Another amazing adventure came to an end. This time I did a solo trip for 1 week in Belize with a day trip to Tikal in Guatemala which is the most magnificent Mayan site in the world.
Honestly, this wasn’t planned at all. I was hesitated to book the flight but finally at 4:00 PM I pressed the purchase flight click and got my tickets for the same day at 8:00 PM.
Two hours of packing and trying to not forgetting anything then driving to the airport and the rest of the flying drama. Everything went amazingly smooth except my return.
Departure From Ottawa, Canada & Arrival In Belize City, Belize
As I mentioned, I had to pack and get ready in 2 hours. Well, gladly with experience the packing becomes easier. The most important things to confirm taking are passport, wallet with credit cards, and phone.
My phone is basically my tour guide. I am a lost soul without it as it includes all the contacts, maps, addresses, lists of things to do, and many more.
I should mention that I use VoIP (You can get $15 by using my link). Basically, VoIP allows me to use my Canadian number anywhere in the world as long as I have access to internet. I can receive and make calls the same way I do while in Quebec, Canada. No extra charges.
I also don’t miss any important phone calls or messages. In addition, I get a copy of all the voice and text messages to my email. The features are endless. The cost is $0.09 per minute.
Back to my trip! So after packing (and forgetting multiple items including my GoPro’s SD Memory card), I made it to the airport. I pre-booked the airport parking using my discount bonus so ended up paying $83 with tax for the 8 days of parking.
After parking the car, the convenient shuttle took me to the airport where I did the check-in using the automatic kiosks, passed the security where they decided to check every item of my baggage manually, and made it to the gate.
This was a very long flight. From Ottawa to Toronto and then to Houston, US before arriving in Belize City, Belize.
Belize immigration and customs were a breeze. It literally took 5 minutes to finish and the only question they asked was to confirm where I am staying.
Note: You get the immigration and customs form to fill before arriving. Make sure you fill and sign it to avoid delaying your process.
Rental Car Process & Day 1 In Belize City, Belize
After exiting the terminal, I just crossed the street to the rental car offices. I had my car booked with AQ Belize Rental. The process was smooth and I left with a 4WD Jeep Patriot. I was happy that the car had dents and scratches here and there.
I had plans to drive in some crazy roads and I didn’t want a new car where every new scratch is too obvious ending in hefty charges.
As always, I declined their CDW/LDW as my credit card has a better coverage with no deductible than theirs. The only issue is that I have to sort out any extra charges for damages and wait for the claim with my credit card insurance (Manulife $MFC). I also had to pay a higher deposit ($800 USD) which I got it back upon returning the car.
I initially needed a rental that allows crossing the border from Belize to Guatemala. The only two rental companies which allow renters to drive from Belize to Guatemala or Mexico are AQ Belize Rental and Crystal Auto Rental.
There are extra charges for the border crossing permit. Crystal Auto charges $20 USD while AQ Belize charges $100 USD for this permit. In addition, renters have to pay extra fees listed below for crossing the border:
- Exiting Belize: Departure tax $20.00 USD per person
- Returning to Belize: $5.00 USD
- Fees at Guatemalan Border: $18.00 GTQ for fumigation & $20.00 GTQ Toll fee
- Car Exit Fees (For Tikal): AQ Rental $100 USD, Crystal Auto $20 USD
I will provide more details later for this crossing and how I did it (without taking my car).
After picking up the car, I started my adventure by driving to Belize City where I stopped by the Belize Sign and also visited Museum of Belize.
Fun Fact: There are 2 Belize Signs in Belize City. One is shown below by Seashore drive while the other one is by the famous Baron Bliss lighthouse.
Fun Fact: Google says the museum is closed on Sundays so I didn’t expect it to be open. However, the museum was open and I could do a quick 1 hour visit here.
The entry for foreign visitors is 8 $BZD or 4 $USD. The museum is kind of small but is filled with lots of readings about Belize history and culture, including the slave industry, ancient Mayan artefacts, eclectic memorabilia, colorful Belize stamps, and a real prison cell.
Fun Fact: Museum of Belize building is a former prison which adds to its heritage.
After the museum visit and a little drive around, it was time to leave Belize City and start my real Belize adventure.
First stop on my way to San Ignacio was Belize Zoo. However, I got there around 4 PM and they said last entry on Sundays is 3 PM so unfortunately I didn’t get to see Belize Zoo.
Fun Fact: Belize Zoo is an institution that cares for over 150 native wildlife, and promotes Conservation, Education, Recreation, and Research. It provides shelter for rescued animals in their natural environment.
As I wanted to reach my destination before it gets dark, I started my drive towards San Ignacio. This little town is full of surprises and the whole Cayo district is such an amazing place for adventure seekers in Belize.
I did a quick stop at a local store to buy some food and snacks before reaching my first hostel. It was a totally deserted hostel which is what I love honestly. I realize most people choose hostels to socialize and find other travelers.
For me, hostels are a way of saving money as I spend a lot on other aspects of my adventures including the rental car expenses.
I think Drift Inn Cayo was a great choice as I ended up being the only visitor in the whole building having the whole garden and pool to myself. I paid $46 CAD for 3 nights in this place.
I highly recommend this place for its amazing beauty. The kitchen was under construction when I visited so I can’t comment on the food. However, I had access to drinking water, coffee and tea, microwave, and fridge.
