I hope that the information I provide in this blog might benefit others travelling the same route.
Tickets cannot be purchased online for international travels and the site is only in Spanish. Almost every town in Mexico has an ADO ticket office. It is advisable to seek it out and purchase your ticket at least one day before you travel. Tickets cannot be bought on the bus. It is an easy affair – even if you don’t speak Spanish. A ticket will cost 675mxn one way, and you may only purchase a one-way ticket as the return fare is more complicated; I will deal with the return later.
Now that we had our tickets we were ready to travel and on 27th August 2016 and began our trip on the 10 pm ferry from Cozumel Island to Playa Del Carmen. We went straight to the ADO Depot on 5th avenue only to be told that the international Depot is six blocks away. It is advisable to find out this information first so that you can avoid a mad dash with a taxi to the correct depot. The bus leaves the terminal in Playa del Carmen at 23.40pm every evening.
If you are a tourist and came into Mexico via air, I hope you have kept your flight itinerary. Your entry tax into Mexico would have been included in your flight fare, and you will need to prove this to the immigration; print it out and give it to them. If you cannot prove this, you will be forced to pay the entry tax before you exit the country, this is 290mxn. If you entered Mexico via another means, then the tax is due. If you do not have the funds on you, well then you are not permitted back on the bus. It is a few hours until the bank opens and you will have to withdraw the required tax and also funds for another bus or taxi fare. You will also be required to hand in the FMM permit you received when you entered the country. If you do not have it you will pay a penalty for a replacement form which must be completed.
Once through the Mexican immigration its back onto the bus, a drive through a considerably large “free zone” until you arrive at the Belizean border. Here you will take both your hand and cargo luggage with you. A FMM Permit form is given to you to complete, and it is presented to the immigration officer along with your passport and visa (if required). Make sure you complete the form in either black or blue pen – no other colour is accepted. After you get through this stage, your baggage is scanned, and you may get back on the bus and travel comfortably to your destination.
Another word of caution; ensure that you remind the driver of your destination if it is not Belize City. They change drivers and the second driver might not check the passenger sheet and presume everyone is going to Belize City. The drivers are friendly and will not get offended if you remind them a few times. In our case, Orange Walk Town was our destination – at least an hour and a half from Belize City.
Belize City bus terminal is hot, filthy and as unpleasant as the smell. There is little or no form of security since anyone can walk in and out as they please.
As I mentioned earlier, your return ticket to Mexico cannot be purchased with your entry ticket. You must go to the bus terminal and at one of the vendor stalls is an ADO ticket sale sign. It will be quite possible that the vendor is not open in the morning but from 4 pm he will be there. At this point, you may only purchase a ticket to Bacalar, Mexico and it costs BZ$19. Get your ticket as early as possible as the chances of not getting a seat is very high. The ADO bus leaves the Belize City terminal at 7.30pm. The vendor did tell us that as from Friday 9th September there be a second bus leaving at 11 am, I have not confirmed this with ADO.
I would recommend that you get to the terminal around 7 pm; it is not a pleasant place to have to sit and wait for any longer than necessary. There are two sections with benches for seating; the first section is at the entry of the terminal and is by far but still not pleasant than the second section which is in front of the entry to the buses.
The restrooms are just a no-go zone!
Before reaching Bacalar the first stop is at the Belize border, and here is the reason why you cannot buy a ticket directly to Mexico. An entry fee to Belize of BZ$37.50 is payable at the immigration before you may exit the country. Once again if you do not have the fare, you will have to wait until the bank is open to withdraw the cash. Please also note that no change is given so make sure you have the correct amount or forget the change. The FMM permit you received on entry must be returned at this point as well.
The “free zone” between the borders is short this time round so do not even bother to sleep. Again you are required to fill out a FMM permit form in either black or blue ink. Immigration is quick and without any effort, however, the luggage check is a bit tiresome. They do random checks and as always I got picked. The officer put her hand (without gloves) into a section of my backpack and when I informed her it was where I kept my dirty underwear she removed her hand very quickly and let me be on my way. This was not done in the hope of distracting the officer I was telling her the absolute truth. The weird thing is that your luggage is checked but not the bus, if you left hand luggage or food on the bus – lucky you.
About an hour after resuming the journey we stopped in Bacalar, this is where you purchase the ticket for the rest of your journey. For us going to Playa del Carmen a ticket cost 608mxn. As our luck would have it, the computer kept hanging and with the interruptions of other bus drivers this ended up being a very long process.
We finally arrived in Playa del Carmen at 6 am and caught the first ferry at 6.45 am to Cozumel Island. Officers were raising the enormous Mexican Flag when we arrived and what a pleasure it was to watch and be home.