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Getting There

By Plane -- TACA Regional Airline (tel. 502/2470-8222; www.taca.com) has two daily flights to Flores Airport (FRS) from La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. Flights depart at 7am and 5:25pm, with return flights at 8:30am and 4:50pm. TAG Airlines (tel. 502/2380-9401; www.tag.com.gt) has one daily flight departing at 6:30am and returning from Flores at 4:30pm. The flight takes around 50 minutes, and fares range from Q1,575 to Q1,800 ($210-$240/£105-£120) each way.

The Flores airport is on the road to Tikal, about 2.4km (1 1/2 miles) east of Santa Elena. A taxi from the airport into Santa Elena or Flores should cost you around Q20 ($2.65/£1.35). Collective taxis and minivans to Tikal are usually waiting at the airport (if not you'll have to head into Santa Elena or Flores first). These charge around Q25 and Q50 ($3.35-$6.65/£1.65-£3.35) per person each way. A private taxi can be hired for Q250 to Q400 ($33-$53/£17-£27).

By Bus -- Autobuses del Norte (ADN; tel. 502/2251-0610 in Guatemala City, or 7924-8131 in Santa Elena; www.adnautobusesdelnorte.com; Estación Central, 8a Av. 16-41, Zona 1), and Línea Dorada (tel. 502/2232-5506 in Guatemala City, or 7926-0070 in Santa Elena; www.tikalmayanworld.com; 16a Calle 10-03, Zona 1) both have regular buses between Guatemala City and Santa Elena/Flores. Fares run between Q180 and Q263 ($24-$35/£12-£18) each way, with a slight discount for purchasing a round-trip fare. The trip on either bus line takes around 8 to 9 hours. If you arrive by bus, you'll have to arrange a taxi, collective taxi, or minivan ride out to Tikal. Línea Dorado also has service to and from Belize City.

By Car -- To drive to Tikal from Guatemala City, you must first drive to Santa Elena. The best and fastest route is via Río Dulce. Take the Carretera al Atlántico (CA-9) out of Guatemala City to La Ruidosa crossroads at Km 245. From here it's 34km (21 miles) north on highway CA-13 to Río Dulce and another 180km (112 miles) from Río Dulce to Santa Elena. From Santa Elena, you'll need to drive 32km (20 miles) to the crossroads at Ixlú (El Cruce), and turn north toward Tikal, which is 65km (40 miles) away. The route and turnoffs are all well marked, and the drive should take about 8 hours.

Warning: It's strongly advised that you do not drive at night. It's a sad fact that armed groups occasionally set up roadblocks along these isolated, yet frequently trafficked, roads. While this is a rare occurrence, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Shameless Plug -- If you're traveling on to Belize, you'll want to pick up a copy of Frommer's Belize.

By Organized Tour -- Organized day trips leave daily for Tikal from Guatemala City and Antigua. Costs for these all-inclusive trips are approximately Q1,875 to Q2,625 ($250-$350/£125-£175) per person including round-trip airfare, ground transportation, park entrance fees, a guide, and lunch. These tours generally leave at around 5am and get back to Guatemala City or Antigua at around 6pm. Budget an additional Q375 to Q1,125 ($50-$150/£25-£75) per person per day for multiday excursions, depending on the level of accommodations chosen. In Guatemala City, call Maya Vacations (tel. 502/2426-1400; www.mayavacations.com), Clark Tours (tel. 502/2412-4848; www.clarktours.com.gt), or Via Venture (tel. 502/7832-2509; www.viaventure.com).

Getting Around

By Taxi or Minivan -- If you don't have a car, the best way to get around this area is by minivan. Minivans from Flores and Santa Elena to Tikal leave roughly every hour between 5am and 10am, and less frequently thereafter. These minivans leave from Tikal for the return trip roughly every hour from noon to 6pm. Every hotel in Flores and Santa Elena can arrange a minivan pickup for you. The trip usually takes an hour and costs Q25 and Q50 ($3.35-$6.65/£1.65-£3.35) per person each way. You can buy a round-trip fare at a slight savings; however, this commits you to a specific minivan company, and I've found I prefer paying a little extra to have more flexibility in grabbing my return ride when I'm ready to leave.

A private cab (which is usually a minivan) from Tikal to Santa Elena/Flores will run around Q250 to Q400 ($33-$53/£17-£27) each way. Between Tikal and El Remate (later in this chapter), the fare is about Q150 to Q200 ($20-$27/£10-£13). Be sure to bargain, as the first price you are quoted is almost certainly above the going rate and subject to some negotiation.

By Car -- There are several local car-rental agencies at the airport. Of these, a good choice is Tabarini Rent A Car (tel. 502/7926-0253; www.tabarini.com). All rent small jeeps and SUVs. Do get a four-wheel-drive vehicle; even though you may never need the traction or off-road ability, the extra clearance will come in handy. Rates run from Q300 to Q410 ($40-$110/£20-£55) per day.

Orientation

Tikal National Park is located 65km (40 miles) north of the sister towns of Flores and Santa Elena. There is no village or town inside Tikal National Park. There is an entrance booth 18km (11 miles) south of the ruins. After paying your entrance fee and driving in, you will come to the large central parking area and visitor center. This is where you'll find the three hotels and campsite as well as the two museums, a collection of simple restaurants, and the trail entrance, from which the ruins are about a 15- to 20-minute walk through the forest.

There's a post office and telegraph office on the left as you arrive at the parking area. You'll find a public phone in the Stelae Museum. There's no bank or ATM in Tikal, and most of the little restaurants and gift stands only accept quetzales. While some of the hotels here do accept credit cards, the phone connections are spotty, and they sometimes have problems getting the authorizations, so it's best to bring quetzales to pay for your entire stay. Also, be sure to bring plenty of insect repellent with you -- the bugs here are rapacious.

Fast Facts -- There are no banks, medical facilities, laundromats, or other major services available at Tikal. All of these can be found in Flores and Santa Elena, some 65km (40 miles) away.

If you arrive by air, you can exchange money at Banquetzal (tel. 502/7926-0711) in the departure area of the small airport. It's open daily from 7am to noon and 2 to 5pm. You'll also find individuals offering to exchange money (which is safe), but you're better off heading into Santa Elena or Flores if the Banquetzal branch isn't open. Most of the hotels and restaurants in Tikal, in fact, will exchange dollars for quetzales, though they may give you a slightly less favorable rate than you would get at a bank.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.