Day 2: Falls, Pools, Caves, and Mayan Sites
I initially didn’t want to do this on my first full day in Belize but I was so excited and itching to get it out of my way. So, I woke up at 5 AM, prepared breakfast and snacks and left the hostel.
The plan was to drive to the biggest and most isolated Mayan site in Belize, Caracol. Based on my research, the 80 Km takes more than 2 hours to drive which was accurate.
However, my plan was to do many stops along the way to get the best of this crazy road in my 4WD Jeep. First stop was Rio On Pools. This proved to be a fantastic start to this trip. The weather was perfect and I had the whole place to myself. It was magical.
I know no pictures can do justice showing the beauty of this place but here it goes.
After this stop which took more than expected, I decided to drive all the way to Caracol so I won’t be too late to get there. The road was totally empty but a total adventure on its own.
There was an armed army security gate where all visitors had to get off the car and write their name, nationality, and time of arrival. I also needed to do the same on my departure and enter my exit time.
After a long drive, I finally made it to the Maya Ruins of Caracol. There is a small entry fee of 10 $BZD or 5 $USD to enter Caracol which is totally worth it. I was the first one to arrive here so had the site to myself.
I ended up doing some hiking in the forest and visited the giant trees in addition to all the Mayan ruins.
Here is how the entry to Caracol looks like. It was interesting to see the abandoned truck by the entrance. Also, there was no military escort at the time which I think was the case pre Covid.
And here goes the photos of different ruins in Caracol Mayan Site in Belize.
The beauty doesn’t stop by the history of the Maya ruins in Belize. Let’s take a tour of the forest and its beauty.
Do you see the ants’ empire below? It is fascinating how these little creatures are adjusting to all the environment changes and building up levels and levels above the ground instead of the typical underground habitat.
After hiking the Maya Ruins on Caracol and the surrounding forest, it was time to leave this beautiful site to the next adventure on my way back to the hostel.
I stopped by three caves in Mountain Pine Ridge Forest. Two of these caves are called the twin caves of Rio Frio. I foolishly got lost in the second cave and kept wandering around the giant dark maze alone. It took me about 2 hours to find my way out. At some point, I did freak out and started screaming for help with but I knew I was alone there so I kept calm and carried on!
Next adventure was to head to the Rio Frio (Frio River) and check Big Rock Falls! This was another magnificent sight to be wowed about. Belize’s first waterfall in my trip didn’t disappoint!
Glad this was a refreshing experience without lots of stress. I needed to get some rest after the crazy cave shock! While driving back, I witnessed a beautiful scene shown below.
Day 3: The World Most Magnificent Maya Site, Tikal, Guatemala
Some of you might already know through my Twitter that I was working during this trip so every night I had to do hours of work including follow up emails and more. I am glad I delivered the same way I do when working from home.
However, this meant I couldn’t get enough sleep or a stress-free vacation which I totally expected.
Anyway, I asked around about Tikal day trip from San Ignacio and was given a company to contact. I contacted them by WhatsApp and they were very efficient and provided all the details.
The trip cost was $140 USD but I negotiated down to $120 USD which included everything (entry to Tikal National Park, driver, guide in Tikal (I don’t care about guides), and all the border fees except the $20 Belize exit fee).
Why I didn’t take my rental car? If you have been reading through, you must know that the rental car wanted $100 USD for the papers. I then had to pay another $20 USD in Guatemala for the car inspection and wash. On top comes the $26 Tikal entry plus the not cheap gas price.
The worst thing was that I had to drive back to Belize City to get the papers. That’s about 5 hours of round trip wasted time. It wasn’t a logical thing to do.
Fun Fact: Make sure to provide 48 hours notice to your rental if you are planning to take your car abroad in Belize to have the papers ready when picking up the car.
I booked the car last minute (you know I booked the flight 4 hours before the fly time) so didn’t give them the required time notice and it was weekend which didn’t help.
It is a short 30 minutes drive to the border from San Ignacio.
Belize – Guatemala Border Crossing Procedure
After arriving at the border, the first kiosk is to pay the $20 exit fee and get a receipt on the Belize side. Then it is another kiosk to check passport and get an exit stamp.
After this, it is a no-man zone where we walked toward Guatemala immigration. They checked and stamped the passport without collecting any fees and we were in Guatemala in no-time.
Tikal, Guatemala Adventure
After entering Guatemala, we drove for about an hour before stopping by a very beautiful local shop. It looked like more of a museum than a souvenir shop.
The neighborhood around this gallery store was kind of interesting but with depressing dogs roaming around. A lady from our tour bought them a whole pack of chips! Yes, unhealthy but these creatures were starving and there was nothing else to get them.
I loved these houses. Despite their simplicity, the nature and all the flowers made them look so uniquely beautiful.
ِWe made it to Tikal! What a magical place. There are also sunrise and sunset tours for those staying overnight in Tikal or the surrounding area. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time.
Fun Fact: I had this trip booked in March 2020 but cancelled due to some work related circumstances. I planned to stay in the jungle lodge in Tikal at the time.
I should mention that it poured rain as soon as we got there but we used a wagon kind of shuttle to get closer to the first ruin. I also enjoyed the beautiful animals including a monkey in the jungles.
I will cut the texts short here and let you enjoy the beauty of Tikal through below photos. Do you see the birthday party in Tikal?
And here are the cute animals of Tikal!
The pictures so far were just the beginning. Here are more of these amazing place.
I think, this post became long enough with too many photos already. I am going to split the trip to multiple posts to avoid boring you too much!
Until next time. Stay Safe & Happy Travels.