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Ferry to Livingston from Puerto Barrios

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 [...]

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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.

Associated images


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Filed under: Central America, Guatemala, Travel Strategy

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

5 comments… add one

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  • Mike Crosby March 30, 2010, 2:06 pm

    Wade, I’ve seen a few pictures now of Petra being held by other people.

    Does travelling with baby give you a certain legitimacy?

    Congratulations too in helping Chaya with the baby. You guys seem to be a good team.

    Also I found it interesting in your comment “butt town”. I thought that you would enjoy wherever you went and it pleased me to see there are places that you don’t like too.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 30, 2010, 9:24 pm

      Helo Mike,

      Chaya just said today as we were walking through the villages outside of Livingston today that because we had the baby it makes us seem a lot less intimidating.

      It also opens up a lot of doors as far as talking with people or meeting friends. First of all it makes us seem less suspicious — what could we be up to with a baby in our arms? Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, it gives us something to talk about — most adults in the world have made at least one baby at some point, so we automatically have something to talk about. On top of this, Petra is pretty amicable, so she is often the one initiating contact with people — she looks at people, tries to grab them, and coos until they pay attention to her.

      It is really funny, everywhere we go the people in the streets all yell, “hello, Petra!” as we walk by, and Petra gets really excited and starys shaking her arms and legs. It is good fun.

      About not liking places, it often has to do with your perspective and situation upon being there — not liking a place often says more about the person than the place — though some places are really not too enjoyable to be in. We did not find a reason to stay in Puerto Barrios, so we left.

      I also like it when people say when they don’t like places, it really shows you where they stand. I have no time for wishy washy people afraid of their own opinions and so cautious not to offend others that they dilute their own character — I like people with teeth haha.



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  • Bob L March 31, 2010, 9:00 am

    Wade wrote: “About not liking places, it often has to do with your perspective and situation upon being there — not liking a place often says more about the person than the place”

    That’s for sure. I know many times I have been to places that I loved, then returned and really did not like them. Or went somewhere that everyone said was great, to find myself unhappy there. More about me and my current mood than anything plus a little bit about the particular experiences of the moment.

    Bob L

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com March 31, 2010, 9:37 am

      I agree totally, it is interesting to return to a place to realize how much you have changed in the interim! Places and people both have personalities, histories, moods, and stories — and they are usually always changing!



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  • legiondeby November 13, 2015, 3:52 pm

    I have just red you post
    i would like to ask, the ferry from Puerto Barrios to Livingston, does it take cars in it?
    I’ll be eaiting for your reply.

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