Getting from Tulum to Caye Caulker; the cheap/stupid option!
There are many blog posts about how to get from Tulum to Caye Caulker with the various options and routes to take. Most go on to explain the option that takes the ferry from Chetumal to Caye Caulker. At $55 (plus the ADO bus and $5 taxi ride to the ferry) it’s not the most budget friendly option for a backpacker, but probably is the quickest and easiest. We decided to go the ‘scenic route’ via public bus and ferry from Belize City and save a few bucks in the process. So for the brave here’s a brief itinerary and tips for the journey:
8:30am Depart on ADO bus from Tulum (they run every hour or so, check ADO website) $20 or 378 pesos.
12:30 Arrival in Chetumal. Watch everyone else go off to the nice port. Quick bus station Subway for lunch. Living the dream.
12:45 Taxi to border 250 peso ($15).
Make sure you print your flight ticket into Mexico in advance as proof of already paying tourist tax (excluding TUI). Otherwise you have to pay a $30 exit fee.
13:00 Walk through Belize border.
THE CLOCKS GO BACK ONE HOUR! YAY!
You can change money with men through the fence – it’s a bit dodgy so it’s best to have USD with you.
12:15 Walk to the main road, there is a bus every 40 mins (apparently).
12:30 Public (chicken) Bus to Belize City $5.
16:00 Arrival in Belize City.
10 minute walk to Ferry Terminal (Swing Bridge). Can taxi for $5.
17:30 last OFB ferry to Caye Caulker taking 45 minutes.
18:15 arrival in Caye Caulker. Have some coconut rum punch, you’ve earned it!
The total travel cost for getting from Tulum to Caye Caulker by public bus is $80 for 2 people. From my research of other blogs and chatting to other travellers the Chetumal ferry option takes 12 hours costing $145 for two. So that’s a saving of $65 between 2 of you, that’s a lot of rum punch.
So we know its cheap, but is it stupid?
Both have the same 8:30am departure time and we managed an hour earlier arrival, due to the fact all connections worked out and the border was totally empty (we heard the San Pedro border was pretty busy with strict customs). The 3.5hour chicken bus to Belize city was not comfy, but not too busy or complicated and it was cool to be the only tourists on the bus. It’s just normal life for locals travelling long distances at slow speeds. You will learn to “Go Slow”.
Either way getting from Tulum to Caye Caulker is a long, big old travel day but luckily Caye Caulker will certainly make up for the hassle of getting here. Either option also has the bonus of skipping a night in Belize city which I hear is not all that pleasant.
Top tips if taking this option
Get the first bus leaving Tulum, everything always takes longer than you think! Getting from Tulum to Caye Caulker will take all day.
Have USD with you. The dodgy border exchange is a bad rate for Euros, a bit better for Pesos. We didn’t find any exchanges or working ATMs in our 40 or so minutes in Belize City. USD is pegged at 1:2 with the Belizean Dollar and can be used anywhere.
There are two ATM’s and a hotel that does money exchange on the island, sometimes they aren’t working so just something to keep in mind (did mention to have USD with you).
Print your airline tickets to avoid paying departure tax at the Mexican border! Nobody wants to pay twice for something.
The clocks go back an hour at the border. Don’t panic about missing the ferry!