Easy Guide to the Belize Guatemala Border Crossing Process (In a Rental Car)

Border crossings can be a bit confusing and often intimidating, especially when it comes to Central America. Unlike in the European Union, crossing into another country in the Americas is a process… sometimes a lengthy one. 

The Belize Guatemala border crossing isn’t as simple as showing your passport, answering a couple of questions and continuing on with your travels. There are a few steps involved in this particular border crossing, but we are laying out everything you need to know in this step-by-step guide to crossing the Belize Guatemala border.

This travel guide to the Belize Guatemala bordering crossing includes everything you need to know about driving across the border from Belize to Guatemala. Plus, includes additional information for those taking a shuttle to the border instead.

Our Belize Guatemala border crossing experience

While the Belize Guatemala border crossing process is somewhat complicated, it didn’t stop us from renting a car during our  Belize family vacation. Not only did we want a car to explore Belize, but we wanted to cross the border from Belize to Guatemala and spend a day or two in Guatemala with kids.

Prior to crossing the Belize Guatemala border, I scoured the internet looking for information about the process, requirements, laws, and safety in the country to make the border crossing as quick, easy and painless as possible.

Whether you are renting a car and driving in Belize and Guatemala, taking a guided tour to Tikal, or taking a taxi or shuttle to the border and crossing on foot, we’ve laid out what you need to know to prepare for your Belize Guatemala border crossing journey.

Is Guatemala Dangerous?

the town of Mechor de Mencos Guatemala
The town of Mechor de Mencos, just across the Belize Guatemala border

Let’s first address the safety issue because much of what I read online said not to cross into Guatemala from Belize unless on a guided tour because you would get run off the road and robbed by machete-wielding bandits. 

Of course, every report of this type of violent, frightening occurrence was 5-10 years old. In fact, when doing research several years ago, I couldn’t find any recent information or statistics on tourists becoming victims of a crime in eastern Guatemala, which leads me to believe major incidents against visitors to eastern Guatemala are rare.

In our experience, we never felt anything other than completely safe and welcomed in Guatemala.

The roads are well maintained, the border agents and all the other people we encountered at the border were friendly. Even the intimidating, machine gun-carrying military men were nice enough.

This is a rural, sparsely populated area of Guatemala. You aren’t going to cross through big cities with gangs and cartels. This area of Guatemala probably has a lower crime rate than your own hometown.

With that said, not all parts of Guatemala are safe. For example, I wouldn’t recommend driving around Guatemala City at night, just as I wouldn’t recommend driving around parts of New Orleans, Detroit, or Los Angeles at night.

Safety can be an issue in just about any country. But if you are considering crossing the Belize Guatemala border on a day trip from San Ignacio to Tikal, or you want to spend a day or two in the town of Flores, I don’t think you will be putting yourself in danger by doing so.

Even if you decide to venture further into Guatemala to visit some of the other popular Central America destinations within the country, and you’re wondering about safety in Guatemala, know that tourists are rarely victims of violent crime in the country. 

If I had the least bit of concern for our safety, I would not have taken our sweet, innocent child across the border. I am a way more cautious traveler now that I am a parent.

So with that settled, let’s discuss the ins and outs of driving across the Belize Guatemala border.

How to cross the Belize/Guatemala border by car and what to expect

As I mentioned earlier, crossing into Guatemala from Belize is a process, and it’s one that starts before you ever reach the border.

Choose the right rental car agency

If you are planning a self drive across the Belize Guatemala border, it’s important to note that most rental car agencies in Belize do not allow you to take their vehicles across the Guatemala border. The exception is Crystal.

This is the car rental agency we used, and I found them extremely helpful. There is a $25 USD fee if you are going to cross the Guatemala border. The fee covers the additional time required by the car rental company because they have to fill out a bit more paperwork that you will surrender at the border. 

You can reserve your car and pay online and indicate in advance that you will take the car into Guatemala.

