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Ferry to Livingston from Puerto Barrios

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LIVINGSTON, Guatemala- 125 quezales each — more than 15 USD — is the unassailable standard price for a tourist to travel one hour by boat down the Rio Dulce to Livingston. For my wife, baby, and I, that is $30. We looked for another option, we looked for a back door.

When the cost of transportation to a place seems too high, it probably is: look for a back door, look for another way in that may not be as easy or convenient but makes up for it in price.

We found a backdoor to get in to Livingston:

If we were to take a bus to Puerto Barrios, we could get a public ferry boat to Livingston for a fraction of the cost.

We went for it. We boarded a minibus that went from Rio Dulce all the way to Puerto Barrios with a stop near Morales for 20 quetzales each. From Puerto Barrios we took the 5 PM ferry boat to Livingston for another 20 quetzales each. The total price for one traveler to go from Rio Dulce to Livingston this way was 40 quetzales, or 5 USD — a third of the price as the boat.

The ride on the minibus from Rio Dulce to Puerto Barrios was only around an hour and a half, but it ended up being too long for my seven month old daughter Petra. The poor girl is teething, she now has one little tooth sticking up from behind her bottom lip, with a whole entourage of followers on the rise. Petra is a little more cranky. Now, on a day of travel, I must proclaim that she was not happy at all.

An hour into the ride, a half hour outside of Puerto Barrios, she began screaming, crying, cranking in full.

Daddy sang her Baby Beluga, mommy rocked her back and forth. We doubled teamed our crying child in the back of the minibus. A man took the seat next to me, my entire family was now squished into the back corner of the bus with travel bags, food bags, little water bags, and a gaggle of other things stacked on top of us. I look for something that could be converted into a toy. I find a glass Pepsi bottle. I give it to the baby. She puts it into her mouth.

My wife quickly removed the bottle from Petra’s mouth in fear that she would hurt herself with it as soon as the bus hit a bump in the road. She scolds me for the bad move. I must say that I am please to have this woman around, for I would feel like a real Bro if I somehow enabled my baby daughter to knock out her only tooth.

But we persevered as a family. I cannot mention here how draining it is to try to coax a justifiably grumpy baby from crying when she wants to cry — especially when crammed in the back of a crowded, sweaty minibus flying through the roads of jungle Guatemala. In my agony I cannot say that I had the energy to care too much if my daughter’s howls and cries were impeded upon the other passenger’s ability to enjoy their ride. It is my guess that they may have just blended in with the onslaught of hideous Latino pop music that was delivered through cruddy old speakers with a continuous hiss.

Chaya and I worked hard to keep Petra happy to undetermined results. But we made it.

We made it to Puerto Barrios, a real butt town. I did not notice at first, my wife had to point it out to me. It is my impression that my tolerance for butt towns is a little higher than my wife’s — though sweet Chaya’s criteria for a butt town is usually right on. I stopped walking, opened my eyes, and looked around for a moment — it all looked pretty butt to me.

“We went through all of that to come here?” my wife spoke in exasperation.

The sun was hot, the humidity a blanket, we walked through a patchwork market looking for a hotel, we found one and the rooms were like jail cells — steel doors, bars on the windows, and all. We walked across town to find another hotel, and found ourselves in a landscape of decay — shipping containers rose to the sky, we were in Guatemala’s largest port.

“The map says that there is a hotel here somewhere,” I mutter.

“Are you sure you we are going the right way?” Chaya countered.

I became annoyed that she was questioning my map reading abilities without looking at the map herself.

“No, I don’t mean are we going the right way on the map, but do you think we should be here?” Chaya clarified.

She was asking a security question, the first one I have ever heard her ask. I looked around — we were in a pretty crappy place — a dirtbag rasta man begins “hello my friending” us.

Lets get out of here.

The plan was to spend one night in Puerto Barrios and then make way for Belize or Livingstone in the morning, but the town was far too butt for even a stay of a single night. We split.

A public ferry was to leave at 5 PM for Livingstone, we got on it.

20 Quetzales each was no price to pay to escape Puerto Barrios. We ate cheeseburgers on the ferry boat as we waited for it to depart. An hour later Petra went for her first boat ride.

We made it to Livingstone through the back door for 40 quetzales each, far less than the 125 it would have cost if we took the boat from Rio Dulce and entered street side.

Chaya questioned the benefit of going in through the back door — we had to endure a grueling minibus ride, visit a butt town, wait a couple hours for the ferry to leave — but for the 170 quetzales we saved, I must say that it is clutch that this back door is still left unlocked.

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Filed under: Central America, Guatemala, Travel Strategy

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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