12 Things to Know Before Visiting Machu Picchu: Tips & Tricks

Machu Picchu is one of the most incredible 7 wonders of the world. It’s not surprising given its vast beautiful views and breathtaking old ruins high atop the mountain valley. But you want to make sure you’re prepared before visiting, so here are our top 12 tips and tricks to think about before visiting the famous site.

1. Where to stay

It’s easiest to stay in Aguas Calientes, the closest based town to the infamous site if you’re not hiking into Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail. There is a range of accommodation on offer in Aguas Calientes, and from here you can easily catch the regular buses departing every 10 minutes for USD24 return that takes between 25-35 minutes each way. [ https://peruways.com/aguascalientes-bus/ } 

If you’re feeling more active though, you can hike up to the entrance too relatively easily for about 1.5 – 2 hours. There is a clearly signposted trail.

2. Pre-purchase your tickets

Pre-purchase your tickets online via this government website for SOL152 (~AUD68) per adult. [https://www.machupicchu.gob.pe/inicio] This is recommended particularly during peak season or if you plan to hike Huayna Picchu as well to make sure you don’t miss out!  Once you purchase your ticket though, write down your reservation number – many people have complained about never receiving a confirmation email, but if you have this number, they can pull it up and re-print the ticket for you.

Looking over the incredible Machu Picchu site.
Looking over the incredible Machu Picchu site.

3. Know your entry time

All tickets are split into hourly entry times now from 6 am, and you are officially given 4 hours to view the site. Being said, there is still much confusion over enforcement of this rule and when we visited in May 2019, people could stay as long as they desired as they have no way of enforcing ticket times and ushering people out yet.

4. You can’t leave and re-enter

You’re not allowed to leave and re-enter the site on a normal Machu Picchu ticket. Once you’re in, you’re in!

5. Toilets!

The only bathrooms at Machu Pichu are located outside the entrance and cost SOL2, so make sure to go before you head inside as you can’t exit and re-enter the site (unless you hold a Huayna Picchu ticket as well). It’s a stupid rule but one they haven’t seemed to address yet!

6. Get a guide

Official no visitors are allowed in without a guide on their first visit. Whilst listed as new regulation, many people have entered without a guide as, like many other regulations, enforcement has been quite lax. We recommend going with a guide to best understand the history and various aspects of the site, and what’s more, they’ll know the best route to take as tourists aren’t allowed to backtrack to certain areas once you’ve passed specific checkpoints. The guards stationed at various points will turn you back around.

7. Visiting Intipuku, the Sun Gate

Your regular ticket to Machu Picchu includes access to Intipuku (the famous sun gate) and the Inca bridge. If you wish to see these, however, make sure you visit them before you descend into the ruins as you aren’t allowed to backtrack up to these two spots!

A quick shot from the Sun Gate, looking back over Machu Picchu.
A quick shot from the Sun Gate, looking back over Machu Picchu.

8. No disposable plastics

Officially, only reusable water bottles are permitted within Machu Picchu; however, we saw many people with one-time plastic bottles, so it looks like this rule is not yet enforced.

9. Take a small backpack only

Other things to leave behind are large backpacks (you could be asked to store it in a locker), food, tripods, selfie-sticks and drones.

10. Best time to go

Our recommendation is going early. This does mean trying to catch one of the first buses from 5:30 am. When we rocked up with our tour guide at 6 am to the bus stop, there was already a considerable line as it’s a first come first serve basis, with many people in queue as early as 4:30am. We were lucky, and thanks to our guide managed to skip the line, but I would recommend going as early as possible if you’re looking to watch the first sun rays hit Machu Picchu.

We can wholeheartedly say it’s magical to watch and so worth going early and getting those first few snaps of the incredible site people-free!ho

The one and only, Machu Picchu.
The one and only, Machu Picchu.

11. A Special Passport Souvenir

Bring your passport and get a souvenir Machu Picchu stamp right outside the exit as a memento!