They call it a “Tikal permit”, since most visitors crossing into eastern Guatemala are heading to see the incredible, ancient Maya city of Tikal

Let me say, the reason most companies don’t allow you to drive their rental cars across the Guatemala border is not because of safety. 

It is because Guatemala does not require or recognize car insurance. It is one of those weird things about Guatemala that can cause a hiccup in your travel plans. In the event you are in a car accident in Guatemala you would be responsible for the full cost of repairs.

That’s a liability many companies just don’t want to chance.

Getting to the Belize Guatemala border crossing from Belize City

If you rented a car and plan to drive from Belize to Guatemala, you will likely want to spend a few days in San Ignacio. Located in western Belize, this city is a popular stopover for people making the journey to Guatemala. 

There are a lot of fun things to do in San Ignacio, so don’t miss the opportunity to explore this town and its surrounding area – including the Belize Mayan ruins nearby and the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve – home to some incredible caves, like Rio Frio Cave, and waterfalls like Big Rock Falls and Rio On Pools.

From San Ignacio, it is roughly a 20 minute drive to the border. 

ALSO READ: BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN BELIZE

Exiting Belize to Guatemala

Paying exit fees in belize when Driving across the Belize Guatemala border
First stop when crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala.

Your first stop when arriving at the Belize Guatemala border crossing just outside of Benque Viejo del Carmen will be the Belize immigration center. You can’t miss it. It’s a well-marked building on your left. Parking is located on your right.

Park the car, and go inside the building. Walk up to the counter in the center of the building, where they’ll ask you a couple of questions. The representatives speak both English and Spanish on the Belizean side, so it’s a painless process.

They will review your passports and hand them back. Here, you will pay your exit fee. As of 2023, the exit fee is approximately $40 Belize dollars, or $20 USD per person. They accept either Belize or US dollars.

The exchange rate is 2:1. Two Belize dollars equals one US dollar, so the math is easy. Proceed to the small window in the back of the building to get your passport stamped.

Man standing at the immigration counter at the Belize Guatemala border - exiting Belize
Getting exit stamps in our passports at the Belize border before crossing into Guatemala.

Exchange your money 

Outside the building, you will also find money changers. These are men who can exchange your currency from either Belize dollars or US dollars to Guatemalan quetzales. Unlike in Belize, you cannot use US dollars or Belize currency. You must pay in quetzales, so it is a good idea to change money at the border.

We exchanged $100 US dollars for Guatemalan quetzales. The rate is basically 7:1. Seven quetzales equals one US dollar. Of course, you may not get that exact rate from all the money changers, but they did give us a decent exchange rate that we were happy with.

I’ve heard you can haggle with the men to get a better rate, but I wasn’t going to haggle over a matter of a few dollars, so we accepted the rate they gave us and moved on.

You will also find money changers on the other side of the Guatemala border. So you can exchange your money in either place.

Fumigation

Building at the Guatemala border where you will pay your fumigation fee when driving across the Belize Guatemala border crossing
Building at the Guatemala border where you will pay your fumigation fee.

This next step only applies if you are driving across the Belize Guatemala border. After you’ve gotten your exit stamps and paid the fees on the Belize side, you are ready to enter Guatemala from Belize.

Your next stop in the process is fumigation of the car. You’ll drive your car through what looks like a giant car wash where they will spray insecticide on it. On the other side of the drive-through stall, you’ll see a small building with a walk-up window.

Park your car, go to the window and pay the fumigation fee. This is easy to miss, but don’t! The charge is minimal… about $2.50 USD.

They’ll give you a receipt that you will need to present later in the process.

Guatemala entrance stamps

Man getting entrance stamps into Guatemala when Crossing the Belize Guatemala border
Getting our Guatemala entrance stamps.

After you’ve paid your fumigation fee to drive a car across the Belize Guatemala land border, leave your car parked and walk across to the immigration building.

It is a large, open-air pavilion across the makeshift street from the small fumigation building. The first line you will stand in will say Entrada, which means Entrance in Spanish.

