If you’re planning to visit Tikal on your own, have a strong dose of patience and be prepared. If traveling from the Belize border, bring your passport, exit tax (US$15), and the PACT conservation fee (US$3.75).
Tropic Air (tel. 501/226-2012, U.S. tel. 800/422-3435) offers flights from Belize City’s International Airport (Goldson International Airport, BZE, 10 miles west of Belize City, 501/225-2045) to Flores (US$224 round-trip). Vehicles head to Tikal from the Flores airport, but be sure to reserve a reliable driver or tour operator ahead of time.
There are no direct buses to Tikal from Benque Viejo del Carmen on the Belize border. There are chicken buses that will pick up from the Guatemala side and head to Flores as well as taxis (US$20 pp, depending on the number of people). You’d then have to find your way to Tikal from Flores.
Another option is to catch the bus to Flores, get off at the crossroads in Ixlu, and then wait for another bus heading north to El Remate or all the way to Tikal. However, the wait could be long as the schedules are not published. It’s also generally safer to arrange a ride with a recognized guide than going it alone.
It’s possible to catch the bus all the way to the Cayo District, then all the way to Benque Viejo del Carmen and the border, and then wing it once you make it past immigration. But if you’re not fluent in Spanish, or would rather play it safe (recommended), there are several tour companies with buses heading directly to Flores and Tikal from Belize City’s Water Taxi Terminal (by the Swing Bridge), as well as by the San Pedro Belize Express terminal, a couple of blocks farther down.
First try S&L Travel Tours (91 N. Front St., Belize City, tel. 501/227-7593), a very reliable company, or contact Atlanta Tour Express Bus Service (inside the San Pedro Belize Express Water Taxi Terminal, Belize City), with direct service to Tikal and Flores via the Guatemalan Línea Dorada buses. The journey to the border takes about 4.5 hours. If you’re lucky, crossing the border will be smooth and painless, although lines can occasionally get long.
If you decide to rent a car, check out Crystal Auto Rental (Mile 5, Northern Hwy., Belize City, 501/223-1600, from US$65 per day), one of the only companies that allow you to take a rental vehicle into Guatemala (be sure to inquire about insurance).
Most tour guides in San Ignacio offer regular trips to Tikal, almost daily during the busy tourist season (Dec.-Apr.). If you opt for a tour, you won’t have to worry about anything except bringing your passport, paying for the tour, and hopping in a van—the rest is taken care of, from border crossing to entrance fees. I highly recommend Pacz Tours (tel. 501/604-6921 or 501/824-0536, full-day US$145, all-inclusive overnight US$400 with hotel, meals, guide, taxes, and fees), with its own resident Tikal expert.
Excerpted from the Tenth Edition of Moon Belize.