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Can’t-Miss Tikal Tours From Antigua, Guatemala City, and More

You can’t travel to Guatemala without embarking on one of the many guided Tikal tours from Guatemala City or Antigua. Many people (like me) skip the guided Tikal tour and go alone—don’t follow my lead if you plan on visiting Tikal!

I’m sharing my mistakes and why I don’t recommend visiting Tikal without a Tikal travel group. I also recommend trusted Tikal tours you should consider booking and several hotel options in Tikal and Flores.

Need to know how to get to Tikal? Read this.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $45.08. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Cheap Isn’t Always Best: My Tikal Tour Experience

If you’re backpacking Guatemala, you’ll want to do everything cheaply—I know I did! Most backpackers want to save money and skip organized Tikal tours from Antigua and Guatemala City. I had the worst time visiting Tikal because I was trying to save money. While trying to find the cheapest Tikal travel options, I had an awful time and spent more money than I would have paid for the tour upfront.

It was a disastrous trip from the hellish bus ride there (see here) to the sleepless night I spent in a hammock in the jungle. You can learn from my Tikal tour mistakes by reading this guide to Tikal travel.

Why I Didn’t Want to Take a Guided Tikal Tour

  • Doing an organized tour is just that, organized. As a travel blogger, I prefer to do things the hard way. That way, I can do so from experience while writing about it.
  • I’m always on a tight budget, so the more difficult way is typically the cheapest.
  • It almost always makes for a better solo travel story.
How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do - the cheapest way to see Tikal

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
Best Tikal ToursClick here to check out the top Tikal tours
Best Tikal Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Tikal
Best Tikal Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Tikal

Why I Recommend Booking Tikal Tours From Guatemala City and Antigua

Cost of Guided Tikal Tours

  • Standard Tikal tours from Guatemala City and Antigua cost $100, including transportation to Tikal and a guide. If you want to do a sunset or sunrise Tikal tour, you’ll pay 350Q.
  • Most Tikal tours will pick you up from your hotel and drop you there afterward.

Cost of a Self-Guided Tikal Tour

  • 5Q for a tuk-tuk to the bus station
  • 30Q for the public bus (which stopped every five minutes and took forever to arrive)
  • 150Q for park entry
  • 50Q for the bus back
How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do
The public bus to Tikal

I saved 15Q, but the extra hassle wasn’t worth it. Even if you don’t want the actual Tikal tour, you can tell the guide you want to go alone and ask what time to return for the trip home. Alternatively, if you tell them you want transportation from Antigua to Tikal, they will charge you 70Q. I could have saved myself 5Q and a lot of stress!

Book Your Tour Before Arriving

Tikal tours are some of the most popular things to do in Flores Guatemala, so I recommend booking your Tikal travel beforehand. Book the tour through your hotel or hostel when you arrive at Tikal or before you arrive with GuateGo. You will pay more by booking with them, but it’s worth the extra fee if you prefer to pay online ahead of time.

Specific tours must be booked at the bank. It can get confusing, and you won’t know who to trust. Book a tour with Heart of Travel if traveling from Antigua to Tikal. They will let you decide whether to fly to Tikal or go on their shuttle (which has WiFi and AC). They will plan and organize EVERYTHING—all you have to do is pay and show up.

Click here to learn more about my partnership with Heart of Travel and to book your Tikal tour with them.

Know What to Expect: Tips for Visiting Tikal

My state of mind arriving in Flores after two challenging bus rides affected my rational thinking. I wish I’d spent more time in Semuc, taken a day off before visiting Tikal, or flown to Flores from Antigua. It doesn’t cost much to fly and is the most convenient option if you’re in a rush.

Quick Tip: View my full Guatemala packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Guatemala Essentials shopping list here.

Don’t Lose Your Bank Card

This was a massive factor in my Tikal nightmare—I lost my bank card in Antigua, and my money ran low. Guatemala has no postal service, so I could not get a replacement. My dad sent me money via Western Union, but getting the money out of a Guatemalan bank was a significant pain. So, I was overly aware of how much Tikal and Flores cost me.

