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Joined: Oct 1999
Posts: 84,400
Marty Offline OP
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Traveling Central America is Not Always Easy or Cheap: Belize to Panama!


The distance between Belize City and Panama City is only 825 miles. Shorter than New York City to Miami (a 1.5 day bus trip on Greyhound bus for $109USD). Shorter than London to Rome (a 2 hour $100USD flight on something called Monarch Airlines). Granted those are much more frequently travelled routes...but how hard can this trip be? How expensive? It's really not THAT far.

Here are the routes I considered:

The train: I have read Paul Theroux's book "The Old Patagonian Express" where the author takes trains from Boston to Argentina in the late 1970s. This transit option through Central America no longer exists. Apparently most of these railroads were decommissioned in the 1980s and 90s and service has totally stopped in Nicaragua and Guatemala. Oh well...the author makes most of the actual ride sound pretty hellish anyway. (By the way, GREAT book.)

The bus: It should be cheap, right? Slow but cheap. And you would have the option to stop as much as you want. I could take care of most of my bucket list right here, right now! This would be the cheapest route.

  • Water Taxi from San Pedro to Belize City, 1.25 hours - $30 BZD
  • Bus from Belize City to Santa Elena/Flores, 5 hours and $40BZD and then Santa Elena to Guatemala City, $44 BZD, 9 hours
  • Here is the crazy/exciting part: Tica Bus provides a bus service from Guatemala City to Panama. $127 USD ($254 BZD). Guatemala City to El Salvador, 4 hours (overnight in San Salvador), El Salvador to Nicaragua, 12 hours (overnight in Managua), Managua to San Jose, Costa Rica (12 hours), then drive ALL NIGHT long for 15 hours to Panama City. (This blog describes that last leg pretty well...I Like Going Places. Border crossings sound like hell). OH LORD.

So what's the total price of this trip of a lifetime? A trip I can sit around and laugh about in 20 years? $368BZD or $184USD. Plus any overnight costs in Guatemala, San Salvador and Managua. All the super cool stamps in your passport are free. can stop as much as you want. Intriguing. And something I thought about seriously...

The plane: By far the most expensive. There is only one airline that takes you from Belize City to Panama City, through San Salvador, TACA. Prices range from $600 to $700 US dollars round trip over the next few weeks and the flight takes a few hours.

Guess which one I chose ...


Click here to read the rest of the article and see more photos on San Pedro Scoop

Joined: Jul 2009
Posts: 66
Well I did both (bus and plane) and I have some additional information. Belize City to Benque could be done very easy. In Benque you cross the border and there's an additional option with one of these big vans leaving Melchor from uphills at the supermarket every 20 minutes. My tip for you: Pay for 2 seats and travel in the front alone with no second person and it'll be very comfortable - Melchor to Santa Elena 2 seats x 30 Quetzales - approximately 8 US$.

In Santa Elene take the ADN night bus. Usually there are 2 every night - one around 9pm and one at 10pm. They have first class sleeping seats - just 3 seats per row and a lot of space to sleep and it is 20 US$ one way ( In Guatemala City you take the TICA Bus or a second option several times a day is the "King Quality" ( They ride till Costa Rica.

For flight options you should always have a Milage account with TACA. 3 to 4 times a year Taca offer a 2=1 special Milage purchase deal - sometimes even with 25% in addition to the 2=1. So with this offer 2000 Miles are 30 US$ or 20000 Miles = 300 US$ and rates for flights to Panama start even below 20000 Miles for a return ticket depending on the time of your travel. I had my flight for 22000 Miles which would then be 330 US$!
These Milage deals will make most of your flights (even to LAX or SOF) very much cheaper.

And one more thing: Flights on Taca from Guatemala City or from San Pedro Sula usually are much cheaper than flights from Belize City and sometimes it is worth to take the Tropic flight to San Pedro Sula or the night bus to Guatemala City to pay very much lower than flying from BZE. :-)

Again another beautiful day in paradise - just smile and be happy :-)

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