How to Cross the Guatemala – Belize Border by Land

Find out how easy it is to cross the Guatemala-Belize land border and back again with this step-by-step guide. Read on for all the details

Guatemala landscape

The Central American countries of Guatemala and Belize may be relatively small, but they pack a big punch when it comes to historical sites and natural beauty. Fortunately, crossing the Guatemala-Belize border is so simple that you’ll have no excuse not to visit them both.

In this guide, we’ll go over the procedure of getting from Guatemala to Belize (and vice versa) in a step-by-step rundown that will leave you feeling calm and confident. We’ll explain in detail what you’ll need in terms of documents, how to get there, and how much you can expect to pay. Sound easy? That’s because it is. 

Important Disclaimer: Though every effort has been made to provide the most current and up-to-date information, please keep in mind that international border crossings and their entry and exit requirements are very much subject to change. Political factors, natural disasters and global influences can affect a nation’s borders with little warning. Be sure to check with your country’s embassy and your destination country before you leave for your trip.

Crossing the Guatemala-Belize Border by Land

This region is a major artery for guests visiting the spectacular Mayan ruins at Tikal, or the world’s second-longest barrier reef in Belize.

Currently, there is only one land crossing open between Guatemala and Belize, and it’s in the northeast corner of Guatemala and the western border of Belize. The two border cities are Benque Viejo del Carmen on the Belize side and Melchor de Mencos in Guatemala. 

The most popular departure points for the border are San Ignacio in Belize and the picturesque island town of Flores, situated in lovely Lake Peten Itza in Guatemala.

Melchor de Mencos, Guatemala to Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize

Melchor town in Guatemala, before the Belize border

Despite being the only place currently open for land crossings, the border town of Melchor de Mencos, Guatemala, doesn’t have the chaotic immigration scenes on display at other border crossings. 

Naturally, your first step is to get to the Guatemalan border. From the tourist town of Flores, a shuttle will take about two hours to get you to the border town of Melchor de Mencos.

Upon arrival, change your money before crossing the border, as Guatemalan quetzals are not accepted in Belize.

The open hours and availability of immigration on the Guatemalan side are from 6 am to 10 pm daily. With such a simple immigration process, it’s no surprise that it is extremely unlikely that you’ll be faced with a long wait time to get through.

Welcome to Belize sign near the border of Guatemala

There is no exit fee to leave Guatemala. Just present your passport to get stamped, and you can walk across the no man’s land between the countries. Once across the bridge, you are now in Belize and must enter the immigration office there.

On the Belize side, you won’t have to pay entrance fees. You’ll have your passport checked and stamped and possibly be asked questions such as: “Where are you staying in Belize? How long do you plan to stay in Belize? What is your itinerary?” 

It is a good idea to book a place to stay on your first night, just in case you’re asked.

Once through customs, you are now free to catch a taxi, shuttle or colectivo (shared minivan) to bring you on to San Ignacio and points beyond throughout Belize

Crossing the Belize-Guatemala Border

Xunantunich Ruins Belize, near the Guatemala border

If, instead, your travel originates on the Belize side of the border, the process is slightly different but just as simple.

Benque Viejo del Carmen, Belize to Melchor de Mencos, Guatemala

map of Central America with Guatemala Belize border

The steps to cross from Belize to Guatemala are the same as the other way around, though the border going into Guatemala is open 24 hours a day/7 days a week (as opposed to the opposite side, which is from 6 am to 10 pm). 

Your first step is getting to the border town of Benque Viejo del Carmen. 

The easiest way—if you’re not already on a cross-border shuttle—is to take a taxi from San Ignacio. The ride will take about 20 minutes, and taxis are often shared to defray the already reasonable cost (around 7 Belizean dollars or about US$3.50).

Before you enter the immigration office, you can exchange your currency into Guatemalan quetzals.. Or you can wait until you’re through and use the services of someone on the other side. Either way, it needs to be done, so the choice is yours.

