7. FROM CANCÚN AIRPORT TO BELIZE AND BACK

For various reasons, many travellers choose to fly to Cancún and then continue to Belize. Some travellers find cheaper airfares to Cancún while others want to include Mexico as part of the holiday. For travellers without a lot of time, this might not be the best option because of the amount of time required to travel between Cancún and Belize. Border crossing fees also must be considered.

The quickest and easiest way to continue to Belize is to get the Tropic Air flight from Cancún Airport to Belize International Airport. Check the Tropic Air website for schedule & fare. Ground travel can be done by bus, rental car or transfer service (private shuttle).

Here’s how I have done the trip from Cancún airport to Belize by bus…

From Cancún airport, ADO airport buses depart every 30 minutes to Playa del Carmen. At Terminal 2, after exiting Customs, continue along the hallway to exit the building, then turn right and keep going to the other end of the terminal. Tickets are sold at an ADO counter where the bus is parked. At Terminal 3, the ADO bus waits at the front of the building. The trip to Playa del Carmen takes about 1 hour and costs 178 pesos (at January 2017). Note: at the airport, tickets can be purchased for any other ADO route.

Playa del Carmen has two bus terminals: one on 20th Avenue at 12th Street (or Calle 12), and one on 5th Avenue at Av. Benito Juarez. Airport buses might make a stop at the 20th Ave. terminal, but they always terminate at the 5th Ave. terminal. The terminals are about 10 blocks apart.

ADO buses to Chetumal depart from the 20th Ave. terminal (known as Terminal Alterna), so if you arrive at the 5th Ave. terminal, you have to get to the 20th Ave. terminal. It’s an easy walk without luggage, but with luggage, get a taxi for about 50 pesos. If you know that the airport bus has stopped at the 20th Ave. and you want to immediately continue to Chetumal, get off at the 20th Ave. terminal.

Tickets to Chetumal can be purchased at either bus terminal. If possible, I like to buy tickets one or two days before I travel in order to ensure a seat, and to select the seat of my choice. I usually buy tickets at the 5th Av. terminal because there’s a better chance of English-speaking terminal staff.

Note that another bus company called Mayab might have buses to Tulum, Mahahual and Chetumal departing from the 5th Av. terminal.

From Terminal Alterna in Playa del Carmen, ADO express buses depart every couple of hours to Chetumal. The trip takes about 4.5 hours and costs about 300 pesos (check the ADO website). The bus might make stops at Tulum and Felipe Carrillo Puerto before terminating at the ADO bus terminal in Chetumal.

To complete the trip to Belize, see the options listed in the previous section, TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN BELIZE and MEXICO.

As mentioned above, there are other options for getting from Cancún airport to Chetumal and Belize. For example, instead of getting a bus from the airport to Playa del Carmen, some travellers prefer to get a bus from the airport to the bus terminal in Cancún City where they can get an express bus to Tulum, Chetumal or Belize City. Cancún airport is located about 18 km south of Cancún City, and about 50 km north of Playa del Carmen, so this means first travelling north to Cancún, then getting a bus back south, but it avoids the bus terminal change in Playa. A popular choice is the twice daily express bus from Cancún bus terminal to Belize City.

A transfer service or private shuttle is another option. Here are links to some services:
a) Belize VIP Transfer Service, http://www.belizetransfers.com
b) Moralez Travel Service, http://www.gettransfers.com
c) Cancún Shuttle: http://www.cancunshuttle.com/
d) Cancún Express: http://www.cancun-express.com/
e) Cancún Airport Transfers: http://www.tucankin.com/

>

Here’s how I have done the trip from Belize to Cancún airport…

First, I get a bus to Chetumal. From the ADO terminal in Chetumal, ADO express buses depart every couple of hours to Playa del Carmen. The trip takes about 4.5 hours and costs about MX$300 (check the ADO website). The bus might make stops at Felipe Carrillo Puerto and Tulum before stopping at Playa del Carmen.

