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Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

Raleigh, North...
Level Contributor
66 posts
54 reviews
Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

I am planning a Belize trip next summer and am thinking about mostly staying in the San Ignacio area but taking a two-day trip across the border to Guatemala to see Tikal and maybe a surrounding point of interest.

How difficult is it to cross the border? Could my husband and I ( late twenties, we've been to CR and the Yucatan before. I'm fluent in Spanish) do this in a rental car? Is it safe? I've read that there have been some areas of concern in Guatemala lately, but maybe that's been overhyped or not anywhere around this area.

Any feedback is appreciated...thanks!

San Ignacio, Belize
Level Contributor
4,770 posts
277 reviews
1. Re: Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

It's very easy to cross the border here. If you want to take a rental car, there are only a couple of agencies that will allow it. There have been some security issues in the Peten area, but tours still go to Tikal all the time. I'd play that by ear. Your Spanish will help a lot.

Saint James City...
Destination Expert
for San Pedro
Level Contributor
16,564 posts
10 reviews
2. Re: Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

Be aware that your car will be uninsured while you are in Guatemala......

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
Level Contributor
13,829 posts
331 reviews
3. Re: Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

Here's the response I posted to your Fodors forum post:

The problem with the rental car idea is that most companies won't let you cross the border. If they do (Crystal is 1, maybe others) you wouldn't have insurance. Frankly, I wouldn't do it. It's easy to put together a trip without a tour, though. Just get to the border by bus or taxi, cross out of Belize and into Guatemala (2 stops), change $ if you need to (know the exchange rate ahead and watch closely) and hire a driver for where you want to go; if you're heading to Tikal you can arrange for them to pick you up the next day (or later) if you want. It's possible to take a bus from the border but it would be heading to Flores, not Tikal; you can get off at the closest intersection and try to hitch on a passing van or taxi but I've never been tempted to try that.

I recommend staying in the park - so great to explore the ruins and jungle during the cooler evening and early morning hours when the wildlife is active and you practically have the place to yourselves. There are cheaper options in Flores (about an hour away) which opens up some transportation options including 1st class buses heading to the dock in Belize City (early morning, ~$25, ~5 hours) and flights. Sometimes I've stayed 1 night in the park and 1 in Flores. In the park my favorite hotel is the Tikal Inn and for Flores check out the Corpetur link or consider Mesa de los Mayas (no website) if you want a good value budget option.

http://www.tikalinn.com

http://corpetur.com/

Mesa de Mayas Flores - Alfaro Lopez <mesamayas@hotmail.com>

The El Remate area is in between and there appear to be some nice options there. I've had my eye on this one: Hotel La Mansion Del Pajaro Serpiente

http://www.30minutesfromtikal.com/

I'm not usually a guided tour sort of a gal but highly recommend archaeologist/naturalist Roxy Ortiz. She guides in the area when she's not away on a dig. She's a wealth of knowledge about the flora and fauna as well as about the history and architecture of the ruins and she's a blast to hang out with. She knows the area inside out - her mom runs the Pajaro Serpiente place and her brothers manage the Tikal Inn. I'm looking forward to a return trip to the area so I can hire Roxy to take me to some of the other ruins in the region. If you contact her, please tell her hi from Stacey.

tikal_roxy@yahoo.com

I haven't heard of any issues involving tourists for quite some time. I guess everyone's risk tolerance is different but the risk of missing one of the premier ruins in the world when I'm so close plus my desire to share it with others keeps me going back. Happy trails!

Edited: 22 August 2011, 01:48
Edmonton, Canada
Level Contributor
365 posts
132 reviews
4. Re: Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

I agree that renting a car in Belize and using it in Guatemala may be more trouble, expense and risk than it is worth. You can catch a ride on public buses, taxis or even as extras one way on a tourist excursion from San Ignacio, about 20 minutes from the border. If you stay at one of the inns or B & B operations there, you should be able to leave your car there securely for a few days for a small or no fee.

