A day of travelling by bus and boat from Tulum to San Pedro
It was now time to say goodbye to Mexico and make our way to Belize, our first Central American country.
We loaded our case into the boot of the ADO bus, were given a luggage receipt (which is always reassuring) and left Tulum’s central bus station on time at 08:30 am. The bus was full so we were glad we had booked the tickets in advance a couple of days before.
The 3.5 hour journey south towards the border with Belize was along a straight, quiet and fairly nondescript road. The bus didn’t stop for any breaks until it arrived in Chetumal (still Mexico) at midday.
The bus station is in the centre of Chetumal so we found a taxi to take us to the international ferry port for our boat to San Pedro, Belize. The taxi driver tried to charge 200 pesos to take us to the port but as we had already discovered that the fare should be no more than 70-80 pesos or 100 at the most, that was what we paid (and also that was all the Mexican currency we had left!)
It also took some explaining that we wished to go to ‘el puerto’ thus requiring us to dig out our Spanish phrase book! (And more determination on our part to learn some essential Spanish phrases…)
We arrived at the port and purchased the boat tickets however we had to pay the fare of US$ 55 each in cash as it was not possible to pay with debit or credit cards. Also we were fortunate there were some boat tickets left as there is only one service each day at 3.30 pm. (Plan B was to get a second bus to Belize City and transfer to San Pedro from there…)
Immigration opened at 2 pm so with over an hour to kill we decided to seek out some lunch.
We were delighted to find an excellent roof bar right on the top of the port building. We had a tasty lunch of shrimp quesidillas and organic sandwiches with fries and a bottle of Corona each for £11.00. This made a pleasant change from the times we’ve grabbed crisps, cashew nuts, banana chips and water whilst on long journeys in Thailand and Vietnam.
And this bar does take cards! Hurrah!
Incidentally we have started using a Revolut card as a safe and secure card payment mechanism while abroad. You can use it as a MasterCard for payments (in hotels, restaurants, shops etc) and you can withdraw up to £500 in cash per month from any ATM in most countries. You can keep the balance as low as you wish and simply top up as needed. This card reduces the risk of fraudulent activity with your usual debit and credit cards. It is all controlled using a mobile app and you even get a text message with details about your transaction about 30 seconds after making it!
Our nicely full and contented feeling came to an abrupt end when we arrived at the immigration desk at 2 pm. Despite having checked the UK’s FCO Mexican immigration web page we hadn’t anticipated having to pay a ‘Mexican tourist tax’ of US$25 each!
Apparently this is usually included in your air fare to the country, yet despite showing our phone with the air fare break down (including ‘tax’) this wasn’t good enough. We were not going to obtain exit from Mexico without paying up! Fortunately we had enough US dollars (just) and were able to pay it.
Next, before boarding the boat all passengers had to line up their hand luggage for the customs sniffing dog patrol. It was quite a relief to see that the dog had no interest in the luggage especially as 2 armed police officers looked on.
We were then led to the boat which was something of a free-for-all… no orderly queues as people were keen to get on board and claim their space on the boat!
The boat was small and had between 70-80 people crammed on board. There was no room to get up or move around during the two hour journey (which was 15 minutes late in leaving). Fortunately this cramped and extremely bumpy journey passed fairly quickly and it didn’t seem long before we reached San Pedro. There were no drinks, snacks or washroom facilities on board.
We arrived in the rain at 16.45 local time due to there being a one hour time difference between Mexico and Belize. Immigration was a lengthy process… it took nearly an hour for the 70 odd passengers to have their forms checked and passports stamped for entry into Belize.
After a journey of over 9 hours we finally made it into Belize!
Note: This boat service continues on to Caye Caulker. Those passengers heading there had to complete their immigration in San Pedro before re-boarding the boat for the extra trip onwards to Caye Caulker.