Border crossing Mexico – Guatemala. Frontera Corozal
Mexico – Guatemala
We made the extremely exhausting trip from Palenque, Mexico to Flores, Guatemala. Now it’s always cheaper to arrange transportation yourself rather than through a tour company…However, since we decided to leave for Flores the next day at the last minute, and we didn’t have the time or a reliable enough internet connection to figure out bus schedules, prices, etc. ourselves, we agreed to pay a tour company 350 pesos per person ($23.50 US) to arrange the whole trip. First we’ll tell you about our experience with the “tour” and next we’ll describe exactly how you can do the trip yourself and how much it might cost.
All tour companies leave Palenque at 6am and will pick you up directly from your hotel for between 350 and 400 pesos for the entire trip Palenque-Flores. Our driver never showed up though, so we arranged with someone else to take us at 8am for 400 pesos, after being told that everyone left already and they were making a special tour “just for us”.
First we get dropped off at a colectivo with Autotransporte Chamoán next to the ADO bus terminal in Palenque. We were told, “When you get to Frontera Corozal, Francisco will be waiting for you. He will arrange everything,” and then we loaded into the colectivo full of other passengers, none of who were going to Guatemala.
About 3.5 hours later we arrive to Frontera Corozal. The driver lets us out at the river and says, “okay, immigration is right over there…you can walk from here.” After reminding him that we paid for the entire trip in advance, he drives us up to the immigration office and says, “The guy will be here soon.” “Umm..no!” we say, “We’re not taking the bags out of the van until he shows up.” After yelling over to the guys he sees on the side of the road trying to find Francisco, someone else comes over who is supposedly taking us across the river.
Immigration is a piece of cake. There’s one official and we are the only people there. We present our passports, our FMM cards (Mexico visitor’s permit), and copies of our receipts from our flights into Mexico to prove that we’ve already paid the Mexican tourism tax of 320 pesos. He doesn’t ask us any questions. “About how many people pass through here daily?” I ask. He says that it depends, “Sometimes 60 or 70…sometimes only 5. Today is a slow day.”
The boat ride to Técnica is less than 10 minutes. Our boat driver assures us that he has the money to pay for our bus tickets on the other side.
The boat docks and we walk 2 minutes up the road to the ticket office for the bus and receive our “tickets”. The bus leaves at 12:30.
Half an hour later we stop in Bethel at the immigration office while the bus waits for us (honking its horn for us to hurry up!). Again, no questions. Just the request to pay a fee of 40 quetzales. When we said we didn’t have the currency yet, he told us we could pay in pesos (100), dollars (5), or pay on our way out of the country. UPDATE: We said we would pay on our way out and never had to pay anything. This fee isn’t real.
The bus from Técnica to Flores is about 5 hours total, the first 3 hours of which are on a VERY bumpy dirt road. Once we reach the paved road at La Libertad, we stop at a gas station and get a car wash! (Included with the purchase of gas)
We were told we were buying a tour to Flores, however the bus’s last stop is at the bus station in Santa Elena where we change some of our pesos and take a moto-taxi for 15Q ($2 US) to Flores, the small island connected to Santa Elena by bridge.
Now if you want to avoid the sketchy tour companies and save some money…here’s how you would do the Palenque-Flores trip on your own:
- Take a colectivo for 100 pesos ($7 US) Palenque-Frontera Corozal. Autotransporte Chamoán leaves once an hour from a lot next to the ADO bus station.
- Tell the colectivo driver you want to get off at the immigration office. You should have the FMM card that you got when you arrived. If you arrived to Mexico by plane you have already paid the tourism tax of 320 pesos and don’t need to pay it again. Print out the receipt from your plane ticket that shows the details of the charges. (photo). The immigration office is open 8am-4pm.
- Walk from the immigration office 2 minutes to get to the river. Boat drivers will be waiting there. It costs 50 pesos ($3.50 US) per person to Técnica, but this rate is probably negotiable.
- Once in Técnica, walk up the main road a couple minutes until you get to the ticket office for the bus. Buy your ticket to Santa Elena for 60 quetzales ($8 US). The buses run every hour, but the last one leaves at 2:30pm so leave early from Palenque!
- Tell the bus driver you need to go through immigration in Bethel. They will wait for you!
- At the bus terminal in Santa Elena, negotiate the rate of a moto-taxi down to 10Q ($1.30 US)
Total time = 8.5 to 9 hours
Total cost = 286 pesos or $19.80