Have you explored the Tikal Ruins, and now you need to get from Guatemala to Belize? I’ve got good news for you. The Guatemala Belize border crossing was the easiest and quickest border crossing I’ve done anywhere in Latin America!
There is only one land border crossing between Guatemala and Belize. It’s called Melchor de Mencos, and it’s easy to do this border crossing by either shuttle or public transport. I used public transport, despite not finding any information about this route online ahead of time.
I’m writing this article so you can learn how to get from Guatemala to Belize by public transport like we did, or opt for a tourist shuttle instead. The point is, by the end of this article you’ll have all the information you need to make the right decision for you!
NOTE | I completed this border crossing in March 2023, and will do my best to keep this article updated. If you find this guide helpful, please comment below with any changes or updates! Together, we can help future travelers navigate the Guatemala Belize border safely.
Check out my other border crossing guides…
Sailing the San Blas Islands to Cross From Colombia to Panama (Coming Soon!)
Guatemala Belize Border Crossing Locations
Guatemala’s eastern border shares Belize’s western border. There is only one land border crossing location between the two countries. However, it’s also possible to travel by boat, although this is less common.
The main Guatemala to Belize border crossing locations are:
- Melchor de Mencos: This is the only land border crossing between Guatemala and Belize, and it can be traveled by shuttle or public transport. Melchor de Mencos is the name of the closest town on the Guatemalan side. Many people travel the route from Flores, Guatemala to San Ignacio, Belize. It’s usually paired with popular tourism activities of Tikal Ruins (in Guatemala) and the ATM Caves (in Belize).
- Boat: It is possible to take a boat from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala to Punta Gorda, in southern Belize.
Keep reading for more details on both of those options.
Travel Requirements at the Guatemala Belize Border
Before you complete this border crossing, you should also be prepared with some important items or details.
These travel requirements include:
- Pre-booked accommodation in Belize: When entering Belize, you are required to report where your first night of accommodation is, so be sure to pre-book that. I highly recommend Yellow Belly Backpackers in San Ignacio… it’s the best hostel we stayed in throughout Central America! They have both private and dorm rooms with AC (a must in San Ignacio!).
- Six-months passport validity: It’s best to have minimum six months passport validity and at least two empty pages in your passport, before you cross any border. Some countries will deny you entry without this.
- Check entry requirements: It’s different for every nationality, so check on your government website.
- Check health requirements: As you probably know, things are constantly changing regarding COVID-19 travel rules. When we crossed this border, there were no health checks at all. You should check your country’s embassy page for the most reliable information.
Below, I explain all of these steps in detail, as well as our personal experience crossing the Guatemala Belize border at Melchor de Mencos by public transport! However, your journey starts before that…
Where to Begin Your Journey in Guatemala
Your very first step when planning your border crossing is to decide where to spend the night before your border crossing!
By Boat – Livingston or Rio Dulce
If you plan to travel the boat route, then you’ll need to stay in either Livingston or Rio Dulce in southeast Guatemala (I loved Rio Dulce, we stayed at Boatique Hotel and Marina). However, this border crossing is a lot less common so I won’t focus on it too much here.
Melchor de Mencos – Flores or Tikal
It’s more likely that you’re planning to cross the Melchor de Mencos border and travel onward to either San Ignacio or Belize City. If that’s your plan, the best place to stay the night before is Flores, a cool town on Lake Peten with an island you can stay on!
Flores is an ideal jumping off point for visiting Tikal, or booking a shuttle to Belize. There is also a public bus that leaves from Flores directly to the border (more instructions further down this post!).
Of course, you probably want to visit Tikal Ruins while in this part of Guatemala. Some people decide to stay the night in Tikal. Even though it’s closer to the border than Flores, I actually wouldn’t advise this, if you plan to go by public transport at least. Tikal is remote and it’s hard to get a public bus – your only option will be a shuttle.
We stayed in Flores and I’ll give you detailed directions further down this post. If you do this border crossing from Tikal, leave me a comment below with any tips of your own!
Guatemala to Belize Border Crossing: The Complete Guide
For the vast majority travelers, you will be crossing at Melchor de Mencos. This border crossing is well trodden by “gringo” travelers and connects two quite popular destinations.
Some more adventurous travelers may be attempting the boat border crossing from Livingston/Puerto Barrios, so I’ll also include some brief information on that, too.
