crossing borders: mexico - belize

The only thing that's clear is the lack of clarity...

For the traveller, crossing borders can be a daunting and expensive experience.

The joy of receiving a new stamp in your passport is too often balanced by uncertainty on who to pay, how much and what is 'official'. Many a traveller tale is punctuated with experiences of border guard impersonations, hidden fees and overly intrusive customs searches.

Crossing the Mexico-Belize border can leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth and (potentially) an immigration official with $294 pesos in his back pocket. Here's our guide to help you prepare. 

#1 leaving chetumal by bus

Logistically, the crossing itself is a breeze: take a local bus from the Nuevo Mercado in Chetumal, Mexico with Belizeans stocking up on cheaper household goods (and devising ways to hide their bargains from customs). These leave frequently throughout the day. These can drop you off in either Corozal (1hr), Orange Walk (2hrs) or Belize City (5-6hrs); it's best to ask around as the bus signage is not too clear on destinations.

After 40 minutes to one hour, everyone will exit the bus and walk to an immigration office for the usual checks. If confused, your bus conductor will often guide you through the process. The issue with this border is that it is lacking officialdom and leads to confusion around who has to pay what and to whom. We found so many issues about this on-line, and we have discussed this further below. 

Everyone will get back in the bus for the short-ride through to the Belize immigration checks, which is thankfully more official. Here, bags will be scanned and possibly a few questions asked about your stay. 

Then it's back on the bus until you reach your final destination. 

Total time: 45 - 60 minutes

Total Cost : $3 BZD / $19MX per person - payment in either currency is fine.

#2 paying the fmm / mexican exit fee 

Whether you fly into Mexico or cross by land you will fill in this slip; be sure to keep it safe as you need it to exit. Some airlines will include the cost of this ticket in your airfare, but cheaper package companies are likely to put the cost on you to ensure advertised prices are as artificially low as possible (here's looking at you Thomas Cook and Thomson).  

Exiting by air: if your travels are solely in Mexico, then the official position is simpler. You will pay at the airport and return your FMM ticket upon departure. We have contacted Thomas Cook for the offical position as their flight experience appears to be the most problematic. 

Exiting by land: The only thing that's clear is the lack of clarity. Lonely Planet, Rough Guide etc all fail to acknowledge the Chetumal-Corozal confusion. A quick google search will reveal that many travellers are uncertain about this border, with all answers presenting contradictory solutions and experiences.

The potential for traveller exploitation arising from this is echoed by the Belizean Guardian ( newspaper in a recent article, citing several examples of “complaints from Belizeans, who have experienced what can only be described as hustling being conducted by Mexican Immigration officials at the northern border”.

The official position from the Mexican Embassy: There is an an entrance fee, DNI (Derecho de No Immigrante), which was increased at the beginning of this year from $262 pesos to $294 pesos. However that fee is only to be charged to individuals in three different cases; a tourist, who entered Mexico and stayed longer than seven consecutive days must pay the fee; travellers, those who transit through Mexico to a third country (that includes those who enter Chetumal by road to board a flight in Cancun as well as those arriving in Cancun toward Belize); holders of the border card FVML (Forma Migratoria de Visitante Local) that stay in Mexico for more than three days. The DNI must be paid in pesos at any bank in Mexico. A bank is located at the Mexican Customs compound near the border during working hours.

Our Experience: We had been in Mexico for 21 of our 180 days granted at Cancun airport. Our itinerary meant one month in Belize, a few months in Guatemala and then re-entry into Mexico to see out the final 60 days of our 180.

We did our research the night before and felt armed with enough knowledge and Spanish to refuse to pay questionable fees. However, we found no certainty anywhere on whether we were actually entitled to make multiple entries/exits under the terms of our unpaid 180 day FMM (we have contacted the Mexican Embassy, and await a response).

At the border, the dialogue can be surmised as:

“You both have to pay $294 pesos”

“But we're coming back to Mexico in a few weeks (slight white lie!)”

“You both have to pay $294 pesos”

“But doesn't that mean we have to pay twice!?”

“You both have to pay $294 pesos”

“But we have 180 days before we have to officially leave Mexico. It says so right here.”

“You both have to pay $294 pesos”

It was clear there was only going to be one winner.

“Can we have a receipt and keep our FMM at least?”


In Corozal, our fellow hotel guests had all had different experiences. Some paid nothing, some double-paid at both the bank and border and some poor guy paid three times.

Our Advice: We will try to update this article for you with official advice.

Your best bet is to take photocopies of your FMM, confirm with your airline whether your FMM is included in your ticket price and...hope for the best!

From our experience, we're not certain that paying at the bank beforehand at this border would have helped; if anything you'll probably still end up paying the border guard something.

*Credit to Shane D. Williams of the Belizean Guardian for excerpts. 

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