Palenque to Flores by bus

26 Aug

On Monday Alex and I made the surprisingly hassle-free trip from Palenque in Mexico to Flores in Guatemala.

We bought a one-way bus-lancha-bus ticket from a small travel agency in Palenque (located on the main road, next door to the first-class bus terminal). This Mexican operator partners with the Flores-based San Juan Travel to provide the transfer service. Sun Juan Travel is the biggest travel agency in Flores.

Everything ran smoothly. We were picked up in a minivan crowded with other tourists from our Hostal in Palenque at 5.50 am as arranged. Three hours later we stopped for breakfast at a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere. This place only offered a buffet breakfast for 70 pesos, which is expensive for Mexico. You are better off taking your own snacks if you are on tight budget.

We arrived at the border at roughly 10.30am. We had no problems at Mexican immigration where we received exit stamps. Those tourists in the group who were only leaving Mexico for a short time were able to pay 100 pesos and hold on to their tourist cards, which saves them paying $US 25 upon re-entry into the Country.

Our Mexican bus driver put us on a boat to cross the Usumacinta river which separates Mexico from Guatemala. After no more then ten minutes on the water we arrived at La Tecnica. In this Guatemalan outpost we were met by the friendly English-speaking Miles from San Juan Travel. Miles escorted us in a bus to the Guatemalan immigration office in Betel, half an hour from La Tecnica on a bumpy uneven dirt road. Here we each had to pay $5 USD to enter Guatemala, which may or may not have been a legal and official fee, but we figured it was a small price to pay for an easy border crossing.

Miles then escorted us on the last 4 hours of the journey to Flores, thankfully with short stops along the way to go to the bathroom and buy snacks. We arrived in Flores at about 3 pm Guatemalan time (one hour behind Mexico).

San Juan Travel encourage you to book other tours and transfer services from them before you get off the bus in Flores. They are a reputable company with good and reliable services, but you might want to wait and to purchase their services or others through your hotel at a discounted rate. We did this and saved about 20% off the prices offered directly to us on a tour to Tikal.

I should note that other travelers we met in Palenque ran into some trouble at this La Tecnica border crossing. The biggest problem seems to be that Mexican Immigration sometimes demand that travelers pay the $25 USD exit fee before they leave the Mexico. If you have flown in to Mexico, rather then arriving overland from the US or Guatemala or Belize, you have probably already paid this fee and don’t need to pay again! If your tourist card which you are given on arrival in Mexico has been stamped at the airport, you don’t need to pay this fee. I suggest you call your Embassy (or threaten too) if you have any problems at the border. The dodgy officials and hustlers might tell you that your bus will leave without you so that you feel rushed and more pressured to pay the fee. Don’t buy it – your San Juan Travel bus will wait for you.

Also, all non-Mexican are currently being requested to pay a fifteen peso ‘community tax’ on the Mexican side of the border. Some people pay, and some don’t. We did because it is not really a lot of money and couldn’t be bothered arguing, but the guys collecting payment don’t seem to have any authority to enforce this measure.

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