Do it Yourself Adventure From Belize to Tikal
Often people opt to take the road less traveled and figure out how to do something themselves instead of taking a group tour. As is the case with Doug Behm who wrote this guest post, which came at a perfect time. One of my custom tacogirl luggage tag winners Kim G wrote to give me her mailing address and followed up by asking about an inexpensive tour from Belize to Guatemala. I immediately wrote back and let her know useful information was in process of getting blogged and that could help her solve her wanderlust wondering.
Couples Adventure in Belize
My wife Melissa and I recently spent nine amazing nights in Belize, and while the country has a wealth of things to do and see within it’s borders, the main attraction that drew us to the country in the first place was actually in Guatemala. Tikal, located roughly 100 miles from Belize City, (as the crow flies) has some of the most impressive Mayan ruins in the world and rightfully belongs on any frequent traveler’s bucket list.
Although many tour operators offer trips to Tikal from all major cities in Belize, we like to do things on our own terms whenever possible. After doing much research online, we determined that a “do-it-yourself” day trip from San Ignacio would be possible, although we could find scant details on such an endeavor. Armed with the information available, we woke up early one morning in June 2016 and set off for Tikal.
Crossing the Border From Belize to Guatemala
We had a rental car and left San Ignacio at about 7:15 AM. It’s about a 20 to 30 minute drive to the Guatemalan border, where we parked without having to pay a fee. Next, we paid $37.50 BZD each at the border in order to leave Belize, had our passports stamped, and walked into Guatemala. Note that the exit fee is payable by credit card, but only after 8 AM. There were money changers on both sides offering 3.4 GTQ per BZD and 7 GTQ per USD. At the time of writing, the exchange rates were 3.8 GTQ per BZD and 7.6 GTQ per USD.
Someone approached us after walking into Guatemala and asked us where we wanted to go. He offered to take us (two people) to Tikal and back for $70 USD. I thought that was a fair price based on my research so I accepted without negotiating. I asked him about getting a tour guide and he called his son who is a certified guide and offered to accompany us for $50 USD more. Again, I accepted.
We walked over to get our passports stamped and no one asked us to pay anything (I had heard that there is no official entry fee but sometimes the immigration officers will claim there is). I asked our driver if there was an ATM nearby and he took us to a small shop about two minutes drive from the border. I took out 600 GTQ which is what I budgeted for the entrance fees to Tikal (payable by cash only), lunch, and tips. Next, the driver picked up his son and we were off to Tikal.
Onward and Eventually Upward
It took us about 1.5 hours to drive to Tikal from the border. You can definitely drive yourself if you want to risk bringing a rental car in (most companies won’t allow it and those that do won’t offer insurance while you’re outside of Belize). The roads are in good condition (except for a small 2 KM stretch that’s not paved) and it’s basically just one right turn at El Remate, otherwise you’re going straight the whole time. There’s plenty of places to stop and eat, although I didn’t notice any gas stations. There was also one military checkpoint along the way.
Tikal is amazing and I would definitely recommend hiring a guide. They are also available at the entrance to the national park and the parking lot. It’s such a big place that you can literally get lost by yourself. A lot of people recommended staying one night there (mandatory for the sunset or sunrise tour), but I was satisfied with what we were able to see in a day. We also had the opportunity to do the canopy tour after we were done but my wife was too tired. I’m not sure what it costs but our guide said they accept credit cards.
Crossing the Border Back to Belize
When we got back to the Guatemala – Belize border, we had to get our passports stamped again (on both sides), and didn’t have to pay any additional fees. There are taxi drivers waiting on the Belize side if you don’t have a rental car.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy this was to do. I spent less than $250 USD for a private two person tour which covered our Belize exit fees, our ride, the guide, entrance to Tikal, lunch, and tips. If you’d like to try to book our guide in advance and save yourself some anxiety, his e-mail address is gennyreyes9(at)gmail.com. He spoke excellent English, was friendly, and very knowledgeable about Guatemala and Tikal.
Although it may be hard to tear yourself away from all that Belize has to offer, the ruins and wildlife at Tikal are well worth the time and effort it takes to visit.
If this post has got your interest up, you can read other traveler reviews about Tikal National Park on Trip Advisor Belize forum.