12. Keep Warm!

Don’t forget to bring layers if you’re heading there early. It was quite chilly early morning, but by 10:30 am and after hiking up and back to the sun gate, it was hot!

Thinking about doing the Inca Trail? Have you thought about the Quarry Trail instead?

We’ll have post up soon giving you all the exciting insights into trekking the hidden gem that is the Quarry Trail.

In the mean time check out our latest post on, tips and tricks when visiting Peru.

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Peru: Travel Tips & Tricks

Peru is one of the most beautiful countries, tucked away one the West Coast of South America. Home to one of the seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu, Peru is a must see destination for any casual or adventure traveler. But before you go, here are some tips and tricks we picked up on our journey through Peru.

When we visited Peru, we had the luxury of being on an intrepid tour so whilst it generates a different perspective when travelling, there are nevertheless a few travel tips and tricks we picked up along the way.  

1) Yellow fever vaccination 

Per the SmartTraveller website, “You’ll need to present a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate on entry into Australia if you’ve visited Peru in the previous six days.” [https://smartraveller.gov.au/countries/americas/south/pages/peru.aspx#entry_and_exit]

The US CDC also has the recommendation to be vaccinated for any travellers heading to the Amazonas, Cusco or Puno region. To be safe, add yellow fever vaccination to your list of things to do before you leave the country – particularly if you are heading to the Amazon region. Just remember to ideally have your vaccination 10 days before your arrival in the risky areas.

Looking out over the Amazon River, just as the sun sets behind an oncoming storm.
Looking out over the Amazon River, just as the sun sets behind an oncoming storm.

The good news is, the validity of the yellow fever vaccination was also extended in 2016 from 10 years to the duration of a person’s life – so you only need to be vaccinated once for life! If you are ever considering heading to Africa, that’s another incentive to get it as the vaccination is mandatory for travel to most African countries.

Don’t have your yellow fever vaccination or need a prescription but you’re just about to fly out?

If you’re like us and suddenly realise you may need a yellow fever vaccination to enter Bolivia (let alone head back to Australia!), don’t panic. There is a medical clinic at Lima airport who can get you vaccinated in under 5 minutes. Located beneath a set of escalators, next to the women’s bathrooms and directly opposite the gate 11 exit, this little medical clinic is a godsend. For only SOL145 you can get fully vaccinated for yellow fever (or measles, hep b or even the flu if you need!).

2) Don’t fall for tourist trap mobile plans! 

When we arrived in Lima, like most tourists, we checked out the mobile plans available at the airport. USD20 for 2GB by Entel or USD49 for 3 GB and unlimited calls nationally in 30 days seem somewhat reasonable when compared to Australian prices, but felt slightly expensive for Peru. We held off, and we are so glad we did!

A good tip and trick, is to research the best mobile plans before travelling to the country. But I guess that’s why you’re here!

Our tip is to go to the Claro store direct when you arrive. There was no waiting time, and including the SIM activation fee, we ended up only paying SOL35 (~AUD15) for 3.5GB of data over 30 days – much cheaper than any ‘tourist’ package or plan we saw at the airport. 

3) Withdrawing cash fee-free

While Visa is the most accepted card throughout Peru, like many other South American countries, cash is still widely used and convenient, particularly for tipping, paying for local food or souvenirs and entry to local attractions. As such, you might find yourself withdrawing cash quite often.

A couple of tips and tricks so you won’t be hit with local ATM fees? 

Look for Banco de la Nacion, or the “Multi red” red coloured ATM signs. It’s one of the few ATM’s in Peru with no local ATM fees.

 If these are hard to find, the lowest fee-paying ATM is BCP costing SOL13.50 (~AUD6) per withdrawal. 

 Whatever you do though, avoid BBVA which charges SOL25 (~AU11) per withdrawal! 

4) Tips and tricks for purchasing Alpaca products

Peru is famous for its alpaca and baby alpaca wear, however, be warned as every street corner vendor will swear what they’re selling you is “genuine baby alpaca”. If it costs only BOB$50 (~AU$20) for a baby alpaca jumper, I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s probably not what they’re claiming it to be.

