Updated: Sep 17, 2020
If you're considering traveling by bus from Belize City to Cancun, here's the lowdown. There are two daily departures, 11 am and 7:30 pm. At this time you can only purchase tickets in person at Novelo's bus terminal in Belize City which is less than a 5 minute taxi ride from the water taxi. It cost us $8 BZ ($4US) for the trip and our driver was extremely helpful, as most Belizean are. He suggested somewhere to eat, where and when it was safe to walk etc. (Basically don't walk anywhere in Belize City after dark and enjoy delicious local food at local prices just across the street at Terminal Deck.)
We had an afternoon flight out of CUN the next day and decided to take the evening bus with the delusional idea that we'd sleep on it and save ourselves the cost of a hotel room. Don't do this. It may seem like a good idea but by the time you get off and on the bus multiple times to get through customs and pay the remainder of your ticket in Bacalar you might get a few hours toward morning IF you can get comfortable enough. We based our decision on prior ADO bus trips through Mexico which were pretty empty and we were able to stretch out. This route must be pretty popular because it was full and we were crammed up against each other for 12 hours.
The important stuff:
Tickets are $19 BZ at the bus terminal in Belize City and then you get off the bus at the ADO station in Bacalar to pay the remainder which is $750 pesos (bringing the total ticket cost to approx $50 US)
Payment is accepted in cash only
To purchase tickets, proceed through Novelo's terminal to the back area where the bus gates are, keeping an eye out on your left for an ADO sign hanging. The fellow at the counter under the sign can help you
There is a $40 BZ exit fee payable at immigration (cash)
Seats are assigned so you don't need to worry about scrambling to get on the bus
A pen will make things easier at the border so you can fill out your customs and immigration declaration while waiting in line
If you're prone to motion sickness, do yourself a favour and pack some Dramamine
Pack enough water and snacks, there are no opportunities to buy anything en route
Although the bus terminal is generally safe, it's wise to keep valuables out of sight
Two of us opted to take this route home and probably wouldn't do it again. We ended up missing not only our first flight out of CUN (because of an airline error) but also missed our connecting flight in FLL so we spent 48 hours traveling in total and didn't sleep a wink the entire time. If we did have to do it again we would definitely spend the extra $100 for a room.
The only upside to this long journey was the amazing breakfast we enjoyed at the Oasis Palm Beach resort while we were waiting for our flight. It was a simple matter of jumping on an R1 bus right outside the ADO station downtown Cancun, it had us there in 10 minutes. City busses in Mexico are cheap and run frequently. I can't tell you how excited we were to see an abundance of fresh vegetables which are somewhat hard to come by in Belize. After a month of chicken, rice & beans, we took down this salad bar and then enjoyed a relaxing walk on the beach before heading back downtown to the the bus station where we bought another ADO ticket to the airport. The cost was 90 pesos, definitely the easiest and most cost effective way to get to the airport. It's a quick, easy trip, even if you're in the hotel zone as long as you don't have a ton of luggage. Fortunately we travel light. It took us about 20 minutes to get there and the driver stopped at Terminal 4 then 1 & 2 and finally 3 so count on a bit of extra time to stop at each terminal to let passengers disembark and collect their luggage.