Crossing the border: Guatemala to Mexico
When we decided to cross the land border between Guatemala and Mexico, we had a decision to make: tourist shuttle or local transport?
We were to cross from La Mesilla (Guatemala) to Ciudad Cuauhtemoc (Mexico), as this is the most convenient border if you're coming from Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela) and heading towards San Cristobal de las Casas.
After weighing up the cost of a shuttle (Q225 / $31 per person) compared to that of public buses (Q42 + MXN140 / $13.50) and agreeing that the added journey time and discomfort of chicken buses was worth the $16.50 saving per person, we decided to use public transport.
It was, as expected, a long day, that involved seven changes of transport, eleven hours on the road, and countless listens to 'Despacito'...
How long does it take?
It took us just shy of eleven hours door-to-door, from our hostel in Xela to our posada in San Cristobal de las Casas. Here are the details of our timings:
06:45 - Left our hostel in Xela and took a collectivo to Terminal Minerva (15 minutes)
07:00 - Chicken bus left the Terminal for Huehuetenango (3 hours 15 minutes)
10:15 - Arrived in Huehuetenango. Toilet and snack break!
10:50 - Changed bus and departed Huehuetenango for La Mesilla (2 hours 40 minutes)
13:30 - Pulled in to La Mesilla and walked downhill to the immigration office (15 minutes)
13:45 - Got our exit stamp, crossed into Mexico and hopped into a collectivo to Ciudad Cuauhtemoc (25 minutes)
*Mexico is one hour ahead of Guatemala, so the following timings take this into account.
15:10 - Got our entry stamps and then jumped into a collectivo heading to Comitán. (1 hour 25 minutes)
16:35 - Collectivo arrived in Comitán (10 minutes)
16:45 - Changed buses and left for San Cristobal de las Casas (1 hour 45 minutes)
18:30 - Arrived in San Cristobal and transferred by taxi to our hotel (15 minutes)
How much does it cost?
For seven changes of transport: one collectivo and two chicken buses in Guatemala; two taxis and two collectivos in Mexico, we spent a grand total of $13.50 per person. Our cost breakdown per individual is as follows:
Q2 - Collectivo from 8a calle near to the Parque a Centro Américo to Terminal Minerva
Q40 - Chicken bus from the terminal to La Mesilla. Although we changed buses, we were given a ticket that was good for the whole journey.
= Q42 / $5.75
MXN10 - Taxi from the Mexican border to Ciudad Cuauhtemoc
MXN50 - Collectivo from Ciudad Cuauhtemoc to Comitán
MXN60 - Collectivo from Comitán to San Cristobal de las Casas
MXN40 per car - Taxi from collectivo terminal to the centre of town
= MXN140pp / $7.75pp
For us, the cost of the journey and the time it would take were the first aspects we researched, yet there were other questions on our minds once we began to plan our day. If you're like us, you may be wondering about some of the following...
How to get to Xela's chicken bus terminal early in the morning
We didn't see that many taxis whizzing around the city during our visit, so we weren't sure how to organise our short journey to the terminal. We were told that there would be taxis waiting around the Parque a Centro Américo, but luckily we spotted a collectivo before we got there and hopped in (saving us over Q30!)
How to make your journey shorter
Because we were lazy, and wanted to make sure we got a seat on the next bus, we stayed onboard all the way into Huehutenango. In theory, you could alight at Las Vegas, which despite it's name, is a boring stretch of road next to a petrol station which all buses pass, just outside of Huehue.
If you take this option, you save time on getting in and out of Huehue, but you may not get a seat and there's no telling how long you'll have to wait on the side of the road, instead of in a bus station.
Where Are the atms / money changers on the journey?
There are ATMs and moneychangers in Xela (try Banco Elektra) Huehuetenango and La Mesilla, however there are no banks or ATMs on the Mexican border or in nearby Ciudad Cuauhtemoc.
Money-changers are at the border in Guatemala, and we hastily exchanged our remaining Q150 for an average rate of Q1 = MXN 2 (Google's rate was Q1 = MXN 2.45). We didn't see any moneychangers over the border, or in Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, so we're not sure if we could have got a better rate if we waited to change our money and besides, we had zero pesos and needed some for the taxi.
Once you get to Comitán, there are lots of ATMs as it's Chiapas' fourth largest city, so you shouldn't have any problems getting cash out there.
our top tips on crossing from La Mesilla to Ciudad Cuauhtemoc
Nº 1 - Leave as early as you can to ensure you're not travelling in the dark
Nº 2 - Take plenty of snacks, as you may not have a chance to sit down anywhere on the way for lunch
Nº 3 - Use your small change as you won't be able to exchange this at the border
Nº 4 - Make sure you don't get ripped off at the border, especially when exchanging money or taking taxis.
Nº 5 - Be patient! This isn't necessarily a challenging journey, and you'll feel a lot better about if you accept it's going to be a long day from the start.