A “crossing the border” experience from San Ignacio to El Remate
Crossing the border between Belize and Guatemala was easy. Staying in San Ignacio for 2 days helped. We were well rested and very close to the border which was only 10Km away. We left San Ignacio relatively early. This way we had all the necessary time to make the crossing and arriving in our destination at a decent time.
A taxi took us right in front of the custom offices for just 5 Belize dollars each or USD2.5 each. This is the standard price for this journey. It was probably the easiest, fastest and cheapest border crossing transport we have ever had. We took our backpacks and we walked into the Belize immigration building. Unlike in Mexico, there are clear signs that spell out exactly how much it costs to leave the county and the split of this cost. For example, conservation fees, admin fees, etc.
Although it is very expensive at USD20 each, we felt a bit better knowing that we were going to be given a receipt for this transaction. Something that was also quite rare to experience was that we paid part of this cost via credit card! Yes, you read that right. We did not have enough Belize dollars left and we asked to pay one part in cash and the reminder via credit card. We were quite impressed our wish was granted. The border guards then took us upstairs to their admin offices to process the card transaction. In Mexico we felt we were simply giving our money to the dudes in charge at that moment, but at least in Belize we have been issued receipt 🙂 .
As soon as our passports were stamped we exited the Belize immigration office into the unknown. A minivan driver approached us the moment we walked out and quoted us GTQ 50 each to reach our intended destination of El Remate. We did not study the details on how to proceed for our journey after this point and found ourselves a bit clueless. We were only in possession of our precious pre-loaded Google maps. But approximately 6 or 7 US dollars for a quick crossing into Guatemala seemed ok. We could have been straight on our way to our desired destination and so we agreed. The only problem though was that we had no local money! We then agreed on a not so convenient exchange rate of 6.5 to 1 US dollar.
The minivan driver then assigns us an escort to walk to the Guatemala immigration building and back. We quickly had a change of hearth after realizing how easy this border crossing was. The Guatemala immigration was barely 50 meters away. Google maps indicated a bus terminal right after the border too. And so we inform our escort that we would instead find our own way rather than joining them. The dude was not very happy, but we insisted not joining them. We realized we had made an impulsive decision accepting their offer without checking other options. After all, it was only 10am in the morning…we had all the time to take a look around, find other transport options and plan our journey.
Crossing the border into Guatemala was then SUPER smooth. There was no queue, there was no fee to pay and in no time we were across.
Central America Money Changers
Inside the border “room” someone approached us with a large stack of cash in his hand. Behind him there were another 4 or 5 guys all carrying these huge bundles of cash in their hands. It seemed really dodgy, but nobody looked too troubled about this. You should also know that this immigration office was quite peculiar. It is actually just a long counter in an open room. There were no walls to confine the officers’ desks and right along one side of the space the actual road leading into Guatemala. The crossing point into the country was literally just the road and this open concept “room”.
Imagine a road where all cars, trucks, minivans, tuk tuk, motorbikes, people, dogs, etc. were passing by. Then this room facing the road, at the end of which were the long desks with the immigration officers ‘computers; armed guards left, right and centre and the dudes with the cash. It seemed a bit surreal, but then we imagined ourselves in front of a club showing-off our huge stack of cash…what could possible happen? haha!
Anyways, Central America introduced us to it’s forex services 😉
We exchanged a small amount of money for GTQ7 per USD1 and off we walked the streets of Melchor de Mencos’ town.
Past the Border
Straight after crossing the border we had to walk over a bridge, which lead us into our first Guatemala’s town. We followed the road as indicated on our digital map and it took us no time to find the colectivo bus station. Just before arriving a very nice guy approached us too and asked if we were looking for transport. The gentlemen pointed us to his minivan that was right there at the colectivo bus point. For GTQ30 each we were off to El Remate, a small town on the coast of the Peten Itza lake in Northern Guatemala.
Our Guatemala experience just started!
Point to note: the colectivo goes all the way to Flores. You would need to get off at the cross junction before El Remate and either wait for another colectivo (rare) or walk…we walked!
Check our other article about crossing the border between Costa Rica and Panama.