Here they will stamp your passport and give you a small piece of paper that you MUST keep and present when exiting the country.

I’ve heard there is an “unofficial” entrance charge of 20 quetzales (roughly $2.60) to cross the Belize/Guatemala border, but we didn’t have to pay this. 

Maybe the immigration agents were in a good mood that day. Be prepared to pay it just in case.

Rental car paperwork / payment / inspection

This step also only applies to those driving across the Belize border with Guatemala. It is probably the longest or most time consuming part of the process.

After getting your entrance stamp, head directly to your left to turn in your rental car paperwork that the rental car company gave you. They will check the paperwork and passports, walk over to the vehicle to inspect it and check that the VIN number matches, then you will need to pay for a vehicle import permit.

They will keep a copy of the paperwork. (The rental car company should have given you two copies, an original and a photocopy.)

The vehicle permit costs approximately $22 US dollars or 165 quetzales. 

We paid this at a separate window that was on the westernmost wall in the immigration pavilion. 

NOTE: Readers who have made the Belize Guatemala border crossing in more recent years have said you now have to pay for your vehicle permit at Banrural Bank, about ¾ of a mile away from the border crossing.

If that is the case, you can take a taxi to the bank to pay your fee, but need to be crossing during banking hours. This may have been a temporary arrangement as I have not found any official information on it from the Guatemalan government, but be prepared just in case. You can read the full story in the comment section below.

After you pay your fee, you take the receipt back once again to the counter where you turned in your original paperwork, and the agent will hand you a permit.

You will likely have to show this at a military checkpoint down the road, so hold onto it or better yet, affix it to the inside of your window.

Officially entering Guatemala

The welcome to Guatemala sign seen while Driving across the Belize/Guatemala border
The Welcome to Guatemala sign along the road after we crossed into Guatemala from Belize.

Congratulations! You have completed the immigration process at the Belize Guatemala border crossing and you can now officially leave no man’s land and enter the town of Melchor de Mencos, Guatemala in your rental car! 

The Belize Guatemala land border crossing process took us approximately 45 minutes. However, there were hardly any lines while we were there, so plan for extra time in the event you arrive at the same time as a tour bus with multiple passengers.

Drive across the ‘tourist’ bridge into Guatemala (or don’t)

The video above shows our complete process driving across the Belize Guatemala border. You can also view it on our Youtube channel if you prefer.

After you’ve gotten back into your car, there is a large bridge you cross to officially arrive in Guatemala.

At the end of the bridge there are military guards who might stop you. They do not stop every car, but if you do happen to get stopped, they will likely ask for your permit then tell you there is a charge of anywhere between 20-50 quetzales ($2.60-$5.00 US) to pass.

I’ve heard this is yet another big scam that most people just obligingly pay.

To bypass the military men, right before the bridge, make a right turn and then an immediate left.

There is a small dirt road that runs adjacent to the bridge. There are little tiendas, or outdoor shops, along the narrow road. If you take that road instead, it immediately joins up with the highway after the tourist bridge and you will bypass the checkpoint all together. You can see this in the video below.

There might be another military checkpoint later down the road where they did stop us and check our permit. They did not try to charge us to pass at that checkpoint.

DON’T WANT TO DEAL WITH ALL THAT, BUT STILL WANT TO VISIT TIKAL NATIONAL PARK? BOOK A GUIDED TOUR AND SAVE YOURSELF THE HEADACHE.

Re-entering Belize from Guatemala

the line at immigration when Crossing into Belize from Guatemala
This line when crossing into Belize from Guatemala goes fairly quickly.

The re-entry process is not nearly as complicated as crossing the Guatemala border from Belize. When you arrive back at the Guatemala Belize border, go to the line that says Salida or Exit, hand them your passports and your little piece of paper they gave you when you entered.

You will then get your car sprayed down again. This costs $20 Belizean dollars or $10 US. You will pay that fee at the stall. You then walk into the opposite side of the Belize immigration building and proceed through customs. It’s fairly easy.

