Tulum to Caye Caulker

Posted from Belize.

A boat moves across the blue water in front of the Caye Caulker harbour

Welcome to Caye Caulker

UP TO DATE info on the night bus from Tulum to Belize City, and ferry to Caye Caulker

How it goes down

TULUM – The ADO bus station in Tulum is easily located on Tulum Ave. near the centre of town. It has toilets that cost $5M MXN to use, so if you’re somewhere else and don’t fancy using the bus toilet, get your business done before you leave.

CLOTHING – The bus is freezing. FREEZING! Wear warm clothes, bring a sleeping bag, winter coat, fur blanket. Anything to keep from shivering the night away.

ON THE BUS – We were sat near the front. While my companion slept a lot, I hardly did. The driver constantly turned his light on to wave at other buses he passed (so they could see him) and he was listening to some music at a volume high enough that my iPod couldn’t drown it out. At times he sang along. He wasn’t that bad of a singer, but his drumming skills needed improvement – though most people have no rhythm on a steering wheel. I wasn’t wearing enough clothes, so I spent the time shivering. You will not be allowed to access your luggage until the Belize border, so …

THE BORDER – We arrived at aprox. 3:30 a.m. Leaving Mexico was fairly straight forward. Everyone gets off the bus and they enter an office in twos to have their passport examined and receive an exit stamp. Then they ask you for the $500 MXN ($25 USD) departure tax – which is quite likely a scam. Remember to have your departure card too. There were toilets at the border, but there was no TP and no water, so …

ENTERING BELIZE – We all get back on the bus for another 10 min journey to the Belize crossing. Here we must bring all our luggage, fill out another similar customs sheet, let Belize nationals jump the queue, and have our passports stamped. There is no fee to enter Belize, but we have been told there is a fee to exit. After the passport is stamped we are asked at another area if we have anything to declare, food, fruit etc. Before we re-boarded I dug into my bag and grabbed pants and a blanket.

A screen grab of a partial map of Belize city showing the bus station and the ferry dock locations

The distance from the bus station to the water taxi terminal isn’t far, but we were told to not walk it.

BELIZE CITY BUS TERMINAL – At the bus terminal taxi drivers and boat operators will ask you where you’re going. This is usually where most travellers get a bit worried and we were skeptical. We told them we want to get to Caye Caulker and they told us we had 30mins to get the next boat. This guy took my backpack (wait!) handed it to the taxi driver with a green license plate and 20-year-old mini van (green license plates are registered taxis,) and bid us to get in. We asked him how much it would be and he said $5 USD (which we had been told was the going rate.) We got in the taxi, and zipped down to the pier. Do not walk this distance. 

Belize City Pier as seen from the entryway

The pier at Belize City.

AT THE PIER – A dude took my backpack from the taxi, but the driver told me not to worry, that’s his job. He gave me a luggage tag, and showed us where to buy our ferry tickets. After you buy the ticket you have to go to another window and validate the ticket for that particular departure time.  We were on the 8 a.m. boat to Caye Caulker. They take the luggage and store it in a compartment in the boat so the seats aren’t filled with backpacks and suitcases. We got off the boat and I had to hand over my luggage tag to get my backpack returned to me. Super efficient, easy and well run.

People board the ferry boat in the harbour

The ferry to the island.

The gist

BUS PRICE – $675 MXN (as of Feb. 11 2017)

TAXI TO FERRY – $5 USD

FERRY PRICE TO CAYE CAULKER – $25 USD return or $15 one-way

DEPARTURE – 12:45 a.m.

ARRIVAL BELIZE CITY – 7:30 a.m. (but depends on border crossing time)

ARRIVAL CAYE CAULKER – 9 a.m.

It took about eight hours to get from Tulum to Caye Caulker. It costs $65 or about $8/hour. However, not a lot of time is wasted, which makes it time and money well spent, considering there’s not really any cheaper way to get there.

And Caye Caulker … well, it’s an island paradise.

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