"The goodbye is as warm as the hello..."
If a deity created border crossings, s/he would be Belizean.
From the velvety waters to the courteous officials, the transition from the shores of Belize to those of bordering Guatemala encapsulate the character of this nation.
Exit charges are clear, receipted and transparent; you are greeted with a smile rather than a grunt; the twice-weekly boat will probably leave late but you won't mind as you're on your last remnants of "Go Slow" Belize time.
A personable currency exchange man is often there, giving decent rates.
"You're welcome back any time", smiles the security guard. We believe him. This departing memory of the warmth of Belize will be more permanent than the stamp in your passport.
Here's our guide on crossing the Belize-Guatemala border either by boat from Punta Gorda or by land from San Ignacio.
leaving punta gorda by boat
Cost: $50 BZD/person
Schedule: Ferries go from Punta Gorda to Puerto Barrios three times daily, leaving at 9am, 2pm and 4pm. A ferry service to Livingston operates on Tuesday and Fridays only, with a single departure time of 10am.
arrive in livingston
You will face an immediate uphill task, literally. The immigration office is around a 3 minute walk from the pier, directly up the hill. Those running from the law may be tempted to take the first left, as nobody would even notice. Those of a more law-abiding disposition will find the clearly signposted Immigration Office halfway towards the summit, opposite the bank (which handily is one of the two ATMs in Livingston).
leaving san ignacio by bus
San Ignacio's land border provides an escape route for those who have just enjoyed the A.T.M caves.
From San Ignacio, take a chicken-bus to the border town of Benque Viejo (approx 13km), and then either walk the 2km to the border, or jump in a taxi.
Once you have cleared customs, you will find a number of collectivos heading towards Santa Elena (approx 2 hours), from where you can get a tuk-tuk to Flores for $5 Q per person (note: sometimes they will charge a little extra if you have a large amount of luggage).
belize exit charges
These can be paid in any combination of local or US currency. You will be given a clear itemised receipt.
$30 BZD ($15 USD) exit charge + $7.5 BZD PACT charge (Protected Areas Contribution Trust).
guatemala CA-4 visa
On entering Guatemala, you will be granted a CA-4 visa. Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua are all part of this visa scheme, and possession of this vital stamp will allow you to be in these four countries for up to 90 days.