The bus arrives in Playa del Carmen at the bus terminal on 20th Avenue. If continuing immediately to Cancún airport, ask if the airport bus makes a stop at the 20th Ave. terminal on the way to the airport (I think this is a regular stop now). Otherwise, get a taxi (about 50 pesos) or walk (10 blocks) to the other bus terminal on 5th Ave. and get the ADO airport bus to Cancún airport. Airport buses depart every 30 minutes. The trip takes 1 hour and costs MX$178 (at January 2017).

There are other options for getting from Belize or Chetumal to Cancún airport. The Tropic Air flight from Belize City is quick and easy. A popular choice is the twice daily ADO express bus from Belize City to Cancún City because this bus stops at the airport on the way to Cancún (see previous section for details). Another option is the ADO airport express bus from Chetumal. Buses depart daily from the ADO Chetumal bus terminal. Check the ADO website for schedule & fare. And there is a daily water taxi service between San Pedro and Chetumal.

Always check the ADO website for up to date schedules and fares. The site is in Spanish, but should be easy to figure out (try using Google Translate for help).
ADO website for schedules & fares: https://www.ado.com.mx/

Note 1: MX$ is Mexican pesos. On the Mexican bus websites, just the dollar sign is used to represent pesos.
Note 2: ADO express buses have very good air-conditioning; dress warmly.

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30 Responses to “7. FROM CANCÚN AIRPORT TO BELIZE AND BACK”

  1. Holger Says:

    Great website. Thanks a lot for the info and the time you put into this.
    We are about to fly into cancun next week, arriving around 1820 and take the bus down to belize city.

    Something I didn’t quite understand is the Playa del Carmen Bus Stop and “Alternate” Bus stop.

    You write above that the ADO buses depart from the other bus terminal (Terminal Alterna) at Avenida 20 and Calle 12.

    If I check the ticketbus website, it has an ADO departure at 7:20 am from Playa del Carmen, but no departure from the Terminal Alterna. Did they change their departure points?

    Thanks for any hints and for this awesome website!

    • belizebus Says:

      Hi Holger,

      Yes, that is confusing, and I think the ticketbus site is not accurate regarding the terminals.

      You can’t get a bus to Chetumal from the airport — you have to go to the bus terminal in either Cancun city or Playa. Going north to Cancun is heading in the opposite direction to Chetumal, but it’s sometimes better because I think the buses are more frequent(?) and you don’t have to change bus terminals.

      If you go to Playa, the airport express buses arrive at the terminal on 5th Ave, near the beach. There are south bound buses departing from this terminal, for example to Tulum, but the ADO EXPRESS buses depart fro the other terminal on 12th & 20th. Whenever I’ve bought a Playa to Chetumal ticket, the ticket has always stated that the departure terminal is the “Alterna” terminal at 12th & 20th. But if you use “Alterna” on the ticketbus site, you don’t get the schedules — you have to enter “Playa del Carmen” as the terminal. Don’t ask me why they do this.

      In the past couple of years, I’ve been on the airport express bus, and it has stopped at the Alterna terminal on the way to and from the airport. If you get the airport shuttle bus, ask if it will stop at the Alterna terminal. It will save you a taxi fare.

      Let me know if you need more information.

  2. Mer Says:

    Hi,
    thank you very much for all the information you give….I am trying to purchase tickets from Cancun to Chetumal or directly to Belize..is there a website with stricktly schedules? ( because it is all in spanish..)

    • belizebus Says:

      I use the ticketbus website because the information can be viewed in English, but I’ve never tried to buy tickets from that site (don’t know if it’s possible).
      When you open the site, Spanish will appear, but there should be a link to click (at the top of the page in very small text) to get English.

      On the ADO site, I don’t know if the Cancun – Belize City schedules have been updated yet. I’ve never tried to buy a ticket from that site either.

  3. Andy Says:

    Thanks for the great website, really useful tips.

    I’m doing this exact trip (Cancun to Belize) next week. When you say ‘watch your luggage’ on Belize buses, would you recommend taking a normal suitcase or buying a large rucksack. I’m guessing if you take the suitcase there is nowhere to put it, except out of sight under the coach where it could be stolen, or do most buses have overhead compartments etc?

