How To Cross The Mexico-Belize Border By Land: December 2018
Crossing international borders on foot is always an unusual experience, and even avid travelers rarely get the chance to do so. This was especially true at the border between Mexico and Belize; I did my research on how to best handle it, and information published online in 2017 was already out-of-date. In this post, I’ll explain how I crossed both ways in December 2018. There are a couple of things you can do to make sure it’s a smooth process.
Who might be interested in coming to Belize this way, and what lies on the other side? Well, I wanted to add a new country to my list (I’m currently at 24) and get a dose of Belizean culture without taking a day off from work. The first town you’ll encounter after crossing into Belize (Corozal) is beautiful, relaxing, and the perfect tropical getaway you’ve almost certainly never heard of. The process of crossing the border is different depending on which way you’re going, so I’ll start by sharing how to cross from Mexico to Belize, then explain how to cross the opposite direction.
Before you go, you’ll want to quickly familiarize yourself with the geography of the region. On the Mexican side is the city of Chetumal, which happens to be the state capital of Quintana Roo. The actual border crossing itself is a few miles west of here, and on the Belizean side is the town of Corozal, about a 15-minute drive further south.
For whatever reason, flights between Mexico City and Belize City are always very expensive, whereas flights from Mexico City to Chetumal are usually between 100 and 200 USD roundtrip. For any travelers wanting to go between the two countries (especially to/from Mexico City or other major metropolitan areas), crossing this border by land may be your most economical option.
Part I. Mexico to Belize
You’ll want to start your border-crossing journey in Chetumal. Since I only gave myself one weekend for my trip, I flew to Chetumal airport on Friday night, stayed in an Airbnb there, then crossed the border on Saturday morning.
To get to the border, simply hail one of the city’s official cabs and ask for “la frontera.” From most parts of the city, the taxi should charge 100 pesos. They should drop you off at the location below (the Secretaría de Gobernación Instituto Nacional de Migración), and you will be able to approach the immigration kiosk on foot. Note that you should be crossing via Avenida México, not the adjacent highway shown in yellow on the map below.
Some resources online mention a 533 peso “exit tax” which I did see the officer charge French and Swiss tourists. Mexican citizens did not seem to have to pay the tax, and as a “residente temporal,” I wasn’t asked to pay it either. If you’re a tourist in Mexico though, be prepared to pay it in cash (pesos).
Once you’ve officially cleared immigration, you can proceed forward, where you’ll cross the Hondo River using a pedestrian and vehicle bridge. This river functions as the border between the two countries, so once you reach the other side, congratulations, you’re officially in Belize!
After you arrive, you’ll find the option to enter the “Belize Free Zone” to the left which appears to be a fenced-in duty-free shopping area (with a few sketchy looking casinos thrown in for good measure). It’s my understanding that if you don’t leave the Free Zone, you won’t be required to go through Belize immigration, but I’m not completely sure.
I assume most travelers intend to continue on, in which case you will need to go through immigration. Unlike on the Mexican side, you need to cross in a vehicle and not on foot. Keep an eye out for cab drivers right after crossing the Hondo River. I was charged 500 pesos (approx. 25 USD) by the driver, who drove me to the immigration checkpoint located here, dropped me off, and waited for me pass through before taking me into Corozal. If that seems too expensive, you could try bargaining it down, but I didn’t see a ton of taxis to choose from.
Getting my passport stamped was fairly routine, although the Belizean immigration officer questioned why I was only going to Corozal for two days. After getting my passport stamped, I found my taxi driver waiting for me on the other side. We drove into Corozal, where he dropped me off at my hotel.
WARNING: There are resources online claiming that travelers can get on buses in Chetumal that will cross into Belize and go all the way to Belize City and beyond. I tried to find a bus, but there didn’t appear to be any options (at either the new or old ADO bus terminal in Chetumal). My taxi driver in Belize seemed to believe that the information in this blog was correct, namely that there have been diplomatic problems and arrests of bus drivers, causing bus companies to stop offering service between Chetumal and Belize.
In order to continue traveling further south of Corozal, my taxi driver recommended going to Corozal’s bus terminal. I did see some buses near the Free Zone with signs claiming they were going to Orange Walk, but I didn’t see anyone necessarily boarding them. Corozal to Belize City looks to be about a two-hour ride, but in order to find out the schedule you’d have to inquire in person at the Corozal bus terminal. Know that bus transport within Belize is likely to be in school buses, not Greyhound-style coaches.
UPDATE: According to a reader who commented on this post, one might also consider Marlin Espadas private bus tours, especially for crossing the border without so much hassle. I can’t comment on the experience since I didn’t travel with them, but it could potentially save some time if you’re in more of a rush.
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Part II. Belize to Mexico
This border crossing was much more straightforward, mainly because the guesthouse I stayed in (The Waterfront SeaBreeze Guesthouse) had a driver I was able to hire to take me back and across the border on my return trip to Mexico. He charged 25 BZD (13 USD, see more on currency below), which was about half the cost of my first taxi driver in Belize. Talk with your hotel or Airbnb about arranging a driver if you need one.
Immigration was exactly the same in reverse, except there was a 40 BZD exit tax which had to be paid in cash and in Belizean dollars. There are a couple of ATMs in Corozal, so be sure to withdraw that before heading to the border.
Once you’ve crossed over the river and cleared Mexican customs, you’ll end up at the exact same place you started (if you are making a return trip like I did). Taxi drivers will be waiting there to take you to the airport or wherever you’re headed in Chetumal.
Currency and Money
Belize uses the Belize dollar (BZD). One BZD is equal to 0.50 USD, so just divide the prices you see here in half to see their American equivalents. If you’ve never seen them before, you’ll enjoy the wild animals and scenes printed on their back sides.
If you’re headed to Corozal, there are at least three or four 24-hour ATMs where you can withdraw BZDs. Although a taxi driver waiting on the Belize side of the border is probably going to accept pesos, be sure to ask and confirm the price before getting in. As I mention above, you need to have 40 BZDs in hand to leave the country, so be sure to obtain that in town.
Taxis (They Can't Cross the Border)
No matter which way you’re going, taxi drivers don’t appear to be able to cross the border with you. You’ll need to hire two separate taxis: one in Mexico and one in Belize. My first taxi driver in Belize accepted payment in pesos, but I would guess that taxi drivers in Mexico wouldn’t accept Belize dollars. Try to obtain some pesos before crossing into Mexico if possible.
A Calm Border With Little to No Up-to-date Info Online
I was surprised by how calm and quick the border crossing was in both directions. Officers were polite and relaxed, there were no lines to wait in, and immigration forms were straightforward. It was a nice change from the ridiculously long customs lines and frustration that you are likely to encounter in major airports.
Now that you’re an expert in how to cross from Mexico to Belize or vice versa, you’re probably wondering what can be found in the surrounding areas. For one, Chetumal appears to be a fairly standard mid-sized city in Mexico, but the relatively close village and lagoon of Bacalar is absolutely worth a visit if you have the time.
On the Belizean side, Corozal is a laid-back and quiet town that reminded me of some of the small settlements I encountered in the Bahamas. The food is delicious, the locals are friendly, and the water here is a very unique shade of green. To read all about it in my next blog post, click here! If you have any questions about the border crossing, please leave a comment below!