Crossing the border from Guatemala to Mexico by bus (2021)

Are you about to go from Guatemala to Mexico? We crossed the border again! This time in La Mesilla and just like the first time, we documented everything and gonna walk you through the whole process. 

Why did we return to Mexico?

Let’s start with a little background story. Unlike many other travelers, we didn’t cross the land border from Mexico to Guatemala just to get a stamp in the passport and another 180 days in Mexico. Even though we loved Mexico, we wanted to continue south with our travels. 

But life happens and some beautiful events are so important, they make us cross the ocean. Literally. This time, it was the wedding of my sister-in-law. We got sort of last-minute notice, so we had to figure out a new plan. 

As you might know, we try not to fly, when it’s not absolutely unavoidable. Since getting off and landing are the two worst parts of the flight, when it comes to the environmental impact, direct flights and/or fewer transfers are the “lesser evil”. Therefore, we decided to go by bus from Guatemala to Mexico, visit some of our favorite people and places, get a direct flight from Cancun to Frankfurt and continue by train in Europe. 

Crossing the land border from Guatemala to Mexico

Disclaimer: We made this trip in September 2021, so some of the prices might have changed. If you’ve experienced that, I’d love to hear from you!

If you look for an easy way to cross the land border between Guatemala and Mexico and you don’t care which crossing point you’ll use, check my original article: How to cross the border from Mexico to Guatemala. It’s a perfect way if you want to visit the ruins or waterfalls in Palenque and the beautiful Tikal. 

This time it didn’t work for us, since we were already on the other side of Guatemala when we found out we need to go to Europe. So we decided to try the border crossing in La Mesilla to get from Panajachel to San Cristobal. I’m not gonna lie to you. It’s much longer, less comfortable, more expensive, and extremely crowded. Prepare to cuddle in the chicken buses.

On the other hand, it’s a much more interesting way. Especially when you travel from south to north, you’ll travel with many people trying to get there for a better life, and better opportunities. 

Prepare to see some not-so-nice things. And maybe realize, how much that stupid piece of paper in your hands (your passport) means. How different your life would be, if you’d be born in another part of the world, in a less wealthy family, etc. 

If you don’t feel like reading, check our YouTube video!

Travel itinerary: Guatemala to Mexico

The whole journey with a budget per person:

  • Day 1 / 6:30 am Panajachel → Quetzaltenango 8:45 am; chicken bus 30 Q ≈ €3.75
  • Day 2 / 5:30 am from the hostel to the bus terminal in Xela; taxi 30 Q ≈ €3.75 (€1.90 per person)
  • Day 2 / 6:00 am Quetzaltenango → Cuatro Caminos 6:30 am; chicken bus 10 Q ≈ €1.25
  • Day 2 / 6:45 am Cuatro Caminos → Huehuetenango 9:00 am; chicken bus 25 Q ≈ €3.10
  • Day 2 / 9:20 am Huehuetenango → La Mesilla 12:00 pm; chicken bus 25 Q ≈ €3.10
  • Day 2 / 12:00 pm from the station in La Mesilla to the immigration office in Guatemala; TukTuk 10 Q ≈ €1.25
  • Day 2 / 12:15 pm La Mesilla → Cuauhtémoc; colectivo taxi 10 MX$ ≈ €0.50
  • Chenge of the time zone 12:30 pm → 1:30 pm
  • Day 2 / 3:00 pm Cuauhtémoc → Comitán; 60 MX$ ≈ €3
  • Day 2 / 5:00 pm Comitán → San Cristobal 60 MX$ ≈ €3
  • Day 2 / 6:30 pm San Cristobal de Las Casas

Total cost: €20.85

You’ll find a detailed description of the journey with all the directions and important information in the following paragraphs.

DIY: Journey from Panajachel to San Cristobal de Las Casas

*10 Q ≈ €1.25; 10 MXP ≈ €0.50

Since we needed to get all the way from Panajachel in Guatemala to San Cristobal in Mexico, we decided to split the journey into two days. Theoretically, you might be able to make it in one day, if you: take the bus at 5:30 am from Pana to Xela and be really lucky to make it for a bus or colectivo in Comitan. 

Day 1: Panajachel to Quetzaltenango by chicken bus

Getting from Panajachel to Quetzaltenango (or Xela, as the locals call it) by chicken bus is super easy. You can go pretty much any hour if you don’t mind switching the bus once. Or four times a day by a direct bus from Pana to Xela. 