Don’t Skimp On Your Accommodations

I spent two nights at Los Amigos and highly recommend staying here! You have to book through email and let them know when you will be arriving, as they get swamped and will give your room away if you are late. It’s more expensive than other hostels in Flores, but it’s worth every penny. It’s only 10Q extra for a room with AC—pay the 10Q, you will need it! I didn’t the first night, and I didn’t sleep because of the heat.

It’s a bit of a party place, though, so if you want something a little more low-key, try one of these:

Hotel Jungle Lodge

Tikal Inn

Hotel Jaguar Inn

Do the Sunset Tikal Tour 

We spoke to the guides in the park about doing a Tikal sunrise tour, but they told us it’s almost always misty in the morning. If you’re willing to pay the extra 100Q to enter the park after closing, do the sunset tour, as you are more likely to get something photo-worthy. But this isn’t the cheapest way to see Tikal, as it’s an extra cost.

How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do

Buy a Map of Tikal

Tikal is huge—don’t be cheap like me. Pay 20Q for the map so you know where you are going!

Don’t Forget Your Spare Camera Batteries 

Yup, that happened. My camera battery died when I walked into the central part of Tikal, and my spare battery was flat. Wonderful. Always check your spares!

How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do

Don’t Sleep In a Hammock in Tikal

Sleeping in a hammock in the jungle sounds romantic and exciting. The reality, however, was it was cold. I was unprepared (I didn’t even have my head torch) and got no sleep because I forgot my earplugs. Those howler monkeys are LOUD! Besides drinking expensive beer in the hostel, there is nothing to do after dark. If we had just used the beer money, we could have booked a room in one of the hotels…

How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do

The cost for the campsite was 50Q, which is to use the bathrooms and showers. By 6:00 a.m., they had locked it as there was no water left, so we paid 50Q for nothing. The hammock rental cost 40Q, making the total 90Q…the same as a bed in a dorm with AC at Los Amigos.

Or even better, stay in one of the many hotels in the park. We thought it was a bit out of our budget, but the accommodation was reasonable. Read this Inspired By Maps review of his experience, including the accommodation he stayed at in Tikal.

How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do

Don’t Believe Everything You Read About Tikal in Guatemala

It’s probably worth saying at this point, too, that our original plan was to take advantage of the “buy your ticket after 3:00 p.m., and you can use it to go back into the part the next day” rule. So we would get there after 3:00 p.m., head into the park, sleep in a hammock, and then go early the following day to see the rest and avoid the crowds and the midday heat. We thought we had found the cheapest way to see Tikal and the best value as we could go in twice… Wrong.

We found out on arrival at the park at 3:30 p.m. that this rule had changed TWO WEEKS AGO—now you would need to pay another 150Q to re-enter the park. We had the public bus full of people waiting for us to get our tickets and then return on the bus so it could carry on. We were trying to argue our case and decide what to do, and the bus was honking its horn for us to hurry up. So we decided just to camp and go to the park the next day. This meant we had a long wait until 6:00 a.m. the next morning and not much to do to kill the time…

How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do

Don’t Forget Your Passport

To get your ticket to Tikal, you will need your passport. I didn’t know this, as it’s another one of those new rules brought in to fight corruption. Luckily, I always carry photocopies of my passport, which they did except (phew).

Bring Food or Eat Street Food

Suppose you are looking for the cheapest way to see Tikal, one place you can save money on food. The cafes are pretty expensive, and the food isn’t great. You won’t find anything inside the park besides chips and candy bars. It’s a long walk, so bring food and enough water to last 3-4 hours. If you eat at the park, head towards the campsite—there is a small section where you will find street food vendors. The food is excellent and costs just 10Q for a plate (and I managed to get a veggie meal).

How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do

Splurge On Your Bus From Tikal

Two leading companies operate transport from Flores: San Juan and Marlin. I have heard nothing but negative stuff about San Juan, so I recommend paying a few extra Qs to go with Marlin. They had AC, comfy seats, and WiFi, and they gave me coffee and toast for breakfast while we were waiting in their office for the bus. When we finally arrived in Mexico, they gave me two beers. Honestly, it was the happiest I’d been getting that beer in my hand…small things, hey!

Book your bus through GuateGo here.

If You’re Going to Mexico, Don’t Forget About the Belize Exit Fee

If you are transiting through Belize to get to Mexico, you must pay a $20 exit fee. Ensure you have it— they won’t let you out without it!