    Cheers

    • belizebus Says:

      Hi Andy,

      The Mexican ADO express buses have a proper luggage compartment under the seating area, and I try to pick a seat where I can look out the window and see the luggage being loaded and unloaded. I’ve never had a problem in Mexico. They also use luggage tags on most buses.

      The Belizean buses are old school buses, and large luggage items get stacked at the back of the bus or behind the driver (space permitting) or wherever. I always like to sit as close as possible to my luggage. Most buses (not all) have an open rack (not compartments) above the seats — it runs the length of the bus. There’s enough room for a small pack, not a large suitcase.

      If the bus is full, a large suitcase or a large backpack would be put at the back of the bus, but the buses from Chetumal to Belize are seldom full so it would be OK to put your luggage beside you on your seat.

  4. Jordan Says:

    The station names are wrong on here for Playa del Carmen (and on many websites.) The “alterna” station is at 5th Avenue and Juarez, and has no buses to Chetumal. The regular station is at 20th Avenue and 12th. Just refer to the ADO website to see that no buses run from Alterna to Chetumal, nor to most long-distance destinations (and I just took one from the 20th Avenue station to Chetumal last week.) Any idea why this is wrong on so many websites?

    • belizebus Says:

      Hi Jordan,

      Thanks for your message and raising this issue because I agree there is a lot of confusion even within ADO.

      Up until a few years ago, I wasn’t sure which terminal was called Alterna. In various websites, I had seen both terminals referred to as Alterna, and I had noticed the discrepancy on the ADO website.

      So, a few years ago, I went to the ADO terminal on 5th Ave. and bought a ticket to Chetumal. I already knew that the Chetumal bus departs from the other terminal (20th & 12th) terminal, but I asked anyway. I was told the bus departs from Terminal Alterna, and the ticket seller raised an arm to point in the general direction. On the ticket, she wrote, “Av. 20 C. 12 ADO Alterna”. Then I got in a taxi and simply said, “ADO Alterna”. I ended up at the terminal on 20th & 12th.

      I still have some old printed tickets and noticed that the same terminal code, PYQ, is used for both terminals.

      For these reasons, I’ll continue to refer to the terminal at 20th & 12th as Alterna, but I’ll always add the addresses to make it clear.

  5. Stuart Says:

    There is no mention of San Juan Travel on this page (Section 6). Can I still use them to travel from Belize City to Chetumal – and if so what time do they leave and how can I book (phone no.? agent on Caye Caulker?)?
    Thanks for running this site.

    • belizebus Says:

      Section 6 describes how I travel between Cancun and Belize City. I haven’t mentioned San Juan because I haven’t used them.

      If you look at Section 7, you’ll find the San Juan schedule. Note that San Juan is not allowed to pick up passengers in Belize City and take them to Chetumal. It’s a Government of Belize decision to protect the Belizean bus services from competition.

      If you want an express bus from Belize City, then get the Tillet’s bus at 6am from the Novelo’s terminal. You can’t book it in advance — just show up and get on the bus. No agent in CC. There’s another express bus (J&J Bus Line) that departs from BC at 6:30am.

      Regular buses leave every 30 to 60 minutes.

  6. Alec Says:

    Hi, this site is stupendous. I have read this section and all the comments but am still a bit unsure.

    My gf and I will be arriving in Cancun and spending the night there, in the city for a couple days, then plan on catching a bus to Corozal. All of this is talking about from the Cancun airport but I was wondering what the procedure was for going from the city itself.

    We are trying to leave earlier in the a.m to avoid night travel.

    thank you kindly.

    • belizebus Says:

      From Cancun airport, just get a bus to Cancun City — the City is about 20 or 30 minutes north of the airport. The airport bus should arrive at the bus terminal where you get the bus to Chetumal. Buses to Chetumal depart about every 2 hours and stop at Playa del Carmen on the way. Some buses also stop at Tulum and Felipe Carillo Puerto.

      I didn’t like Cancun City and prefer to stay in Playa del Carmen. Playa is very touristy, but there’s more to do and the beach is excellent. Cheap places to stay near the bus terminals, and cheaper places to eat when you get off the main street.

