Bus options from Flores, Guatemala to Palenque, Mexico
FLORES, Guatemala- Generally speaking, an international bus or train service — as in a direct line of transportation across a border — is going to cost a traveler more money than traveling to the border, walking across, and picking up transport on the other side. This is a general rule of travel in a world where internation transport services have become very popular on well trod tourist routes.
This is one of these well traveled routes from Flores in Guatemala to Palenque, Mexico. Most — I estimate 95% — of the foreign travelers going this way pay out for the international bus, which is basically a shuttle van full of other foreign tourists. This is definitely the wussie, I have money so why not spend it, way to travel.
I usually opt for the cheaper option to cross international borders, as it is not a difficult travel move to walk thirty paces to a immigration control point, get stamped out of a country, walk thirty more paces to another immigration control point, get stamped into the new country, and then pick up transportation on the other side.
Most borders of the world are transportation hubs, it is not difficult to find a taxi or bus to take you to where you want to go. Though, I must admit, I have walked across borders to find absolutely nothing on the other side — good thing my boots have always been made for walking.
For the border that I was about to cross — Guatemala to Mexico — I knew that there would be vast amounts of transportation going to and from the frontier.
Cost of crossing Mexican border from Flores, Guatemala
Traveling to and walking across borders is generally always cheaper than taking a convenient international service. Sometimes this amount is vast — like when I crossed from China to Mongolia some years back — but, sometimes, the money you save is negligable and the hassles of going the slightly cheaper route much greater. The trick is knowing what you are up against.
So when I thought about what method I would take to travel the 7 or so projected hours from Flores, Guatemala to Palenque, Mexico I added up the costs.
Option A: The tourist shuttle
265 Quetzales, or 34 USD, is the going rate for a tourist shuttle from Flores to Palenque. I worked the travel agencies and came up with a price of 225 Q, or around 29 USD. For me and my wife to go this route we would be looking at dropping 60 USD, a big price to pay for a single ride, but this fee would include the bus to the border, the boat across the river on the frontier, and the bus in Mexico to Palenque — and it would be all arranged for us and in sync with each other.
Option B: Local bus to border, boat across river Usamacinta, minivan to Palenque
I went to the bus station in Santa Elena and began asking around as to how much it should cost to get the four hours from there to the border near La Technica, Guatemala. 75 Q, or 10 USD, was the price I came up with. This amount would need to be combined with three dollars for a boat across the river Usamacinta to Mexico, and then transportation to take me the three or four hours from the border to Palenque. I estimated the cost of the bus to Palenque to be around 8 USD each.
So the total projected amount to go cross the border this way would be around 42 USD for both my wife and I.
A difference of around 18 USD, nearly an entire day of travel for my family.
But then I thought about the three transportation changes that we would need to make, I looked at my baby, I looked at my wife who has to deal with the baby when she is pissed off and uncomfortable, I looked at our incredibly huge pile of baggage, and I thought about riding in a packed minivan across the south of Mexico with all of the above parameters. 18 dollars more for an easy ride all of a sudden did not seem so bad.
Change of travel strategy
There is no reason to travel if you don’t enjoy it. Traveling the world with a baby is enjoyable . . . except for the traveling part. Moving between places, taking long bus rides and flights, is vastly less enjoyable with Petra than it use to be. Petra does good on buses, she generally just sleeps and breast feeds the entire time, but I would be hard pressed to say that she enjoys it — and why should she?
The easier that I can make the transitions between places, the more enjoyable traveling will be for my family. 18 USD is not a lot of money when measured up against against my propensity for enjoying my travels. As I tend to now stay in each location for one week to three months, my transportation costs are, when averaged out, a very slight expense.
I thought about having an entire seat to myself, of not having to negociate boat and mini-bus fares, of riding through Guatemala and Mexico with my family being as comfortable as possible, and I laid down the money for the tourist shuttle.
As we took the ride and went through military check point after military check point, as I peered into the chock crowded local mini-busses on the highway, the extra 18 dollars was a well made investment.
I wonder: am I going soft or am I just getting smart?