One of the main hurdles travelers face in finding Belize is knowing where it is. We covered the geography of Belize in a previous post to further aide in our guest’s knowledge of where we’re blogging from at Lower Dover Field Station and Jungle Lodge.
Luckily most Americans know where Cancun, Mexico is thanks to many drunken spring breaks and its affordability to fly there from most American airports. Europeans and Canadians also take advantage of skipping American customs by flying directly into Cancun, almost always for a fraction of the price.
Once in Cancun, travelers have a couple of options depending on when their flight arrives. What follows is my best account of how to do the trip based on doing it in both directions about 10 times over the last 3 years.
Mexican customs are slightly different than the restrictions fliers face in America. A simple red light / green light button process occurs to determine if tourist’s bags are to be searched or not. Not sure what the rate of searches is, but I can assure you that when they do search your bag it is rather extensive. Make sure to indicate on your form that you are IN TRANSIT to Belize when they ask you where your destination is.
Exiting the Airport:
Once clearing customs, about 50 different taxi drivers are going to ask you if you need a ride. Politely refuse, and continue walking through the terminal. It is not necessary to change your US money into pesos unless you are planning on staying in Mexico for awhile. The ADO bus ticket counter will take your US dollars and give you change in Pesos. The counter is located to the right of the international terminal about 75 yards, just ask one of the many people trying to sell you a taxi ride… where is the ADO bus is if you get confused. Everyone speaks english at the airport.
There are 3 options here Cancun shuttle, Playa del Carmen shuttle, or the new ADO direct service to Belize with stops in Corozol and Orange Walk before reaching Belize City. All of your tickets can be purchased at the airport.
1. ADO Shuttle leaving to Cancun bus terminal (leaves every 45 mins /1 hour) is the best option for travelers arriving to Cancun early in the morning and carrying a lot of luggage. You’ll also need to take the shuttle if you want to direct option (option 3 below). From the Cancun terminal it is possible to get the most connections south to Chetumal, the Mexican border town with Belize. Total cost to Chetumal via ADO is about $25 US. Total travel time from the airport, to the Cancun terminal, to Chetumal is about 7 hours.
2. ADO Shuttle to Playa Del Carmen is best for backpackers or travelers with light luggage because the bus terminal is 1 block from the beach allowing for a nice walk. There are also numerous restaurants and shops right there for killing time between connections (leaves every hour from the airport). However, the connecting ADO bus south to Chetumal actually goes to a different terminal than the airport shuttle, so a short taxi to the other ADO bus terminal will be necessary to continue the trip south(negotiate before but should be no more than 20 pesos). Playa Del Carmen is also a good place to stop overnight if travelers are looking to experience a little bit of Mexico, and recommended over Cancun for cost and experience. Playa is also 1.5 hours south of Cancun so the bus trip is shorter to the border at Chetumal, however the connections south are not as frequent.
3. There is new ADO bus service that provides direct connections from the Cancun Bus Terminal to Corozol, Orange Walk or Belize City departing once nightly . This is definitely the most direct path to Belize. This bus leaves the Cancun Bus Terminal at 10:30pm and travels overnight, arriving in Belize City when the sun rises at 6am. Make sure your flight arrives later in the afternoon if you plan on taking this trip, otherwise you will be stuck at the bus terminal all day. The bus arrives in the Belize City bus terminal where you can connect anywhere in the country. The ticket is about $42 USD at current exchange rates. Follow step 1 to get to the Cancun Bus Terminal.
Arriving in Chetumal via Cancun or Playa del Carmen:
Exit the terminal and turn left to catch a taxi to the border (La Frontera is how it is referred to by the taxi drivers). This costs about 70 pesos minimum, be sure to agree on a price before you get in the cab, they will try to quote you higher, maybe a price of $20 US. It is also possible to catch a local Belize bus that starts its trip in Chetumal from the new market (Nueva Mercado) bus station about 4 blocks from the ADO station. A taxi ride there should cost about 10 or 20 pesos. This bus goes all the way to Belize City also with local stops in Belize.
Crossing the Border:
When leaving Mexico by bus or taxi, you will be asked to get out and see a man in a small booth on the right in order to get your passport stamped. He will ask you for 200 pesos as a departure fee. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO PAY THIS FEE! It is a form of corruption openly going on between the border agents, bus companies, and taxis. Just tell him you are IN TRANSIT and give him your customs form from the airport and that is good enough. The bus or taxi will then take you to the Belize border. There you have to take your bags to go through customs again. Most visas are 15 days, unless you ask for 30 days. I have seen busses leave paid customers behind at the border for taking too long, so make sure to hustle at all times to get through. If you took a taxi to the border from Mexico you have to get another taxi on the Belize side to Corozol or catch the Corozol shuttle (short school bus) which runs frequently until 6:30pm every day.
If you make it to Corozol and need a rest from the hectic travel experience stop at the Sea Breeze Hotel. Our friend Gwyn runs one of the the best budget hotels in Belize voted as by the Lonely Planet Guidebook. He will also take you to the bus in the morning to continue on your travel adventure to Lower Dover Field Station and Jungle Lodge.
Do not be visibly drunk when trying to board the ADO bus, you will not be allowed to ride.