Belize-Guatemala Border Formalities

The Belize border is about 9 miles (15 km) from San Ignacio, just west of the town of Benque Viejo del Carmen. Border crossings at the newer customs and immigration building here are usually quick and easy.

Upon arrival at the border, you'll be approached on the Belize side by money changers asking if you want to exchange U.S. or Belize dollars for Guatemalan quetzales. Another group will approach you on the Guatemala side. The rate given by money changers will be a little less than you'll get at an ATM or bank, but you may want to exchange enough for your first day in Guatemala. You’ll usually get better rates on the Guatemala side.

Belize formalities include paying your US$20 (BZ$40) exit fee. You may see a Q20 entrance fee when entering Guatemala. This fee is known to be unofficial; however, it's smarter to pay it than to argue with the officers at your own risk. Most visitors to Guatemala, including citizens of the United States, Canada, and European Union, do not need visas, and passports are normally stamped with a permit to enter for 90 days. Customs officials rarely check baggage.

Melchor de Mencos is a scruffy border town with unpaved streets. Shops on the main drag sell Guatemalan crafts. Other than extremely basic hotels (some of which are brothels), the only good place to stay nearby is the Río Mopan Lodge, where you can snag a room for under US$35.

There's no safe long-term parking at the border, so if you are driving a rental car, you should arrange to park it elsewhere. Only a handful of Belize rental companies allow their vehicles to be taken into Guatemala (try Crystal in Belize City or Safe Cars in San Ignacio). Note, however, that Belize insurance isn't valid in Guatemala, and Guatemalan insurance currently isn't sold at the border.

As you cross at Melchor de Mencos, you'll be pounced on by taxi drivers. If taxi is your planned transport, be vigilant. Don't take the first offers, and work the cost down (showing uncertainty or disinterest works best).

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