The fun part is that the schedule is always written only inside the bus. But we got you covered: the direct bus goes at 5:30 am, 6:30 am, 8 am, and 1:30 pm. We took the one at 6:30 from the main road in Pana and we made it to Xela at around 8:40 am. And we had a full day to explore Quetzaltenango!

Hot springs in Quetzaltenango
One of the cool things we’ve done during the day in Xela – visiting the hot springs nearby

Day 2: Quetzaltenango to Huehuetenango by chicken bus

On the second day, we started our journey very early in the morning. The first direct bus from Xela to Huehue was supposed to leave from the terminal in Xela around 6 am. We wanted to take a colectivo from the hostel, but we didn’t find any, so we ended up in a taxi for 30 Q.

Even though we asked like five times if the bus is direct, it wasn’t. So we took a chicken bus from Quetzaltenango to Cuatro Caminos, where we switched to another bus to Huehuetenango. 

The first leg took about 30 minutes and we paid 10 Q each. The switching was very easy since the second bus was already waiting for us. We paid 25 Q each and got the real chicken bus experience. The bus was extremely full and there was first police control. Oh, and we also got a flat tire. 

There are many people from Honduras, Salvador, and other countries, trying to get north for a better life. Since they often don’t have proper documents, there are police controls on the way to the border. They actually arrested one lady. It was pretty intense to watch since the rest of her group/family just had to leave her behind.

I don’t know which bus goes directly from Xela to Huehue, but it’s not this one

Day 2: Huehuetenango to La Mesilla by chicken bus

We made it to Huehue at 9 am. You need to get off the bus before the center of Huehue, but no worries, you’re not the only one going to La Mesilla and the drivers will let you know when it’s time.

We were waiting 20 minutes for the chicken bus from Huehue to La Mesilla and honestly – when it came we didn’t believe we fit in. But they are so good at squeezing as many people on the bus as possible!

It was very uncomfortable, an almost 3-hour long ride for 25 Q. There were other police controls, but this time people without documents were able to bribe the cops. When one of them controlled Filip’s passport, they thought we were overstaying and wanted to make him get out of the bus as well. Fortunately, my broken Spanish and the fact he was with a girl saved the situation.

Day 2: Crossing the border from Guatemala to Mexico in La Mesilla

When we got off the bus, there were some TukTuks already waiting. We decided to take one to the immigration office. You could definitely walk it, it was like 2 km downhill, but we just spend those extra 10 Q per person.

It was very straightforward at the Guatemalan immigration office. The officer didn’t try to get any money out of our pocket (you’re not supposed to pay anything when leaving Guatemala – or entering for that matter), we got our stamps and left the office in two minutes.

We also exchanged the leftover Quetzales for Mexican pesos with some guy there. The exchange rate wasn’t the best, but we got the money we needed. We would get 2.500 MX$ instead of 2.800 MX$ with the official rate.

Day 2: Entering Mexico from Guatemala in Cuauhtémoc

When you’re done on the Guatemalan side of the border, you need to get to the first Mexican town Cuauhtémoc. You need to take an orange colectivo taxi for 10 MX$ since it’s like 4 km away.

Of course, it took us longer than we expected on this side since we didn’t have our flight tickets printed. Be smarter and bring it with you. If you won’t, no worries, you can print it in a small shop nearby the immigration office. But you’ll lose like an hour of your life (without exaggeration) since the slowest guy is working there. 

You need to pay the tourist tax of 594 MX$. Don’t forget to get a receipt for that (you’ll need it when leaving the country), but no worries, it’s not a scam. If you’re confused about why you don’t need to pay it when you arrive by plane, it’s easy – you’ve already paid it with your flight ticket.

Guatemala to Mexico
Happy after crossing the border from Guatemala to Mexico without problems

Day 2: Cuauhtémoc to Comitán by colectivo van

You just need to walk about 50 meters north from the immigration office and you’ll find a parking lot with colectivo vans heading to Comitán. The van was brand new and you can imagine, how nice it was after all those chicken buses! 

Our colectivo left in about 10 minutes and the ride from the Mexican border to Comitán took us about one and a half hours. The price was 60 MX$.

Day 2: Comitán to San Cristobal by colectivo van

After arriving, we had to walk just a little bit to the station of colectivos from Comitán to San Cristobal or to the OCC bus terminal. We opted for the colectivo since it’s faster and cheaper (60 MX$). Also, if there happens to be a roadblock, the colectivo drivers are well organized and you only need to walk a couple of kilometers to be picked up on the other side of the blockade. 

