Mexican border, cross the border on foot, with all your stuff, and in another shuttle in Guatemala. This way, both the drivers and cars don’t have to cross the borders. Moreover, the transport providers are organized to have people coming from both directions and changing vans at the border.


Option Flores – Belize – Chetumal/Bacalar (Mexico)

This is the option I used to get back to Mexico, heading to the north-east, crossing Belize. On this route, you may also start/finish your trip somewhere in Belize, they usually offer some drop off points and stop in Belize City at the Ferry terminal. If you go all the way from Flores to Chetumal/Bacalar, it’s a really long ride of 11 or more hours. The exact time depends on how much time you need at the borders (which can indeed be really long).

We had the same van from Flores until Belize city, we haven’t had to switch van when crossing the border from Guatemala to Belize. Only the driver changed. However, in Belize City, at the ferry terminal, we had to switch to the van coming from Chetumal. The change of vans is for the same reason as at the border of Mexico/Guatemala. However, this change implied 1.5 hrs of waiting time for the ferries and the other van to arrive. The stop in Belize city is scheduled with respect to the ferries to the islands of Belize.

The second van brought the whole group to Chetumal, which is very close to the Belize – Mexican border. Everyone who wanted to continue to Bacalar had to get into another van only for Chetumal – Bacalar (30 mins ride). In my opinion, we could have used the previous van for those 30 minutes after sitting in it for a couple of hours. We arrived in the center of Bacalar, which was convenient, because the ADO bus station is some distance away from the center, already some distance for a taxi.


Border crossings

Guatemala and Belize

The border crossings of Guatemala and Belize are easy, just get in the queue for the stamp. It also didn’t take much time. The luggage may stay on the bus if you don’t have to switch bus. You have to pay some tourist tax when leaving Belize, at the border of Guatemala-Belize there are people who exchange your remaining Quezales for Belize Dollars. It might not be the best exchange rate, though, if you are only crossing the country, you might just exchange the ~$40 (Belize Dollars).


In contrast to Guatemala and Belize, the border crossings of Mexico are a hassle! When leaving the country on land, they require some filled paper, which you won’t get if you arrive at the airports of Cancún or Mexico City. If you leave from international airports, nobody cares about that piece of paper, only on land. Since I flew in, I had to pay an extra fee to get this piece of paper to be allowed to leave Mexico. When you leave Mexico by plane after entering on land, you get this paper again and need to get it stamped at the airport before you’re allowed to fly out internationally.

Entering Mexico on land took so much time, queuing for the stamp, getting all the luggage scanned, filling out papers. I think we’ve spent minimum 1 hr just crossing the Mexican border. For me, it was quite difficult to walk across the border with all my luggage. After being squeezed in the van for so many hours, my muscles were really stiff, so I requested a wheelchair. The Mexican border staff was quite surprised about my request but managed to find one and the driver helped me to carry my stuff. Mexican’s seem to not be in regular contact with people with walking disabilities, they seemed to be truly surprised.


Crossing Belize

I don’t know what I should tell about Belize. Well, I watched my surroundings during the drive. And those didn’t look too appealing. You recognize the difference to the surrounding countries of Mexico and Guatemala. While the Spanish influence is clearly visible in Mexico and Guatemala, Belize seems to have more British/ Caribbean influence.

Belize is one of the least populated countries, the villages we passed were quite tiny and the houses quite distributed. However, there was a lot of trash just on the roads. Other travelers have mentioned the jungles of Belize and the islands, which are worth a visit. Since I’ve been in the jungle in both Palenque and Tikal, I was satisfied in that perspective. I assume the islands of Belize offer a Caribbean experience. However, I didn’t consider the Caribbean as a destination, my main focus is South America, not sure if I’ll check out that area more thoroughly at a later point in time.

Some impressions of passing through Belize on my photos from the van:

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