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Caye Caulker (Belize) to Flores (Guatemala) – Border Crossing & Scammers

Water-taxi terminal Caye Caulker, Belize

What’s the fastest way to get from Caye Caulker to Flores? A few days ago I made the journey from the island of Caye Caulker Belize to the island town of Flores, Guatemala. The first leg of the cross-country trip was a 50-minute boat ride from the little island to mainland Belize City ($20 BZD – $10 USD). Although the first water-taxi to Belize City left Caye Caulker at 7:30am, early morning stomach problems forced me to delay an hour for the next boat at 8:30.

Two express shuttles (mini-buses) go daily from the marina in Belize City to Flores. The first bus leaves at 9:30am and the second leaves at 1:00pm. We arrived at the marina in Belize City at about 9:35 but fortunately the bus waits for the 8:30 boat to arrive before leaving. I purchased my bus ticket at the marina when I got off the boat ($50 BZD – $25 USD).

It only took two hours to get from Belize City to the Guatemalan border. Once at the border we got off the bus and entered a building where we met with the Belize immigration. For some odd reason, there were two immigration counters. At the first counter we presented our passports to an attendee and paid the mandatory $37.50 BZD departure tax.

At the second counter two attendees, both chatting intently on their cell phones, checked our passports and departure tax receipts, then gave us the go ahead to walk across the little bridge into Guatemala. Before crossing over, I took advantage of the avaliable duty free shopping and purchased a well needed bottle of cologne and two 1-litre bottles of Absolute vodka ($12 USD each). Unlike Canadian customs which only allows 1 litre of alcohol per passenger,Guatemalan customs allows travelers to enter with a whopping six litres of booze

The Tricky Stuff – Avoiding the scams 

Belize-Guatemala Border Crossing

Once over the bridge, we were directed to the Guatemalan immigration counter where an officer checked our passports, asked how long we would be staying in Guatemala, and stamped our passports with 90-day stamps. The attendee handed me my passport and said “Viente Quetzel”(20 Quetzal). Fortunately, I had read a few websites and I knew that there was no entrance fee to cross into Guatemala from Belize, so I responded “No tengo Quetzals, voy a pagar cuando salgo” (I don’t have Quetzals, I will pay when I leave). A bit surprised by my response, he muttered “Okay” and signalled me to pass. When I returned to the bus which was already waiting on the Guatemalan side, I asked the others if they had paid a $20 Quetzal entrance fee. A few said they had paid while others like me had also refused to pay the fee. Those who paid the fee went back to the counter and asked the attendees to return the money they had paid. The funny thing is that they were refunded the cash with little to no objection. I may be  wrong but I think that there is a semi-official scam going onat the border where Guatemalan immigration officers are making an extra 20 Quetzal from uneducated tourists. When we asked our bus driver if we were required to pay an entrance fee, his response was – “I don’t know, I am just the driver, I don’t know anything about these things”. Really though? How could a person that takes passengers across the border on a daily basis not know the answer to such a simple question?

Dona Goya Hostel

Two hours later we arrived in Flores and our van pulled into the parking lot of a modern looking shopping plaza (Pizza Hut included) which I assumed would be our final drop-off point. Without warning, a small man with a distinctive scar that stretched from the edge of his mouth to the bast of his ear opened the van door and greeted us with a cheery “Welcome to Guatemala”.

Speaking in quite polished English, he introduced himself as Enrique and told us that he would be giving us information about tours and accommodation around Flores – as part of “the service”. His first recommendation was for us to use the ATM machine in the plaza, since there was only one other notoriously unreliable ATM in town.  When we returned to the van Enrique came along for the ride and quickly began his sales pitch about tours to the local attractions, reassuring us that his prices were the most favourable in town. He encouraged us to purchase tickets in advance to avoid disappointment since available spots filled up very quickly. Some passengers purchased tour and shuttle bus tickets from Enrique but I decided to wait until I settled into the hostel.

Although we asked the driver to take us to the popular Los Amigos Hostel, eager Enrique jumped in and told us that he had already called the hostel and only one bed and two hammocks were available (SCAM ALERT). Since we were a group of six, he recommended another hostel, Hospedaje Dona Goya, which was cheap, clean and close to everything. We went to Dona Goya and checked in since is was cheap ($4/night) and we were too tired to go walking through the town in hot afternoon sun looking for alternate accommodation.

Flores from the water

Later that evening we decided to go for a walk to check out Los Amigos Hostel, where we had originally planned on staying. At reception we asked if there were any free beds in the hostel and lo and behold, the answer was “Yes”. We had officially been duped by Enrique.

