Mexico to Belize | Bumpy Boats & Immigration Issues

As we ate our last quesadillas and sipped our last Coronas in a lively Mexican restaurant, a feeling of melancholy crept over us. Our two months in Mexico were relaxing, rejuvenating and exactly what we were looking for, but we weren’t expecting to be so sad to leave this colourful country. We reflected on our time here and enjoyed our last delicious Mexican meal. As we made our way to the Chetumal pier, our sadness soon melted away in the intense sun and we both became excited for our next paradise, Belize.

beers in mexico
Cheers to an awesome two months in Mexico!

We were greeted by unexpected costs and fees when we arrived at the windy dock. Apparently there is a $5 USD “port fee” as well as a $25 USD fee (306 pesos) for exiting the country. The somewhat friendly immigration officers told us “If you flew into Mexico, this fee would have already been included in your ticket price”. The good news was that we did fly into Mexico, the bad news was that we didn’t have the papers to prove that we already paid this “tourist” fee. Officially, there is no fee for exiting Mexico and the fact that we flew into the country should have been proof enough that this fee was already paid.

This is a border scam that you either have to give in to, or be prepared for, by having the correct breakdown of flight costs sent to you by your airline. You either pay the fee, present the proper papers, or you’ll be left sitting at the dock watching the boat leave without you.

As we searched through our documents, we realized we still had our boarding pass and printed itinerary. We crossed our fingers and hoped these would be sufficient. As our turn in line came, we presented the border patrol with these papers, which they immediately said were incorrect documents. After about 30 minutes of talking, smiling, pleading and being overly polite, we eventually got our way and they waived the fee!

boat from chetumal to caye caulker
Time to board the boat to Belize

Due to these border issues, we were the last to board the San Pedro Belize Express Boat that would take us from Chetumal in Mexico to Caye Caulker in Belize. We looked around, eager to find two spaces to accommodate us. The small boat was full, with no proper seats, just hard benches to sit on. Knowing a bit about boats (and knowing that I tend to get nauseous when on them), we were both praying that we wouldn’t be sitting at the front of this ride. Fortunately, we were able to find two spots on the middle bench and settled in for the bumpy journey ahead.

The water was abnormally choppy and treacherous on this travel day. Even though the sun was beaming down and the sky was bright blue, the sea was angry. During the first 10 minutes or so, the people at the front of the boat were laughing and enjoying the intense jolting upwards with each wave, and the inevitable slamming down hard on the other side. There were no cushions on these benches and as we predicted, those smiles soon turned to frowns and those happy white faces soon turned green.

boat from chetumal to caye caulker
The jolting wasn’t as bad for us sitting in the middle of the boat

Nick and I tried to make the most of this 2 hour ride to our island paradise. We listened to our iPod, tried to talk (which was basically impossible due to the loud engine) and put life jackets under our bottoms to reduce the ensuing numbness and soreness. Standing up to stretch our legs wasn’t an option, unless we wanted to be tossed to the other side of the boat. We were reduced to wiggling around and trying to stretch our long legs under the seat across from us.

After a little over two hours, we saw land up ahead and began to get very excited. Our boat passed over the offshore reef and we were instantly relieved. The waters were glass-calm and we all cheered at being able to finally stand up! We had arrived at Ambergris Caye, where immigration for the Northern Cayes is located.

boat from chetumal to caye caulker
Notice how the boat is tilted sideways and this photo is blurry? Ya, the seas were rough!

We eagerly disembarked onto the wooden pier that jutted out into the turquoise waters. By this point, the sun was setting and we knew we were going to be arriving at our final destination of Caye Caulker in the dark. As we were waiting in line, Nick and I decided to have a look at our exit stamp from Mexico. We bought new passports when we were home in Canada and since we only had a total of two stamps in our passports, it shouldn’t have been difficult to find this exit stamp, Nick located his, while I was still frantically searching for mine. Finally I gave up, looked at Nick and shook my head.

The Mexican Immigration forgot to stamp me out of the country!

During our four years of travel, this has never happened. So, we stood nervously in line on the rickety wooden dock waiting to see if the grumpy immigration woman would send me back into the choppy waters to Mexico. Luckily, she was too busy yelling at a tourist for taking a photo that she didn’t even look in my passport, she just stamped it and shoved it back in my face.

Phew! Note to self: Always check for entry and exit stamps.  

immigration ambergris caye
Arriving late to immigration in Ambergris Caye, Belize

By the time everyone was done checking in to the country of Belize, it was 7:00pm and dark. We hopped back on the ferry and enjoyed the calm, moonlit, 30 minute ride to Caye Caulker. We were greeted with Reggae music echoing from funky beach bars and as soon as our feet hit the soft sand, we knew this was a place we were going to want to stay a while.

***Goat Notes

  • There’s only one boat per day from Chetumal to Ambergris Caye & Caye Caulker. It leaves at 3:00pm. From the Cayes back to Chetumal, there’s only one boat. It leaves at 7:00am from Caye Caulker and 8:00am from Ambergris Caye.
  • The cost of a one-way ticket from Chetumal to Caye Caulker is $49.50. Book ahead as this boat can fill up quickly. You can book tickets online if in Mexico, or purchase from the terminal if on the Cayes.
  • Make sure to get a seat in the middle or near to the back of the boat. Otherwise, it’ll be a bumpy ride. Also note, there are no toilets on board and you are only given one small bottle of water to drink.
  • As there are some long formalities that need to be dealt with when leaving Mexico, make sure to arrive at the Chetumal pier at least an hour before departure.
  • If you arrived in Mexico by air, make sure to have your airline send you a breakdown of all taxes & fees that were included in your ticket price. You will need to show immigration proof of payment of the “tourist fee”. If you can’t prove it, you will need to pay 306 pesos (or beg and plead like we did!)

Have you ever had an immigration officer forget to stamp you out of a country?! What happened? Share with us below.

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Mexico to Belize. Bumpy Boats & Immigration Issues

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Written by

Dariece Swift

Dariece is a co-founder of Goats On The Road, and an expert in saving money, finance management, building an online business and of course... travel. She loves meeting new people, trying new cuisines, and learning about the unique cultures of our world. She has over 10 years of experience helping others to realize their travel dreams and has worked in numerous jobs all over the world to help pay for travel. Her advice about long-term travel, remote work, and location independence has been featured on the Lonely Planet, CNN Money, Business Insider and Forbes. Learn more about Dariece Swift on the Goats On The Road About Us Page.

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