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Flores to Palenque by Bus

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 [...]

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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.

Read Avoid International Bus and Train Services

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.

flores to palenque bus map

Flores to Palenque bus map

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

tourist shuttle guatemala

Tourist shuttle in 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.

river boat to mexico

River boat to Mexico

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.

Petra and Chaya happy and comfortable in the tourist shuttle to Mexico

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?


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Filed under: Bus Travel, Central America, Guatemala, Mexico, Travel Economics, Travel With Family

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3720 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

7 comments… add one

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  • craig | travelvice.com September 3, 2010, 8:59 pm

    (sigh) Wade, I know just what you’re talking about… like I’m looking into my not-so-distant past here with ya. I’m afraid it’s not going to get easier. Petra is at a good age for travel, wait until she doesn’t want to sit on your lap gets pissy why you don’t let her in the isle. Wait until you have to start paying an adult fare for an airline ticket (age 2). Wait until the thought of spending 6 hours on a bus together makes you want to drug her.

    I’m afraid you won’t have to wait long to discover it for yourself.

    The compromises and extra expenses are just starting to kick in.

    Link Reply
    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 4, 2010, 12:15 pm

      I see the writing on the wall. Just hope I can continue adapting strategy to meet circumstances. We are trying to stay off transportation as much as possible, but, alas, going to places is the hallmark of travel haha. Trying to only take a longish — and long is now anything more than 4 hours — bus rides every month or two. I figure we can sustain one shitty day a month haha.

      Glad that you should be in Peru for a while. We may visit.

      Petra really likes having friends, she should meet Aidric.

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  • Caitlin September 4, 2010, 5:26 pm


    Heh, just joking.

    My Dad, who still describes himself as someone who likes to rough it, told me a few years back that as I got older I would want more comfort while I traveled. I scoffed at him.

    Yet… he’s kind of right. While I was traveling in Mexico back in February, when I got to places I had the choice of dorm rooms or single room. The single room usually cost 50 – 100% more. Yet I always took it. I figured – I don’t get wasted with random hostel people like I did at 22, so why not buy my old bones a good night rest.

    … I think I’m getting soft too.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 4, 2010, 8:49 pm

      Getting soft or getting smart?

      I suppose, in the end, money is made for spending and if you are able to sustain yourself while traveling by bringing in more money that you spend then why not be comfortable?

      There is no traveler status gained by saving money when you don’t want to haha. I also tend to vear away from dorm rooms, why would I want to live with a bunch of drunks? I suppose if you are traveling full time, where you sleep is your home. I don’t want to live with kids ten years younger than me partying unless I really have to. Good thing that rooms can be rented in just about any country in the world for under $300 per month.

      Traveling slow has enabled me to live vastly better. I may spend a little more money now, but I live within my means. Good thing, too.

      It is good to know that I am not alone in going soft, or in getting smart.

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  • Rafael Proenca April 1, 2011, 4:27 pm

    I had a few questions about documentation.

    Whenever you crossed from Guatemala to Mexico by the shuttle did you have to show passports and stuff or If you lets say take the river way to cross the Mexican boarder, do you have to show any documentation?
    I am Brasilian and i am going to Guatemala to travel. I need to know if i happen to cross the boarder i wont get in trouble for doing it. In Guatemala i dont need any documents to enter but Mexico i might need something like a visa taken back in Brasil. I just want to cross it and come back without a visa and without trouble.

    Thank you so much! 🙂

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com April 2, 2011, 9:59 am

      Yes, the immigration procedure is pretty standard. Passports and travel documents are necessary. But the problem is not just with crossing the border as there are at least five immigration/ military passport checks on the highways leading from Guatemala. There is an incredible show of authority around the Mexican border, as it is a major trafficking corridor for drugs and illegal immigrants, so I truly would not recommend trying to sneak across.

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