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Geography and history is what attracts people to Flores. The town rests on the island that was the location of the last independent Mayan City State of Tayasal. The kingdom of Tayasal held out until 1697, when the Spanish conquered the island by using boats. The modern city of Flores was built on top of these ruins.The city itself is a nice colonial place to visit although most people just stop here on their way to Tikal. It is worth spending a day or two here on your way to Tikal.
The island town of Flores is located in the center of Lake Peten Itza in Peten, the northern area of Guatemala. Flores as a town istelf is small, less than 10 blocks or 2km square. The island town is accessible by a 750 metre causeway connecting nearby Santa Elena.
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Mundo Maya International Airport (FRS) is also known as Flores International Airport. This is a small airport mainly servicing tourist that want to experience Tikal. The airport is located approximately 3kms to the east of Flores, a US$2 taxi ride or 10mins on one of the local buses.
The airport is currently undergoing expansion in order to handle more passengers. Currently most flights are to Guatemala City, Cancun and Belize City and are serviced by TACA or Transportes Aereos Guatemaltecos(TAG). Although there are a few flights to Houston serviced by Continental Express, Puerto Barrios serviced by Inter-Taca, Mérida (Mexico) serviced by Aviateca and San Salvador serviced by Inter-Taca.
Main access by road to Flores/Santa Elena is via Rio Dulce.
To arrive at Flores by bus, travellers will generally need to buy a ticket to the final destination of Santa Elena. The new bus station in Santa Elena is only 2 blocks from the causeway bridge to Flores and is the arrival point for most long distance buses. Currently, Linea Dorado is the only company running buses that travel over the 750m causeway, termating in Flores.
Direct Buses are available from Guatemala City, Puerto Barios and Chiquimula. Buses from Coban or Belize are also available. Schedules can be found at thebusschedule.com.
It is possible to arrange direct transport to Mexico into Palenque. Many travel agencies arrange the trip and make it pretty hassle free. Remember if you take local transport it will be a series of collectivos to a river, then a ferry. The immigration offices are not on the border, have limited hours and be hard to find. If you do not go to the immigration office it is a big fine and lot of paperwork later on the Mexican side. Lastly the collectivos on the Mexican side do not operate late at night.
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With at total geographical size of less than 2km square, the island of Flores is small enough to walk the entire city by foot in under an hour.
Tuk-Tuk taxis are readily available throughout Flores. None of these are metered however, so be sure you negotiate the fare before setting out or you might be in for a nasty surprise. Drivers are familiar with tourists and won´t hesitate to try and charge you tourist prices; a friendly but firm instance on a fair price will usually suffice. Ask at your hotel or hostel for the expected fare to your desitination.
Being such a small town (less than 10 blocks), Flores doesn't have the usual buses and trains to get around. The nearest bus stations are located across the bridge in the town of Santa Elena. Use the bus stations in Santa Elena to catch a bus to nearby attractions.
Decent mountain bikes are available for rent from Backabush Bike Tours on Av Barrios. As at August 2009, these were US$2.00 per hour.
|La Mesa de los Mayas Hotel||Avenida Reforma||Hotel||71|
See also Money Matters
There is only one ATM in the town of Flores. This ATM is a free standing cash machine and is not afilliated or attached to any bank. There are no banks within the town of Flores, however several major banks have branches located a short 15-20 minute walk across the bridge to the town of Santa Elana.
Internet access is widely available. Even most of the more remote areas have some type of internet access available. Many larger areas also have WiFi. All of the Camperos chicken/pizza restaurants (which are numerous) offer free WiFi, as well as many other restaurants and cafes. Some hotels may also offer computer banks with internet access. Just ask and you eventually will find some sort of free access.
If you have a smartphone such as iPhone, Google Android, you just need a local SIM card (roughly Q25) and can start enjoying the prepaid access plans, which generally come in lots of an hour, a day, or a week.
See also International Telephone Calls
Guatemala's emergency phone numbers include 110 (police), 120 (ambulance) and 123 (fire). Guatemala's international calling code is 502. There are no area codes. Phone numbers all have eight digits.
The phone system isn't great, but it works. Tourists can call abroad from call centers, where you pay by the minute. It is also easy to purchase a calling card to use at public pay phones. The phones there do not accept money, so to use a public phone on the street you must purchase a telephone card. Typically, the cost is around 8 quetzals for a 10-min call to North America, and slightly more to Europe. Cell phones are quite cheap and calling overseas through one can get as low as $0.08 a min. If you are planning to stay for a while and plan to use the phone, you should consider buying a cheap prepaid phone. Wireless nation-wide internet access for laptops is also available as a service from some companies. Telefónica has good coverage with their PCMCIA EV-DO cards.
El Correo is the national postal company in Guatemala. It offers a wide range of services, including sending cards and packages both domestically as well as internationally. Most Guatemalan towns have a post office, although your best bet is to send mail from a large city. Service at El Correo is improving, thanks to consultation and assistance from Canada Post. Most post offices open from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Airmail letters to North America and Europe cost from Q6.50 and take a week or two to arrive. High-end hotels can usually send your mail for you, too. Expect packages you send through the Guatemalan mail system to take a very long time to arrive. They usually get there in the end, but it's worth paying extra for recorded delivery (correo registrado). Many stores can ship your purchases for you, for a cost. Valuable items are best sent with private express services. Couriers operating in Guatemala include DHL, UPS, and FedEx. Delivery within two to three business days for a 1-kg package starts at about Q500.
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