Where it all started
Nov. 26th, 2020 After 10 months in Mexico, I decided to join my best friend to go to Guatemala, but the flights were extremely expensive and since they are just next to each other, we decided to do border crossing after it was confirmed that the land borders are opened. We were in Playa del carmen at that point and figured that we needed to go to Palenque which was perfect for us since we heard a lot of good things about the ruins there.
Unfortunately we couldn't find much information about self-border crossing so here is our experience. I will spill all the tea i know ------ all the way from Playa del Carmen, Mexico to Flores, Guatemala and more.
How to get to Palenque
There are 3 ways you can reach Palenque:
> Bus (WHAT WE DID)---- At least 10hrs
The local bus is THE CHEAPEST way which is not well known and only cost 400 MXN (20 USD).
You're only able to buy your ticket in person or make your reservation through WhatsApp. The bus we took left at 5:15pm and we arrived at Palenque around 3:50am in the morning.
The bus terminal :
I tried my best to find the location on google maps but I couldn't, but it's behind the Toyota Riviera Maya. It's a bit out of the town and you need to take a Taxi. The drivers all know about this place.
The LUXURY BUS ADO , will cost 800~1030 MXN (40~51.5 USD) -- with ADO having the most comfortable (better seats and also a well-known bus company in Mexico) and regular services to Palenque.
You can book you ticket online: https://www.ado.com.mx/
> Flight---- 1hr30mins
A flight from Cancun to Palenque will cost from 38~100 USD depending on the date and luggage.
Here are my favorite websites for searching cheap flights:
> Rental Car------unknown
Renting a car isn’t very expensive (you can rent a car for less than 20 USD/Day) in Mexico, but there's a lot of things you need to ask before you book it (especially insurance ), and you also need to consider gas and other fees, but if you have enough people this could be the cheapest way and the most fun, depending on the crew (I love road trip!!!!).
Since you already arrived at Palenque and I highly recommend you should stay a couple days to check out the ruins in Palenque, trust me it’s totally worth it and I will write a blog about all the information I know about it.
How to get to el Ceibo border
When I was there floods just hit this area and the Coletivo (which is the form of transportation local people use the most) couldn’t go directly to the border (I don't remember what happened exactly, we checked out many places including travel agencies and different bus terminals and figured out that we couldn't go to El Ceibo from Palenque….could have been the floods or maybe transportation wasn't available due to the pandemic or other reasons), but here is what we did and hopefully it helps.
First of all, you need to take the Coletivo from Palenque to Tenosique then take another bus to El Ceibo and then it's time for border crossing!!!!
Let me explain a bit more about the details!
Coletivo from Paleque to Tenosique:
Cost 80 MXN (4 USD)
The Coletivo leaves every hour from 4AM to 7PM.
As I mentioned, there was a flood that had just happened, so the Colectivo stopped at the spot they couldn’t cross and people needed to get off then either take the water boat (which you need to pay 10 MXN) or wait on the line for the military to take us across with their Humvee for FREE (what we did, different experience).
After we crossed the flooded area we got in a shared taxi (20 MXN for both) to go to the bus station in Tenosique in order to take another bus to El Ceibo, I know, FINALLY.
Cost 50 MXN (2.5USD)
I marked the location on my google maps but I’m not sure that it is exactly the spot so it will be better to confirm with the locals.
All about Exiting and Entering
Exiting: The immigration control is 10 mins walk away from the bus station or you can take a 2 mins Mototaxi ride which cost 10 MXN---0.5 USD (could be cheaper for local people).
Please always remember to keep your FMM form with you, because they will take it back when you exit Mexico and you will need to PAY for it if you LOST it.
Entering: Make sure that you have the Visa for Guatemala or a passport from a country where the visa is not required (I made a big mistake that cause me spent a lot of extra money and time).
After entering Guatemala then to Flores
Cost 60 GTQ (About 8 USD) and it will take 4hrs.
Bus to Flores: After finishing the entering process just follow the road. It's probably only a 2-3 mins walk then you will see a store on the right hand side, yep, thats the spot for you taking the bus to Flores, and also it's the place for money exchange if you need it, but don't worry about not getting a good rate because people will come up to you and ask. You can compare the rates they give.
Tip for Money exchange: Remember to check the rate online then you will have an idea for the rate so you can talk to them. I got a really good rate, even better than online.
"The Terminal" story in real life
I'm not sure if you still remember that I said I made a mistake, because as a Chinese citizen it is really difficult to travel due to the visa required. There's a lot of incorrect information online and that’s why I thought to build my own blog to share my experience.
Anyway, back to the story. Based on what I found online, I didn't need a visa for Guatemala because I had a Canadian tourist visa. But I didn't do enough research and when I tried to enter Guatemala I was told that I needed a visa. Then I showed them the post I saw online and after going back and forth for more than 30 mins I confirmed that I had to apply the visa in Mexico and I told me best friend just go ahead and i will try to meet him after i get the visa done. Then I tried to enter Mexico again to figure out the visa and the Mexican side told me that they can’t let me enter since I just left, although I hadn't entered Guatemala yet, which ,meant I was stuck in between both borders, and at that time I didn't have internet and I couldn't reach my best friend to tell him the situation since he was on the Guatemalan side and his Mexican number was out of service. I couldn't enter both borders and had been told I was literally stuck in between and was told there was only 2 hours left before they closed for the day.
I tried to communicate with them and tried to find a way, gong back and forth about 20mins before the borders closed. The Guatemalan side gave me a paper of the Guatemalan consulate location in Tenosique and told me to talk with Mexican side and convince them to let me enter for the visa. So I ran back to it before they closed and showed them the paper about the consulate location and promised them that I would leave right after getting the visa done. After a long talk one of them finally helped me to ask his boss. He was really nice and did me a favor. Right before they closed I got my entry to Mexico, paying for another FMM form for 7 days entry.
After that I walked back to the bus station and it turned out that the last bus left at 4pm. Luckily I met a taxi that was heading back to Tenosique city, 100 MXN, 1 hr.
The next day I woke up early and tried to be at the consulate as soon as they opened and got my visa done and headed to the border! What an experience! I learned my lesson.