Meeting our first Lama up close and personal.  Time for hug!
Meeting our first Lama up close and personal. Time for hug!

Many of the jumpers sold by many stall owners are a synthetic blend, so make sure you know what you’re paying for. The basic test for real alpaca is it should feel cold to the touch – always, even if in sunlight. If you can as well, break off some fibres and light them as real alpaca will burn like hair whereas synthetic will melt. Genuine 100% alpaca jumpers will costs no less than BOB$200 (at a minimum with baby alpaca even more!) but if you’re still unsure head to stores such as Inca Brand or LAM where you’ll pay a bit more but be confident the garments are what they say they are.

Being said, a blend of alpaca and wool still makes a beautiful jumper!

5) Don’t drink the local water 

Unfortunately, all water in Peru is not potable, so you’ll need to purchase large bottles of water if you haven’t invested in a lifestraw. Many hotels will leave you smaller bottles of water for brushing your teeth, but we brushed our teeth using just tap water during our travels with no issues.

6) Allow yourself at least 2 days in Cusco to acclimatise

Cusco is often considered the gateway to Machu Picchu, but in itself is one of the most beautiful cities in Peru. 

 If you are flying into Cusco from Lima, remember to buffer time to acclimatise to the altitude as Cusco sits at 3,400m above sea level. In our opinion, I would allow at least 2 days in Cusco to acclimatise and see the former centre of the Inca Empire. This beautiful city has a lot to offer and is a great place to pick up any last-minute trekking items or shopping!

The one and only, Machu Picchu.
The one and only, Machu Picchu.

We are not doctors by any stretch of the imagination, but some key things to know about altitude sickness are:

  • Altitude sickness unfortunately can affect anyone – it doesn’t matter if you’re the tallest, strongest, most lean or yoga-loving person – there’s no way to predict who and how badly it will impact an individual.
  • There is medication you can take, commonly called Diamox, or Acetazolamide (if you need to buy it in Peru) that can alleviate the symptoms but it’s best to start these 2 days before you arrive at altitude. Be warned though it is a diuretic, so it will make you pee a lot more. It’s almost a glimpse into life at the age of 80+….
  • Stay hydrated and aim to drink 1.5 – 2L of water per day. Hydration plays a crucial role in helping you acclimatise!
  • If you are starting to feel the effects of altitude sickness i.e. headaches, dizziness, nausea or a general feeling of unwellness, rest immediately and if it gets worse, see a doctor. 

 Most hotels also hold oxygen tanks for guests as having 10-15 minutes of oxygen can also help alleviate the symptoms, so ask if you need it! 

7) Make sure to try the local favourite ceviche

Ceviche is fresh, raw fish marinated in citrus juice, typically spiced and is a highly popular dish in Peru, and definite must-try. Throughout Peru ceviche is prepared slightly differently, so why not try it in each region and see which one is your favourite?

8) Don’t flush toilet paper

Alas, like almost every other South American country, flushing toilet paper is a big no-no. Instead, look for the small covered bin in every toilet and kindly dispose of your used papers in there.

9) Try cocoa tea

The famous local cocoa tea is worth trying, if only for the cultural significance the cocoa plant holds in this part of the world. Sworn by locals to combat altitude sickness, it can come in handy those first few days acclimatising in Cusco. If you’re not a tea fan, try chewing it like the locals! (I warn you now though, it gives you a definite buzz if you chew it!) As it is a stimulant, it’s best tried in the morning rather than just before bedtime. 

Having a hot chocolate, looking out over the main square in Cusco, Peru.
Having a hot chocolate, looking out over the main square in Cusco, Peru.

 Also, don’t try and take any back into Australia – I’m 100% sure you’ll be on the next episode of Border Security.

10) Visiting Machu Picchu?

Make sure you’re ready for crowds and entry requirements.

With visitors topping over 5,000 a day in the past, the Peruvian government in 2019 introduced a host of new legislation governing Machu Pichu and restricting the number of visitors to 2,500 per day.

