A detailed guide on how I crossed borders from San Cristobal to Guatemala in COVID time, as soon as Guatemala opened to tourists.
If you are looking to cross borders from Mexico by land I believe crossing from San Cristobal de las Casas to Guatemala is the easiest and safest option.
A couple of years ago I crossed to Guatemala from Frontera Corozal, on my way from visiting the amazing archeological sites of Yaxchilan and Bonampak and I had an adventure that made a hilarious story to tell.
This time I wanted to cross the border from San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico for two main reasons, first of all, I wanted to go back to San Cristobal as it’s one of my favorite cities in Mexico. And secondly, I wanted to try this way in order to be able to compare the border crossing and write about my experience.
Wasn’t it for the Covid restrictions and protocol to follow I would have said that it was a seamless and smooth crossing.
Reality is, it was not when I did it. (It is now, though. As I am editing the post with updates info)
Read on to know all about it.
Read the short version of how to get from San Cristobal to Guatemala by shuttle
- Because of the covid, there is only one shuttle per week from San Cris to Guatemala (Xela, Pana, Antigua, depending on how many people goes where)
- I booked with Adrenaline tours, which actually gave me an excellent personalized service (probably because I was the only tourist traveling) but there are travel agents also in San Cristobal that can book the same transport. The shuttles also offer a door to door service. They will pick you up at your place and drop you off at your new place to the destination.
- Regardless of the COVID situation booking with an agency is the safest way especially for the Guatemalan side. But you will find local transportation going to Ciudad Cuauhtémoc (Mexican border), and then you might want to get a taxi to la Mesilla (Guatemalan border).
- Shuttle bus to Guatemala from San Cristobal is at 10 am on Friday and arrives at the border around 13.30/14.00
- You need to present negative COVID test results not older than 72 hours, and you need to have the results printed on paper. The digital copy is not accepted. If you don’t have time to print it in San Cristobal there is a cyber shop in Ciudad Chuatemoc at the Mexican frontier, from there there is a taxi or local transport, but it’s really not recommendable for safety reasons.
- The cost from San Cristobal to Antigua would be 60 USD but because of the COVID they travel at half capacity, the cost will be 75 USD ( 60 if you stop in Xela, as I did)
- You will be transferred on another bus at the border and just outside Xela if this is your destination, but everything it’s done in complete safety.
San Cristobal – Guatemala Map
The long version of how to get from Mexico to Guatemala from San Cristobal de las Casas: my adventure
If you want to know about the full story of my adventure, read on. You will see how nervous and paranoid I get when I travel and yet I do it anyway!
My concern was basically the following.
Protocol says that you need to show immigration the negative results of the covid test taken not earlier than 72 hours before.
That would not be a problem at all if it was not for the fact that in San Cristobal the only clinic that was able to deliver the test result within 48hrs to give you enough margin to get to the border in time, was Solcan Lab and it cost 4400 pesos, which is about 205 USD, which I find outrageous for a test.
Keep in mind that at the time the Guatemalan entry requirements only accepted PCR tests. Now they are accepting the Antigeno test which is cheaper and you can do it in the “Farmacia del Ahorro” for 350 Pesos. If you can read some Spanish, you can check out the Government site with the official statement. I would suggest you print it and take it with you in case you have problems at the border.
Luckily, somebody in the San Cristobal expatriate FB group suggested a place called Salud Digna in Tuxtla Gutierrez, at only a 1-hour bus from San Cristobal, which is doing the Covid test for 950 pesos, more than four-time cheaper. The only problem is that they guarantee results between 48 to 72 hours.
My concerns at this point were:
How reliable they are?
How can I make sure I have my result for when I cross boarders but at the same time within the 72 hours?
So I thought if I get my test at 2.45 on Tuesday, and my border crossing is on Friday at 12.30/13, as I was told, I should be good.
I would have many chance to receive my test results and it will be still between the 72hrs.
That only if everything goes as scheduled, which normally when you need it the most, won’t happen.
So my (neurotic) dilemma:
Shall I risk it or shall I just pay the 4400 pesos and have almost 100% chances that everything goes as plan, so I don’t have to worry too much.
Then, I thought, what if I am positive at the test and I have spent 4400 MXN and won’t be able to go to Guatemala anyway?
I had a couple of days to make up my mind.
I was concerned about going on the cheap because I always end up spending even more, but this time the difference was really huge, so I decided to give it a try.
I logged in to the Salud Digna page (mind it’s in Spanish) and made my appointment online for the following Tuesday at 2.45 and so I was on the ADO bus to Tuxtla on that very same day at 8 am. There are actually colectivos that go to Tuxtla from San Cristobal de las Casas every 10 minutes but because of the pandemic situation, I didn’t want to be squeezed in a bus for an hour. Just in case.
Now, because I didn’t want to waste the entire day and I realized there was nothing to see in Tuxtla I brought my laptop with the idea to sit at a coffeshop or a coworking space to work.
