Everyone says that the Copan Ruins pale in comparison to the Tikal in Guatemala and the Machu Picchu in Peru. Since I have yet to visit either one of them, chances were good that I'd be impressed. The Copan Ruins was about a 30 minute walk from my hotel. I could have hopped on a motor-taxi, but thought I'd use the walk to explore my neighborhood.
As soon as I entered the gates to the ruins, there was a large booth to the right. A guide appeared. He told me he'd been working there for over 30 years, overseeing parts of the excavation and doing numerous tours for people all over the world from Germany to Japan.
He directed us to the ticket booth and told us to come back for a personal tour whenever we were ready. Instead of waiting for us to return, hovered like a hawk as he watched us buy our tickets.
Our entrance fee was $15 USD per person. The two tunnels, which allows visitors to see the structures below the ruins was an additional $15 USD. We heard it wasn’t worth it so we decided to only purchase tickets for the entrance to the ruins.
The tour guide said he'd charge $25 for the two of us. I asked if he could lower it. He said no because he had to buy his own ticket. That was a red flag. I politely declined. He clearly didn’t work there, officially. For all I knew, he could be making stuff up on the fly. He tried to convince us that it was worth our time and whipped out his phone, which had a headless half naked girl as a wallpaper.
My friend and I explored the ruins on our own and to be honest, you don’t need a tour guide. A Lonely Planet guide will do just fine. You can go at your own pace, see what you want to see, read up on things that stand out to you and take it easy knowing that there isn’t someone herding you along just so he has enough time to pick up the next group of tourists.
The Hieroglyphic Stairway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the main structures among the Copan Ruins. The symbols on the stairs makes up the longest Mayan text to date. Over the years, researchers have discovered that the etchings record the history of Copan, including the names of 16 kinds, their date of birth, date of dead of kings and events that highlight their rule.