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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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NYC Part 3: Evening in Manhattan

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I spent a long weekend in NYC. You can read about Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

After spending most of the day in Brooklyn, we took the Q train back into Manhattan. We had dinner plans with a friend of David’s on the Upper East Side that evening, but knew we had a little time to kill first, so we got off in Midtown Manhattan. I wanted David to see Times Square for the first time.

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We got off the subway at the Times Square station. I looked around the part of the city I was most familiar with and felt that deep, uniquely New York energy. Together with about a billion of our closest friends, we walked around Times Square. On a Saturday evening. Even in March it was ridiculously crowded. David said it reminded him of India, but was not as crowded or as hot (but he was in India in July and New York in March). We stopped into H&M (one of his favorite stores, because it’s Swedish) and looked around for a while.

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We went to the Disney Store which was insanely packed, even for the Disney store. I, of course, wanted to buy every princess item in the store, but walked out empty-handed. Next we visited the M&M store where, again, I wanted to buy everything in sight but, again, restrained myself. It’s like $8 for a magnet and $30 for a T-shirt and I’m not made of money. It’s so tourist-y, but God, I love Midtown. David wasn’t impressed though. He said it was like “any other big city.” Sigh.

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We took the subway uptown to the Upper East Side. We found our way to a little cafe called Alice’s Tea Cup to meet a friend of David’s. It is a cute little Alice In Wonderland themed tea shop, and they also offer sandwiches, soups, and salads. The food was good, but a little on the pricey side. I had a grilled cheese with vegetables on regular pre-sliced loaf bread and it was like $20. There’s no tipping, but still, it was a bit too expensive for what it was. I guess that’s New York for ya.

David and his friend split a pot of chocolate chai tea. I have never liked tea. I’ve tried it hot, I’ve tried it iced, I’ve tried it sweet, I’ve tried it with milk, I just do not like tea. They offered me some, but I had just a sip of David’s. It was pretty good, which is a huge endorsement from me because, as I said, I do not like tea.

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After dinner we headed down to the Village near NYU. We took tourist-y photos in Washington Square Park, then went to a bar called “Fat Black Pussycat” which is above The Comedy Cellar. We showed our ID’s at the door (the only time we were carded in NYC, surprisingly), then stood at the bar with a few beers.

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We chatted and drank for a while before David said “Is that that dude from 30 Rock? Frank?” We looked over to the table he indicated. In the dark bar, we weren’t sure, but it sure looked like him. “The one with the hats?” David’s friend asked. “Yeah, him…Judah Friedlander?” David answered. David’s friend suggested that perhaps he was performing at The Comedy Cellar downstairs. We checked it out, and it was totally him. (Getting excited over seeing a B-list celebrity in “the wild,” check).  Also, they had a Polish Beatles poster!

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We finished our beers, walked around the Village for a while, then headed back towards Queens. David’s friend was very concerned we’d get lost, but we didn’t. We ended up back in our Airbnb without incident.

Read about our adventures at the 9/11 memorial, Broadway, and more in my next NYC post! (Update 5/20/18: All posts posted!  See part 5 and part 6 now!) Did you enjoy this post? Have you visited New York before? Did you have a celebrity sighting? Tell me about it 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!