The one and only, Machu Picchu.
The one and only, Machu Picchu.

Check out our post here Machu Picchu tips and tricks, on the top 14 things to know before visiting Macchu Picchu. This will help make sure you’re ready for the best experience.

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10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Tikal: Guide Tips & Tricks

Tikal is one of the most incredible Mayan ruins located in the heart of Guatamala. Here are 10 tips to prepare you for this must see destination.

Date visited: 18 April 2019

Tikal was an incredible site to visit, but there were a few things we wish we had known before visiting site. Here are the top 10 tips and tricks, for your visit to Tikal.

For most travellers to Guatemala or even Belize, Tikal and its sprawling 16km2 of Mayan ruins are a must-see on their travel plans. Set within 576km2 of jungle it is an awe inspiring UNESCO world heritage site that genuinely showcases the ingenuity and might of the Mayan civilisation before its gradual decline. With over 3,000 structures spanning grand palaces, pyramids and plazas, Tikal expanded and flourished to become one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya until the late 800 AD. Historians debate the cause of the Mayan decline, but it is commonly attributed to several factors including famine, climate change, disease, warfare and unsustainable agricultural practices.

The collapse of Tikal was relatively rapid for a city that had stood for 700 years, with Tikal crumbling in an estimated 100 years and eventually abandoned with the forest quickly reclaiming the settled land.
As with many other famous sites though, it was not until a thousand years later in the 1950’s when dedicated study, excavation and restoration work began to reclaim the forgotten history back from the jungle.

Below are 10 tips, tricks and things learned from our trip to Tikal!

1) Bring your passport or ID

Surprisingly not all tour agencies seem to mention this significant fact, but to purchase tickets, you will need this!

2) As in most of Guatemala, cash is king

While there are EFTPOS facilities, there are no ATM’s around, and on the day we went, the machine was down! Make sure you bring at least Q150 p.p in cash just in case to cover your entry fee.

3) Going early

Tikal is open every day from 6am to 6pm. While we opted out of the sunrise option (which required a bus leaving Flores at 3am), we did opt for the first bus after sunrise which meant the 4.30am bus depart Flores from the ‘Le Peten’ sign at the start of the bridge. (and yes, a 4:30am bus still does not get you there in time for sunrise!). It is a 1.5-hour bus ride, but you should factor in buffer time for delayed leaving times (ours was delayed by 20 minutes) and time for the whole bus to alight and purchase tickets before you are driven to the entry gates to walk through. All in all, we only arrived at the park ready to start walking at 6:50am.

Also, just a note if you are interested in the sunrise option, it is only an extra Q100 park entry fee p.p.

4) Going early for animals

Another reason to opt for the earlier bus is your chances of spotting animals in the national park is much higher! You will be there before the heat sets in and while we did not see the elusive jaguar, we did manage to see howler monkeys, toucans, woodpeckers and plenty of pisotes, all by 9am.

5) Travel quietly

If you are on the lookout for wildlife, it may seem like an obvious one, but travel silently on the trails around Tikal. You are much more likely to not scare them away and spot animals that way.

6) If you’re a Star Wars fan, bring an X-Wing model for a fun photo

George Lucas famously used Tikal as a backdrop to Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope. When we visited, a dedicated fan pulled out a tiny x wing model to take a fantastic and fun shot with it. Our only regret was not being so prepared and doing the same!

7) Beeline to the Grand Plaza, then climb the big temple

When we entered Tikal, we made a beeline for the back of the park via the Grand Plaza and worked our way forward. This meant we could get shots of the central area and larger template with relatively few people in it, as well as climb in the relative cool of the morning before the heat set in. Trust me when we say Tikal gets hot.

8) Alternate restroom

When alighting from the bus in the morning, don’t rush to use the bathrooms at the restaurant next to the bus drop off area. By then there are typically queues from the busload of people arriving, and the toilets themselves are in a less than appealing state. Instead, there are many bathrooms dotted around Tikal with some just inside the main entrance where there are no queues, so I recommend going there!

