A Guide: Travelling from Cancun, Mexico to Belize for Many Budgets

This is one of my most frequently asked questions and my post on the trip from Belize City to Cancun on the overnight bus is one of my most read.It’s just a fact.  Flying into Cancun is usually so much cheaper than flying to Belize City.  There are so many more direct flights, the airport probably has 100x the traffic.

If you have time, it’s a great way to save money on your trip to Belize.  I usually suggest it to someone that is coming to Belize for at least 8 days.  Depending on the times of your flights to and from Cancun, you will  probably have a travel day on either side of your trip.

One quick suggestion for saving money:  If you don’t want to travel to and from Cancun, try booking a “multi-city flight”.  Mix it up.  Flying into Cancun and out of Belize City or the other way around.  You can often save a few hundred dollars hat way.

Okay.  Let’s break it down by how expensive the option is.  And the more money always means the fastest.

Supposedly available in the next few weeks, you can fly on the new Tropic Air flight from Cancun directly to Belize International Airport.  The price or schedule for this option has not been announced yet.  Stay tuned.

I am not sure what size plane will be making the journey.  But here is one of their planes that flies in Belize.

If you are continuing on to San Pedro, the flight is an additional $78 USD.


Unless you fly into Cancun early in the morning, your trip down to Belize (6.5 to 9 hours in total) is going to require an overnight stay in Mexico.  I find that the very easiest place to stay the night is Playa Del Carmen, just one hour south of Cancun (not marked on the map, it is just across from Cozumel on the mainland).  You can also go to Tulum if you don’t mind travelling a bit longer (one more hour) after your flights.  It is also a great stop and will allow you to see the amazing ruins early the next morning.

Here’s a map for you.

The distance from Cancun to Corozal, Belize (the closest town to Mexico) is about 300 miles.

When you get off the plane, exit the airport and ask one of the 100s of helpers at the help desk for the ADO bus to Playa Del Carmen.  The bus costs $120 pesos or $10USD and takes you to Playa Del Carmen.  The trip is about 1 hour.

Since you are leaving the next morning, it’s easiest to buy your bus ticket for the next day at the station before you leave.  Check the ADO schedule on-line for all the times.  Your final destination?  Chetumal.  Also, make sure to ask which bus station you will be leaving from.  There are TWO in Playa del Carmen.

The town is laid out like a numbered grid.  So it’s quite easy to find your way around.  5th Avenue is the pedestrian walkway/heart of Playa.

Now you have the afternoon, evening and the morning in Playa.  You can generally find a decent hotel on-line for about $40-60USD.  You can also find cheap hostels or gorgeous expensive boutique hotels.  Up to you.  Enjoy…tons of eating, drinking, shopping, partying options.  It’s quite a big town.

Next morning, get on your bus to Chetumal at the correct station (though they are about 10 minutes walking distance to each other, you certainly don’t want to be running with all of your luggage if you pick the wrong one.)

The ride is on a comfy, air-conditioned bus and costs just about $200 pesos or $17 USD.  I am a big fan of the front seats though once you pass Tulum, there is VERY little to see other than bugs hitting the windshield.

It last 4.5 hours and has brief stops in Tulum and Puerto Carillo (my favorite).  A tiny totally non-touristy town where ladies at the bus station serve delicious, cheap tostadas.  Make sure to get plenty of the picked red onions.

Chetumal, Mexico is your final stop.  You have a few options from here:

More expensive:  You can have a taxi service from Belize pick you up at the bus station.  I like Henry Menzies and crew.  They are always super prompt, have new air-conditioned vans and are very helpful about getting you across the border hassle and worry free.  They also are very quick to answer emails.  Leave over an hour for this transfer.  It costs $30USD no matter how many people you have (up to 6 or 8).

