I just booked my flight from Flores (nearest airport to Tikal which is about another hour way by driving) to Guatemala City just through a travel agent. But it did seem to me that there are two major airlines flying to Flores. The bigger one is TACA airlines and I later learned that TAG is the smaller company. And one of my co-tourists who is also Guatemalan (but living in Germany) said that TAG is how the “Guatemalans Fly” because of the small plane.
Going to Tikal (November 2009) my plane had only 34 passengers but it did have a steward and drinks were given for the hour long flight. It did not seem too small. But on my return, I was in a plane that had only 10-15 passengers and it is so small, lol. There’s no flight attendant and there was a bottle of mineral water waiting for you on your seat. I actually sat in front of the plane and there is one seat on one aisle and two on the other (I shared with a nice older lady). But the man beside me was bit claustrophobic and he was panicking and so I just tried to joke around him. The heat in the plane also did not help.
The passengers are separated from the cockpit by a curtain and if I extended my legs, my foot would be in the cockpit. But the engines started to roar and it is very very loud. The flight fortunately is less than an hour, and these pilots are really very well-experienced and well-trained. Other than the cramped situations and loud engine, it was tolerable.
But if you do have claustrophia, I suggest you make sure you ride the bigger TACA planes or if you are with TAG, make sure you specify that you need to be in the plane that at least seats 30 people.
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE!
In 2012, there was talk of the end of the world!
(which did not happen of course,
otherwise you would not be reading this)
So I made a little video of my short trip to Tikal, haha
Hope you like it:
JUMPING NORMAN IN TIKAL, GUATEMALA!
In the Netherlands we booked a group tour through Baobab. The Mayian Tour visiting, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Belize. This is an excellent way of discovering the ancient Maya parks.
Flights heading for Tikal leave from both International (TACA and Tikal Airlines) and National (the rest) airports. Departures are commonly early in the morning 6-7am and just over an hour if I remember correctly, which I may not... Return flights are late in the afternoon/early evening 4-6pm. The airport at Tikal is actually a few kilometers outside of Flores, a popular town to stay in during your visit to Tikal. Taxis shuttle passengers between the Flores airport and the town.
We took a TAG flight and paid arround $80US each. It was a small plane, but the service and overall experience was better than some international flights I've been on! We received a small snack and drink, and the seats were really spacious.
Travel agencies in virtually every tourist hotspot sell plane tickets to Tikal. Just shop around for the best deal. Note: The bigger airlines eg TACA are more expensive but have bigger planes.
We flew to Flores from Guatemala City Airport (Aurora International) with TACA on a small twin prop plane. I really love flying on these but nervous flyers should be prepared for something that looks and feel very different from your average modern jet. Unfortunately our flight was an evening one and it was dark throughout its brief 50 minutes, so we couldn’t see anything of Guatemala below us. Despite the shortness of the flight however, the cabin crew found time to serve a snack – an empanada and fruit juice.
On landing in Flores we collected our bags which were quickly delivered to the hatch at one side of the tiny terminal, and were met outside by the representative of STP who was to drive us to our hotel, Miguel. Like all the STP employees we met, he was friendly and informative, and we were pleased to hear that he was to be our guide the next morning.
After about an hour's driving we arrived at Tikal, where Miguel paid our entrance fees and handed over a map so that we could see a little of what the next day was to bring. We arranged to meet after breakfast and he headed off home to Flores for the night, leaving us to check into the Jungle Lodge.
It is easy to book transport from Flores to Tikal. I booked from the hotel the evening before going and I booked a seat on the 5am bus, the first bus leaving in the morning. The return trip was 60 quetzales (July 2009).
The bus drives around Flores and I was picked up outside my hotel at 5.15. When we arrived in Tikal the bus stopped at Jaguar Inn and Restaurant and there they had prepared sandwiches, tea and coffee for breakfast. It was convenient and quick to buy the breakfast hear. A sandwich and coffee was 25 quetzales. At 7.00 I had paid the admission to the Archaeological Park and was on my way to the ruins.
Coming back from the ruins I quickly visited the two museums and than caught the bus at 14.00 back to Flores. The company had several buses leaving for Flores in the afternoon and the seat was not booked in advance, which is good as you don’t know how much time you will need at the site.
The park closes at sunset and EVERYBODY is supposed to leave the premises. If you have watched the sun setting from the elevated heights of Temple 4, it is going to take you at least half an hour to reach the exit. Meanwhile the darkness has set in. The place calms down eerily and possible jaguar attacks start to buzz in your head. So, if you see the pick-up truck of the ranger-cum-garbage collector ask for a ride (with the garbage) and you will save legs, time and gain a very typical Centro American travel experience; my San Salvador
page elaborates on this phenomenon.
The travel agency San Juan, based in Flores/Santa Elena provides transportation from this hub to the pyramids of Tikal. Except, what was a good intention did not realize fully at the end. Apparently the clutch of the minibus was so worn out that midway to the park the vehicle started to have hiccups especially on the hills. Hardly arriving at the gate of the park (another 17km to the pyramids) the chauffer announced the poor state of affairs and meanwhile talked to a "chicken bus” driver just happening to pass by. The offer was to wait 15min. or board the local bus. The vast majority of the tourists chose the second option. First it was a scream of a culture experience and second we were delivered in time for the sunset as planned. Huraaaa!
