The Caribbean waters cascaded over our bodies while we enjoyed the much needed shade from swaying palm trees. We were on the island of Ambergris Caye, a picturesque hideaway off the coast of mainland Belize. But we wouldn’t have been here if we relied on flights to Belize City, as those flights were hundreds of dollars! So how can a backpacker bask in the bliss of San Pedro Belize?
First, fly or bus to Cancun, Mexico. What? Mexico? Since Mexico shares a border with Belize and is a popular (and easy to get to) tourist destination, flight prices are much lower and more direct than the hopper flights to Belize City.
We flew from South America, where most of the flights have you connect through the United States, which means big bucks and an expensive overnight! Instead, from Cartagena, we flew to Panama, then to Cancun. From there, you can take a bus or taxi to the Playa Del Carmen ADO bus station (the one at Avenida 20 between 12th and 14th streets – do NOT go to the one at 5th street) . Since Cancun airport is situated north of Cancun proper (the opposite way you want to be going), you’ll want to go to Playa Del Carmen bus station.
Once we arrived at Playa Del Carmen bus station, we purchased one-way tickets to Chetumal, Mexico, a 4-5 hour bus ride from Playa Del Carmen. These tickets were around $20 USD. We were hesitant at first, wondering if this was a safe or viable option, but our nerves were calmed once we were on the ADO bus. These buses are equipped with reclining seats and TV’s for entertainment. Having grown up in the northeast, these buses were much nicer than the ones we used to get into New York City. Sorry, Port Authority!
The ride to Chetumal was easy. After 2 flights and a taxi, it was nice to sit back and read undisturbed for 5 hours. When we wanted to take a break, we would watch the movies on the bus. Although they were in Spanish, we could still get the idea of the films. My mother (a director), always said, “you will understand a good commercial or movie by its visuals, even if the sound is off.” Mom, you were right again!
Once we arrived in Chetumal, we took a $3 USD taxi to a nearby hotel to stay overnight. We booked the Hotel Villanueva on Booking.com for $33. While it’s far from the four stars Booking.com awarded it, it was a great option for being so close to the ferry station. If you plan the timing right, you don’t have to stay overnight. We met plenty of backpackers that took a bus down from Tulum the same day of the ferry.
The next day, we walked over to Chetumal marina to acquire water taxi tickets to Belize. We recommend purchasing these in advance and remember to check the schedule! These ferries don’t run everyday so do your homework ahead of time.
After going through immigration at the Chetumal border, we boarded our water taxi, which was really a boat comprised only of backpackers, to Belize. This ferry is also a great jumping off point to make Belize buddies!
At 3 pm, we boarded our express ferry for the city of San Pedro, Belize. If you get seasick, take a Dramamine or use a seasickness patch since the ride can be quite bumpy. After a 90-minute ride to San Pedro, we had officially arrived in paradise. To go through customs, you pay a $1 USD fee and like that, you just saved hundreds of dollars to get to Belize!
Here’s a recap of what you need to do to get to Belize:
- Get to Cancun, Mexico (cost varies)
- Take an ADO bus to Chetumal, Mexico ($20)
- Take a ferry from Chetumal to San Pedro or Caye Caulker ($50)
- Pay a $1 entry fee to Belize
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Very Nice! I am going to plan this and give it a go.
Tim, you will love the snorkeling! The reef by Ambergris Caye stretches across the horizon farther than the eye can see. It’s a truly beautiful site. Next time we go back I want to stay on Caye Caulker. The one drawback from Ambergris Caye is there aren’t any swimming beaches, so if you’re a big beach person you may want to go to Caye Caulker. I believe there are more swimming beaches there. – Scott
Kerry and I have discussed going to Belize. Now we know we can do it on one of our trips to Cancun. Thanks for the tips.
There is also a direct bus that links Cancun and Belize City. I did this in January and saved at least $400!
Thanks for the info! That must be a longer ride than our 5 hour bus ride to Chetumal. – Scott
I was just looking at whether I wanted to Ambergris caye or not I am looking for a beach.
I am currently in Caye Caulker.
there are one or two places to get into the water however there really are no beaches to speak of.
I hope this helps.