Complete Guide for the Belize to Guatemala Border Crossing

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What we talk about in this article

Want to travel from San Ignacio to Flores in Central America? That means you will be crossing the Belize to Guatemala border overland. You’ll be doing what many backpackers have done before you, so, it won’t be an issue, but of course: it’s always fun to have an idea of how this process works. 

That’s why we created this comprehensive guide to crossing the border between Belize and Guatemala! The Belize to Guatemala border crossing can be a bit confusing and time-consuming if you’re not familiar with the process. However, with this guide in hand, you’ll be well-prepared to navigate through both sides of the border seamlessly.

Overview of crossing the Belize-Guatemala border

When planning a border crossing from Belize to Guatemala, it’s important to understand the process and what to expect. The border between the two countries is located at various points along their shared boundary, but there aren’t too many official crossings. The most popular crossing point for travellers is the border station of Melchor de Mencos, between the towns of San Ignacio in Belize and Flores in Guatemala.

To cross the border, you will need to go through immigration and customs procedures on both sides. This involves presenting your passport and completing necessary forms. Border fees and taxes may also be required.

Transportation options in this region vary. We will discuss a few options in this article.

Before you go

Before you embark on your journey to cross the Belize-Guatemala border, there are several important things to consider. First and foremost, it is essential to ensure that you have a valid passport with at least six months of validity remaining. Additionally, check if you require a visa for either country. Belize allows visa-free entry for many countries, while Guatemala may require a visa depending on your nationality.

Taking these necessary preparations before your journey will help ensure a smooth and hassle-free experience at the Belize-Guatemala border crossing.

Passport and visa requirements

When crossing the Belize-Guatemala border, it is essential to have a valid passport. Ensure that your passport is valid for at least six months beyond your intended stay. 

Most visitors to both Belize and Guatemala do not require a visa if they plan to stay for less than 90 days. 

Not sure if you need a visa? Check your country of origin and your destination country to find out if you need to obtain a visa.

If you are planning to stay in either country for longer than 90 days or engage in activities such as work or study, you may need to obtain a visa before your trip. 

When crossing the border, ensure that you have all necessary documents readily available, including your passport and any required visas.

Belize to Guatemala border crossing - getting your Guatemala stamps
Belize to Guatemala border crossing - getting your Guatemala stamps

Travel insurance

Travel insurance is an essential aspect of any trip, including crossing the Belize-Guatemala border. It provides you with financial protection in case of unexpected events such as medical emergencies, trip cancellations, or lost luggage.

Before embarking on your journey, make sure to review your existing health and travel insurance policies to determine if they cover international travel. If not, it is highly recommended to purchase a comprehensive travel insurance policy that includes coverage for both countries.

We recommend the SafetyWing Nomad insurance for any travel plans. It’s affordable and it covers most bases.

Read more about travel insurance for European travellers.

Currency and exchange rates

When you’re coming from Belize, travelling into Guatemala, the currency changes when you cross the border.

In Belize, the local currency is the Belize Dollar (BZD). The exchange rate for the Belize Dollar to US Dollar is fixed at 2:1, making it easy to convert between the two currencies. It’s advisable to carry some US Dollars when traveling to Belize as they are widely accepted.

In Guatemala, the official currency is the Quetzal (GTQ). The exchange rate for the Quetzal can fluctuate, so it’s recommended to check the current rates before your trip. US Dollars are also accepted in many places in Guatemala, especially in tourist areas.

It’s important to note that exchanging money at border crossings may not offer the best rates. It’s often better to exchange your currency at banks or authorized exchange offices in larger towns or cities.

Make sure to have some small denominations of both currencies for smaller purchases or when traveling to rural areas where change may be limited.

Crossing the border: exiting Belize

First station: the Belize exit station. Well, it’s also the entry station if you’re travelling the other way. In this office, you will go through immigration and customs in order to leave Belize. You need a few things to do this:
  • Your passport (with minimum 6 months validity)
  • Departure tax (around 20 US Dollars – 40 BZD)

There might be extra things, like questions and checks. We have not had our backpacks checked at this border station, but we did have to answer questions. For the Belize exit, don’t expect too many questions. After paying the exit fee, you get the exit stamp in your passport.
Complete Guide for the Belize to Guatemala Border Crossing
The Belize border office

Belize Exit fee or departure tax

The Belize exit fee is 20 US Dollars or similarly 40 BZD.

You can pay this amount in US Dollars or in Belizian dollars.

Make sure to have this amount of money in cash.

90 Day-limit for Belize

This is a pretty important thing to think about!

When entering Belize, you get a limited amount of days that you can stay visa free. Usually, that’s 90 days. Don’t overstay or you will have to pay a fine.

Also, getting the exit stamp is essential to have proof that you left the country.