9) Bring comfortable walking shoes

Tikal is large, and you’ll be walking on trails through the forest or climbing up steps, so something comfortable with good grip is best.

10) What else you need to bring

Bring snacks, enough water (1.5L – 2L) and sunscreen and a hat! While there are a few stands dotted around, it’s best to bring your own snacks (particularly if you want something healthy). Also, make sure you have enough water as you’ll be walking around a lot, and while there is shade at Tikal, there are open areas you need to cross as well that are unforgiving in the sun!

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7 TIPS FOR VISITING THE ACTUN TUNICHIL MUKNAL (ATM) CAVE OF BELIZE

You feel like Tomb Raider hiking out and exploring the ATM caves in Belize. Here are 7 tips to prepare you for this adventure.

Walking deep into a cave is not always for the faint-hearted. I wouldn’t say I’m the claustrophobic type, closing a door to a small dark room won’t make me squeal, but squeezing down narrow shafts of a cave definitely gets the heart racing.

Regardless of any fear the mind may have for narrow dark spaces, boy was visiting the ATM cave of Belize was a blast.

A brief history of Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM):

Discovered in 1989 and also known as the Cave of the Crystal Maiden, the cave was used by the Mayans in the late classic period in a desperate plea to their gods to help flourish the lands with crops. Mayans were, as you know, an incredible civilisation, and while their end inevitably came from the arrival of the Spaniards, their downfall began a lot earlier. Although there are many mixed opinions on the matter, what was known as their farming capability was nothing short of destructive and conducive to their famine. Rather than refurbish and reuse farmland, they would burn it, and move on to the next patch. Mixed with drying wells, and bad weather, they soon were in danger of starvation.

Regardless of their technology, advanced mathematics and knowledge of the sky, to help with their famine, they turned to their gods.

Mayans believed in the supernatural, which included heaven and the underworld, both with many levels and deities. In this instance, praying underground, meant praying to the gods of the earth to refurbish the land. This is where the cave came in. It was a direct path to give a sacrifice of human life to please their gods.

Travelling deep into a cave:

The tour is quite the adventure, and you get a fun Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones vibe as you’re walking through the jungle, swimming through lakes and caves, and squeezing through narrow paths to find the hidden tomb.

The guide enriches the experience with deep knowledge on the history of the Mayans and the region.

Reaching the final room is incredibly rewarding and I still can’t fathom some of the bones, pots and natural cave formations left behind over 1,000 years ago. I don’t want to spoil the setting, you genuinely need to experience it.

But the Crystal Maiden is the final site. An almost perfectly preserved set of bones of an 18-year-old girl who had been sacrificed during this period. A reminder of some of the torment Mayans had endured, and their desperation to save their people from the coming famine.

Tips for visiting the ATM caves, Belize

If you are planning a trip here (which you should!) here are 7 tips, tricks and things to know before your visit to the ATM cave:

1) Bring reef shoes
Your feet with being submerged in water for much of the tour, so it’s best to bring reef shoes to wear as they dry quickly and won’t get smelly! Although preferable, you don’t need hard toe reef shoes – completely soft ones are okay and accepted by the tour companies. Ideally, if you are travelling down the east coast of Mexico, get them in Playa Del Carmen as it houses the most shops, offering greater choice (cost is anywhere from $10 – $20USD)

2) Bring socks
There is the dry cavern where you will be required to take off your shoes to enter and walk through. As such you’ll want socks on as the ground has many small sharp rocks!

3) Don’t wear a long sleeve shirt
While it seems like a good idea at first, particularly if you’re prone to getting cold, you do visit the dry cavern for quite an extended portion of the tour and you’ll be standing in damp clothes for a long time. As such, it actually makes you colder since you’re wearing more wet clothing, and don’t worry, the cavern air is relatively warm, so you don’t freeze!

