There are four ways Belize travelers can get to Tikal National Park in Guatemala.
The easiest and most expensive way to Tikal is to fly from Belize City International Airport on Maya Island Air or Tropic Air. Flights generally cost around $120 USD one-way plus the Belize departure tax of near $40 USD for international flights. Two flights leave daily in the morning and afternoon to Flores, Guatemala and take less than 1 hour total. This option works for tourists on a short holiday with disposable income traveling between San Pedro and Tikal.
The second most expensive way is to rent a car at the Belize City International Airport. Only CRYSTAL, a local car rental agency, will allow you to take their vehicles to Tikal. Rates are about $100 USD a day plus tax. This is obviously more economical if there are 3 or 4 in the travel group. This option allows for more flexibility for sightseeing opportunities, but punishes the driver. Many unmarked speed bumps exist in the villages along the Western Highway that are sure to keep driving interesting. It’s not exactly smooth sailing, and drivers must pay attention to the road, and potentially miss out on the small sightseeing opportunities that make Western Belize unique.
The third way is to take an organized day tour to Tikal arranged though a tour operator in San Ignacio. Many operators exist in San Ignacio which will all be trying to sell you a tour to Tikal, ATM cave, and everything else in the book. Most trips leave around 7:30 AM from the tour operator office in San Ignacio. Tours generally range in price from $115 to $145 depending on the operator and include park entrance fees, transportation, guide, and Belize border crossing fees. On the way back, the tour guide will likely stop in Melchor, Guatemala on the border to allow for the cheapest and most traditional Maya craft shopping available.
Finally, the most adventurous, and cheapest option is to take local public transit the entire way. Lower Dover is only 1/2 mile from the Western Highway at mile 59 in Unitedville. This will roughly cost you around $60 USD for entrance fees and transportation costs. Backpackers leaving Lower Dover can expect a 3 to 4 hour journey by bus and collectivo van to get to the park from our Jungle Lodge.
Guests must first catch a chicken bus to Benque from Lower Dover. From Benque, a short taxi ride is necessary to the Guatemala border. It is also possible to walk or hitchhike (less than 1 mile). Once clearing customs, change your Belize dollars to Guatemalan Quetzals with the money-changers hanging out nearby. They all work together, offer rates comparable to the Bank, and will take US or Belize dollars, but they will give a better rate for the US Dollars.
From Guatemala side it is necessary to take a collectivo van to the village of Ixlu / El Cruce with the final destination of Flores. At this point, one can continue on to Flores, Guatemala to find a hotel, or get off the van and catch different bus or van headed to Tikal via El Remate.
Hotels also exist with Tikal National Park, however they are more expensive than Flores. Regular bus service exists between Flores and Tikal so backpackers have options on where to stay. Staying overnight at Tikal or Flores allows for a full day of exploring the massive Maya temples of Tikal before the afternoon heat sets in, which is even more important in the heat of the dry season and Summertime months.
Special thanks to Frederick for the border crossing pictures!