      ADO has an airport shuttle bus to Playa. Be aware there are two bus terminals in Playa. The bus to Chetumal leaves from the terminal on 12th & 20th.

  7. stacey Says:

    I am trying to book transportation from caye Caulker to Chetumal…or Belize City to Chetumal. My problem is my flight leaves at 845 in the morning. What would you suggest?

    • belizebus Says:

      Are you intending to leave CC in the morning and get to Chetumal on the same day in time for your flight?? If so, good luck because I don’t think it’s possible.

      Option 1. Get the water taxi. Departs from CC in early morning and arrives at Chetumal around 10 am. Check the website for schedule & fare.

      Option 2. Water taxi from CC to Belize City, then bus or private shuttle to Chetumal. It’s 3 to 4 hours by road.

      Option 3. Check the Belizean airlines, Tropic Air and Maya Island Air, for flights to Corozal, then continue by bus, taxi or private shuttle. If there is an early flight to Corozal, you might be able to make your flight.

  8. Christine Says:

    Hello, tons of good info here! We are doing the Playa to Caye Caulker trip and the way there seems pretty straight forward. I’m a little worried because it will be December 21st and am afraid the water taxi and buses will fill up fast. We arrive in Cancun on Dec 20th. Would you suggest buying the bus tickets right away when we arrive at the airport? Did you ever have a problem with the water taxi being full?
    Also……on the way back we need to get from Chetumal to Tulum, it’s where we are staying that night. The ADO buses look like they only run that route at about 8 am and about 6:30 pm….do you know if there are more frequent buses that website isn’t showing?

    Thank you!

    Christine

    • belizebus Says:

      I wouldn’t worry too much about the ADO buses in Mexico. Cancun to Chetumal buses depart every couple of hours — I haven’t been on a full bus, but I also avoid travel at busy periods. If you’re travelling from the airport to Chetumal on the same day, I’d probably buy the ticket at the airport. If you’re staying a night in Cancun, you could buy the ticket at the airport or the Cancun bus terminal when you arrive in Cancun.

      I’ve heard reports of full water taxis — not many, usually when a tour group wants to travel. I’d take a chance and buy the ticket on arrival in Chetumal. The 21st is a Sunday, and I wonder if the water taxi will be full with Belizeans who come to Chetumal for the weekend and return to San Pedro on Sunday??

      Buses from Chetumal depart for Cancun every couple of hours — not all of them stop at Tulum. There are other buses to Tulum. The ticketbus website shows buses going about every hour. The bus company logo isn’t showing on my page, but they might be Mayab buses — still a pretty good bus and a bit cheaper than ADO.
      http://www.ticketbus.com.mx/wtbkd/ConsultaCorrida.tb

  9. Alex K. Says:

    hi there,

    my partner and I are arriving in Cancun on the 29th of December and are currently booked to stay overnight in Chetumal before taking the water taxi to San Pedro on the 30th. I have just been reading about the express bus from Cancun to Belize City – an option we would prefer, but I’m having trouble finding details about how to secure tickets. We don’t want to cancel our ferry tickets in Chetumal unless we can somehow guarantee we will get a seat on the bus (which could be unrealistic depending on how well laid-out the ADO system is).

    how do we go about getting tickets for this bus once we land in Cancun? Our flight arrives at 10:30 a.m.

    Thanks!

    • belizebus Says:

      I don’t know why ADO deleted Belize City from the list of destinations (it was there once).

      You can find details of the ADO overnight bus in Section 6 of this website. I don’t know how to reserve in advance if it’s not showing on the ADO website. One option might be to reserve with one of the ADO agents in Belize. Mundo Maya Travels are agents or sales representatives for transport companies, such as Fuentez del Norte, Maya del Oro, Linea Dorada, ADO, Emars including sea travel options between San Pedro (Belize) to Chetumal (Mexico).
      http://www.travelmundomaya.com/index.html

      If you can’t reserve in advance, you can buy tickets as soon as you land at Cancun. ADO has ticket counters at the airport, but you’ll have to get a bus to the bus terminal in Cancun City to get the overnight bus. Or you could hop on a bus to Cancun City and buy the tickets there.

