This post is for budget travelers about how to visit Tikal, Guatemala, without a guide or tour. Specifically – getting there and getting in.
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.
Getting there from Belize
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.
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.
How to visit Tikal from El Remate
We were dropped off in El Remate, and the ride for us was $20. 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. I stress: the price was only for transportation.
I’d also like to stress the time, because we felt the early morning was the best time visit. (We were right – more on that in a moment.)
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 in 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. That’s key. It’s a race to get in and up to the top of Temple IV (230 feet) before the crowd.
But that’s not all: I’ve never experienced anything like the jungle waking up in the morning. Monkey, birds and all kinds of mammals — all come awake almost at once. No jaguars, however, thankfully.
The park is well-laid out. There are information signs along the way to tell you about trees and animals.
Tourists are allowed to climb on many of the buildings, but not all.
I won’t write any more about how to visit Tikal – the site itself, because there is a ton of information out there about it. If you want to know more about the jungle, the Tikal site and Mayans, research these things before you go and bring the information along.
We’re glad we worked this into our budget. It’s a site we had wanted to see for years, but never had enough vacation time before early retirement!
We hope you liked how to visit Tikal without a guide or tour.
We’ve also had many more adventures in Guatemala:
- Challenging overnight hike to see an erupting volcano
- Rooftop cafes you should check out in Antigua
- Tzununa waterfall on Lake Atitlan – away from tourists
- What it was like to live on Lake Atitlan in a Mayan village