Crossing the border: entering Guatemala

Once you have completed the necessary procedures to leave Belize, it’s time to enter Guatemala. The process of crossing the border into Guatemala is fairly straightforward.

First, you walk a few metres to the Guatemala immigration office. You need to bring all you have, so you can’t leave your backpack or anything in the minivan.

What you need to enter Guatemala:

  • Your passport (with minimum 6 months validity)
  • Fill in the forms presented

At the entrance station, you typically have to answer a few questions:

  • which places will you be visiting?
  • where will you be staying?
  • do you have anything to declare?

These questions mainly serve to check if you’re really a tourist with travel plans (and not a drug mule or similar).

Also, chances are good that you get a backpack check. We usually only had this at Mexican borders, but it heavily depends on the idea the customs officer has of you and if he or she is having a bad day.

Guatemala entrance fee: debatable!

Many travellers have to pay an entrance fee for Guatemala, but this does not seem to be valid. 

The regular entrance fee appears to be around 4 USD, similar to 40 Quetzales.

Usually, the entrance fee magically disappears when you ask for a receipt for your payment, as the entrance fee is illegal. 

Legally, there’s no entrance fee for Guatemala.

90 Day-limit for Guatemala

For Guatemala, the 90-day limit is completely different. 

When you get your entry stamp for Guatemala, it will state that you get 90 days in the CA-4 Area, which is larger than Guatemala alone. 

It actually means that you get 90-days of travel time in all 4 Central American countries: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. 

The 90-days do not renew when crossing the borders of these other 3 countries.

You will have to leave the CA4 region in order to get more days, meaning: go to Costa Rica or Belize and re-enter a few days later to get 90 new days.

Border office opening hours

The border offices between Belize and Guatemala have specific opening hours that you need to be aware of. Generally, the border is open from 7:00 AM to 9:00 PM, Monday through Sunday. These hours may vary, so it’s always a good idea to check the latest information before planning your trip.

It’s important to note that arriving too early or too late at the border can cause inconveniences. If you arrive before the border opens, you may have to wait until it officially opens, which can result in a delay in your journey. On the other hand, if you arrive after the designated closing time, you might not be allowed to cross and will have to find accommodation nearby for the night.

How long and how far?

From San Ignacio to the border town of Benque Viejo del Carmen, the distance is 14km. The roads are good and you can expect to make this journey in less than 30 minutes.

The border stations are pretty close together. Most cases, you have to walk across the border.

Then, from Melchor de Mencos to Flores, the distance is around 90 kilometres. This road used to be horrible and the trip would take hours. But now, there’s a new road, which make travelling between these towns quite hassle free. You can expect this part to take around 90 minutes.

In total, if all goes well, the trip from San Ignacio to Flores should not take longer dan 4 hours.

Me and my collectivo's. No, really! There's always the possibility of a delay in Guatemala
Me and my collectivo's. No, really! There's always the possibility of a delay in Guatemala

Transportation options for the Belize to Guatemala border crossing

Now, as a traveller, you have a few options for transportation to do this trip. The transport you choose will make a huge difference in the fun and easy of your trip.

Getting a shuttle for the entire trip (recommended)

This is, as an ‘extranjero’ the easiest and safest option. We did it this way ald it was quite adventurous in itself. 

Since getting vehicles across the border is not a 2-minute job, this is how the process will go.

The minibus picks you up at your San Ignacio accommodation or you get to the tranportation hub, as discussed when booking the shuttle. This minibus will pick up other travellers in San Ignacio. 

You exit Belize, walk across the border, enter Guatemala, and follow your guide to the Guatemalan shuttle.

The Guatemalan shuttle can be right there, in front of the border. But sometimes, it’s parked in a side street. So, then you have to walk through the streets of Melchor de Mencos.

Getting public transportation

Getting to the border of Belize and Guatemala by bus is relatively easy, with a few transportation options available. There are regular bus services that run between San Ignacio and the border town of Benque Viejo del Carmen. The journey takes approximately 30 minutes.

At the border, the bus will drop you off and you need to find different transportation in Guatemala.

So you walk the 200 meters across the border yourself and look for a new bus when you have crossed the border. 

This can be daunting, as this area is busy and there are a lot of people buying and selling stuff. Plus, this border is known for being a tourist scam.

But, the best way to get public transportation from the border to Flores, is finding a collectivo. Usually, there are quite a few locals getting a collectivo in the direction of Flores. And they’re getting it somewhere near the border. So, ask around in shops: where do collectivo’s to Flores leave? Speaking a bit of Spanish will definitely help.

Self Driving

If you’re driving your own vehicle, you will need a little ore time at the border. On top of checking yourself out of Belize and into Guatemala, you will also need to clear the vehicle.

Importing a vehicle into both of these countries is perfectly possible, especially when you’re only travelling through. 

