Guatemala/Belize Border Money Exchange and Tikal
Replies: 16 - Last Post: Nov 10, 2012 5:18 AM Last Post By: buckhornbonzai
Nov 1, 2012 3:52 PM
I'll be in San Ignacio and want to see Tikal. On the Goverment of Canada website, it says "When
entering Guatemala by land, avoid exchanging money at border crossings unless absolutely necessary. Violent armed robberies have...etc"
Since there is no ATM in Tikal, how do you suggest exchanging money? I'll have US cash from Belize, but I read Guatemala hardly accepts US cash.
Also with itinerary, I plan on taking a cab to the border in Belize, then taking a cab to Tikal from the Guatemala side. I hope this is a good idea?
Is there a place I can store my bags in Tikal? I plan on staying in Flores after. Thank you.
Nov 1, 2012 6:38 PM
1Money exchange at the border is no problem, if you are changing US to Quetzal or exchanging to Belize dollars. I usually use the debit card at the bank since they give me a better rate then the money handlers. They do have mini vans that offer to take you to Tikal that may be less expensive. But if you are planning to stay in Flores and do the Tikal trip in one day, it will be a very long day.
Nov 1, 2012 6:50 PM
2I don't know why the Canadian government website would make such a statement. There are a number of money changers on both the Belize and Guatemalan sides of the border, and exchanging money there is safe and convenient.
Of course you do need to know approximately the current exchange rate is and be willing to bargain or find another money changer if the first one isn't offering a fair rate. Count your money, but the money changers are in business day after day at the border -- it's their job.
Cab drivers on the Guatemalan side will take U.S. cash and often quote rates in U.S. dollars.
Why not just take your luggage to Flores? If you're going back to Belize or to elsewhere in Guatemala, it would be time-consuming and an expense to backtrack to Tikal to pick up your bags.
By the way, there are ATMs in Santa Elena (most at gas stations) and at least one in Flores.
Nov 1, 2012 9:11 PM
3I would look into staying at one of the lodges inside Tikal instead of staying in Flores. A collectivo alone (not including any tour deal) is 100Q each way from Flores. So that's about $30 US just to get there and back. It would make more sense to use that towards a room inside the park. If you are on a real budget, the Jaguar Inn has camping on their site, and they will rent you a tent if you don't have one. And, coming in from Flores (or coming straight from the border) will cut the time you will have within the park.
If you can, time it so you get to the park around 3:00 or 3:30 - your ticket will be good for the rest of the day (until 6:00), and for the entire next day. This would give you much more time in the park than coming in for a day from Flores or the border, especially if you do a sunrise tour.
We took a shuttle from the border (shared with 6 people) to El Remate, had lunch in El Remate and then caught an afternoon collectivo up to Tikal to get the timing right. I think that cost us 150Q total - about $21 US. Spent 2 nights at the Tikal Inn (1 would have been enough), then went down to Flores for 1 day/night. Flores is a nice place, but if you were looking at it just as a place to use as a base for Tikal, then you may want to consider El Remate - about 30-45 minutes closer to the park. There's not much to do in El Remate, though.
If you do stay with your current plan, I would email Jaguar Inn or Tikal Inn and ask if they will hold your luggage for the day. My guess is they would, maybe for a small fee. But, the last collectivo to Flores leaves at 6:00, so you would need to be done with the ruins by 5:00 or so to get back to the lodge, get your luggage, and get on a collectivo. It takes a good 20-30 minutes to get back to the park entrance/parking lot from even the closest ruins.
Nov 2, 2012 4:53 AM
4Just adding a note - the guards won't always stamp your ticket for the next day if you purchase at 3 or 3:30 the afternoon before; it's become more common for them to insist you wait until 4pm or to refuse to do it at all. They used to let you store bags behind the tour guide desk in the visitor center - don't know if that's still possible. I'm a big fan of staying in the park - definitely worth the $ imo if you can swing it. Have a great visit, whatever you decide!
Nov 2, 2012 7:57 AM
5The above info is all correct. I would add that you have a certain amount of US cash ready to change in your pocket so you won't have to go into your main stash. It can be a little disconcerting and hectic at the border so it is better to be prepaired. Also, Don't change too much, just enough for incidentals. I was able to pay for my room at the Jaguar place with a Visa card. Cash is for food at the Comedors, entrance fees, taxis and maybe gifts at the museum although they take credit cards there also. In other words, your big stuff can be put on a card and you don't want to have any Quetzales left when you exit the country.
Nov 2, 2012 9:01 AM
6Wow, thank you for all the replies. I will exchange just enough cash at the border then for Tikal. Hmm $70US? And look for a mini bus. I hope these are easy to spot. Do they have names on them?
I don't have a lot of time in Guatemala, but am open to staying in Tikal if that's easier. So instead of San Ignacio, to Tikal, to Flores in a day, I could do San Ignacio to Tikal. I plan on going to Coban after and was only using Flores as a nights stay before I head to Coban, so if I can get to Tikal to Coban in the daytime that works for me. I see it takes about 6 hours.
