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 There’s a lot of outdated, incorrect, and ambiguous information so I hope that this guide will serve as a better reference.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 total) 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.
12 thoughts on “Complete Guide: San Ignacio to Tikal border crossing by public bus”
Thanks for the post. I’m planning this journey in a couple of weeks and you have explained things in a lot of detail. Very useful. You said that you have shared a taxi is the cost for w one person or a group?
It was the total cost of the hire. I was traveling with two others, so $25/3 for me.
Hi, did you do it on your own. How
Long did the trip take? Is there sufficient time to come back on the same day if we start early like 6.30am?
Great blog post, it’s exactly what I was looking for.
Just one quick question, is the place you have pinpointed in Google Maps the exact spot you got off in El Cruce?, I looked at it in Street View and it looks pretty desolate 😮
Appreciate the info.
Yes it is. You can also tell the driver and they’ll drop you off at the right spot.
Really useful post!
Updates: taxi from San Ignacio to the border should be 5 dollars Belize each. Once you get into gatekeeper, cross the river (on foot) then turn right up the hill for money.
Enjoy the ride to Flores, it’s beautiful countryside, and destination!
Current rates are $25 to border from San Ignacio.
Current rates are $25 to border from San Ignacio. Verified by Maya Bella front desk and personal conversation with cabbie.
Three questions for you:
Did you think Xunatunich was worth the time? We will have a very similar itinerary – debating Xunatunich prior to going to Tikal (where we will spend the afternoon and the day following). How did you arrange the taxi? They just waited at the park for you to finish exploring?
When did you arrive in Tikal? We are hoping to get there around 3:00 pm. It sounds like you had some pretty good timing catching the bus up to Tikal.
Any recommendations on leaving Tikal? I am also keen on public transit back to the border but don’t want to end up stranded or stressing about paying too much.
Thank you so much for the help,
I just did this (8 Dec 2018), right now in Tikal. Generally very accurate. I would add, turn right up the hill in Melchor de Menchos into the main town. (There is an ATM straight on by the Texaco garage but it didn’t work). There are at least two ATMs in town, however, my MasterCard did not work, luckily my Visa did. But, the ATM charge was Q40!! I suggest simply battering with currency traders – I didn’t try but it might be easier than relying on ATMs. Prices for the bus were as above, Q30 and Q25. The pickup point is near a main crossing junction in town, I asked some one – including a very helpful English speaking guy and his family. The journey in Guatemala was actually very fast, maybe fortunate connections, but I was in Tikal with a drink by 11:30 having left my hotel in SI at 07:30.
Thanks so much for this post! I must’ve reread it at least three times, as I was quite nervous for this multi-legged public transport journey from San Ignacio to Tikal, but it all worked out perfectly! For anyone else planning this trip, here’s what I paid (July 2019):
-Public bus San Ignacio to Benque – 2BZD
-Shared taxi Benque bus station to border – 3 BZD. Multiple cab drivers were waiting for the bus to arrive and all were keen to fill every seat, so I was grouped with 3 Guatemalan ladies.
-Colectivo from Melchor de Mencos to El Cruce – 30 Quetzal, so the same. The ATM near the gas station and Banrural bank on the main road to Flores accepted my European Maestro debit card! Paid 34Q for the withdrawal. I was able to hail down the colectivo from in front of the little ATM house within 30 seconds of getting my cash, so I was lucky.
-Bus from El Cruce to Tikal – 30 Quetzal, so seems like the price of that ride has increased by 5Q.
I left San Ignacio at 8am and was at my hotel in Tikal by 11.45am, having spent under $11 USD! The longest I had to wait was 20 minutes, at El Cruce. The border crossing was probably the easiest I’ve ever done outside of the Schengen area – no forms to fill in, no questions asked, no luggage checks. Took all of 5 minutes. This journey was surprisingly easy and fast! Thanks again!
Hi, do you know if buses for this journey run through the day? I want to leave San Ignacio around 12pm and take the same route.