There are a number of transport options but we decided to take the shuttle bus to cross from Mexico into Guatemala using the Ciudad Cuauhtémoc to La Mesilla crossing.
We’ve tried to keep this short & simple for anyone looking to do the same. Here are the details of how we did it & what happened along the way.
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We booked our tickets with a travel agent in town before leaving San Cristobal de las Casas for 350 MXN per person, getting a receipt & giving our hostel details as an exact pick up location. If you are planning on doing the same & have time, remember to shop around for tickets, prices can vary so it’s always a good to get an idea of what the range is rather than just going with the first ticket.
Another important thing to remember (that we messed up & didn’t do!) if you have arrived to the country by air is to get a copy in advance from your airline stating that your departure tax has been fully included in the price of your ticket. You will need to show this at the border when leaving Mexico or risk getting stung 500 MXN per person, there is a way of paying this fee officially if you cannot get confirmation from your airline- you can pay a fee at the bank & get a receipt from them to show at the border which is a lot cheaper than paying the border officials at 295 MXN per person.
We were up at the crack of dawn for our bus to pick us up, it arrived at 5:30 am, just in time to catch a lovely sunrise over the streets of San Cristobal. Our bus was a small minibus with 15 seats, all of which were full but we found it comfortable enough.
We were unfortunate to experience road blocks, due to protests in the Chiapas region, so the bus took a lot longer to get the border than anticipated, it would normally take 3-4 hours but ended up taking us about 7.
Apart from the annoying fact that we had to cough up 500 MXN each our border crossing was relatively hassle free. On the Guatemalan side another “fee” of 25 pesos was demanded, we paid this in MXN as it works out at less but this fee can be paid in either MX pesos or GTQ. We would recommend changing some money at the border in case you need it on the road, although there was an ATM at the gas station we later stopped at, around 60km from the border.
We had to change buses at the border, as does everyone. For us there was a lot of waiting around for our new bus however we believe that normally this is not the case, it was for us the road blocks that caused a backlog.
Us & the 11 other people from our group were ushered onto a chicken bus with another group & finally we were off again! Travel in Guatemala is a lot slower than Mexico due to the mountains, road & vehicle conditions but our journey took a lot longer than we expected.
It is normally an estimated 3-4 hours from the border to Panajachel on Lake Atitlán but took us around 8! A mix of the driver stopping for food, us having to drop passengers off at multiple locations & our bus barely moving when it went uphill meant that the journey was a long one. Having said that it was interesting & our driver made sure he dropped us right to the door of our hostel.
There’s always a lot of hype around borders but if you go prepared (like we didn’t) or even unprepared (like we did) it’s a busy border, that sees hundreds of tourists a day so in theory it should always be pretty hassle free.
Road blocks are unfortunately one of those things that cannot be controlled, we try to remember that the people who are blocking the roads are protesting for something they deeply believe in, in this case it was rights of indigenous people so we figured a couple of hours more of our time for people who were fighting their cause was worth it.
Take plenty of snacks & water with you if doing this journey as if you manage it in the estimated time the drivers may not stop as much as ours did, you can also buy food & drinks at the border.
If you have any questions on this post at all please let us know!
Happy Travels 🙂