The border is pretty casual. You must pay a Belize exit fee of $17.50 USD if you are going to be out of Belize for more than a couple of days. Even if you are coming back in short order, there is a $7.50 fee. If you pay the higher fee and do come back, apparently your receipt can be shown for a partial crdit when your finally exit the country. We walked across with another couple, but were separated in line at the Guatemala entry point by a Belizean trucker. When he heard that they were charging about $2 USD as an entry fee, he said in English, "I never pay that". My compatriots has already passed, and after the trucker went through, I presented myself to the clerk with a smile. She asked my name while looking at my passport and I said "Bruce, like Bruce Lee", about the same time she said "Bruce Lee!" and we laughed and I was passed into the country.... without paying the $Q15 I had in my closed hand. The others in the group were a little surprised.... as was I. A smile and a laugh seldom hurts anything.

We negotiated a "collectivo" (small private bus that runs a regular route) ride in a newer van to el Remate at $5 a piece. The drive was about 1.5 hours, with very few stops. A taxi driver said he would have done it for $25. The van dropped us of at el Remate where we had a lunch in a fairly nice tourist eatery overlooking the lake. The 3:30 PM "chicken" bus (we caught from there to the motel area of Tikel was $Q20, less than $3 USD. This bus runs a couple of times a day and eventually drives all the way through the park to the road's end at Uaxactun. It was a little crowded, but the people were friendly and seemed interested to see tourists in their 50's on this sort of bus. The bus appeared in good condition and was driven in a safe manner. On entry to Tikal National Park the bus was stopped to allow us to pay our $10 per person daily entry fee. This covered the remainder of that day and all of the next, except for the early entry fee charged for sunrise viewers.

We followed Hopefulist's advice and used Roxy at Tikal's sunrise tour in early Dec. 2011. She's very knowledgeable and speaks English fluently. She is also a sometimes resident of the park, so hooking up with her there can be good for all concerned. The sunrise tour is something well worth the extra cost. After everyone else had left following a cloud covered daybreak, we were please to see the sun break through the clouds with all sorts of bright pick and orange tints.

We stayed at the Jaguar Inn, the place with the lowest published rate. It was adequate, but the room (#9) had some issues with mildew that appeared long term and should have been corrected at the price. We noted that this facility also offers tents with air mattresses at $10 per person per night for those with sleeping bags. We were also told that outside of high season there are deals to be had at this and the other 2 inns. They have lesser rooms not mentioned on their www sites. The (included) breakfast was good, as was the other food we had at the Jaguar.

Happy Trails

Edited: 20 December 2011, 17:51
The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
Level Contributor
13,829 posts
331 reviews
5. Re: Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

I'm glad you got to meet Roxy. She grew up in the Petén and her brothers manage the Tikal Inn. You can read her bio on the website, new since previous posts on this thread:

www.tikalroxy.blogspot.com

Edmonton, Canada
Level Contributor
365 posts
132 reviews
6. Re: Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

Roxy is also now listed on TA as a private tour operator for Tikal with two "very good - excellent" reviews. She offers individualized tours country wide, but specializes in Tikal.

Hopefulist, I am not sure if you had anything to do with herfinally being listed. I am glad that ths was finally able to happen, though I am not sure she will now be as available as she has been. My initial attempt to do this was rejected, as have been several other for "attractions" like the water taxis and Tuc Tuc taxis in Flores and Kristian's Tours in Guatamala City (run by, guess who, Kristian). Do you have any suggestions for getting through to TA other than the standard TA link for attractions not listed? It seems strange that attractions that are acceptable for other places, are not accepted for Guatamala and that identical service providers within the country are treated differently.

Thanks again for referring us to Roxy

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
Level Contributor
13,829 posts
331 reviews
7. Re: Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

My pleasure! I tried getting her listed months ago without success; not sure whose persistence made it possible but I'll head right there to add a review - thanks for the heads up!

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
Level Contributor
13,829 posts
331 reviews
8. Re: Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

Darn - it's been too long since my Roxy tour for me to leave a review. :-P I'll get back there eventually!

9. Re: Crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala

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