This is a step-by-step guide for those who want to travel from San Ignacio, Belize to Tikal, Guatemala by public transportation. There are many tour operators that offer transfers for $80, but I wanted a cheaper option and a more local experience. There’s a lot of outdated, incorrect, and ambiguous information so I hope that this guide will serve as a better reference.
I started the crossing at 7:30am from San Ignacio and shared a hired taxi ($25 USD) to wait for us at Xunantunich and then onwards to the Guatemala border. If you want to go straight to the border, you can either take a taxi from San Ignacio ($5 USD) or take a local bus to Benque and then a taxi from the bus station to the border.
It made sense to see Xunantunich since it’s on the way and pretty famous. To get to Xunantunich, we had to cross a hand cranked ferry and then drive up hill for about a mile. Xunantunich (entrance fee $10 BZD) was very impressive site with a very tall singular structure. We were the first ones there when the site opened at 8am and had the whole place to ourselves.
We spent around 1.5 hours there and then drove around 15 minutes to the border. We were immediately approached by money changers (3:1 BZD:GTQ or 2.2:1 BZD:USD), both terrible rates around 10-20% commission. The exit fee from Belize was $40 BZD. Once out of Belize, there was sort of a no man’s land to Guatemala and in fact we almost missed the immigration office had a local not pointed it out to us. There was no entrance fee for Guatemala. Lines for both exit and entrance were non-existent.
Once in Guatemala, we needed to find transportation to Tikal. I had heard that there was a colectivo to Tikal, but apparently there wasn’t one, only ones to Flores/Santa Elena. We initially got bombarded by taxi touts ($50 USD for a taxi to Tikal) but kept walking 500m or so to the town and up the hill to the nearest ATM to get Quetzals.
Since there were apparently no colectivos directly to Tikal, I took one heading to Santa Elena instead and got off at El Cruce. They leave every 20 minutes or so and cost Q30. The road was mostly paved with some dusty unpaved portions. The journey to El Cruce took 1.5 hrs with plenty of stops along the way. The driver was keen to fill every seat.
When I got off, I was lucky as there was a bus heading for Tikal. That bus cost Q25 and took 30 minutes to the main entrance gate to Tikal. This is where you buy the tickets and the bus will wait for you. It takes another 30 minutes to the park itself, which is where the hotels and Tikal is located.
- Taxi from San Ignacio to the Benque/Melchor Guatemala Border. Cost: $5 USD. Time: 30 minutes
- Cross the Belize/Guatemala border. Get your Belize Exit stamp and Guatemala entrance stamp. Cost: Belize exit fee $40 BZD. No fee to enter Guatemala. Time: 45 minutes for immigration and walking.
- Colectivo towards Santa Elena. Get off at El Cruce. Cost: Q30. Time: 1.5 hrs. Every 20 minutes.
- Colectivo from El Cruce to Tikal. Cost: Q25. Time: 1 hr. Every 20 minutes.