#66(a) getting from mexico to belize
As you may know from this previous post, my husband and I went to Belize in December for a week. This post is about the to-ing and fro-ing.
If you’re like me, you like to plan things and know what is going to happen when. As we were considering our plan to go from Cozumel, Mexico to Ambergris Caye, Belize, a lot of people said “don’t worry, it’s easy” but couldn’t provide any specifics other than “a taxi will take you there.” Well, not likely a taxi from Cozumel (an island) will go to Ambergris (another island) and so off to the interwebs I went, looking for info. Turns out there are lots of blog posts, most from circa 2005 or ’06, but not a lot of concrete schedules or things, which a control freak detail oriented person such as myself was looking for. So here is my own blog post, circa 2010.
There were going to be a few legs to this journey: Cozumel to the Playa del Carmen (easy ferry trip), PDC to Chetumal (on the bus), Chetumal to somewhere in Belize, and then somewhere in Belize to Ambergris Caye. The first two parts are easy; the ferry from Coz to the mainland runs several times each day, the only trick is catching the ferry that will get you to the next leg on time. The second leg is also fairly straightforward. The easiest way to get correct information about the bus schedule is to go to the bus terminal. Here in Cozumel, we have an ADO (one of the bigger bus companies) ticket office at the ferry terminal, so I went there and got the schedule. Turns out buses go from PDC to Chetumal about 12 times each day, with different prices and times depending on how fancy the bus is (does it have a bathroom?) and how often it stops along the way. Also note that there are two bus terminals in PDC; the bus we took to Chetumal leaves from the terminal in town, not the terminal near the ferry.
The third leg, the Chetumal to “somewhere in Belize” was the one that posed the greatest challenge. I had determined that there were flights from Corozal, Belize to Ambergris Caye several times each day on two different airlines, and so that seemed like a good way to go. How to get from Chetumal to the Corozal airport was not so cut and dried. There are two “transfer companies” operating in Belize, both of which advertise that they can meet you at the bus in Chetumal, help you with the border crossing (both sides) and get you to the airport in Corozal, for a fee. Get Transfers charges $40 for this, and Menzies Tours charges $45. Both companies include pick up in Chetumal (Get Transfers picks up at a Burger King near the bus), assistance with the two border crossings (out of Mexico and into Belize) and then transportation to the airport (I’m going to start calling it what it is: a tiny airstrip) in Corozal. I hadn’t found Get Transfers to be very responsive to my questions and so on the advice of a twitter contact, I got in touch with Menzies Tours and advised that I’d like to use their service. The last I heard from them was that they needed payment in advance, and they were preparing payment forms and would get back to me. Three subsequent emails from me saying “where are the forms, are you coming to pick us up?” went unanswered, and so we arrived in Chetumal unsure of what would happen next.
What happened was that as we exited the bus in Chetumal, there was a fellow standing there saying “Belize? That bus there.” When asked what his bus to Belize cost, his answer of “60 pesos” sold us. We did have 60 pesos (about $5) and nothing but time, so decided to go for the adventure. The bus was an ancient school bus, but it worked.
Turns out the bus driver assisted with the border crossing out of Mexico then dropped us all off at the Customs and Immigration house into Belize and waited for us on the other side. Like most border crossings, it was just a lot of standing in a line, nothing that really required “assistance.” The bus then drove the fifteen minutes into Corozal, dropped us at the bus terminal and we caught a taxi ($4) to the airstrip. We then got on the tiniest plane ever, ($45) and were in Ambergris in time for a nice dinner.
All told, it worked like this:
- Cozumel to Playa del Carmen (7 a.m. ferry, 80 pesos – we get a local price)
- Playa del Carmen to Chetumal (9 a.m. bus, premier service, 216 pesos)
- Chetumal to Corozal (bus left about ten minutes after arrival into Chetumal, 60 pesos)
- Corozal to Ambergris Caye (3:30 p.m. plane, $45 US)
On the way back, we took a taxi from the airstrip in Corozal to the bus station. Get Transfers operates there, outside of the taxi union. The trip costs a flat fee of $30 USD, and we took the union taxi (much less pushy than the Get Transfers drivers). The taxi driver did the same as the bus driver had, dropping us where we needed to be for the border crossings and waiting on the other side. We missed the “premier” bus to Chetumal and ended up on what we called the “chicken bus” – a little cheaper (I think 150 pesos) but WAY more crowded, way more stops and no bathroom. Still, we got to Playa del Carmen in time to go to Sam’s Club and stock up on wine before we headed back to the island.
Bottom line, travel is easy, cheap and safe. The people are willing to help you as needed. If you need a “travel company” then go ahead and use one, but don’t necessarily expect the level of service you’d expect at home. You’ll pay extra for the peace of mind of having someone else take care of everything, but they may not actually take care of anything, leaving you money out with no benefit.