There is a short form you fill out at the window. If you are not declaring anything that was purchased, they stamp your passports and you can carry on. You’ll drive your car one more time officially crossing back into Belize.

A border patrol agent will stop you, ask you a couple of questions, check your passports and wave you through. Welcome back to Belize!

Travel Tips to help with the Belize Guatemala border crossing process

If you plan to make the Guatemala Belize border crossing it is important to note that the agents on the Guatemala side do not typically speak English. While Belize is known for English being the official language, Spanish is the primary language spoken in Guatemala. It is one of the most important languages to learn for travel

As English speakers, who only know survival Spanish, the language barrier added another layer of difficulty for us when crossing the Belize/Guatemala border. 

English to Spanish translators at the Belize Guatemala border crossing

translators at the Belize-Guatemala border
Young translators at the Guatemala border who helped us through the process.

If you do not feel comfortable trying to communicate in broken Spanish, there are typically children or young adults who speak English very well at the Guatemalan border.

They will likely be the first people to greet you after you drive through the fumigation stall. They work for tips and can translate everything for you and guide you through the process.

We tipped them $5USD. Working with the kids probably saved us about 15 minutes, because the clerk at the window where we paid for our permit allowed us to cut in line when they saw the children helping us.

Do you need them? Probably not, but it was useful.

I couldn’t help but feel bad for the kids. I hate to see 9-14 year old children forced to work to help feed their families. It just shouldn’t be that way, but that’s an issue I’ll save for another day.

Exiting Guatemala and driving back into Belize is a much easier process. Even if you don’t speak Spanish, you’ll be able to communicate just fine without assistance.

Ways to get from Belize to Guatemala without a vehicle

If you don’t have to get a vehicle permit the Belize Guatemala border crossing process is simpler and quicker.

You can book a shuttle bus from Belize City to Tikal or the town of Flores. One shuttle will drop you off at the border, which you will then walk across, go through the immigration process, then catch another shuttle on the Guatemalan side. 

The shuttles pick you up on the other side of the tourist bridge, so you will walk across the bridge on the sidewalk to get to the shuttle lot. 

Shuttles from Belize City can be booked online or at the Water Taxi terminal to San Pedro and Caye Caulker. Additionally, you can book a transfer from San Ignacio to Flores and then book a tour to Tikal from there.

Or book a guided tour from San Ignacio to Tikal where a local will be with you during every step of the process. I highly recommend this option for those who are uncomfortable with the Belize Guatemala border crossing process outlined above.

Do you have a question or comment about the Belize Guatemala border crossing? We’d love to hear from you. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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This Belize Guatemala border crossing guide was first written in July 2016 but was most recently updated in February 2024 for accuracy and current information.

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15 comments on “Easy Guide to the Belize Guatemala Border Crossing Process (In a Rental Car)”

excellent post! The videos will help a lot of people too. Our next trip down to Guate will be through Belize so I am very grateful you posted this!

Thank you! Before our trip I read a lot about what to expect, but once we got there, we still didn’t know exactly what to do. So I made sure to take pictures and and videos in hopes of helping others. I also wanted to address the safety issue since I read so many scary articles or blogs about hijacking risks that quite frankly were just out-of-date information being rehashed over and over again.

Your detailed instructions about crossing the border are immensely helpful. I have included them in my packet of itinerary information for use in a few months when we will be visiting the area. Thanks so much!

Now that we have made the trip, another “thank you” is due for such helpful instructions about crossing the border. The one mistake we might have made is that we used the official bridge monitored by the security people when returning from Guatamela to Belize. We were charged the fee they would have charged us in the first place if we had used that bridge when going from Belize to Guatemala. Even so, we aren’t sure the little side street beside the bridge would have been navigable in that reverse direction at the time, so we might not have had that choice.

There were no children at the crossing to help us cross the border perhaps because it was a school day. Instead, the clerk who had the responsibility to validate the rental car enlisted the help of a young man in his late teens or early twenties to serve that purpose.

