Be warned, 24 hours in Flores is rushed and tiring. I know, not a great way to start, right!? Don’t let it put you off. Some adventures when you are travelling are always going to be rushed and tiring. It’s all apart of the fun and the journey! This trip also has a special place in my heart, as I met a great group of people on the bus to Flores, that I ended up travelling with for the next week. If your starting in Belize City, the bus to the Guatemalan border is smooth and uneventful. From there, it is a hot, humid, tiring few hours. When leaving the Belize border, you are required to fill out a tourism survey. Being a full bus on the day I went, there was quite a few of us and it was a struggle to find a spot on the tiny table to fill out the survey. Once you have completed your survey off you head through 2 different check points. The first is where you will pay your $39.50 Belize ($19 US.) The second check point is where you get your exit stamp on your passport.
Once you are through, keep to your left. You will come to a wide covered platform where you will see everybody lined up. This is where you get your Guatemalan visa and stamp. Keep your eyes open, there are no signs pointing you in the right direction. I made the mistake of nearly walking straight past it without getting stamped. The only reason I was made aware by my mistake, was a girl on my bus asked me if I got stamped. She nearly did the same thing, so it wasn’t just me being a blondie! I had been warned several times about the Guatemalan immigration officers asking for a non existent 20Q ($2.50) entrance fee, that they are actually pocketing for themselves. I didn’t get asked for this, which I found a relief. I never like starting out in a country like that, it always puts a damper on the place straight away.
Welcome to Guatemala! You will head back on your coach bus for roughly about another hour, until you come to the town before Flores, Santa Elena. I took the with the bus company Mundo Maya. On the Belize side it was great and there was no pressure from anyone. Once on the Guatemalan side, I felt like I was with a completely different bus company. This is where you will start to get pressured about tours, buses onwards from Flores, hostels and ATM machines.
I read a lot about the so called ‘coyotes’ that try and pressure you into various different things through their tour companies. I stayed in the famous hostel Los Amigos, and their confirmation email even has 3 long paragraphs warning you about these ‘tour companies.’ Soon we were in Santa Elena and our coach bus was split into a few smaller shuttles. Flores being such a small island, the big coach bus cannot navigate it’s way through the tiny streets in Flores. We stopped at an ATM before heading over. I was skeptical about this, but it turned out fine. It was from a genuine bank. Whether or not our bus drivers get commission for this, I don’t know. This stop is going to test your patience! 30 people standing in line, in 37C degree heat slowly all trying to money out! Oh, the joys of travelling! There is only one ATM in Flores and it is a little sketchy, so I am glad I got my money out here. This basically is your only choice.
Finally back on the shuttle onwards towards a well deserved cold frosty beer and a rest. Or so you think. 10 minutes of constantly saying ‘no’ for tours, hotels, buses etc we stopped at the Mundo Maya Guatemala Tour Companies office. Los Amigos confirmation email warns not to buy from here to wait and get to the hostel. That’s what I chose to do, other people brought their Tikal Tour here. At the end of the day it’s your choice, I personally think wait until you get to your hostel. After all their pressure, it put me off buying anything from them. After promising several times they would drop us off at hostel Los Amigos, when me and 2 other girls refused to buy tour tickets with Mundo Maya, our shuttle driver asked ‘where you going?’ Again, we replied ‘Los Amigos.’ To our horror he started dragging our bags out of the van telling us the walking directions to the hostel. I was fed up! I grabbed my bag off him told him no you are dropping me at the hostel like you promised and told the 2 other girls to get back on the shuttle, I followed. Standing your ground against these bullies is a must. They promise to drop you at your hostel until they see you didn’t buy Tikal tickets through them, and then tell you to walk. Oh hell no!!
I could tell they were pissed about it, but the way I was feeling, by then I didn’t give a sh*t! Finally arriving at Los Amigos was such a releif. Even when, I was standing in line for 20 minutes waiting for everyone else to check in. At least I had made it! After dumping my bag, I walked around the hidden oasis that is Las Amigos. Inside Los Amigos. They have their own Tour Agency that booked my Tikal Tour and my bus onwards to Antigua. Mike, who was working at the time was great and made the buying process smooth and easy.
There are 4 different Tikal Tours you can choose from. 3am gets you there at sunrise, 4.30am is morning, 8am for during the day and 12pm is where you can catch the sunset. All tour prices are 110Q ($15.) I chose the 4.30am, due to the season, it had been cloudy for the past month and 3am is way to early for me to be getting up to catch a cloudy sunrise. It takes an hour and a bit to get to the entrance of the park. On top of the price of your tour, you will need to pay 150Q ($20) when you come to the park entrance. Once there, our tour guide gathered us and we were on our way to see the beautiful Tikal Ruins. These are the ruins I was most looking forward to seeing. They were beautiful in every way and it was worth the early morning wake up call to see them in the light of the morning. The only thing I must admit is, I would if been happy to have grabbed a map and walked around the park myself and not had a guide.
It was great hearing the history, but my gosh, when your tour guide goes on and on and repeats himself, you can start to do exactly what I did and drift off, not listening to a word. When the opportunity to walk around by myself unguided, before my 11am bus back, I took off to explore this beautiful park. When my morning came to an end, I was back on my shuttle bus, and back in Flores by 1pm.
I was heading off that night, to Antigua, on the overnight bus. I had lots of hours to kill and what better way to kill those hours then looking around tiny colourful Flores. I covered the whole town in about 2 hours. I would have loved to sit down somewhere and eat lunch, but I found Flores quite expensive for Guatemala. The only place I ate while I was there, was at Los Amigos. Their prices weren’t cheap, although they were cheaper than the rest of the town. The hours until my 8pm overnight bus came quick, and with an exhausting 24 hours in Flores over, I was heading off to my next stop, Antigua.
Getting to Flores: Mundo Maya
The Overnight Bus: Hedman Alas
Los Amigos drops you at the bus station at 8pm. From there you take a big coach bus, arriving in Guatemala City at 6am. This is just a short and sweet layover. 30 minutes later I was back on a shuttle bus heading towards Antigua. The shuttle dropped me at my hostel at around 7.30am. Even if you’re tired and look like a hot mess, make sure you head out to see Antigua this early and have some breakfast somewhere. You won’t regret it!
Where I Stayed – Los Amigos
This is the most popular hostel in Flores. Every person on my bus was heading here for their stay in Flores. It has a great reputation, it’s got great vibes and it’s like finding the secret garden of Guatemala. The beds are simple and peaceful. The food is great and the best prices on the small island.
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