We arrived into Belize from Mexico on a ferry (you can read about that here) and spent some time on Caye Caulker. We were eager to start exploring the very different culture of Guatemala so we caught the first class bus from Belize City to Flores.
Some of my thoughts on Belize
I wasn’t particularly enamoured with Caye Caulker and had no real desire to stay longer. That’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy our time there, we had great fun, but I found little things like the price of food, seeing tourists as $$ and the difficulty we enountered renting a car very frustrating. Despite the pretence of laid-backness, I always found there was always an undercurrent of violent drunkerdness; the threat of fights due to far too much alcohol.
Maybe I didn’t see the best of Belize and maybe I should go back!?
Where to buy bus tickets from Belize City to Flores?
Once you’ve disembarked the San Pedro Water Taxi from Caye Caulker, there are two companies located in the hanger area.
The first company is a shop-cum-tourist agent located on the right hand side as you’re walking away from the jetty. It sells merchandise and snack food.
My experience with this one was NOT good. The man lied about the tickets and then refused to hand me back my bank card when I objected to paying a 4% fee. This shop even produced a dock of tickets that had the Mundo Maya stamp on them but then proceeded to write the tickets on a different dock for Linea Dorada. You do not want to go with this company.
The men in the shop tried to prevent me from getting back my bank card and then leaving the shop. Thank goodness I’d left our three kids outside the shop with the bags. It was not a good experience and left me feeling high on adrenaline!
Avoid this shop at all costs.
Instead, head to Mundo Maya (now called Zippy)
The nicer of the two buses that operate this route is Fuente del Norte and those tickets are sold by Mundo Maya (Mundo Maya has since renamed itself Zippy Zappy Mayan Travels.). This is where you should buy tickets.
It is the very last shop at the right end of the pier, if you’re standing with your back to the water. The young man who works here is extremely friendly and genuinely helpful. There is NO credit card surcharge and he walks you out to the bus and gives you advice on the exchange rate at the border.
Fuente del Norte departs daily at 10:00 am and 1:00 pm. .
Cost of travelling 1st class from Belize city to Flores
The cost was roughly $25 for me and $11 for the kids. It isn’t the cheapest form of transport but it was nice to have comfy seats, safety of a locking door and to be able to meet other travellers on the bus.
What to do at the border
At the border you’re dropped off and you have to walk through to Belize Immigration which is a bright green building. There you’re required to pay your exit fee. Dollars in Belize are pinned to the US$ at an exhcange rate of 2:1. You will need to pay 40 BZ$ in cash per adult and teenager.
Once your passport has received its exit stamp by Belize (it’s a triangle), you’ll need to walk through to Guatemalan Immigration and have a second stamp there. Two stamps in one day is very exciting!
Exchanging money at the border
There are men stood at the Guatemalan side of the border who will pressurise you into changing money. You must remember the exchange rate, or take your phone to check the rate, as they’ll definitely try and rip you off.
The good thing is they exchange coins, the bad thing is you won’t get a great rate of exchange.
How long did it take?
Somewhere around 4-5 hours including the border crossing. There were no toilet stops as there’s a toilet on board although you’ll need to take paper with you.
The seats are quite comfortable and recline a fair bit. There’s certainly plenty of leg room and the windows are big. We weren’t bored as there was plenty to see out of the window but we also took mp3 players, a book and a few small, hand-sized toys.
Changing bus at Flores
The bus will arrive at the shopping center just shy of the Flores causeway. There are two ATMs here; one at the bank which doesn’t work for foreign cards and one inside the supermarket which does work. You’re given time to go to the ATM before changing into a minibus that takes you to Flores.
The tourist agent who meets you will give you a hard sell on buying tickets for the night bus to Guatemala City. He’ll say something along the lines of selling you a free ticket to Tikal IF you buy an onward travel ticket to Guatemala City through him. This is bullshit. The ticket to Tikal is not free, he just increases the price of the onward bus ticket.
I don’t think it’s worth doing Tikal at sunrise and from what I’ve read you may only have a 20% chance of ever seeing the sun. The odds were far too low for me to consider getting out of bed at 2:30am for.