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Belize Mayan Ruins - Caracol (or other suggestions)

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Belize Mayan Ruins - Caracol (or other suggestions)

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1. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Booked a quick 5 1/2 day trip to Belize for the first week of November.

I've decided that the majority of my time will be spent lazing on Caye Caulker. However, I'd like to see some Mayan Ruins as well.

Caracol seems the most impressive, so I was thinking of doing a night in San Ignacio, seeing the ruins the next day, and then going to Caye Caulker that evening. I was thinking of perhaps doing my first night in Belize at San Ignacio, therefore, Belize City International Airport (BZE) to San Ignacio at around 3:30 PM on Saturday.

I have a few questions, if people know...

What options are there for buses to and from Belize City to San Ignacio? Is there a schedule I can see online? Is getting to San Ignacio on Saturday evening, touring the ruins on Sunday and making it back to Belize City in time to catch a boat to Caye Caulker a reasonable schedule?

Can you get independently from San Ignacio to Caracol, or do you need to book a tour? Can these be booked on short notice in San Ignacio?

Conversely, is it worth instead going direct to Caye Caulker and just booking a day trip to one of the sites closer to the island?

Thanks for all your assistance!

2. Posted by J_CyoBze (Budding Member 8 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Greg, Caracol (Snail) is considered to represent the largest Maya city in Belize and home to the largest man-made structure in the country - great choice! There is also Cahal Pech (Place of the Ticks) here in the Twin Town of San Ignacio. Another option would be Xunantunich (Maiden of the Rock) located near the San Jose Succotz Village and definitely one of the most popular sites in the region as it is easily accessible by the Western highway and across one of the last hand-cranked ferries.

Caracol is indeed impressive and I do know for a fact that you can get there on your own but the roads aren't paved so your commuting from one point to the next would be prolonged, as such. Therefore, I would advise you to visit either Cahal Pech or Xunantunich - even both as it is possible to do so in less than a day. Moreover, the latter don't need to be booked in advance as you can get there independently at your convenience. Hence, you would be able to tour the ruins and still manage to make it to your boat to Caye Caulker.

With regard to public transportation there are various lines of buses such as the National Transport Bus Service, originally known as the Novelos Bus Service and still considered by the locals as that. During the week they commute from San Ignacio to Belize and vice versa every half hour; on the weekend they commute every hour. However, I am unsure as to whether their, or any other bus company for that matter, schedule is online.

Let us know if you have any further concerns and/or questions. Good luck on your trip and be sure to enjoy your stay with us. I guarantee that you won't be disappointed as you are experiencing both sides to the 'Belizean Coin' - inland and island!

Josue Diaz

3. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 979 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

There is, or was, an interesting tour behind a waterfall, that showed several Mayan burial sites, with the interred actually there, ossified, in situ. You had to ford a river and go behind a waterfall. That was out of The Cayo as well. That's certainly worth seeing, if the government hasn't shut it for research. It seemed to be a sort of well guarded cottage industry when I was there last.

4. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Thanks. I found this site with a photo of a bus schedule. Looks like hourly departures between Belize City and San Ignacio, 2 hour travel time and BZ$7.00 for a the trip. He seems to keep things pretty up to date - with the last updates in August of this year.

Is there an ATM that takes international cards in the airport? I'll probably come in with some US$. Can I use US$ until I find an ATM?

5. Posted by J_CyoBze (Budding Member 8 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

You're welcome. I'm glad you found a schedule 'online'. Like I said before, there are hourly departures between Belize and San Ignacio. I apologize for not remembering to tell you about the price and the travel time. You are correct on one account - the bus price is BZ$ 7. However, I beg to differ as the travel time these buses take to commute from one point to the next is not two hours but two hours and a half.

On another note, there is an ATM in the airport that accepts international cards. Nonetheless, you can use US Dollars anywhere is the country as it is accepted by any and every one. As a reminder, the fixed exchange rate is US$ 1 - BZ$ 2. Once again I hope I helped.

Josue Diaz

6. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I was just going through my stash of travel money, and came across 255 Mexican pesos. Will these be of any value to me in Belize (i.e. is there anywhere that might take them as payment)? It would be great if I could take and spend them, as exchange rate over here in the UK for Mexican pesos is not great.


7. Posted by J_CyoBze (Budding Member 8 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I'm sorry to disappoint you Greg but Mexican Pesos are a useless currency in Belize as it isn't accepted throughout the country.

I do believe that our northern border in the Corozal District can exchange it for you into Belize Dollars. However, it would be inconvenient to travel there as it isn't in your proposed itinerary.

In any case, if you feel the need to change it then what you can probably do is book a day trip from your island to view one of the ruins in that region and ask if you can be taken to the border to make the transaction, at an additional fee I would think.

If you would like to avoid all that chaos during your vacation then I would advise you to keep it and save it for a future trip to Mexico - just my two cents.

Josue Diaz

[ Edit: Edited on 29-Oct-2010, at 08:40 by Jo_WstBze ]

8. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 979 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

Money changers'll take it near the ferry docks....but the exchange sucks. Just keep it for your next trip.

9. Posted by GregW (Travel Guru 2635 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I ended up going to Xunantunich instead of Caracol. As a solo traveller, I wasn't able to book a tour to Caracol, as there were minimum number of people required, and as it was the off season, there weren't enough other tourists around.

To get to Xunantunich was very easy. From San Ignacio, I took the bus towards Benque ($BZ 1.75), got off at the hand-cranked ferry and then it is a 20 minute walk up to the site. $BZ 10 entrance fee. When I was there, there were very few other travellers, so I was often able to wander around the site without seeing another person. It was very good!


10. Posted by J_CyoBze (Budding Member 8 posts) 7y Star this if you like it!

I hope you're not disappointed by the fact that you were unable to visit Caracol - your intended destination.

Indeed, like I mentioned before, Xunantunich is both affordable and accessible. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to such a legendary archaeological site! I also hope that the fact that few tourists were present at the time of your visit enhanced your experience altogether. Please share pictures of your trip with us, if any of course!

Josue Diaz