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Crossing the Border from Belize to Tikal in a Day

May 9, 2012

Our own travel guru Amy Ochoa just returned from an epic dive trip to Belize. Here she chronicles her trip in a three-week blog installment. Check out her third blog on how to successfully cross the Belize-Guatemala boarder to visit the largest Maya ruin in the world in just one day.

Visiting Tikal in one day? No problemo.

One of the coolest things Dan and I did while in Belize was cross the border into Guatemala and tour the largest Maya ruin in the world, Tikal. We needed a special permit to cross the border with our vehicle, which we requested a few days before our arrival through our car company, Crystal Car Rental. We were told they were the only car rental agency that could get this permit, which costs about $20 USD. We headed out from Santa Elaina around 9AM and drove the 20-25 minutes to the border from our hotel.

We were hounded by men offering to exchange the Belize dollar into the Guatemalan dollar as soon as we stopped the car. Unsure of whether or not we needed to exchange money we held them off and headed into the office. We went through customs and immigration and paid the $30 USD per person fee and were on our way. We chose to exchange about $200 USD before crossing the border just in case, but I am still unsure of whether or not it was necessary. In Belize the US dollar is widely accepted, but we never had the need to find out in Guatemala.

Once across the border we drove through a large car wash looking structure, which sprayed vehicles with pesticides and our windows were down. WHOOPS! We parked the truck near the office buildings and a man came up to the vehicle and offered to take us through the immigration process on the Guatemala side of the border. (And what a process it is…)

Ground beef and potato tostada with salsa and avocado – surprisingly delicious!

We had to stand in line at 5 different areas and pay fees at each. The man took us from line to line and told us what paperwork and fees we needed to pay at each. We tipped him about $6 USD and it was worth every penny.

It took us about 45 minutes to get through the entire border process from start to finish. Once we were on our way we stopped at the first border town we came across and stopped for a bite to eat at one of the food carts along the main road. This is where I had the best tostada of my life. Note to self: ground beef and potatoes with salsa and avocado. Yummy.

We were rushed on time so we ate quickly and hit the road again. We had about an hour and half drive to Tikal from the border. The drive was beautiful and the landscape was very different from its bordering country, Belize. Once we arrived at the entrance to Tikal we were stopped and required to pay the entrance fee of 140Q or $20USD per person. We were also talked into using a guide named Able who accompanied us on our visit through the Maya site.

Our guide jumped in the truck with us and we drove the 20 mile road to the entrance of the ruins. Able had a slight drinking problem and required more beer than the information he provided was worth, but he did get us from the entrance to the main temples and back in 2 hours, so I’ll consider the $25 USD fee a tip. Tikal is only 7% unearthed and we saw about 50% during out 2 hour visit. The temples and landscape were amazing. We saw monkeys, birds and other ant eater looking animals just walking the trails.

Sitting atop a Maya temple is a surreal experience.

After a few hours we needed to head back so we could get back to Santa Elaina before nightfall. Once back at the border we handed in a few pieces of paperwork and were back on the Belize side of the border much quicker than on the arrival end of things. Tikal was worth the long journey. If I go back I would spend the night in the nearby city, Flores, so I could spend more time in Guatemala and Tikal without feeling so rushed. I’ve also heard the sunrise over Tikal is AMAZING!

- Amy Ochoa, Marketing Team

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