Read this guide about overlanding this border with your own vehicle.

Beware of border scams

When traveling to any new country, it is important to prioritize your safety and security. This holds true when crossing the Belize-Guatemala border as well. While both countries are generally safe for tourists, it is still crucial to exercise caution and stay aware of your surroundings.

This specific border is a true hub for tons of activities. Aside from these legal activities, the border is known as the perfect place to scam a tourist. 

A few examples of common scams to expect at this border:

Border crossing taxi

There will be taxi’s when you leave the Belize exit office, offering you a taxi ride to the Guatemalan entry office. This ride is ridiculous, as it’s only 100 metres. Expect to pay too much money for this.

Extra fees

There will also be people waiting for you when you exit the Belize exit office, asking you for the Guatemalan entry fee. Don’t pay them, as it’s a scam.

You only pay entry and exit fees inside the border offices, never in the streets.

Money exchange scams

As with any border in these areas, you can exchange your Belizian dollars for Guatemalan Quetzales at the border. Chances are slim that you’ll be getting a fantastic exchange rate. 

Aside from the bad rates, you will also probably get scammed. 

Want to be prepared for the most common travel scams abroad?

3 ways to do the Belize to Guatemala border crossing

As you might already suspect, this is not the only border crossing to get from Belize to Guatemala. But in fact, options are quite limited. These are the options!

Land crossing of Melchor de Mencos (this one)

So, the land crossing between San Ignacio and Flores is the option most travellers choose. It’s is well-travelled, offers easy transportation options, and you will meet a lot of other travellers on this route. 

Aside from that, it is also the cheapest.

Land route from San Ignacio to Flores
Land route from San Ignacio to Flores

Flight: Belize City to Guatemala City

Second option: getting a flight between the 2 capitals of these countries.

We wouldn’t recommend taking this route, unless you’re really short on time. You will miss out on a lot when taking this route. 

You’ll miss the beautiful area around San Ignacio and Flores, both of which have a lot to offer for travellers.

Plus, getting a flight is, without a doubt, more expensive. You’re not only paying for the flight, but also for the trips to and from the airport.

Getting a flight from Belize City to Guatemala City

Boat: Punta Gorda to Puerto Barrios

This is an adventurous option to travel between the 2 countries. We have not done this border crossing, but it’s perfectly possible. 

With an over water border crossing, you can expect to pass through customs on land, obviously. 

Get your exit stamp in Punta Gorda and expect your bags to be checked or sniffed by a dog. When arriving in Puerto Barrios, you will have to go through immigration there. Your 90 days for CA-4 start in Puerto Barrios.

Remember, you will be missing out on a few great destinations if you take this route. Plus, Puerto Barrios is not really a fantastic tourist destinations and you will probably want to travel to Livingston from there.

Read up on your destination: Livingston.

What's next in Guatemala?

So, now that you’re in Guatemala, let’s find out what’s next.

Flores area

So, now that you’re in Guatemala,

You’re driving into Flores, the portal to the Mayan world in Guatemala.

Find out about the very best things to do in Flores and make sure not to visit a few of these amazing Mayan ruins in Guatemala.

Did you already book your accommodation in Flores?

Your Guatemala Itinerary

Guatemala is a stunning country with tons of things to see and do. So, this also offers quite a few options to mold your itinerary to your own wishes and travel needs.

Not sure you to plan you trip to Guatemala? Have a loop at these Guatemala itinerary ideas and discover more about the different destinations.

Backpacking Guatemala?

We’ve backpacked Guatemala multiple times and can confirm: it is an amazing destination for backpack travellers.

Do you want to get the most out of your trip? Read our detailed guide about backpacking in Guatemala and find all the tips and tricks you need.

Transportation in Guatemala

Your trip to Guatemala is not complete if you only use the tourist shuttles in this country. Think about local transportation, like collectivo’s and checken buses. And no, you don’t get a taxi in Guatemala, you get a tuctuc!

Read all there is to know about transportation in Guatemala.

Interesting facts about Guatemala

Travelling in Guatemala may be a completely different experience from anything else you know, depending on the other travel experience you already have. Guatemala is vastly different from any experience we had in Europe, so it can be interesting to read up on the things that are different. 

Read these interesting facts about Guatemala and have a better idea of what to expect!

Conclusion - tackling the Belize to Guatemala border crossing with ease

In conclusion, crossing the border between Belize and Guatemala can be an exciting and enriching experience. Whether you are visiting for the stunning natural attractions, the rich Mayan history, or simply exploring new cultures, both countries offer a wealth of opportunities for travellers.

Before you go, it’s important to ensure you have all the necessary documents, such as your passport and visa requirements. Additionally, getting travel insurance and the right vaccinations is highly recommended to keep yourself protected during your journey.

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