How the Boat Border Crossing Works (Less Common)
Like I mentioned, this border crossing between Guatemala and Belize is rather unique as you need to take a boat from Puerto Barrios, Guatemala to Punta Gorda, Belize.
From my research, it looks like the company Requena’s Charter Service and Water Taxi runs this route, departing Puerto Barrios at 2pm on week days from the Shell Gas Station next to the Municipal Pier.
The boat is a panga that fits about 35 people, and apparently it can be a quite bumpy 1-hour ride. You may want to wrap your valuables in plastic bags for water protection.
The ticket price is the kicker here, coming in at a whopping $50 USD with a possible $10 USD unofficial “exit fee” (AKA scam). I got those prices from other backpackers traveling in 2023.
Saying all that, I did not do this route myself so you may be best to ask around once you’re in Livingston, or give Requena’s a message on their Facebook or by email ([email protected]). If you do this journey, leave me a comment below with what you discover!
How the Melchor de Mencos Border Crossing Works (Most Common)
If you’re like me, you’re trying to get from Flores to San Ignacio. There are lots of shuttles that run this route, but I actually think it’s more convenient to go by public bus. Below are directions for each option.
Shuttle is the more expensive option, but a lot of people prefer it for the perceived convenience. However, be aware that “shuttle” does not equal “comfortable” in Central America. These buses can be cramped with no AC, and not necessarily any nicer than public buses.
In addition, if you travel by shuttle, you will have to spend time waiting for every member of your party to pass through immigration before you move on, which can take a while.
Finally, the shuttle from Flores to Belize usually departs around 6:30am. Why, you ask? Well, it is actually not a long journey at all. The real reason the shuttle leaves so early is because they are also transporting passengers to Chetumal, Mexico, and they just lump everyone in together.
I don’t know about you, but I value my sleep and after the 2am wakeup call for sunrise at Tikal the day prior, I preferred to sleep in and go by public bus, instead!
Some of the Flores-Belize shuttle companies include:
- Crasborn Travel Agency: This is a well-rated travel agency with a physical storefront on Flores island, and personally the only place I’d book a shuttle through. Flores is known for its scams, and this is the one legit place according to reviews and staff at the well-regarded Los Amigos Hostel. To book a shuttle, send them a message on their Facebook or visit their office in person. It shouldn’t cost more than $25 USD per person.
- Adrenalina Tours: Shuttle Flores to San Ignacio. Departs 7am daily, $25 USD per person.
- Adrenalina Tours: Shuttle Flores to Belize City. Departs 7am daily, $30 USD per person.
- Gekko Trails Explorer: Shuttle Flores to San Ignacio. Departs 6am daily, $26.99 USD per person.
- Gekko Trails Explorer: Shuttle Flores to Belize City. Departs 6am daily, $26.99 USD per person.
One company I’d personally go out of my way to avoid is Getaway Travels. They are known all across Flores for their scams. When we went to their office in person the vibe was very strange and uncomfortable. Later, I heard many warnings to avoid them, and saw some awful reviews online.
By Public Transport
Getting from Guatemala to Belize by public transport is so easy. I recommend this option to anyone.
In order to complete the Guatemala to Belize border crossing by public transport, you’ll need to follow this route:
- Tuktuk to Fuente Del Norte bus station
- Collectivo bus to Melchor de Mencos
- Exchange money (optional)
- Exit Guatemala
- Enter Belize
- Taxi to San Ignacio (alternatively: taxi to Benque, then bus to San Ignacio – but this isn’t actually cheaper)
Below, I’m sharing a step-by-step guide to navigating this border by public transport, based on my experience!
How to Get From Guatemala to Belize by Public Transport
This is the very first travel guide detailing how to get from Guatemala to Belize by public transport. I’m surprised nobody has written about this before, because I found this journey relatively easy! In fact, I’ll say it: this is the easiest border crossing anywhere in Latin America!
I actually think the Guatemala Belize border crossing is easier (not to mention way cheaper) to do by public transport than by shuttle. Even if you don’t consider yourself a “backpacker,” I’d encourage you to try this border crossing by public transport because I think you’ll actually find it more convenient than the tourist shuttle. I’ll explain myself below.
1. Tuktuk to Fuentes Del Norte Bus Station
I’m not going to lie. We had a lazy start to our day which involved sleeping in, coffee and a big breakfast at our Airbnb in Flores, and finally packing up our bags. By the time we finally left our Airbnb to begin the journey to Belize, it was 11am!
