Chetumal is the capital of Quintana Roo and the gateway to Central America. It’s not the prettiest of towns, and most guidebook-toting travelers just pass through on their way to or from Belize  or southern Campeche .
However, Chetumal’s modern Maya museum  is one of the best you’ll find in the region (albeit with few original pieces) and is well worth a visit. And if you’re dying to see the Guatemalan ruins of Tikal , a shuttle from Chetumal can get you there in eight hours (cutting through Belize) and back again just as fast; a 90-minute boat ride also will take you to San Pedro, Belize , for a quick overnighter.
The area around Chetumal is worth exploring, too, whether the bayside town of Calderitas or the intriguing and little-visited Maya ruins of Kohunlich , Dzibanché, Kinichná , and Oxtankah. North of town is Laguna Bacalar , a beautiful multicolored lake with great swimming and kayaking.
Chetumal is a relatively large city, but the parts most travelers are interested in are all within easy walking distance—mostly along Avenida de los Héroes and El Malecón. The exception is the main bus terminal and Mercado Nuevo, both of which are 10–12 grubby blocks from the center. A cab to either terminal, or anywhere around downtown, costs US$2–3.
The Chetumal Airport (CTM, tel. 983/832-6625) receives only a few flights each day. Airlines serving it include Interjet (toll-free Mex. tel. 800/011-2345, toll-free U.S. tel. 866/285-9525, www.interjet.com.mx ), MAYAir (tel. 998/881-9413, www.mayair.com.mx ), and the air taxi service Avioquintana (tel. 998/734-1975, www.avioquintana.com ).
All first-class buses leave from the main bus terminal (Av. Insurgentes at Av. de los Héroes, tel. 983/832-5110, ext. 2404), though most second-class buses stop here on the way in or out of town.
The second-class bus station (Avs. Belice and Cristóbal Colón, tel. 983/832-0639) is located just west of the Museo de la Cultura Maya ; tickets for first-class buses also can be purchased here if you want to buy your tickets in advance but don’t want to make the trek to the main terminal.
Two other terminals—the Minibus terminal (Av. Primo de Verdad at Av. Miguel Hidalgo, no phone) and Mercado Nuevo (Av. de los Héroes and Circuito Segundo, no phone)—have service to Bacalar, the Zona Libre, and to Belize.
Combis and taxi colectivos (US$1.25–1.75, every 30 minutes) run between Chetumal and Bacalar daily. You can catch either on Avenida Independencia at Calle Héroes de Chapultepec.
The highways in this area have improved immensely in recent years. The roads from Chetumal to Mahahual , Tulum , and Xpujil  have transformed from isolated roads to modern highways. Though rentals are not cheap, they make exploring the region a lot easier. Car rental agencies in town include Europcar (Av. de los Héroes near Lázaro Cardenas, tel. 983/833-9959, www.europcar.com , 8 a.m.–10 p.m. daily) and Continental Rent-a-Car (Holiday Inn, Av. de los Héroes near Av. Mahatma Gandhi, tel. 983/832-2411, www.continentalcar.com.mx , 8 a.m.–8 p.m. daily).
Taxis can be flagged down easily in downtown Chetumal. Be aware, though, that few are metered, so be sure to agree on a price before you set off toward your destination. If you need an early-morning ride, call Radio Taxi (tel. 983/832-0267) or Sitio de Taxis (tel. 983/832-0099).
San Pedro Water Jets Xpress (Blvd. Bahía near Av. Independencia, tel. 983/833-3201, sanpedrowaterjets [at] yahoo [dot] com) offers direct service to San Pedro, Belize , on one of its speedy boats. Trips take 90 minutes and leave every day at 3:30 p.m., returning the following day at 8 a.m. (US$30 one-way, US$55 round-trip).