At the departure hall, officials will first direct you to a desk where you’ll have to pay the departure fee of BZN$ 40 or about US$20. This fee encompasses various sub-fees relating to the border, conservation and development.

Belize flag in a blue sky

Once you’ve paid your departure fee, you’ll need to show the guard your passport and receive an exit stamp. You may or may not be asked how long you were in the country, but that’s information you’ll know quite well. The whole process will likely take less than 20 minutes.

Now it’s time to walk across to the Guatemalan border control. This should take just a few minutes, and it’s unlikely you’ll come across any lines. There is no daily limit to the number of visitors, so you won’t have any issues with that either.

At the immigration office, you’ll be asked to fill out an immigration form, which you will present along with your passport. Once through, you can explore the town or catch a bus or colectivo to bring you wherever you wish.

What Do You Need to Cross the Border?

colorful Guatemala passport stamps you get at the border

Here’s a list of the essentials you’ll need to ensure a quick and easy border crossing.

Passport 

To enter both Belize and Guatemala, residents of the United States, United Kingdom and European Union must present a passport that will be valid for the entire length of their stay. The same is true of many other nationalities. To be safe, check with your local embassy.

In each case, having a blank page in your passport is required.

Visa

Residents of the US, Canada, UK and EU do not require a visa to enter Belize (up to 90 days) or Guatemala (up to 30 days). Other nationalities can check Project Visa to see if a visa is needed for either country.

Departure Tax

There are no fees required to leave Guatemala. 

You will, however, pay a departure tax when leaving Belize of BZN$40 (about US$20)

Proof of Exit

You will get an exit stamp upon leaving both Belize and Guatemala. This will be handled at the immigration office.

Proof of Onward Travel

In theory, US citizens are required to show proof of onward travel. But in reality, it is doubtful that you will be asked when crossing through the land border. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to have your itinerary and return air tickets handy if they want proof.

Proof of Economic Stability

Neither side requires tourists to provide proof of economic stability. 

Entry Fee

There is currently no entry fee required to enter Belize or Guatemala.

Cash

image of a 10 quetzales note, Guatemalan money

It is quite helpful to have small denominations of the local currencies on hand. There are usually plenty of money changers near the immigration offices. 

On the Belize side, they use Belizean dollars, while on the Guatemalan side, the currency is in Guatemalan quetzals (named after the colorful indigenous bird that can be found here).

Safety Tips

Generally speaking, this is a very safe border crossing—especially regarding physical safety. Still, the usual common sense of being alert to your surroundings, watchful of your belongings, and not flashing a lot of cash or expensive items very much applies.

Despite the rather straightforward process of crossing the border, there may be scammers. For example, there have been reports of unscrupulous taxi drivers convincing travelers that the colectivo station is too far to walk. 

This is patently untrue. The station is in a closed parking lot with a red fence no more than a 5-minute walk from the office. So politely decline any taxi drivers looking to (literally) take you for a ride and make your way there on foot.

COVID-19 Restrictions

At the time of writing, neither Belize nor Guatemala require proof of COVID-19 vaccination to enter the country. However, given the uncertain nature of pandemics, it’s always a good idea to check if there have been any new developments before you leave.

Map of the Guatemala Belize Border

Here is a helpful map to assist you in visualizing the locations involved and the logistics of getting between them.

Getting Around 

side of chicken bus in Guatemala

In relation to its small size, getting around Belize offers more than the usual amount of logistic challenges—since buses, shuttles and even ferries are in play. 

Getting around Guatemala is also not without its challenges, though the usual options of buses and shuttles are the mainstay.

For this particular border crossing, many opt for a shuttle between Flores and San Ignacio or Flores to Belize City, where you can set off to one of the beautiful offshore islands.

Popular tour operators are Marlin Espadas and Adrenalina Tours, which operate cross-border routes. 

Things Not to Miss in Belize and Guatemala

Whether your point of origin is in Belize or Guatemala, if you’re in this little corner of the world, there are certain sights you just won’t want to miss.