At 11am, we walked toward the bridge on Flores, and got a tuktuk to the Fuente Del Norte bus station (location pin linked). It cost us 10 GTQ per person, and the drive only took about 5 minutes.
Cost: 10 GTQ / $1.28 USD per person
Time: 5 minutes
2. Buy Tickets to Melchor de Mencos
The Fuente Del Norte bus station is not as big as I was expecting, and I got a little worried that we’d have trouble finding a bus to Melchor de Mencos. Not to worry! Once you walk through and into the big parking lot, you’ll see tons of collectivo vans.
On our way through the station, however, we met a tout who quoted us 60 GTQ per person for the collectivo to Melchor de Mencos. I’d seen the price of 50 GTQ in the Backpacking Central America Facebook group, so I asked for that price instead and he said “okay, but don’t tell anyone else on the bus…” like it was some great deal we were getting (yeah, right).
He walked us out to the collectivo, which we easily could’ve just walked to ourselves, where we paid the 100 GTQ (for the both of us) directly to the driver, who then gave the tout a cut.
Seeing as the tout got a cut, I bet we could’ve saved even more by just saying “no, gracias” to him originally and walking straight to the driver. But, he did walk us to the correct collectivo and a few bucks for us is his livelihood so personally I didn’t really care.
Cost: 50 GTQ / $6.41 USD per person
Time: 10 minutes
3. Drive to Melchor de Mencos
At 11:15am, within about five minutes of stuffing our big backpacks into the back of the collectivo van, we were off to Melchor de Mencos. The van was quite empty apart from Dan and I, a German backpacker couple (who we kept running into throughout our time in Belize!), and two Belizean ladies who were on their way home.
On our way out of Flores, we did stop at the central market for about 20 minutes where it was stifling hot, and we got bombarded with people selling fruits, plastic-bagged juices, and various greasy snacks through the windows.
Soon enough, though, we were driving toward Melchor de Mencos. Overall the drive was quite hot, but thankfully it never got too crowded and by 1:25pm we’d arrived near the Guatemala Belize border.
Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
4. Change GTQ to BZD
Once at Melchor de Mencos, we were immediately met with some money changer men, and we decided to just get this part over with.
You can also exchange money once you pass through to the Belize side, but they give a similar rate so my advice is just do it whenever is convenient. You definitely do want to exchange money here as you’ll need it for onward travel in Belize – they won’t accept GTQ there.
We got a rate of about 100Q to 25 BZD. That’s a rate of 4 whereas the market rate at the time was about 3.87. So, good enough for us.
Time: 5 minutes
5. Exit Guatemala
Next, we walked toward the border, which is past some shops and just a few minutes from where the collectivo dropped us off. There is a double bridge and we crossed on the left one, which was more pedestrian-friendly.
Once at the border it was similar to the dozen-or-so other Latin American borders we’ve encountered: a strange mix of dusty road, stray dogs, shack-type restaurants, and people milling about selling ice creams and other cold treats.
The Guatemala immigration building is on the right-hand side. It’s quite small and looks like it’s falling apart. It was 1:40pm by the time we entered the building, and 1:52pm by the time we’d officially exited Guatemala.
The whole process was simple. We got our passports stamped at one desk, then went to another desk where some military guys (toting massive rifles) wrote down our passport numbers and searched our bags. Actually, they wrote down the wrong number for Dan’s passport (they were looking at his old ESTA visa, not his actual passport page).
We explained the mistake to them and honestly, they didn’t give a crap and so we just left… that’s Guatemala for you in a nutshell. Adios!
Cost: $0. No border fees or taxes.
Time: 22 minutes
6. Enter Belize
After exiting Guatemala, we walked a few minutes across “no man’s land” toward a separate building where we would enter Belize. Things already looked a bit cleaner and more organized.
Inside Belize immigration, we were given a form to fill out with our personal information and travel plans. They do require the name and address of where you’re staying your first night in Belize.
I recommend Yellow Belly Backpackers in San Ignacio – this is where Dan and I stayed for three nights and it was truly my favorite hostel anywhere in Central America. I highly recommend it (and splurge $2 for the AC rooms, if you can!).
After that, we showed our passports to the immigration agent, who stamped them without asking any questions. And like that, at 2:05pm, we were officially in Belize… our final country in Central America!
Cost: $0. No border fees or taxes.
Time: 13 minutes
7. Onward Travel to San Ignacio (Taxi vs. Collectivo)
The final step is onward travel within Belize. For us, and for most people, the first stop was San Ignacio. This is the “adventure town” of Belize and I highly recommend spending a few days here! It’s most known for the epic ATM Caves, but there are so many other things to do in San Ignacio, too.