Nov 3, 2012 1:37 AM
7Hi Again, Sure if you are staying in the country for awhile you can get change more money because you will be using it. If you are going on to Flores you can get more there. Look for a minibus or just take a taxi right to Tikal. A Taxi is about $60US so try to share one if you can. Ask for Parque National Tikal and they should know what you are talking about. Don't take the local bus. Though cheap, they take forever, stop everywhere and get crowded. I have never been to Coban but I would assume that all of your connections can be made in Flores. Flores does look like a good place to stay but at least one overnight at Tikal Park is recommended. Remember the border can look a bit chaotic but not to worry. Just be alert and hang on to your stuff, you will be fine. They will charge you a small like $5US scam entrance fee into Guatemala but just pay it and be done with it. Oh, Don't forget that Belize charges something like $18.50 US to leave by land. Obviously you will pay that first and then cross over. Have a nice time!
Edited by: Greggo
Nov 3, 2012 11:35 AM
8I have changed money at the border many times and not been robbed yet. Know the rate of exchange so you dont get taken on that. I have also stayed in Flores and done Tikal and other times stayed right in the park. Enjoyed both places but in the park you get to see alot of wildlife that comes out at night.
Nov 3, 2012 5:40 PM
Nov 4, 2012 2:38 AM
10Changing money on the Guatemalan side of the border (Melchor De Mencos) is never a problem, yes there are robberies but they stick up and kill the money changers. Additionally some give excellent rates better than the bank.
Nov 9, 2012 2:53 PM
11Hi remembershirley. I am planning a trip from San Ignacio to Tikal and have spent quite a few hours doing so. After pricing the ludicrous amount that most tour operators based out of SI want for an overnight trip to Tikal, I have found other options. First of all, if you don't want the "adventure" and stress of crossing the border independently, some tour operators from SI will provide a transportation only option. They seem to not want to advertise this much, and it may be on a "seats available" basis only if they don't sell the seats as official, and much more lucrative tours.
I don't know how sold you are on staying in Flores. A second option that I just discovered is if staying at the "Tikal Sunrise Inn" http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g292015-d307232-r144078410-Hotel_Tikal_Inn-Tikal_National_Park_Peten_Department.html#REVIEWS ....... (reviews are mostly positive, and the hotel is right at the entrance to the Tikal Archeological Park) they will pick up their overnight guests at the (Melchor de Mencos) border with a private shuttle for $90 round-trip for up to 4 passengers. I just priced this, and to me it is a good compromise between costly but secure all inclusive tours and the doing your own thing option. The bungalows @ Tikal Sunrise are $125 which includes dinner, breakfast, and sunrise tour of Tikal fee included. So, once again, I don't know if your heart is set on staying in Flores, but if not and your main objective is going to Tikal, then this may be an option for you.
As I understand it, you can take a public bus from SI very cheaply to within one mile of the border. I guess the buses don't go all the way to the border, and I am not sure why ......... maybe someone else here will enlighten us. Then you can either walk a mile to the border crossing or take a taxi. After you get over the border the shuttle is supposed to be waiting for you if you have pre-arranged this, and if you only have a party of 4 you may even be able to get someone else to split the $90 roundtrip shuttle fee with you.
I just thought I would throw this out there as an option for you.
Nov 9, 2012 3:35 PM
12Just to clarify a little:
The US$90 roundtrip for up to four from the border to Tikal park is a good price, but it is about the same as you'd pay for a taxi on the Guatemala side to and from Tikal, at least if you're a good bargainer.
"Tikal Sunrise Inn" is just the old Tikal Inn.
I think the reason that buses don't go all the way to the Belize-Guatemala border is the same reason that buses don't pick up at the international airport near Belize City -- the taxi folks are good at lobbying.
Nov 9, 2012 6:17 PM
Nov 9, 2012 8:44 PM
14Lan ..."The US$90 roundtrip for up to four from the border to Tikal park is a good price, but it is about the same as you'd pay for a taxi on the Guatemala side to and from Tikal, at least if you're a good bargainer". Yes, true, but we are not all savvy, international travelers. I personally am NOT good at barter....... This option, to me, is an excellent alternative with relatively little stress. Tikal Sunrise Inn has many (100??) reviews on trip advisor. My personal experience with Ervin @ Tikal Sunrise Inn - via e/mail to the hotel has been prompt, efficient, polite and informative. The hotel itself may be slightly sub-par for all I know, but for one night, who cares (we are seasoned camper/hiker/backpackers so a few bugs and no electricity after 10pm, etc. is no biggie). We will only be staying there for one night, so we don't care if it is the "old Tikal Inn" (I am aware that this is a new name/new web-site), but most TripAdvisor reviews are very positive.......... Most complaints are those of "night noises" (howler monkies ........ how COOL is that for ONE night!!) and lack of electricity after 10 p.m. For the logistic positives and decreased stress of finding / possibly negotiating for rate of transport to Tikal, it is definitely worth it for someone like me or others who may not be comfortable with the "whatever the market will bear" mentality of bartering ........
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