Flores, Guatemala

Flores island, Guatemala near the border of Belize

Set on a tiny island in Lake Peten Itza, this vibrant town of multicolored houses looks right out of a storybook. It offers fantastic lake views and is particularly geared for tourists. While many pass through solely to visit the Mayan ruins at Tikal, spending a night (or two or three) will be well worth your while, if only for the ambiance alone.

Tikal National Park, Guatemala

Tikal Ruins in Guatemala

Fans of history and culture will not want to miss one of the most important Mayan archaeological complexes. 

This UNESCO World Heritage Site holds both cultural and natural significance. The ruins sit in a wild, unspoiled jungle that serves as a habitat for many species of flora and fauna.

This is one of the premier attractions in all of Guatemala, so if you’re going to be in the neighborhood, make sure it’s on your itinerary.

Jungle Activities near Belmopan, Belize

hanging bridge in Belize

In the outlying regions of the Belizean capital, you can find plenty of soft adventure activities that are well worth your time. 

Try cave tubing tours, where you float in an inner tube along jungle rivers that duck in and out of the cave systems frequented by the Mayans.

You can also have fun hiking in nearby national parks or soar above it all on a zip-lining tour. 

Whatever you choose, Western Belize offers a great variety of adventures to fill your available time.

Belize Cayes, Belize

famous dive site in Belize, The Blue Hole

Just offshore of the former capital of Belize City is a string of low-lying islands that stretch out into the Bay of Honduras. It’s where you’ll find the country’s most amazing beaches as well as access to some of the best scuba diving in the Western Hemisphere along the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System—also a World Heritage Site.

The most famous of these dive sites is the Blue Hole—a nearly circular sinkhole that plunges down some 108 meters (354 feet). Its dark blue water appears like a hole in the lighter turquoise water around it. Getting there usually involves a dedicated diving tour, but being able to say you dove in the Blue Hole is the feather in any serious diver’s cap.

The Wrap-Up

overhead shot of beach with green roofs and speedboat near th border of Belize and Guatemala

By combining some time in the Guatemalan jungles with the gorgeous offshore scenery at one of Belize’s many cayes, you can have the ultimate surf and turf experience without traveling long distances.

Whether you’re starting in Guatemala or Belize, crossing the border is highly recommended to enjoy the incredible natural and cultural wonders on both sides. 

Fortunately, as you can see, making this crossing requires very little paperwork, hassle and even money. So, be sure to explore these fascinating destinations. Rest assured, the crossing will take little time and effort from your touring activities.

FAQ

How much should I expect to pay when crossing the border? 

You shouldn’t expect to pay anything when entering or exiting Guatemala. Upon leaving Belize, expect to pay a departure tax of BZN$40, or about US$20. Beyond that, your only expenses will be transportation to and from the border and any snacks or souvenirs you pick up along the way.

Is there a minimum stay?

There is no minimum stay required for either Belize or Guatemala.

Do I need return tickets (proof of exit)? 

To enter Guatemala, no proof of onward travel is required. To enter Belize, you technically should have proof of onward travel though this is rarely enforced. Still, you’re best off having proof that you intend to leave within the allotted time (such as a return air ticket) and a reservation for at least your first night in the country. 

Is it easy and hassle-free to cross the Guatemala-Belize border?

Unlike some other Central American border crossings, going between Guatemala and Belize by land is straightforward. With short wait times, no daily limits and spectacular attractions on both sides, you can pass through quickly, easily and cheaply and take advantage of all the region offers.

Posted May 29, 2023
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Ben Pastore
Ben is a freelance travel writer, public speaker and graphic artist whose adventures to date have brought him to 78 countries across all 7 continents. He is the author of the witty travel ebook You Can Keep Your Adventure Just Leave Me the Toilet Paper, and a host of travel articles detailing his journeys. When not gallivanting across the globe, Ben spends his time as a volunteer minister along with his wife in Houston, TX, USA.
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