You have two options for onward travel to San Ignacio:
Option 1: Taxi to Benque (5 BZD per person), then catch a collectivo bus to San Ignacio (7 BZD per person).
Option 2 (recommended): Taxi directly to San Ignacio (10 BZD per person).
As you can see, it’s actually more expensive to take the public transport option. This is the rare case where a taxi is both cheaper and more convenient!
There are some things to know about taxis in Belize and, specifically, at the Guatemala Belize border:
- All registered taxis in Belize have a GREEN license plate. If the license plate is not green, don’t get in.
- Taxis at the border are all part of an association. This means, they shouldn’t be competing with each other nor scamming you. You should get the same price no matter who you ask (what a nice change from the rest of Latin America, right?).
- These are “collective” taxis and they charge per person. You may have to wait for them to pick up additional passengers, but you shouldn’t have to wait long as people are always trickling through the border who want to go to San Ignacio.
The drive to San Ignacio from the border is easy and fast. We left the border at 2:15pm and got dropped off at Yellow Belly Backpackers at 2:35pm!
Cost: 10 BZD / $5 USD per person
Time: 30 minutes
Onward Travel in Belize
Congrats! At this point you’ve officially made it into Belize. Maybe your Belize itinerary’s already planned out, or maybe you’re looking for some inspiration. Below are a few of the top destinations in Belize and how to get around.
As I mentioned, we spent a few days exploring San Ignacio directly after our border crossing from Guatemala. This is what most people do, and I recommend you do, too!
Stay at Yellow Belly Backpackers (or San Ignacio Resort Hotel where the famous green iguana project is, if you’ve got a higher budget!). While you’re here, crawl through ATM Caves, explore waterfalls and cliff jumping at Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, go cave tubing, visit the Green Iguana Conservation Project, and grab (at least one) incredible coffee from Cafe de Los Mayos.
Caye Caulker and San Pedro (via Belize City)
If you want to go straight to the world-class snorkeling and island vibes of Caye Caulker or San Pedro islands, then you’ll need to first get to Belize City and then catch a ferry to the islands.
Buses to Belize City regularly leave from San Ignacio. The public “chicken bus” leaves every half hour during the week or every hour on Sundays. As we discovered, sometimes it only leaves every hour in the middle of the day, too.
The bus should cost 11 BZD per person and take about 2.5 hours. Once there, you can either walk 15 minutes or take a taxi to the water taxi terminals (this is what Dan and I did after our days in San Ignacio).
More Belize Destinations
Of course, there’s even more to see in Belize!
Other destinations in Belize to add to your itinerary include:
- Hummingbird Highway: If you have time, it’s worth it to rent a car and spend 2-3 days driving this scenic highway.
- Caye Caulker: The smaller yet still tourist-centric of Belize’s two most famous Caribbean islands. We spent 5 days here, loving life! The snorkeling, crystal blue waters, and overall vibes are incredible.
- San Pedro: The larger and more developed of the Caribbean islands. You can get more tourist amenities, higher end hotels, and fancier restaurants. Lots of people visit both islands.
- Tobacco Caye: A tiny island off the coast of southern Belize. I didn’t get a chance to go here but it’s on my bucket list to stay at this overwater bungalow!
- Palencia: A beachy destination in southern Belize.
- Hopkins: Another beachy destination south of Belize City. If you want the possibility of seeing a jaguar, this is where tours depart from.
Guatemala Belize Border Crossing Overview
Everyone’s border crossing experience is going to be different. My experience is based on using public transport to travel from Flores, Guatemala to San Ignacio, Belize. I found this route to be super easy, quick, and straight-forward.
Total time: 3 hours 35 minutes
Total cost: $12.69 USD per person
Final Thoughts on the Guatemala to Belize Border Crossing
I really hope this guide was helpful to any fellow travelers attempting the Guatemala to Belize border crossing either at Melchor de Mencos or by boat!
To my knowledge, this is the very first article explaining how to do the Guatemala to Belize border crossing by public transport.
Wouldn’t it be nice if all Central America border crossings were this easy?!
If you find this guide helpful for your own border crossing journey, please consider leaving me comment below. Keep me posted on any updates or changes in buses and pricing. As with all my border crossing blog posts, I’ll keep this as updated as possible, so it remains useful for everyone!