Crossing borders can be a long stressful and sometimes expensive process. There are often long queues, bag checks and a need to change transport modes at the border. As a general rule it helps to leave early and allocate a full day to travel across borders to ensure you have sufficient daylight hours to make it to your next destination. Shuttle services are often more expensive but take the hassle out of the transport process.
Please note: many countries in Central America (and Mexico) require evidence of on onward ticket before letting you in.
Please note that these prices may change
Mexico exit tax: 330 Pesos
Belize exit tax: B$37.50
Costa Rica exit tax: US$8
Panama arrival tax: US$3
Honduras exit tax: US$10
Nicaragua exit tax: US$2
Guatemala surfboard tax: Many shuttles will demand US$10 to transport surfboards. These fees are not disclosed in advance.
Exit tax: 330 Pesos
This is often included in your flight price so take a copy of your flight taxes with you to the border.
Make sure you gain a receipt when you pay as if you return to Mexico you should only have to pay it once.
Mexico requires you to have proof of leaving the country and many travellers have been refused permission to board their flights in their home country before purchasing a flight to leave Mexico. Many opt for a fully refundable ticket that they cancel directly after purchasing. I personally had only a one way ticket and was not asked for evidence of onward travel.
Mexico / Belize (near Chetumal)
This border is best to cross via shuttle bus or boat as local transport, other than taxis, doesn’t run to the border. Buses run between Chetumal’s ADO station in Mexico and Belize City’s water taxi terminal (two per day). A boat travels between Chetumal and Caye Caulker daily as well.
Mexico and Guatemala near Palenque
Shuttle buses run between Palenque and Flores daily for around Q225. A new road runs between the two taking about five hours in total. There is also a nearby border crossing which involves taking a boat across a river. It costs about the same but takes a few hours longer.
Mexico / Guatemala (Between San Cristobal and Xela)
Possibly the most disfunctional of all of the borders where you feel the guards are taking you for a ride. Shuttle buses run between San Cristobal and Xela, Lake Atitlan and Antigua. We were charged the price of our ticket again to transport a surfboard. This was sprung on us part way through our journey and we were told we would be left at the border if we didn’t pay. Shop around for a shuttle that doesn’t charge extra for surfboards.
It is possible to take local transport for this border but is likely to cost around the same and involve up to five local buses.
Belize / Guatemala (San Ignacio to Flores)
This could not be easier. Taxis run between the border and San Ignacio for B$5. Collectivo buses run between Flores and the border for Q45. There are money changers on both side offering good rates.
HONDURAS / NICARAGUA
The safest and easiest way to cross this border is taking a bus from San Pedro to Leon, Antigua to Leon or El Salvador to Leon. Local and cheap Diana buses are known for frequent hold ups and I have met several travellers that had everything stolen on this service. Other bus companies are more expensive but have better security.
The northern border near San Juan and Ometepe requires proof of leaving the country. It is hit and miss regarding whether you will be asked or what will be accepted, but without it you will be buying a $25 ticket back to Nicaragua. Often flights leaving from neighbouring countries won’t be accepted even if they are within a few weeks.
Nicaragua / Costa Rica
Transport wise, it is cheap and easy to make your own way to the border, especially with a group where you can share a taxi from San Jorge or San Juan. At the border, buses run south towards San Jose.
Panama requires seeing a bank statement with more the US$ 500 and evidence of a booking to leave the country, before they will let you enter the country. All borders are particularly strict on these requirements.
Arrival tax: US$3