Border crossings can be extremely intimidating to carry out. Language barriers, men with weapons, or you may even encounter corruption. This can happen anywhere in the World, but be aware that people in powerful positions make take advantage of you, especially if you are young and if you look wealthy.
In this post you will learn how to cross the border between Belize and Guatemala, the price of crossing the border and other things to be aware of. I will come with suggestions to your further travel in Guatemala in Belize and how to change currency easily at the border.
Border crossing from Belize to Guatemala
I decided to do the border crossing on my own since I was unable to find someone who had the same plans like me.
I read a very thorough blog post about the border crossing itself, and I suggest you just have a look at it.
There are three points where you can cross the border between Belize and Guatemala. This post is about crossing the border at Benque Viejo Del Carmen in Belize to Melchor de Mencos in Guatemala.
How to get to the border
I went with a taxi from San Ignacio to the border (15 Belize $, BZD), knowing that the public bus would not drive all the way to the border.
Leaving Belize by land you have to pay a 40 BZD fee, where part of the fee goes to conservation of nature. Everyone has to pay it, and it is included in the ticket fare if you fly out from Belize.
Complete the stage in Belize, walk across to the Guatemalan border office and get in a line to have your passport stamped. From here it is easy if you read the other blog post I already linked, you just have to walk a few hundreds meter, crossing a small bridge and you will find a microbus on your left. These buses are the ones the locals use, but I didn’t speak Spanish and I pulled it off without much trouble.
Corruption issues at the border
I had read that at the border, they may ask you to pay an extra charge of something like 10 US dollars. I knew it was illegal and just said ‘no thanks’. By refusing to pay, you help fighting corruption. It feels better to refuse if there are other foreigners around you. Don’t be intimidated!! Always read on the internet about the latest status of the border, as fees for crossing the border may vary!
How to change currency from Belize $ to Guatemalan Quetzales easily at the border
Currency converters at the border
It is very easy to change currency at the border. You will automatically be approached by several currency converters, people who will exchange your money at a determined rate. There is no fee for exchanging (it is not a machine, and you do not need to present a credit card just bring enough cash!), but it is included in the conversion rate.
The currency in Guatemala is Quetzales (Q), and it is always good to change currencies at the border, especially the Belize-Guatemalan border, where you get a decent conversion rate and at the same time get rid of leftover Belizean dollars. When traveling from Belize to Guatemala, you are delighted by how much cheaper everything is (except fancy hotels inside Tikal Nature Reserve!).
Continue your journey in Guatemala
Microbus to Flores or El Remate
If you are heading to El Remate or Tikal like I was, you can go with the Flores bus and change bus in the town called Ixlú, or better known as the ‘cross’, El Cruxe. You do not need a taxi to get to the microbus or to El Remate, despite what the insisting taxi drivers at the border say.
Get off your microbus at Ixlú, it looks a bit questionable where you are dropped off, but it’s the intersection between the road to Flores and the Road to El Remate and Tikal to the north. From the crossing, you can either walk 2-3 km to El Remate if you don’t have too much luggage and plenty of water and maybe a hat or do like me and wait a few minutes for another microbus that will take you to town!
Prices for public transport in Guatemala (last updated in 2018)
The bus from Melchor de Mencos (the border town in Guatemala) -> Ixlú: 20Q
Ixlú -> El Remate: 10Q
I was surprised at how easy it was, and the locals were extremely friendly and were eager to start a conversation despite my lack of Spanish skills.
My personal itinerary in Guatemala
After crossing the border from Belize, I spent two nights in El Remate, one night in Tikal camping, followed by two nights in Flores and then seven days at ARCAS. From then, I spent one more night in Flores before taking an early morning bus back to Belize, from where I had my returning flight back home. (But before that I spent another two nights at the Caye Caulker, enjoying the beach-vibes 🙂 ).
Weather you speak Spanish or not, it is possible to go to Guatemala and explore the amazing wildlife and cultural heritage. For inspiration on where to go, have a read of my next posts about small town Flores, hiking and relaxation in El Remate or sunset and camping in Tikal!
© All photos are my own and may not be used without permission.