Where to Stay in Tikal

Los Amigos Youth Hostel (not on—stay here to enjoy the best things to do in Flores Guatemala.

Hotel Jungle Lodge

Tikal Inn

Hotel Jaguar Inn

How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do

Tikal Travel Tips

Coming from Antigua? Read this

Coming from Semuc Champey? Read this

Heading to Mexico? Read this

Should You Skip Tikal?

I have visited many Mayan ruins—Tikal was amazing, and I’m so glad I went, but if you are struggling with time or on the fence about going, here are a few reasons why you might want to skip it:

  • It’s expensive, and there’s no cheap alternative.
  • It’s grand but not well-preserved—Tikal is a must-see because of its size. Instead, you can visit Copan for an equally impressive experience that’s a fraction of the price.
  • Tulum is not only cheaper to access, but it’s much easier to find budget accommodations and cheap eats.
  • Other sites, like the Yaxha Mayan Ruins, are still in Guatemala but get fewer visitors and are far cheaper. I didn’t go, but I wish I had!
How to see Tikal in Guatemala - The ultimate guide to what not to do

Guatemala Travel Guide Planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Guatemala?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Guatemala which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Guatemala on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Guatemala?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Guatemala?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

Tikal Tours: Final Thoughts

If you are on the fence about visiting Tikal, I advise skipping and going to Tulum, Coba, or Copan instead. That said, I’m still glad I went—I wish it hadn’t cost me so much money and I’d known about the crazy rule changes BEFORE arriving at the park! Sadly, the cheapest way to see Tikal wasn’t the best way.

The Cheapest way to see Tikal in Guatemala


Tuesday 19th of March 2019

We are going to be traveling from Semuc Champey to Flores/Tikal, then on to Belize City. The original plan was to arrive and stay the night in Flores via that nightmare transport you have written about

(which will never be worse than the Zimbabwe overnight train estimated to be 9 hrs and lasting 14 hrs. All while having food poisoning!)

Do sunrise at Tikal and head to Belize City.

I'm finding that the times for leaving Flores for BC will be before the tour would get back from Tikal, and we would have to stay another night. We also hate guided tours and just want to go for sunrise then leave.

Thoughts? Advice?

Would have emailed but app is being funny right now.


Tuesday 13th of November 2018

Well, i recently arrived to tikal hitchhiking from the border (got a colectivo from san Ignacio to the border for 2,5usd) to El Remate (took me 5min, busride was offered once for 25q), then hopped on a bus for 30q to the 2nd entrance of tikal. Paid 100 (2x50) for the hammock and slept like a baby - i thought bringing an inlet and a torch are a nobrainer. You do not need to book a sunset ticket, as sunset will be around 5.30pm and the park closes at 6pm. In my opinion its just a massive tourist Trap. Booked the sunrise ticket though, and after the first bus from flores arrived i asked the Tourguide if he can pretend that i was a member of his group which he did (Had to buy him a coffee though). And although i didnt see the actual sunrise it was still mystical walking around completely on my own listening to the incredible howler monkeys. At 11am i paid 45q for transportation to flores. Side note: If you do the sunrise tour, you do not need a daypass for that very day, the ticket of the day before is sufficient. Also, i was never checked in the park, although i was back at the entrance once at 6.15pm and the day after around 10am (sunrise ticket is officially valid till 7am). So it doesnt have to be a bad thing to organize everything on your own, i actually prefer diy and getting the reward.


Thursday 20th of July 2017

I am glad I read this, because I have been planning to visit Guatemala for a while now, and I am 100% sure I would not take the tour to Tikal either. As a traveler on a budget too, sometimes we realise it is just not worth the ordeal.. Thinking on the bright side of things, at least you ended up with material for this great guide. ;) thanks for sharing your experience

Archana Singh

Thursday 20th of July 2017

Two difficult bus rides in a day can put any one out of order. Kudos to you for doing them. Your tips are very practical and useful. And I agree to get an authentic experience you really don't need to put yourself through hell :P

Swati & Sam

Wednesday 19th of July 2017

Great post and great tips. Will bookmark this page. It sucks to be in a situation where you find out that some rule has been changed just sometime ago. Love the pic of the tree.