Tikal is one of the great Mayan ruins sites, and there are many excellent tours and guides to show you the way and teach you about its history. However, we opted to do it on our own, since we have been to many Mayan ruins in Mexico and in Belize.
We also are on a strict budget in our travel lifestyle.
The most affordable way we found was to take the bus from Belize to the town of Benque, Belize, near the Guatemalan border. Many tourists opt to take the day-trip tours offered from nearby San Ignacio, Belize, which is a town larger than Benque.
Once in Benque from the chicken bus (just a couple of dollars), we needed a cab, to the actual border because the bus doesn’t go that far. That was $10 USD.
Once at the border, we paid the $37.50 Belize dollar exit fee. Then shared a cab to El Remate with another tourist who was taking a cab all the way to Tikal from the border. That’s one way to go. We were dropped off in El Remate, and the ride for us was $20 USD. We used El Remate as base for Tikal and other sites along Lake Itza in Peten.
When we were ready to explore Tikal, we arranged for transportation only at 5:30 a.m., through Ernesto’s on the lake, just off the main drag in El Remate. Our cost was $50 QZD round trip.
The ride to the site took about 45 minutes to the first gate of the park, where you pay the entrance fee, which was $150 QZD each. We got back on the van, and it took us another 11 kilometers to the second entrance gate. And that’s it – we were in – for $400 QZD, or about $54 USD each, with the exchange rate of 7.5, starting from El Remate.
Once inside, the jungle walk was awesome. I recommend going early in the morning. We did not go for the sunrise tour, and we are glad, because it was overcast. But our transportation brought us there early enough – before most of the tourists arrived, and I’ve never experienced anything like the jungle waking up in the morning. Monkey, birds and all kinds of mammals. No Jaguars, however, thankfully.
The park is well-laid out. There are information signs along the way to tell you about trees and animals. If you don’t have a guide, and really want to know more about the jungle, and the Tikal site and Mayans, research these things before you go and bring the information along.
Tourists are allowed to climb on many of the buildings, but not all.
I won’t write any more about Tikal, because there is a ton of information out there about it. The only other Mayan site in Guatemala I might want to go see is El Mirador, but that’s a three day hike in the jungle. Perhaps if I volunteer in some way out there, I would do the hike. But for now, I have great memories from Tikal- a site we’ve wanted to see for years.