Travel guide: Everything you need to know before visiting Tikal!

Tikal, a huge Maya temple complex in the middle of the jungle of Guatemala, something very spectacular. The large ruins between the green jungle, makes you feel like being in an Indiana Jones movie. In this blog, I tell you everything you need to know before visiting Tikal National Park.


The Tikal National park is located in the North of Guatemala and stretches over 576 km2. This is huge, you can compare it to the size of the entire island of Ibiza. Many wild animals live here: pumas, snakes, monkeys, parrots and toucans. In the middle of this park is the beautiful old temple complex of the Maya located. The ruins were excavated decades ago, but this former city is so immensely large that people are still not finished with these excavations.

Curious about our time in Tikal, what we did there and where we slept? You can read it all in my Tikal Diary blog!Guatemala Tikal


How do you reach Tikal?

The easiest to reach Tikal is from the city Flores. This colourful city lies partly on a small island and is just 90 minutes away from Tikal. We booked return tickets for a shuttle bus at a local travel agency (in Flores) and paid Q60 per person for this (€ 6.80). It’s useful to buy return tickets since this saves you a lot of money.

Multiple shuttle buses go back and forth to Tikal every day. We travelled at 12.00 AM and went back the next day at 03.00 PM. The first shuttle bus departs around 03.30 AM which will take you to Tikal just in time for sunrise. We haven’t seen any public transport directed to Tikal. Of course, it is also possible to arrange a private shuttle.

You can also easily reach Tikal from Belize. It is only two hours by bus from the Belizean border.

Flores Tikal Guatemala


Tickets for the park

To be able to enter Tikal National Park you will need entree tickets. You buy these at the Banrural Bank gate before entering the park. Don’t forget to bring your passport when buying them. If you are going on a tour where you will enter the park before sunrise, you will have to buy your tickets the day before. This is possible at the Banrural Bank in Flores (or any other city).

Important: you can only buy tickets at the gate before you enter the park. As soon as you are in the park, you can’t buy them anymore. So if you bought the wrong tickets, you will have to go back to the gate (15-20 minutes). Taxis to the gate are expensive so it would be a shame to buy the wrong ones.

Don’t worry by the way, if you buy tickets a few days in advance: as long as they are not ‘cut’ in the park, they are valid for 30 days.What did we spend in Guatemala?

Day ticket, sunrise or sunset?

Ohmy, we puzzled a lot before buying tickets. Nowhere could we really find out what kind of tickets we had to buy. After lot’s of searching and reading, we finally found the answers. Since we don’t want you to have to search so long, here is exactly which tickets you need for a visit to Tikal:

Arrival during the day:

  1. Do you come during the day and leave before sunset? – 1 day ticket – Price: Q150
  2. Do you come during the day and do you still want to see the sunset? – 1 day ticket + 1 sunset ticket – Price: Q250
  3. Do you come during the day and do you want to see the sunset and sunrise? – 1 day ticket + 1 sunset ticket + 1 sunrise ticket – Price: Q350
  4. Do you come during the day and do you want to see the sunset, sunrise and visit the next day again? – 1 day ticket + 1 + 1 sunrise sunset ticket + 1 day ticket (unless you have entered the park on the first day after 3 PM) – Price: Q500

Arrival before sunrise:

  1. Do you come before sunrise, stay during the day and do you want to see the sunset? – 1 sunrise ticket + 1 day ticket + 1 sunset ticket – Price: Q350
  2. Do you come before sunrise, stay during the day and leave before sunset? – 1 sunrise ticket + 1 day ticket – Price: Q250
  3. Do you come before sunrise and leave afterwards? – 1 sunrise ticket – Price: Q100

Arrival before sunset:

  1. Do you come at sunset, stay overnight and go see the sunrise and stay in the park during the day? – 1 sunset ticket + 1 sunrise ticket + 1 day ticket – Price: Q350
  2. Do you come at sunset, staying overnight and going to see the sunrise? – 1 sunset ticket + 1 sunrise ticket – Price: Q200
  3. Do you come at sunset, will you stay overnight but will you not enter the park anymore? – 1 sunset ticket – Price: Q100

Do you see? It’s a big puzzle!

There are three types of tickets:

Day tickets valid from 6 am to 6 pm – Price: Q150
Sunrise tickets: valid from 4.30 am to 6.00 am – Price: Q100
Sunset tickets: valid from 17.00 to 20.00 – Price: Q100

If you only start using a day ticket from 3 pm onwards, the ticket will also be valid the next day.

