Updated December 28, 2011
First hand report from Trip Advisor:
We drove from Nashville, TN to Atl and flew into Cancun on the 17th of December. At the onset, this route was able to to save us about 3k in ticket prices to do it this way. Once we landed, we went through customs and walked right past all the Khaki clad timeshare sales people and right up to the ADO booth. We purchased our tickets on the express bus from Cancun to Belize City without any trouble. From there, we had to take an ADO bus from the airport to the main bus depot downtown. Apart from getting our camera stolen on the bus and the traffic on the island, this leg wasn’t too bad. I thought I did my research and that the express bus left at 3pm, however, it didn’t leave til 10:15pm. We arrived around noon, so we had ten hours to kill. With three small children this was a big mistake on my part. Once we finally got on the bus, we reclined, watched a movie in Spanish, and crashed. We didn’t wake til we reached Mexican Immigration where we had to pile out of the bus, wait in line, and pay $20 US for each of the five of us. From there it was a one minute ride to Belize customs where we had to round up our 3, 5, and 7 yr old kids, get under the bus and grab 5 – 50lb pieces of luggage, get them through the customs line for inspection (Belize customs were very nice), drag the luggage and children back to the bus, and then off to Belize City for the final leg.
We did arrive rested and ready for the day after sleeping well on the bus. However, the long layover in Cancun and the extra money we had to pay at Mexican customs really did us in. I don’t think I will take this trip via bus again with kids. We didn’t finalize plane tickets until 2 weeks before our trip. Ultimately, AA filed their bankruptcy and prices came down to the point where it would have been less expensive to fly from ATL to BZE and bypass Cancun altogether. Hindsight being 20/20, I wouldn’t fly in to Cancun and take the express bus to Belize unless I didn’t have children and I was traveling light.
Updated September 15, 2011
Updated September 1, 2011
The huge bus company ADO of Mexico, is currently having trial runs for express, non-stop buses between Cancun and Belize City — full commercial operation is expected to begin in October. The run is taking 8 hours and is advertised at $40. ADOs website is in Spanish, and the English version has no info; here is the link to the Spanish version. http://www.ado.com.mx/ado/index.jsp. Once this is in full swing we will update this page.
Our island manager Charlie Woodward traveled to Belize via Cancun, Mexico this year. He sent me an email about how to get to Belize via bus from the Cancun airport.
From time to time, there are very cheap air fares from the US and Europe into Cancun, Mexico, about 450 km. north of Belize City. I recently chose to come to Slickrock via Cancun, at least in part because I actually like the Maya Riveria area also, and have been there before. My flight arrived in Cancun at 3:45, and judging by the scheduled flights I looked at, many other flights also arrive mid –afternoon. There is a flight on Maya Island Air from Cancun to Belize City for $169 US one-way—but it doesn’t connect well with a lot of flights arriving from the US. It leaves about 3PM. . .
The Cancun airport is about ½ hour drive south of Cancun on Rt. 307. If you exit the baggage area and follow the signs to “ground transportation” you wind up in an area of taxis, hotel busses, and public busses. Cancun area busses work very well, and are nicer than many north American busses! One can get a bus north into Cancun, and the abundant “big” accommodations there. It is easy to book hotels in the Cancun area on the internet or via agents. Since I was traveling south, I went to the public bus area to look for the #2 bus to Playa del Carmen, the next large town to the south. A young man told me the bus had just left, but he could get me a taxi to Playa for $90 US. I told him I liked to travel simply, and would wait for the bus, which came in about 10 minutes. It cost 100 pesos, ($9US), to get to the bus station in Playa, about a block from the beach, and right on La Quinta, ( 5th street, where the action is…) It is about a 45 minute ride. I looked for the posada where I stayed last time I was in Playa about 7 years ago, but it had become a trinket shop. I returned to La Quinta, luggage dangling off me, and within a half block had been offered several rooms- I stayed at the DeMarco Apts, one of 4 units above a store—nice cement building, tiled floors,two queens, nice bath, clean, for $30 US a night. This seems to be “budget” these days in the tourist zone- about 350 pesos and up.
By 5:45, I was showered, and out looking for cold cervesa and a walk on the beach. There are a number of large hotels in Playa, but I prefer to do the budget traveler route, and stay in simpler digs. There are MANY tourist accommodations in the La Quinta area, and a few blocks farther from the beach, you get into the small local hotels where the locals stay for much less. There are youth hostels right up to 5-star accommodations. I’ve never had problems getting a place in Playa, but you may wish to book ahead, especially during the holidays. La Quinta still has lots of restaurants, street musicians, street dancers, artists, trinket hawkers and most everything else one could want. It’s like going to the circus and being part of the show. There are mainly 2 bus companies which take travelers to Chetumal on the Belize border: ADO and Mayab. ADO has more busses and nicer busses, Mayab is cheaper. ADO also has a web site where you can check schedules. The ADO express 1st class bus is 258 pesos, the Mayab local bus is 158 pesos, from Playa to Chetumal. .
There is a posted schedule, but inquiring as to what bus leaves when is essential—buy your tickets in advance for the bus you want or it may be too full for you! There are busses from Cancun roughly once an hour to Chetumal, from early morning all the way up to 11:45 at night. Same in Playa. The latest bus to leave Playa reaches Chetumal at 6AM. On an express bus, Chetumal is about 4 hours from Playa; on the local bus, about 5 hours.
In Chetumal: you land at a bus station, and you need to spend pesos ( 140) to buy a ticket to Belize City. The first bus in the morning to Belize City is at 9 AM; the last in the afternoon is at 4:45 PM. The Belize bus goes a lot slower than the Mexican busses and typically takes about 3.5 hours to get to Belize City. If you are going to Slickrock and staying the Belize Biltmore, the bus goes right past. I asked the driver nicely, and he dropped me off right in front of the hotel, so I didn’t need to get a taxi back from downtown.
So- the CHEAP way to get to Belize via Cancun: Take a bus to Playa del Carmen, south of the airport. Go get some dinner and a couple of cervesas AFTER buying your ticket for a late bus from Playa to Chetumal. Catch the late bus and sleep on it to Chetumal. Hang out in the bus station until you get the 9AM bus to Belize City. The more enjoyable way to get to Belize via Cancun: take the bus to either Cancun or Playa from the airport. You can book accommodations ahead if you wish, or just wing it.
Stay on the Maya Riveria for one or more nights. Have a nice evening out. I happen to like Playa a lot. Catch a morning bus to Chetumal, arriving early enough to get a good connecting bus to Belize City. Enjoy seeing the countryside along the way. Bus plus connection time is usually around 10 hours.
The trip in reverse might be a little harder, because a LOT of the flights leaving Cancun for the US depart at 7 AM +/-, so you would need to stay near the airport. There is a second set about 11:30 AM too, which would work better for those staying some distance away.