4) If you’re a competent swimmer, you don’t really need a life jacket unless perhaps it’s the wet season!
During our visit in early April 2019 (the end of the dry season), the water levels were relatively low, so there were only 2 sections during which I had to swim as my feet could not touch the bottom (I’m 1.7m tall). This was at the very entrance to the cave for about 10m and after about 10 minutes into the cave.

Being said, our guide explained that during the wet season the water levels in the cave can rise by almost 50-60cm, in which case there would be significantly more spots on the tour where swimming would be necessary. Of course, if you are not a confident swimmer, or want the added warmth, then a life jacket is for you!

Also if you are looking to go in September/October, be mindful it is hurricane season and if water levels rise too much, the ATM cave is closed to tourists for safety reasons.

5) Get on the bus early
Being the first group in the cave is magical as the waters are clear (as groups traipsing through haven’t yet stirred up sediment) and with the quiet, it feels like you have the caves all to yourself. We were lucky enough to be the 1st group through for the day. As we were leaving, because you exit the same way you enter, we often ran into groups who had only just begun and were then forced to stop at multiple points to let exiting groups pass. As always, the early bird catches the worm!

6) You can’t bring cameras or video recording devices into ATM cave. Period.
Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events with tourists in the past have lead to this ban on all devices in the cave. The upside though is you don’t need to worry about dry bags, fiddling with cameras, and your attention is 100% focused on taking in the moment 😊. You do receive photos at the end of the trip, but they are pre-taken photos of the cave by the tour agency – there is no tour guide following you with a camera and taking pictures of your group!

7) You don’t have to be Indiana Jones or Lara Croft to do this tour
The tour does require some climbing up rocks and minimal parts of swimming (approx. 10m – 15m), but you don’t need to be a gym junkie to do this. The hardest parts are swimming into the entrance of the cave, climbing up a short ladder and a rock boulder to get to the dry cavern and probably squeezing through some tight spaces. All of this, however, is very much doable, and the tour guides guide you through every step, foothold and movement along the way.

Date visited: 16 April 2019.
Tour agency: MayaWalk Tours. We decided on these guys as they were one of the most and highest rated tour operators on TripAdvisor and departed at 7am from their office in San Ignacio.
The price paid: USD85 per person. We were initially quoted USD$95 but received a discount after requesting one for a group of 5 people.

7 Tips & Tricks for Visiting the Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave of Belize

You feel like Tomb Raider hiking out and exploring the ATM caves in Belize. Here are 7 tips to prepare you for this adventure.

Walking deep into a cave is not always for the faint-hearted. I wouldn’t say I’m the claustrophobic type, closing a door to a small dark room won’t make me squeal, but squeezing down narrow shafts of a cave definitely gets the heart racing.

Regardless of any fear the mind may have for narrow dark spaces, boy was visiting the ATM cave of Belize was a blast.

A brief history of Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM)

Discovered in 1989 and also known as the Cave of the Crystal Maiden, the cave was used by the Mayans in the late classic period in a desperate plea to their gods to help flourish the lands with crops. Mayans were, as you know, an incredible civilisation, and while their end inevitably came from the arrival of the Spaniards, their downfall began a lot earlier. Although there are many mixed opinions on the matter, what was known as their farming capability was nothing short of destructive and conducive to their famine. Rather than refurbish and reuse farmland, they would burn it, and move on to the next patch. Mixed with drying wells, and bad weather, they soon were in danger of starvation.

Regardless of their technology, advanced mathematics and knowledge of the sky, to help with their famine, they turned to their gods.

Mayans believed in the supernatural, which included heaven and the underworld, both with many levels and deities. In this instance, praying underground, meant praying to the gods of the earth to refurbish the land. This is where the cave came in. It was a direct path to give a sacrifice of human life to please their gods.

Travelling deep into the cave

The tour is quite the adventure, and you get a fun Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones vibe as you’re walking through the jungle, swimming through lakes and caves, and squeezing through narrow paths to find the hidden tomb.

The guide enriches the experience with deep knowledge on the history of the Mayans and the region.