Though the distance isn’t far (it’s about 15 minutes from the bus station to the border and then another 15-20 minutes on the Belize side to the air strip), you want to give yourself time if there is a line at the border.  You should NOT have to pay the exit fee from Mexico if you have been in the country for only one or two days.  They will sometimes try to charge you…let you transfer driver talk to Mexican immigration if this happens.  He can usually fix it (another perk of paying for this service….that exit fee is about $25USD).

You final destination is the Corozal air strip (a few minutes out of town) and the 20 minute flight on either Tropic Air or Maya Island to San Pedro.  The flight generally costs about $60USD each way.

If you have an extra time at the airstrip, check out this bar about 200 feet down the driveway.  Let’s just say there are plenty of interesting characters there to keep you busy.

Less expensive:  There is also a bus that can take you from Chetumal to Corozal town and ultimately to Belize City if that is your route.  They are Belizean buses and generally leave from the Market in downtown Chetumal.  Ask at the ADO station where you can locate that bus.  It is CHEAP and SLOW.  Since the bus is often full, it will insure that you are on a line at the border.

It’s a retired US school bus like this…but red.

Once in Corozal town, you will need to take a taxi to the air strip if you are continuing on via air.

And LASTLY!  The water taxi from Chetumal to San Pedro and then Caye Caulker, Belize.  Take a taxi from the ADO station in Chetumal to the municipal dock.  (About $50 pesos/$4US and 15 minutes.)

There are two water taxi companies (though right now they are only running one boat…which is a shame since the competition usually gets you lower prices on the fare.)

The two companies are San Pedro Belize Express ($40USD) and San Pedro Water Jets ($50USD).  Both depart Chetumal at 3pm.  And both take about 2 hours…longer if the water is choppy.

For the boat, you deal with Mexico immigration and customs on the Chetumal dock and Belize customs and immigration in San Pedro.  Depending on the amount of people on the boat, this can take quite a while.  Make sure to arrive at the Chetumal dock at least 30 minutes prior to departure.

If you are earlier, have a Corona at the new little bar set up on the dock.

Hmmmm…perhaps I have made this more complicated than it needs to be!  But there are really so many ways to do it.

If you have any questions, as always, send me an email at sanpedroscoop.com.  It’s really not hard!  Promise.

And if you have the time (the most crucial part!) and can save $250USD or more on the flights?  I think it is totally worth it.

  • Dr. Terdal

    I do the overnight bus from Cancun/Playa to Belize City.

  • Me

    Oh my…I shiver remembering that trip. But it does cut out the need for the overnight stay. And that is a huge plus…

  • Omaha Dave

    I always think about this when I hear you talk about any boat trip for a long duration of time, esp. when you suggest having a beer before you leave = what about needing a bathroom while on the boat ???

  • Me

    YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT IT! One of the boats has a bathroom…the other one? You are close to BURSTING.

    Not comfortable. Beg nicely and immigration in Belize will let you make a run for it.

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  • Babydoel

    Hey, has anyone done this with kids? Mine will be 4 and 6…..hoping to do this next March/April

  • Maggie


    I happened upon your link. I wished I had found it sooner. Anyway I am planning a trip to Belize from Mexico in July.

    I had planned to take a bus from Chetumal, Mexico to Belize. I am travelling with my teenage children. We plan to be in Belize beginning July 16 th and our flight from Cancun leaves the morning of July 26 th. We are interested in Lamanai and the ATM tour before going to the Cayes. Recently I realized that there are mainland trips to these sites from the Cayes. I am a budget to moderate traveler. Do you have any suggestions? I thought to take a bus to Orange Walk for the Lamanai tour, and then take a bus to San Ignacio for ATM before heading to the Cayes, but I realize now that we may be pressured for time.

    Thank you for your time.


  • Nathanael

    I am flying to Cancun today and then taking a bus to orange walk town, belize. My friends all do the ado overnight. I get there at noon. Is it possible to take a bus sooner? Perhaps a bus to Belize and then hop another bus to orange walk. Any other suggestions are welcome.