      Another option is to go from the airport to Playa del Carmen — just be aware that there are 2 bus terminals in Playa — you arrive at one and depart from the other one. Playa might be a better place to spend the remainder of the day — store your luggage in the bus terminal for the day.

  10. Barb Says:

    Just some info on my recent experience traveling from Belize City to Cancun airport on ADO. I had been having trouble buying a ticket ahead of time so went to Novelo’s (Belize City bus station) the day before I was to travel. I had looked at the info here on buying a ticket: http://www.belize.com/ado-belize-mexico-bus-schedule

    For my Dec 3/4 overnight trip, there was a sign on the kiosk saying you should buy your ticket at a shop in the station; it seems to be open all day. I bought my ticket about 3:30 in the afternoon, so you didn’t need to wait til the evening. I also later learned I could have bought the ticket at a shop at the Caye Caulker Water Taxi terminal (the two shops are run by brothers). I paid for the ticket the day before I was to travel & on the evening of travel needed to trade in the voucher for the actual ticket. Note that in Belize City, you are only paying for the portion of your ticket that takes you to the Belize/Mexico border (BZ$19); you purchase the remaining part of the ticket (~BZ$81 to Cancun) just across the border.

    Just fyi, not a lot of snooze time on this trip! Between about 10:30 pm & 1:30 am, there were 4 different stops with a lot of waiting in line: 1. Exiting Belize (where non-Belizeans pay BZ$37.50); 2. Entering Mexico (where you will fill out a form & be given a card to keep with your passport til you leave the country); 3. Mexican customs; 4. Purchasing the remaining portion of your ADO bus ticket (have cash available—USD, BZ$, & Mexican pesos were all accepted, even a combination of currencies). There is a pharmacy right next door to where we paid for the tickets which was open when we were there & also sold snacks.

    And while there was a bathroom on the bus, it was locked! Perhaps it would have been unlocked on request? On the other hand, with all the border stops etc, there were bathroom opportunities.

    We arrived at the Cancun airport at about 6 a.m. We get off of the bus all sleepy & discombobulated. There were several men there asking which airline we were on & leading us to the “shuttle” to take us to the right terminal. I should have known when I saw that the “shuttle” looked like a private vehicle (large SUV) and then should have gotten out when they requested US$5/person to bring us to the other terminal. Don’t fall for it!! There is a free shuttle service provided by the airport — ignore these very persistent people, look for the nearby sign for the free shuttle & just wait for it.

  11. Rob Says:

    Just returned from Belize / Mexico. For the overnight ADO bus from BC to Cancun, I too was able to buy the ticket mid-afternoon. The shop keeper who sells the ticket mentioned that you can buy a ticket up to a week in advance. Fees I paid 1) BZ$19 to border 2) BZ$37.50 exit fee 3) MX$450 to Playa Del Carmen.

  12. Kay Says:

    Need some advice ! I am travelling to playa del Carmen april 1st and I am planning to stay there but my final destination ultimately will be caye caulker by april 4th. Am I better to catch the overnight bus to belize city and then take water taxi for 45 minutes to caye caulker or take the more frequent services to Cheutmal and then water taxi to caye caulker which is about 2 hours. Looking for the most comfy option ( I know neither are really but should I give my legs a different scenery with the boat?) Note I am a female solo traveller so I am also looking for whats safest in regards to taking an overnight bus as appose to day bus. How far in advance can you book the ado bus tickets (when I arrive at cancun airport can I book bus ticket for a few days later?)Do all ado buses have washrooms? Sorry for confusion just my first trip to central America !

    • belizebus Says:

      I don’t think there’s much difference. The only potential issue I see is the water taxi from Chetumal — it can fill up during peak travel periods like Easter.

      The ADO express buses are excellent — safe, comfy seats, a/c (usually set on “freeze”), toilet (but I wouldn’t want to sit near one). Buses to Chetumal run every couple of hours, but you’ll have to get an early one to get to Chetumal in time for the water taxi at 3pm. I’m not a fan of overnight buses. Sleeping might be difficult because of all the stops along the way (Tulum, Mexican Immigration, Belizean Immigration, Corozal, Orange Walk). Whichever bus you choose, you can buy the ticket one or two days before the travel date — at Easter, I’d suggest two days or maybe three. And you can buy tickets at the ADO counter at the airport. I usually buy tickets at the ADO terminal on 5th Ave in Playa del Carmen.