Reaching the final room is incredibly rewarding and I still can’t fathom some of the bones, pots and natural cave formations left behind over 1,000 years ago. I don’t want to spoil the setting, you genuinely need to experience it.

You get a fun Tomb Raider/Indiana Jones vibe.

But the Crystal Maiden is the final site. An almost perfectly preserved set of bones of an 18-year-old girl who had been sacrificed during this period. A reminder of some of the torment Mayans had endured, and their desperation to save their people from the coming famine.

Tips for visiting the ATM cave, Belize

If you are planning a trip here (which you should!) here are 7 tips, tricks and things to know before your visit to the ATM cave:

1) Bring reef shoes

Your feet with being submerged in water for much of the tour, so it’s best to bring reef shoes to wear as they dry quickly and won’t get smelly! Although preferable, you don’t need hard toe reef shoes – completely soft ones are okay and accepted by the tour companies. Ideally, if you are travelling down the east coast of Mexico, get them in Playa Del Carmen as it houses the most shops, offering greater choice (cost is anywhere from $10 – $20USD)

2) Bring socks

There is the dry cavern where you will be required to take off your shoes to enter and walk through. As such you’ll want socks on as the ground has many small sharp rocks!

3) Don’t wear a long sleeve shirt

While it seems like a good idea at first, particularly if you’re prone to getting cold, you do visit the dry cavern for quite an extended portion of the tour and you’ll be standing in damp clothes for a long time. As such, it actually makes you colder since you’re wearing more wet clothing, and don’t worry, the cavern air is relatively warm, so you don’t freeze!

4) Do you really need a life jacket?

If you’re a competent swimmer, you don’t really need a life jacket unless perhaps it’s the wet season!

During our visit in early April 2019 (the end of the dry season), the water levels were relatively low, so there were only 2 sections during which I had to swim as my feet could not touch the bottom (I’m 1.7m tall). This was at the very entrance to the cave for about 10m and after about 10 minutes into the cave.

Being said, our guide explained that during the wet season the water levels in the cave can rise by almost 50-60cm, in which case there would be significantly more spots on the tour where swimming would be necessary. Of course, if you are not a confident swimmer, or want the added warmth, then a life jacket is for you!

Also if you are looking to go in September/October, be mindful it is hurricane season and if water levels rise too much, the ATM cave is closed to tourists for safety reasons.

5) Get on the bus early

Being the first group in the cave is magical as the waters are clear (as groups traipsing through haven’t yet stirred up sediment) and with the quiet, it feels like you have the caves all to yourself. We were lucky enough to be the 1st group through for the day. As we were leaving, because you exit the same way you enter, we often ran into groups who had only just begun and were then forced to stop at multiple points to let exiting groups pass. As always, the early bird catches the worm!

6) No cameras of video devices!

You can’t bring cameras or video recording devices into ATM cave. Period.

Unfortunately, a series of unfortunate events with tourists in the past have lead to this ban on all devices in the cave. The upside though is you don’t need to worry about dry bags, fiddling with cameras, and your attention is 100% focused on taking in the moment 😊. You do receive photos at the end of the trip, but they are pre-taken photos of the cave by the tour agency – there is no tour guide following you with a camera and taking pictures of your group!

7) The tour and hike is not dificult

The tour does require some climbing up rocks and minimal parts of swimming (approx. 10m – 15m), but you don’t need to be a gym junkie to do this. The hardest parts are swimming into the entrance of the cave, climbing up a short ladder and a rock boulder to get to the dry cavern and probably squeezing through some tight spaces.

You don’t have to be Indiana Jones or Lara Croft to do this tour.

All of this, however, is very much doable, and the tour guides guide you through every step, foothold and movement along the way.

Date visited: 16 April 2019.
Tour agency: MayaWalk Tours. We decided on these guys as they were one of the most and highest rated tour operators on TripAdvisor and departed at 7am from their office in San Ignacio.
The price paid: USD85 per person. We were initially quoted USD$95 but received a discount after requesting one for a group of 5 people.

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