To make things worse, when we checked the prices of tours and shuttle buses offered by the hostel, they were half the price charged by Enrique on the bus. We would eventually learn that Enrique Pop who is actually called “El Negro” around Flores is one of the worst scammers who work with the bus drivers to get to tourists before the hostels do. Since tour companies and hostels pay commissions to independent vendors for referring business, this creates a lucrative opportunity for scammers to make big money by grossly overcharging unsuspecting travelers. Since this seems to be a common problem experienced by many backpackers arriving by bus to Guatemala, I decided to write this post about my experience.

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  1. Very nice & impressive article you have posted.. Wonderful post, It is really not difficult to study your blog.. I have found good information from your blog… So excellent … It’s a treasure for me to reading your blog..I will definitely share it with others.thanks

  2. Thank you for the very kind words. I am happy that you found the information helpful. I only hope that I can continue to make it better.

    • Hey Joel, It looks like you went from Caye Caulker to Flores in 5 to 6 hours. Is that correct? Are you aware of whether one can make that same time going from Flores to Caye Caulker? Thanks.

      • Will I can’t say for sure but I don’t see why not. The only think I would say

      • Will I can’t say for sure but I don’t see why not. The only think I would say is to leave a bit earlier in the say to avoid missing the last boat from the mainland to the island. Other than that, I am sure that there are a few buses you can take from Flores to the port. I wish you luck on this part of your adventure. If and when you complete it, come back, leave a comment and let’s know now it went.

  3. Hi, we were also in Flores Guatemala a week ago and we met this scumbag Enrique who duped us as well on 250 USD for the Yaxchilan tour from Flores which in reality turned out to be a Flores-Palenque charter. Judging from the date you wrote these posts seems like this con is active for a quite long time. I wonder if when you saw him he had the scarf on his chin sorta of ear-to-ear smile? If not somebody must have him nailed in between… so to say.

    Otherwise Guatemala/Flores/Tikal are great place, nice people.

    • Thanks for the update. I guess that Enrique is still on the prowl. Yes he did have a scar that made him look even more like a crook. Someone told me how he got that scar but I have forgotten now. We were duped by the same con man. I am happy you enjoyed the place. I didn’t do Tikal, instead I did El Mirador – a 5 day hike into the jungle.

  4. Thanks for the info. A group of us are going to be making the same trip from Cay Caulker to Flores next week. We’ll be on the lookout for “El Negro” around Flores. We plan on staying at Los Amigos Hostel in Flores.
    I’ll let you know how it goes for us.

    • No problem Tim – that guy is one tricky bastard. If you see him feel free to use the middle finger! Good luck my friend 🙂

  5. Just traveled to Flores with some friends and we met Enrique and his ‘free shuttle’ right when we got off the bus. After some haggling we booked with him and…everything turned out great! He gave us a good deal for a combo Tikal day trip / Flores-Semuc Champey shuttle / 1 night hostel in Semuc Champey. He also helped clear things up when my friends made a couple mistakes (long story).

    Not saying he hasn’t conned people in the past, just thought I would share my experience with him since it was pretty spotless (though he does put the pressure on a bit too much).

    • Tommy – Thanks for the comment. Well it is gerat to know that someone had a good experience with him. My experience was less than favorable and perhaps he is doing more legit business these days. Sounds like you enjoyed Flores and the area. I would love to go back some day.

  6. Hello. I also have found this info pretty invaluable as I’m planning a quick trip through Belize solely to dive the blue hole in Caye Caulker. Initially, obviously, I need to get Flores to CC. I see the post from ‘Will’ is making the opposite trip also. Heard from him? Any extra tips? They’re pretty damn awesome when travelling on a microscopic budget, and something the ‘lonely planet’ couldn’t possibly cover as it’s a specific trip. Hope it’s all still relevant 2+ years later!

  7. Thanks for posting. I also came across this little scarred overweight man and things almost went violent when I had to “remove” him from blocking the path to my bags on the shuttle roof and walk away after using the ATM’s. He booked a taxi for us (without asking) from across the bridge from Flores to Tikal for 480Q when the actual taxi price is less than 275Q. Long story short we left once we realised it was all a scam, he got angry and yelled at all of the other passengers on the shuttle for assisting us, then drove off. A few of the inter-Guatemalan shuttles from Lanquin and Antigua receive commissions from him. If you see him, leave. It’s much safer without him around, just ask the locals for help with directions.

  8. I’ve also read about incidents people had w/ him on TripAdvisor. Title to the post is “BEWARE” shuttle driver w/ scar on face.” One involved two females. They we’re BRAVE women! :))

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