It’s amazing that the Guatemalan government doesn’t have English-speaking clerks at the border considering that English is the official language of Belize on the other side of the border. That policy makes me wonder if they are trying to guarantee income for the young “guides” who do speak English.

I’m so glad you made the trip and found our post helpful! I am also amazed by the lack of English-speaking border agents in Guatemala. At the Mexico/US border the agents are bilingual. You would think the same would apply to all multi-lingual border crossings. I agree it may be a way to guarantee income for the young people who offer assistance to English-speaking travelers. We actually lucked out when coming back across the tourist bridge. The security agents didn’t charge us, so I wasn’t aware they collected “fees” in each direction. Thanks for the extra info for readers!

Where is the crossing. Is it near chacon etc we are coming from San Pedro Sula Honduras. Help

J. R and Tony Tedesco

Thank you! We will be crossing over to Tikal but will return to Los Angeles via Guatemala, City. Wondering about the car rental. Are there car rental place at Melchor Mencos both to leave the Car in Belize then rent another car to get to Tikal then to Guatemala City?

That’s a tough one. Melchor Mencos is a small town. I don’t know that you will find a car rental place there. A bus might be the easier option. You can take a bus to Flores, and then another to Tikal. Then take the bus all the way to Guatemala City.

We drove through this border crossing in the beginning of April, 2019. These instructions were very helpful. However, one major thing has changed. Now you are no longer able to pay for the vehicle permit at the border. Instead, you have to pay for it at a Banrural Bank about three quarters of a mile away.

A taxi driver approached me and offered to drive me to the bank and back for 5 USD. At first I thought it was some sort of scam, but the border agent confirmed this, as well as a woman who worked for the Guatemala tourism office who spoke English. I ended up taking the taxi to the bank to pay this fee while my wife stayed by the car. It was about a 20 minute wait in line at the bank; I presented the teller the vehicle permit form I received at the border, paid the fee, and he stamped something on it and sent me on my way.

The woman who worked for the tourism office later told my wife that this new arrangement has been a problem, because it is impossible to pay for a vehicle permit when the bank is closed. She said it opens at 10am; anyone who wants to bring a car across the border earlier than that would have to wait until that time to purchase the permit.

Wow! What a hassle. Thanks for the updated information. I wonder why they changed the process. This could drastically limit the number of people driving across the border now.

Hi

Thank you so much for this post and the video, very useful

I’m planning to rent a car from Crystal in BC and drive to Tikal and back next week over the July r weekend. I have a couple of questions and hope you can help

1. Were you able to get insurance to drive into Guatemala either from Crystal or from other insurance company in Belize or Guatemala or did you just take the risk and drive into Guatemala without any insurance

2. Do you know if credit card covers any damage to the car in Guatemala . Most cards don’t cover rentals if any instance was purchased from the car rental company (which may be the case since crystal adds CDW premium to the rental)

3. As per last comment (April 2019), if one pays the toll for the bridge going west, would they have to pay on the return trip as well.

Btw, it is amazing to see that you guys are still traveling even with a young child. Most people stop or minimize traveling when they have a child

Thanks In advance

This post has been very helpful for us! We made the trip to Tikal and back 2 weeks ago (December 2023). There are a few things that I would like to add from our experience:
– We received help from a young man who spoke English. Not sure if he actually worked there, he said he didn’t need any money from us but we tipped him anyway and I would say money well spent!! He guided us through everything very quickly.
– We didn’t receive a small paper while stamping our passports, the stamp was enough.
– Make sure you have copies of your passport, drivers license and contract(s) of your rental car. If you don’t have these you can go to the copy shop next door (2 qtzl per copy).
– You cannot pay for your vehicle permit anymore at the border itself. Our options were to go to the bank in the village (165qtz), or we could pay with the lady from the copyshop nextdoor for 200qtz (165 + 35 fee for the copy shop). We did that.

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