Side note about the land border crossing from Guatemala to Mexico

If you cross the land border, you get a different stamp on your tourist card than when you fly into the country. It appears to be only for 7 days. If you fly out of Mexico as we did, you have to go to the immigration office at the airport.

Since you have the confirmation of paying the tourist fee (don’t forget to get it when you pay!), they will fix it in a second. You just need to have some extra time at the airport for that.

Crossing the land border on your own vs. the tourist shuttle

You can also do this route by a tourist shuttle. The downsides of the tour are:

  • It’s much more expensive (≈ €50)
  • You still need to change the shuttle at the border
  • The shuttle (at least in Guatemala) is not very comfortable
  • It’s not as fun and you’ll miss the experience

Of course, it’s still better than flying. For both the adventure and the planet. But if you can, traveling with locals is always much more interesting. We only spend a bit over €20 per person and have a story to tell. Also, we felt absolutely safe during the whole trip.

Conclusion: Is it worth it?

It’s long. It’s uncomfortable. But it’s 100 % worth it and I would do it again. Don’t fly, be adventurous. Maybe, after seeing how hard is it to travel for those less lucky of us, you’ll appreciate your privilege more.

Enjoy your travels and be grateful for it.

Love, Lea

12 Responses

  1. Excellent excellent information. I am a US citizen staying in Panajachel now. My 6 month mark expires in February 2023 so I will need to get to Mexico to get the stamp and then come back to panajachel (I teach English in Panajachel and will be here for a couple of years. I believe I need to stay in Mexico for 3 days. Is that true? And if so, do you know of any affordable hostels extremely close to the border so I can head back to Panajachel after 3 days?

    1. Hey Shemeka! If I remember correctly, they usually ask for those 3 days out of the country, but sometimes they’d let you back in a couple of hours. You never know. 😀 Also, if you only go to Mexico for three days, you don’t need to pay the tourist tax. If nothing has changed in the last year, you don’t pay it for up to seven days trip. And I, unfortunately, don’t know any hostel near the border, since we went all the way to San Cristobal. But if you stay three days, it might be worth it to use the time and actually go somewhere nice! Mexico is so beautiful and also much cheaper than Guatemala (especially the southern part of the country). Love, Lea

  2. Hi Lea, thank you very much.
    I am a solo female traveller and was worrying about the safety but it seems doable…
    Just one question… I arrived in Mexico by flight, Guatemala is just a side trip, so I don’t need to pay the tourist fee again at the border right ? Gracias!!!

    1. Hey Elisa, I think it should be all right – the other crossing near Palenque seemed easier and safer if it works for your plans. There is a link at the beginning of this article for the other one as well. 🙂
      About the tourist tax – I’m not really sure, tbh. It depends on when you plan the trip to Guate. If you come back less than 7 days before your flight out, I think you don’t need to pay the tax. If it’s more, I’m afraid they will make you pay it when you come back to Mexico.

  3. Hi Lea,
    I am planning my trip in the area (in September 2022) and this is the exact info I was looking for, thank you!!
    I would love to do it your way, just a little bit skeptical as a solo female traveler… any thoughts?
    Teta (from Greece)

    1. Hey Teta, good to hear it’s helpful! Traveling by a chicken bus might sound disturbing, but once you get on one, you’ll realize it’s not such a big deal. There are many women traveling with you and people are actually really nice! It might be a good idea to try some shorter rides before. Just in between cities or for a day trip. Try to travel during the daylight, keep your valuables with you (on your lap, not under your seat – but no worries about the big backpack on the roof of the bus), check how much other people pay, and ALWAYS listen to your gut. It’s normal to be nervous, but when something seems too odd – it might be. Once you get to Mexico, no worries. The colectivo vans there are the best. 🙂 Safe travels and enjoy! Btw. There will be more articles coming from Mexico and Guatemala, mostly for trips without tours (hopefully in the next weeks)! 🙂 Love, Lea

    2. Hi, i am planning to visit this place December 2022. I will visit first Guatemala then move to Mexico city. Hope will be stay 5 to 7 days there. I loved to watch green nature with some mountain. Wanna take test some different type of foods and others. Thanks for your important article about this specific place. It will be help me to reach out my right path. Take a love from Bangladesh (mahbub)

      1. Hey Mahbub! Thank you for the nice comment, enjoy your Mexico/Guatemala trip! The food in Mexico is the best! Love, Lea

      2. Thanks for the update bec am planning to take make a trip from Guatemala city to Mexico and please can you help me with any person that I could contact who can help me cross the border

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