The only coworking space I found in Tuxtla was outrageously expensive (not even in Milan I find those rates) and my search for a decent coffee shop was not successful.
When I was about to give up and getting a taxi to reach a Starbucks ( which I normally try to avoid) I found a cute little cafe with great internet and a/c ( Tuxtla is extremely hot). Coffee and food were not the best, but I was happy. I could avoid letting this day go completely wasted.
When was the right time I walked to the Salud Digna clinic to take my test.
At Salud Digna, they have a small studio designated only for COVID Test, just next door from the main entrance. They were extremely organized and the nurses very professional, but they freaked me out when they told me that my test result would have been ready on Friday at 3 pm ( exactly 72 hours after). I explained to them why I needed it earlier and they reassured me that they have to mention the worst-case scenario but they would normally be ready by Thursday night according to their experience. I was reassured or more or less.
The test itself was very fast although not pleasant at all. But hey, I wanted to reach Guatemala. So be it.
I returned to San Cristobal de las Casas, quite reassured even though I was still worried that I wouldn’t get the results in time and also that they might have been positive even though I didn’t have any symptoms.
But the only thing I could do was waiting and also work on my anxiety issues. I need to learn to stay calm and let it flow because I know that worrying doesn’t help me find a solution, it’s just a waste of time and energy.
And so I did, until Thursday night when I checked on line and my results weren’t ready yet.
I decided to contact Salud Digna via whatsapp since they have a customer service in place, which actually works really well.
Unfortunately, though, I realized that after 5 pm they stop replying.
So I had to wait until the morning after. You can imagine how nervous I became. I didn’t even sleep at night.
In the morning at 7.30 I messaged them again but this time they replied with the test results, Negative. YAY!!
I was safe and happy, almost.
The last challenge now would be to get by the boarder in time.
I was hopeful and positive until my 9 am transfer wasn’t showing up. It eventually arrived at 10.
Eventually, I learned there was a mixed up between the agency and the driver, who told me the right pick up time was 10, anyway!
When I told the driver about my deadline issue, he reasurred me that we would have been fine.
And he really did his best.. even driving a little faster.
Luckily I asked the driver whether my digital copy of the test results would be ok.
In fact it woudln’t be accepted.
I panicked of course.
But, again, he reassured me that I could print it at a cyber shop at the Mexican border, in Ciudad Cuauhtemoc.
And so I did. And everything went smoothly.
I have to say they were more inquisitive at the Mexican border on my way out. They wanted to know when I would return, ( I have a Mexican permanent residency) to which I couldn’t answer because I had no idea. But why would they care? I wondered.
Then we drove for another 15 minutes to La Mesilla where the Guatemala boarder was waiting.
Here we would recollect our bags because we would be transferred to another van, but the driver kindly offered to take my bag while I would rush to the immigration office, just in time for my 72 hours deadline.
He was really nice and efficient and I gave him a good tip eventually. He totally deserved it.
So I rushed to immigration but to my surprise, the immigration officer didn’t even ask me where I would stay for how long nor any other questions that they normally ask and after making a copy of my passport and covid test results, he stamped my passport and I was finally in Guatemala. YAY!!! I didn’t believe I made it.
There was a guy in the same bus who had is test done 80 hours before and he also was let in, with no question at all.
I guess it really depends on the officer you find, as always.
The drive to Xela, my destination was smooth but longer than I thought, but I was relaxed and happy that we all made it.
I had planned to go to Quetzaltenango (locally known as Xela), the second biggest city in Guatemala after the capital, but much nicer surrounded by 10 volcanoes and thriving nature. I wanted to spend a few days hiking before reaching Antigua where a 3 months housesitting would be waiting for me.
You can read my Quetzaltenango adventures and city guide if you wish. Thanks to Adrenaline tours, a local travel agent based in Xela, who organized my transport, I managed to do some hikes and see a lot, despite there were not other tourists around. But they keep their rates to the bare minimum and I could afford private guides. I am really grateful.
As I am writing this I am sitting in my favorite cafe in Xela, La Stampa bistrot on my last day. Tomorrow I will have my transportation to Antigua.
Can’t wait to get to my new home. Subscribe to my newsletter to follow my journey. Or you can follow me on Instagram for my real-time stories
For further reading
- 3 ways of crossing the border from Mexico to Guatemala: practical tipsPlanning to travel from Mexico to Guatemala by land? In this post, I will tell you about the most common options you have for crossing borders from Mexico to Guatemala by bus
- How to cross borders from San Cristobal to GuatemalaA detailed guide on how I crossed borders from San Cristobal to Guatemala in COVID time, as soon as Guatemala opened borders.
- Utopia Eco Hotel: your jungle retreat in Semuc ChampeyUtopia Lodge, one of the best places to stay in Semuc Champey. This is a complete review of all the rooms and other services that the hotel offers.
- How to visit Semuc Champey, a spectacular natural monumentThe best natural monument of Guatemala. I have written a small practical guide with practical tips and useful information for you to make the best of your trip.