Officially, the park opens at 6 am and closes at 6 pm. Upon arrival, you get a coloured wrist band, which shows rangers what kind of ticket you have. The sunset is in the summer around 6:30 PM, and in the winter (October-March) something after 6 PM. If you have a day ticket in the winter, you can just see the sunset before you have to leave. This is not possible in the summer. When the park closes, rangers walk around and escort everyone outside. Are you at sunrise in the park, but don’t you have a day ticket, the Rangers will walk around to escort you out of the park after sunrise.

In the past, you seemed to be able to “bribe” the rangers if you didn’t buy a sunset or sunrise ticket. However, since a lot of people have lost their way in recent years and died in the park, there is now strict monitoring.Guatemala Tikal


Guide

We arranged on the spot (at the hostel) a guide for a tour during sunset, sunrise and daytime. Our guide was a nice man who had many interesting stories and made our visit to the ruins very nice. In any case, we recommend a guide. The park is immensely large and because it’s in the middle of the jungle, getting lost is easy. Our guide told us some horror stories about people who got lost and wandered around for weeks. Sometimes they were saved, but often not. Especially when it is dark, you do not just want to walk through the park. We were with a group of seven people and paid per person Q160 for these three different tours. This is relatively little, but because we booked with five people we got a nice discount.

At local travel agencies, you can book a tour in addition to your bus ticket. The price is between Q100 and Q150. We didn’t do this because we wanted to arrange a guide ourselves that would take us the next day. Do you want to go back and forth on the same day, then it is advisable to book a tour. During the daytime, it is not mandatory to have a guide. It is however mandatory before sunrise and after sunset.Tikal Guatemala


Spend the night in Tikal National Park!

We decided to spend the night in Tikal and that was a really good decision. This made Tikal for us even better. Staying overnight in Tikal, you can experience both the sunset and sunrise and they are truly magical. Because you’re in the middle of the park, you’re already in the park early in the morning before other tourists come.

There is not much accommodation available near Tikal, you can choose from the following three options:

Jungle Lodge Hostel €€

Jungle Lodge Hostal

This is the hostel where we stayed. The rooms are brand new and beautiful. It’s part of the Hotel Jungle Lodge and you can use their pool and facilities. Shared bathroom and toilet. From € 56 per night for 2 pers.

Book here

Hotel Jungle Lodge €€€

Jungle lodge tikal hotel

This luxury hotel has a swimming pool, cinema and a beautiful lounge. You sleep in private bungalows that are fully equipped. There are a restaurant and a bar. The rooms are beautiful and luxurious. From € 132 per night for 2 pers.

Book here

Hotel Jaguar Inn €€

Jaguar Inn Tikal

This is a slightly less luxurious hotel than the Jungle Lodge, but nonetheless it looks nice. You sleep in private bungalows with a private bathroom. The hotel also has a restaurant. From € 67 per night for 2 pers.

Book here

 

Finally, it is also possible to camp in the National Park. At Hotel Jaguar Inn, there is a campsite where you rent a tent for Q70 and sleep for Q50 per person. If you need a hammock, you pay Q50 for it.


What does a visit to Tikal cost?

Well, Tikal certainly was not a cheap trip. Hereby our spendings for one and a half days in Tikal *:

  • Shuttle bus return tickets: Q120
  • Entrance day ticket park: Q300
  • Entrance evening ticket park: Q200
  • Entrance sunrise ticket park: Q200
  • Hostel: Q450
  • Guide: Q320
  • Two times lunch, dinner, breakfast and water in the hostel: Q475

A total of Q2065 or € 235. A considerable amount, but absolutely worth it! You can do this cheaper, for example, by bringing your own water and food so you don’t have to eat (every meal) in the restaurant of your accommodation. You can also save on your accommodation by camping out.

Doing just a day tour, you would probably only spent Q240 per person. This would be only for the bus, guide and entrance fee.

* All expenses are for two people and are calculated based on exchange rates during the trip.


What do you pack for a visit to Tikal?

A lot of water! Especially when you walk through the jungle during the daytime, it is quite warm and so you need a lot of water. In addition, I recommend you to bring sunscreen, a cap, sunglasses and mosquito repellent. Also, something to eat is useful for when you walk through the park for many hours. We hiked on trainers and with the many kilometres that you will walk this is really a must. Finally, of course, your camera or phone.

Please note that drones are forbidden in Tikal National Park. This because of a smash with an endangered bird living in the par (yes this sounds like a joke but it’s for real). Unfortunately, the bird died, the drone did not …


Conclusion: definitely visit Tikal

We really liked Tikal! There are very few tourists, so you have the feeling to have the park all to yourself. When your budget allows you, do spend the night in Tikal! Besides beautiful history in the form of ancient ruins, you will also find beautiful nature. During sunset, you will hear (and see) monkeys, parrots and sometimes a toucan.

In short, Tikal is a must visit when you are in Guatemala or Belize!


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