We visited the Mayan ruins at Tikal, Guatemala for a few days last week. Tikal is the site of the ancient capital of the Mayan civilization, and is now a national park in Guatemala. Thanks to the information from the crew of Savannah , we learned that we could fairly easily travel to the site from our anchorage here at Bahía del Sol, so decided to check it out.
We took an early morning local bus to San Salvador, which stops at a terminal just at the south edge of town, then caught a cab to the Tica Bus station in the Zona Rosa, which is the swanky hotel part of town. Tica Bus is a fancy bus line that runs between Central American countries, and we got tickets for the bus to Guatemala City ($30 USD per person return).
We had a few hours before the bus left, so we visited the nearby Museo Del Arte del Salvador, which was fabulous. However, we got soaked in a downpour on the way back to the bus station, which meant that our clothes were all wet, including the things we’d packed. We had been warned that the Tica bus is cold, and it was, especially with wet clothes. Even though we planned for it we weren’t warm enough on the bus, and it got even worse on the bus from Guatemala City to Flores.
We took the overnight Fuente del Norte bus to Flores (Q160 per person one way; approx $20 USD) after a few hours of wandering around Guatemala City trying to get cash. The most common bank machine (cajero) is 5B, and we determined that our Citizens Bank debit cards don’t work on the 5B machines. We finally found a machine that would give us the coveted Guatemalan Quetzales after about five or six tries. Guatemala City seemed much more seedy than San Salvador, and the various neighbourhoods are spread out and confusing. If we’d spent more time there in the daytime, we might have a better opinion of the city, but as it stands, we can’t recommend it much.
We spent a long, cold night on the bus to Flores, and arrived at the station in nearby Santa Elena about 5 am. We were too tired to go straight to Tikal, so went across the street for a very inexpensive and quite tasty breakfast. We then walked the several blocks to the bridge to Flores, and headed into the tourist area. We walked around town, hoping for a cafe with good coffee and ideally wifi. However, nothing was really open, so we did a circumnavigation of the island (it’s small) and finally lucked on a hotel that was open.
We went in to the Mirador del Lago, and asked after a room. A room for 2 people was 70 Quetzales per night, about $9 USD. We were a little concerned about what the rooms would be like, but were shown two and were very pleasantly surprised. We chose a room on the third floor with a private bathroom and a balcony with a view of the lake. The room was clean and comfortable, with windows which opened and a large fan. It was a lot less than we’d planned to spend and much nicer than we thought we’d get.
We napped, then checked our email on the hotel’s computers for a few Quetzales, and discovered that our friends Robert and Kelita from SV Freedom would be arriving that evening. We also bought potable water from the hotel, which has a large bottle from which you can refill your own bottles for a small fee. That evening, we saw Freedom arrive from our balcony, and we had dinner together and planned our trip to Tikal the next day.
There is a shuttle from Flores to Tikal which costs Q60 per person return. It’s pretty much the best option to get there, as they pick you up at your hotel, and getting the local bus would cost about Q50 and take a lot longer. The ride to the park is a bit more than an hour, and return busses leave on the hour between 2 and 6 pm.
We spent two days at Tikal, returning to Flores at night. It costs Q300 per person per day to enter Tikal, unless you are a Guatemalan national. Then it’s Q20.
The return trip to Bahía del Sol was much like the trip there, however we ended up taking the Autobus del Norte back to Guatemala City. This was a much nicer bus, and the ticket price included a snack. It was also about Q10 cheaper than Fuente del Norte (Q152 per person one way), so obviously we’d recommend this bus line. ADN only runs overnight busses, though. We arrived in Guatemala City just before 5 am, and the Tica Bus back to San Salvador was scheduled to leave at 5:30. We hopped in a cab, and got to the bus station about 5:20. The bus was still there as we got to the front of the line to try and get tickets at 5:35, but we worried that we were too late. We asked if we could still make the early bus, and the agent smiled and calmly said "no problemo," and a few minutes later we were on the bus and off to San Salvador.
We got a fabulous $2 breakfast buffet at a little pupuseria by the bus station, then got a cab to Terminal del Sur, and hopped the local bus back to the coast. We were back on Scream by 2 pm, and ready for a good long sleep.
It was relatively easy to get to Tikal from Bahía del Sol, but the overnight bus was a killer. If we were doing it again, I think we’d maybe stay overnight in Guatemala City, even though we weren’t impressed with the place. Also, we’d planned to only spend one day at Tikal, but we liked it so much we spent two. You could easily see it all in one day, but it was nice to not feel rushed. We guess that we spent between $300 and $400 USD total on the four day trip, and it was a bargain.