A Quick Guide to Taking a Day Trip from Belize to Guatemala

In December of 2017, my husband and I took a 2-week trip to Belize. We decided to spend a week traveling and adventuring, then a week relaxing on the beach. Our first 5 days or so were spent in San Ignacio, in western Belize. It’s an amazing, cute little town and we had a fabulous time there. Since we were so close to Guatemala, we decided to take a day trip there. We picked Tikal, a Mayan historic site. Normally we like to strike out on our own, but for this we decided the best way to get the most out of a single day was to book a tour. Prior to leaving the US, we booked an all-inclusive day tour that picked us up from our Airbnb, drove us to the border, handled immigration, drove us to Tikal, gave us a native Guatemalan (who spoke perfect English) tour guide, lunch, and everything back. We booked with Belize Family Adventures through Viator, it cost $150USD per person, and it was worth it.

Guatemala20171215_111157

We woke up before 7AM, crazy early for vacation. We dressed and packed a small backpack to share with some snacks for breakfast (neither of us are big breakfast people), water, phones, raincoats, and a camera. We were waiting outside of our Airbnb at 7:30AM for a van to pick us up and take us to the Belize/Guatemala border. There was another couple in the van who traveled with us all day.

We arrived at customs, which was a small building that was basically one room with several customs officers collecting the $40BZ ($20USD) exit fee and stamping passports with exit stamps. I’ve only crossed borders (excluding EU borders) on land twice, and that was the US/Canada border, where you aren’t required to get out of the vehicle. It was a new experience for me to cross on foot.

We paid our fees and exited the building on the other side…which wasn’t really Guatemala. We entered something of a no-man’s land. Our tour guide for the rest of the day met us in that no-man’s land. He collected all of our passports (!!!) and handled Guatemalan entry customs. The four of us (me, my husband, and the other couple, who were also American) sat awkwardly in the van, and I know I personally considered the possibility of this guy running off with our passports and leaving us stranded in Guatemala. But no, he brought them back, handed them out and we were on our way.

Guatemala20171215_091317

Our guide was awesome. The whole ride from the border to Tikal he told us cool facts about Guatemala: the people and culture, Mayan history and culture, the geography, the wildlife, you name it. And it didn’t feel like a Discovery Channel documentary: the guy was funny and informative.

Tikal was about 2 hours from the border. On the way there we got to enjoy the true natural beauty of the country.  Guatemala is one of the most stunning, lush, green countries I’ve visited.  Tikal is located about 20-30 minutes inside a National park. Our guide took care of all of the fees and stuff and we all got wristbands that said “extranjero” or “foreigner.”

The ruins are mostly spaced out throughout the park. We had to walk through a lot of forest to get to each building or temple. Not all of the ruins have been restored. You can read more about the ruins in my Tikal photo dump.

Guatemala20171215_125823_HDR

After we walked through and saw most of the ruins (and climbed a lot of them; my legs were sore for days!), we had to head out of the park quickly. On the way out we did stop to see some howler monkeys! It was the first time I’d seen a monkey in the wild.

We made our way out of the park and back to the van. Part of our tour package was lunch, which was late, but good. Honestly a little disappointing because it felt like it was catering to American tourists and not super authentic.  Our tour took us back to the border, through customs, and all the way back to our Airbnb in time for a late supper.

Guatemala20171215_134147

All-in-all, it was a great trip.  I’d definitely recommend a tour to any first-time visitors to Guatemala: I think we were able to make the most of our short visit by cutting out worry about logistics.  We also got so much more out of the trip by having a local guide.

Have you visited Guatemala?  What about Tikal?  Did you use a tour company or strike out on your own?  Tell us about it in the comments below.  Share this post via Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

This post may contain affiliate links. If you sign up with my link you will receive a $20 credit to Airbnb.

 

Advertisements

International Festival

A few Saturdays ago, my husband and I were hanging out in our pajamas and looking through a local radio station’s list of local weekend events. “Oktoberfest with…” I giggled “wiener dog races.” Scrolling with my thumb, I looked over the list. “International Food and Music Festival!” I poked my husband “And it’s free!” After finishing up my blog post (“Sweet Baked Chicken” in case you were wondering) we threw on some clothes and headed out.

“Where are we?” I asked about half an hour later.

“Eastern Wake county” It felt like the middle of nowhere compared to our urban home. I began to feel trepidatious. Would a tiny town in the middle of nowhere have a good international festival, or would Wendell, NC disappoint us by presenting only a handful of stalls?

As we reached the main stretch of town, we knew we were in the right place. Cars lined the street and several hundred (if not a few thousand) people were gathered in the town square. After driving around for a few minutes we found street parking less than a 5 minute walk from the festival.

Live music was being played on the left and a temporary rock wall, inflatable bouncy castle, and various other carnival games were spread out to the right, with about a dozen food stalls in the middle. Each stall represented a different country. Honduras, El Salvador, The Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico, Ireland, Poland, the Philippines, and Louisiana were all represented. We walked from stall to stall, practically drooling, and tried to decide where to eat.

“Let’s just get it all.” My husband suggested. Instead of paying with cash, tickets were purchased at the entrance and food cost anywhere from 1 to 8 tickets. Pulling out a $20 bill, my husband bought 20 tickets and we headed back to the food stalls.

“Where do you want to go first?”

“Hmm…” I thought for a moment, overwhelmed by my options. “The Philippines” I decided. So we headed to the Filipino booth for some barbeque chicken.

“Three tickets please” The attendant said, and we dropped 3 tickets into a bright red box. She handed us a shish kabob with mouth-wateringly delicious looking chicken skewered on it. We moved into the shade, because despite being mid-September it was probably creeping up towards 90F and the sun was beating down on us. The chicken was heavenly. We devoured it in record time, and moved on to the next stall.

Our next stop was Poland for vegetarian pierogi, followed by plantains from Honduras, and veggie tamales from Guatemala. The sun was still beating down, so we went over to the boy scout’s tent for a bottle of water. A polite young man gave us an icy cold bottle of water for 2 tickets. We took turns gulping it down before returning to the food. After getting chicken and rice from the Dominican Republic, we decided it was time for dessert, so we picked up some Irish cream fudge from Ireland.

Standing in the shade near the Irish booth, devouring our fudge, I wondered aloud “Why isn’t there an Indian booth? There’s a huge South Asian population in this area.” Then it hit me: “Theses are all Catholic countries”

“What? No.” My husband countered.

“Yeah, yeah they are! Latin America, Poland, Ireland….”

“What about the Philippines?”

“I think they’re Christian too!” (They are, I looked it up.) “And I guess Louisiana too…” I looked at the map of the festival the smiling middle-aged woman at the entrance had given us. It said “Saint Eugene Catholic Church presents their 15th Annual International Food & Music Festival.”

“Perhaps the booths are run by church members” my husband suggested.

“Maybe so….”

 

Having spent the last of our tickets, we headed back to the car. We drove away from little Wendell, NC with full bellies, and discussions about how far Catholicism has spread, and different the cultures it has touched are. Even only including Catholic countries, this international festival incorporated so much diversity in culture and food. It was an interesting lens through which to see the international community in our area.

Did you enjoy this post?  What are your experiences with international festivals in your area?  What are your thoughts on the spread of Catholicism?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!  Share this post via Facebook or Twitter and, as always, follow me here on WordPress for more GREAT content like this!

Photo creds:

Downtown Wendell: http://www.fabriciuslaw.com/photos/downtown-wendell-nc

Food festival photo: http://www.thefoodfestival.com