      In Chetumal, a taxi from the bus terminal to the water taxi is about 50 pesos. In Belize City, you could walk the 1 km from the bus terminal to the water taxi, but I’d take a taxi for BZ$7.

      From BC, water taxis leave every couple of hours, so no need to reserve a ticket in advance. Two water taxi services operate from two separate terminals. However, in Chetumal, if there happens to be a large number of travellers, and you’re late to the pier, the boat might be full and you’ll have to wait a day (or continue by bus which adds to the hassle). If you know your date of travel, you can reserve the ticket through the website.

      So, the overnight bus followed by a water taxi from BC will definitely get you to CC. The Chetumal bus & water taxi will require a boat reservation to be 100% positive that you get to CC on the same day.

      Hope your legs enjoy the scenery whichever way you choose! And let me know.

      • kristie Says:

        That actually helps a lot I think I will do the overnight only because like you said i do not want to get stuck in chetumal. This may sound like a silly question but are you crossing any borders if you do belize city to caye caulker by water taxi. I just wanted to know if there are any departure fees or border crossing fees ie. The $25 us everyone frequently talks about.

      • belizebus Says:

        No such thing as a silly question. All questions lead to enlightenment.

        The ADO bus will stop at Mexican Immigration around 4 to 5am. An official might ask for 300 pesos or US$20 or $30. There is a legitimate tourist fee for Mexico, and if you’ve flown to Mexico, that fee might be included with the airline ticket price. To find out, get the ticket receipt and look at the list of fees and taxes. If the Tourist Fee is listed (it will have a “UK” code reference), then you do not have to pay anything at the border. Bring a copy of the receipt with you because the official might keep a copy. If you can’t prove that you’ve paid the fee, you can try arguing, but be prepared to fork over 300 pesos.

        Then the bus will stop at Belize Immigration. I don’t know your nationality, but many nationalities can enter Belize for a maximum of 30 days — no fees to pay. Proceed through Customs and get back on the bus.

        From BC to CC, you don’t cross any borders and there are no fees except tickets to buy.

        When you leave Belize, the fees amount to BZ$37.50 or US$18.75.

    • Christine Says:

      Hi! You can book them a few days ahead, I suggest talking the overnight bus from Playa to Belize City since there are more frequent water taxis leaving from there. We wanted to take that bus but when we arrived in Cancun it was sold out for that night so DO book it a few days ahead! We ended up taking the overnight bus to Chetumal, switching buses there at 6am and then going to Belize City. The second bus was NOT very comfortable so do the overnighter all the way from Playa to Belize City. The ADO buses do have bathrooms but bring your own toilet paper! 🙂
      I was as confused as you were but it all worked out ok, we loved Caye Caulker! Have fun!

  13. Christine Says:

    Oh and yes, you will pay fees on the way there and back if you cross by land or by taxi. Make sure to have cash! BTW, on the way back from Caye Caulker we took the water taxi to Chetumal rather than backtracking to Belize City….I recommend that if you are heading back to the Yucatan after.

  14. pauline Says:

    Hello, I have been strongly warned against night bus from mexico to Belize. Have you had or heard of any bad experience ? I am trying to figure out how to go from Cancun to Caye Caulker. Any imput would be great 🙂

    • belizebus Says:

      I’ve heard of only one occasion when the ADO Cancun to Belize bus was stopped and the passengers robbed. It happened at least 5 years ago, and was reported in Belizean media (TV & newspapers). You might be able to do a search if you want to see the reports. No passengers were physically harmed.

      If you want to do the trip in the daytime, ADO has added a day run. A bus leaves Cancun at 07:30 and arrives in BC in late afternoon. You should be able to get a water taxi to CC on the same day.

      Another option is an ADO bus to Chetumal, and continue on the Chetumal to CC water taxi. Details are in this website.

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