As far as Tikal, we flew from Belize City to Tikal. I wouldn't take a private car. There are rumors that private cars get stopped. I would instead take a bus or a flight. Buses are good because there's safety in numbers. Here again, watch your wallet and keep an eye on your bags. I like backpacks inside of a duffel. The flight was about $100 pp each way. Flights are detailed here. http://www.enjoy-belize.com/transfers/tropic-air.htm. It's a little pricey. But, if you subtract the cost of the bus, it's not too bad. The views are way cool. Another option is to use the bus one way and the plane in the other.
Warning, it looked VERY CONFUSING to try to arrange a trip from Belize to Tikal on your own---its pretty far from the Belizean border and was basically in the middle of no where. The border crossing looked a bit complex---and I have made several land crossings myself (Morocco/Argentina & Uruguay/ Brazil & Argentina) and this by far looked overly involved. Also, there are tons of incidents of tourists getting mugged on the way to Tikal from Belize.
Flores - regular shuttles will pick you up in the morning at your hotel starting at 4am. Book round trip ticket and come back whenever you want.
To Belize - shuttle or some bus to Puente Ixlu/El Cruce 2 km past El Remate. catch bus heading to Melchor and the "frontera". After completing Guatemalan and Belizian customs, catch a Taxi to Benque or San Ignacio.
From Belize - After completing Guatemalan customs, cross the bridge and find a minivan going to Flores. Make sure locals are boarding also or else you'll pay for a private trip. Get of at Puente Ixlu/El Cruce and walk to El Remate or hope for a bus or van.
Uaxactún - to go to some ruins deep in the jungle there is a bus that goes here. Probably around 4pm but you'll have to ask.
Tikal one day or Overnitht - Every day
from Guatemala or Flores
TOUR DESCRIPTION: 5:00 am - Early in the morning, departure from La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City to Peten. A 30 minute flight will take us to Santa Elena. Meet at the Airport, and transfer to the fascinating Tikal National Park, for a guided visit of the site. We will visit the Temples I, II, III, IV, and the Q,N,R complexes, and the central and north Acropolis. Tikal boasts more than 300 structures and is regarded as the most excavated Mayan Site to date. Lunch at the Park. In the late afternoon, transfer back to the airport to take your flight back to Guatemala City (18:55 pm Flores to Gua). End of services.
Price from $50.00 per person
Incluide: Transportation Flores - Tikal - Flores, Speake english guide, lunch and entrances fee.
Flight with TACA or TAG. $
Flores Hotels cooperate in a system that brings tourists to Tikal in the morning, and then returns them at night. This is not a free service, and relative to the ordinary public bus system, it's rather expensive. But, it's not expensive by American tourist standards, and a lot cheaper than the tour package. As soon as you arrive at your hotel in Flores or elsewhere, check about the possibility of getting a shared van to Tikal. In our case, the van stopped by the hotel well before daybreak, and with the help of the hotel we were ready to go. Everyone was pretty sleepy, but breakfast at the Tikal restaurant wasn't all that bad.
When we opted for our impromptu trip to Tikal, with no Spanish to fall back on, we were not exactly sure what to expect. However, with lots of tips from other travellers at our Trek Stop stay in Belize, we decided to give it our best shot. By 7 AM we were standing on the highway headed for the border when a 'share cab' stopped to pick us up (US$3). As soon as we arrived we were set upon by money changers, in both Belize and the 'no man's land' between border stations. Planning only a short trip, I changed a minimal amount of BZ$300 (US$150) into 1050 Quetzales and got on with the border formalities. Things went well, US$37.50 to exit Belize and ~US$3 to enter Guatemala. Between border posts, we had been approached by a taxi driver, who pointed me to the proper immigration forms for the Guatemalan side. Once we were through, he and I discussed how we were going to continue our journey, since practically everyone else was already attached to a pre-paid tour of some sort. The going rate for a 'taxi' ride to Tikal had been US$60 but had recently been reported as raised to US$75 from our information, so when the driver offered to take us both for US$40 we accepted it after a bit of haggling (after all, we only had one night to play with so did not have a lot of time available to be waiting around!) and we were underway by 8:30 AM (continued next Tip).
The easiest way to make the journey to Tikal is by plane . We flew from Guatemala city to Flores and then travelled by cab ( about a 30 min. ride) to El Remate . We decided to base ourselves here as it is twice as close to the park as Flores. We flew with Taca Air , making our reservations before we left home . It was about $200.00 return.
THERE ARE TRAVEL AGENTS AROUND ANTIGUA AND FLORES WHICH ARRANGE TRIPS TO TIKAL BY SHUTTLE SERVICE. BECAUSE ANTIGUA IS MUCH FURTHER AWAY FROM TIKAL, I'M NOT SURE HOW THEY'D WORK BUT HOWEVER, IF YOU BOOK A SHUTTLE SERVICE IN FLORES THEY WILL PICK YOU UP FROM YOUR HOTEL AT AN ARRANGED TIME TO TAKE YOU ON ABOUT AN HOUR'S TRIP TO TIKAL.
ON THE TRIP BACK, YOU CAN TAKE ANY SHUTTLE YOU WANT (WHICH LEAVES EVERY HOUR) SO JUST SHOW THE DRIVER YOUR TICKET. BE WARNED, THE LAST SHUTTLE LEAVES AT 6PM.