The border crossing from Belize to Guatemala was a breeze for us, it took about 45 minutes total. Unfortunately, our Australian friends Earth-Roamers had left hours before us and were still at the border struggling when we got there. I think it was a three hour crossing for them. My only advice, have lots of copies of your paperwork before you get to the border, drivers license, passport, registration and pink slip and it will go much faster. Also, no matter how frustrating and stressful a border crossing is, be VERY nice to everyone, they are in control, they can make your day very miserable if they chose. We went out of our way to be extremely positive and the Guatemalan border officials were just great to us, even making copies for us for free (when other overlanders had to walk into town to use the copy machine multiple times).
Update (April 30th, 2014): Just wanted to clarify a point. The main reason our border crossing was so easy was just the luck of the draw with our border agent! He was willing to make copies for us (and stamp the copies that we brought with us). Other border agents just refused to do this for others we know who crossed the border around the same time. Unfortunately, when crossing a border, the agent you get completely controls the 2 square feet on their desk, and there just isn’t much you can do if they are in a bad mood or just don’t feel like helping you out for whatever reason.
My only other advice is that if you are going directly to Tikal, make sure you bring in enough Belize money to change at the border, or get Guatemalan money once you cross the border in the “town” at the border. We had about $150 US, but used a bunch of it in all the border fees leaving Belize and entering Guatemala. There is only one ATM we found on the direct road to Tikal in El Remate, and it was out of money, so we had to find a large gas station with an ATM that took us about an hour out of our way total. Tikal is pricey, and you will need around $60 US for two people to visit and camp for one night, so you will definitely need cash.
I did not have any expectations going into Tikal or know much about it, and we were both pleasantly surprised by our visit. Tikal is one of the largest Mayan sites and it was one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. While Tikal does not have the beautiful carvings and stone work of Uxmal or Palenque, its towering pyramids hidden in the animal filled jungle made it really spectacular and definitely worth a visit.
We camped in the park and tried to enter the park at 5:00 am to watch the sunrise from Temple IV, but were unfortunately stopped by guards and told we had to wait until the park opened at 6:00am. Apparently, if you want the pleasure of watching the sunrise over the ruins you have to pay for a guide (of course…) and after spending almost $60 to enter and camp we passed, and tried to unsuccessfully do it ourselves. Waking up at 4:30 am for nothing, FAIL.
However, we hiked to Temple IV alone in the jungle and saw a ton of animals and were blessed with unusually cool and sunny weather of around 70 degrees all day. We saw the lingering sunrise which was beautiful, and because we started so early we saw a crazy amount of animals, including toucans, parrots, spider and howler monkeys and coatimundi. By around 9:30 am the animals were gone back to their jungle homes, so head out early if you want to to see them. Also, we were surprised at how spread out this site was, we walked over 10 kilometers to see all the ruins and were glad we wore our hiking shoes and brought in lots of water and food.
Here are our highlights from Tikal:
The town of El Remate was a nice place to spend the night after we visited Tikal to cool off in the lake and get ready for our long drive the next day to the Guatemala highlands for some hiking and exploration.