Trying to figure out how to get our budget behinds from Bacalar in Mexico to our next destination in Guatemala turned out to be trickier than expected.
There is minimal helpful information online though there is certainly rumblings of two bus companies that make the trip but no concrete information from someone who actually did it successfully.
Well, we did it! And rather successfully too.
From the Tulum/ Bacalar/ Chetumal region on the west coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, travelling through Belize into Guatemala by bus is pretty much your best and most direct option (except flying of course!).
There are three options you can take which I will detail below. In the end we went with the third option, taking a direct bus from Bacalar in Mexico to Flores in Guatemala with a travel agency.
There is an overnight bus that will get you from Tulum to Belize City in 6 hours with the ADO bus company. It leaves Cancun at 10.30pm and departs from Tulum at 00:45 am. It will set you back a hefty $676 pesos ($33 USD) and have you in Belize city for 6.30 am. Then you can take the Front Norte bus from Belize city to Flores at 10.30am arriving at 2.30pm in your final destination.
San Juan Travel Agency: the reviews for this company are sketchy online at best and while many people purported that they did a bus from Chetumal to Flores, we could not find any concrete details online. In the end, we chose not to go with them.
Take a direct bus with Marlin Espadas Tours departing Chetumal at 9.30am and arriving in Flores 6.30pm. (Pick-ups possible from Bacalar, Tulum, Playa and Cancun!). The total cost of the trip was $45 USD (not including the border exit fees which I will detail later).
Our day with Marlin Espadas
We went with this tour company in the end because it was recommended by our accommodation in Bacalar and we saw decent reviews for the trip online. Also we were able to book online via PayPal which saved us taking out extra cash before hitting Guatemala.
If you request a pick-up before the Chetumal departure (from Tulum, Playa etc), you will be whisked to the Chetumal office in a colectivo style shuttle. We were picked up at the main square in Bacalar at 7.30am. We were dropped at the agency where to our surprise we were given a decent breakfast of toast, coffee and cereals free of charge. Here we waited for the main bus departure at 9.30 am.
We did not realise that we had to pay to exit Mexico and Belize. We paid $30 USD at the Mexico border and $20 USD at Belize border. These charges were extra to the cost of our transport with Marlin Espadas.
We had no money with us so a member of the Marlin Espadas team kindly drove us to the nearest ATM in Chetumal free of charge which we were very grateful for.
We departed promptly at 9.30am on a 20 person mini-bus that was comfortable and spacious as there was only seven people making the trip that day. There is technically Wi-Fi on the shuttle but it did not work for me. The bus is well air-conditioned but has no toilet though we made pit stops every three or so hours.
The Mexico border to Belize is very close to Chetumal and we sped through in about twenty minutes with no problems.
From here it was about three hours to Belize city in which we stopped for an hour. We had read online that there can be mix-ups with bags in Belize and we nearly encountered the same issue ourselves. In Belize city you change buses but when we were told to go back to our bus, it was full of a new crowd of people taking the bus the other way (back to Chetumal).
As we had been told to leave all our stuff on the bus, we had to pack up our things and sift out our bags from around these new passengers. The new bus driver even chastised me for being late when I complained about this but in fact we were not told to go back to the bus. This is poor organising and it’s easy to see how stuff can get lost so be very careful at this stop.
It was a further four hours to the Belize border and then two hours to Flores where we arrived at the slightly later-than-scheduled time of 6.30pm.
Overall, we had a very smooth journey with this tour agency and reached our destination safely. Apart from that one driver, the staff are all friendly and helpful. I dare say I had a comfortable enough day!