Difference between revisions of "Chetumal"
Revision as of 11:16, 22 April 2013
Chetumal is the capital of Quintana Roo in Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula. It is located on the Bay of Chetumal, a sheltered inlet of the Caribbean Sea at the mouth of the Rio Hondo. This bay, together with the Rio Hondo, forms the border between Mexico and Belize.
Laying by the border of Belize, Chetumal is much more than a mere travel hub between Belize and Mexico. It offers many, but greatly and fortunately unattended tourist attractions. Recently, efforts have succeeded in making the city more appealing to tourists. English is farily generalized, whereas Spanish happily coexists with Maya, Criole, Lebanese arabic and an impressive set of the growing multinational population of the City. There is a bit more than 260,000 Chetumaleños. The City of Chetumal is, both, the capital of the Free and Sovereign State of Quintana Roo, and the capital of the Municipio (County) of Othón P. Blanco. Othón P.Blanco is the only Municipio of México, that has land borders with two nations (Belize and Guatemala), thus sharing this characteristic with the state of Quintana Roo.
The city is officially founded by the military, in 1898, who had the mission of protecting the borders finally (after more than 50 years of disagreements) accorded by the governments of Mexico and Great Britain. A lot earlier, it had been a Mayan realm governed by Nachan Ka án. He was given two Spanish slaves, one of whom was Gonzalo Guerrero. Guerrero assimilated to his new society, learned the language and taught new war tactics to Nachan Ka án's warriors. With this knowledge, the warriors defeated incoming Spanish conquistadors and Nachan Ka án became a great leader. He made Guerrero a captain and gave him one of his daughters, Zazil Há. Guerrero and Zazil Há had many children who are known to be the first mestizos in America by matrimony. For this reason Chetumal is called Cuna del Mestizaje (cradle of the Mestizo).
Chetumal Airport (IATA: CTM) (ICAO: MMCM) offers a limited selection of flights to major cities in Mexico. It is also possible to fly into airports across the border, in Belize, and cross by land into Chetumal. Another option is to fly into Cancun or Merida and take a bus from the airport.
Mexico's Federal Route 186 traverses the sparsely populated southern half of the Yucatán between Escárcega and Chetumal. After Ucum, the only municipality with services such as gas and lodging between Escárcega and Chetumal is Xpujil. Federal Route 307 branches off Route 186 to the north towards Cancun, from a point about 30 km west of Chetumal.
Several bus companies offer routes across the Peninsula to Escárcega, or north to Cancun and other cities on the Mayan Riviera. The main bus terminal, i.e. ADO terminal, where most buses arrive to is located about two kilometers north of the city center (in the crossing of Av. Insurgentes and Av. Belice). There's an official taxi stand right outside the terminal, and a taxi to the center costs about 20 pesos.
If you're arriving from Belize, your bus might arrive to the New Market (Nueva Mercado). New Market is located about two kilometers northeast of the center, in the corner of 2do. Circuito Periférico and C. Veracruz.
San Pedro Belize Express  has air conditioned boats leaving Caye Caulker at 7:00 a.m. & San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye, Belize to Chetumal daily at 7:30 a.m. Tickets cost $30US, one way and $55 US, round trip. The boat returns from Chetumal at 3:30 p.m. The terminal is located on the pier infront of Wahoo's Bar and Grill in San Pedro, in front of the basketball court in Caye Caulker, and from the Municipal Pier in Chetumal. Tickets can be purchased online at their website. For reservations or further information kindly email them at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are many archeological sites near Chetumal and they're relatively close to each other. The ones below are open 8-17 daily, admission only until 16:20. Bring a lot of water and some snacks with you as many of the sight stores are not always open. A mosquito repellent doesn't hurt either.
Chetumal is more and more becoming the Mesoamerican center of environmental friendly technologies. Efforts by individuals belonging to the private sector, in this direction, have begun to show signs of success.
Finding other than Mexican products from Chetumal is not easy. As there are not much tourists, most of the stores actually sell stuff to the locals.
Typical local joints can be found here and there around the city, but there are basically no places on the main street Avenida Héroes between the Mayan culture museum and the sea. For fancier places go to Boulevard Bahía. The fishing village Calderitas' main economy is restaurant industry and you can find a lot of good seafood restaurants there.
Also the bar scene of Chetumal is quite thin. Boulevard Bahía has some bars.
There are at least 20 places to sleep in at Chetumal. Get a copy of a guide magazine from the Mayan culture museum or ask a taxi driver if you don't know where you're going. But if you have a booking somewhere, or you know where you want to sleep, it’s preferable to write down the correct address and give it to taxi driver to avoid confusion.
Chetumal is quite safe. Since there are not a lot of tourists, you can easily get through a week without anyone trying to fool you. Taxi drivers don't usually try to drive you into places more expensive than what you are looking for.
It's good to notice that English is not commonly spoken.
There no departure tax when leaving Mexico, althought charging a 200 pesos tax unfortunately is quite common. Look on the web for Mexican Belize Exit Fee Scam.
Get on the Chetumal-Belize highway and drive to Belize.
To get a bus to Belize, you can either go to ADO terminal or New Market (Nueva Mercado), the latter being probably the better choice. Taxi drives usually know where New Market is, and nowadays also from where the buses leave. Bus from New Market to Belize City costs 90 pesos and runs farely often via Orange Walk where a break of 15 minutes is usually scheduled. These buses are older and have no A/C, and they stop often. Once you arrive to New Market, someone will approach you and tell about the schedules. These guys are working for the bus company and not just there to rip you off.
ADO terminal also has a service to Belize but it's less frequent and more expensive.
You can also get a boat from Chetumal to at least San Pedro from where you can continue to Caye Caulker or to Belize City. There are two water taxis, which both leave Chetumal at 3 pm, operated by San Pedro Water Taxi and San Pedro Belize Express.
As of this writing, a trip from Chetumal to San Pedro is $30 USD on Belize Express Water Taxi  and $35 USD on San Pedro Water Taxi . Including preparation to depart, the latter took around 2 hours. (Don't forget that Belize is an hour back from Mexico.)