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Guatemala Travel Notes
Page 1 of 2   >> Page 2

Our Adventure log: The Guatemala Inland Blog
Downloadable Version of These Notes:  Word doc      PDF file

Guatemala City      Antigua      Panajachel/Lake Atitlan

Rio Dulce       Lanquin/Semuc Champey       Tikal/Flores/El Remate

FAQ's        Buses


Books and Other Resources

Lonely Planet Guide to Guatemala

A “must have”.  In Guatemala and don’t have it?  Download it in PDF from the LP website, about $2-$3 per chapter.

Central America on a Shoestring

Another good pub from Lonely Planet.

Spanish Now

A very good self-teaching guide for Spanish.  Get the ‘Teacher’s Edition’ (has answers and CD’s) about $30 from Amazon.com.  Get this book even if you’re going to ‘language school’.  Schools tend to emphasize verbal skills and if you’re a visual learner this will be a good supplement to a language school.

Spanish Verb Tenses

Very good supplement to Spanish Now.  Even if you don’t think you need to learn all the tenses, the first half of the book is good explanations and workbook practice for present tenses of most useful verbs.

Spanish Pronouns and Prepositions

Another good supplement to Spanish Now.

Thorntree Forum on Lonely Planet

The ‘Thorn Tree’ forum on the Lonely Planet site has a very active ‘branch’ (subforum) on Central America, Guatemala and Belize in particular.
http://thorntree.lonelyplanet.com/

Maps

Best set of maps I’ve seen, by area in Guatemala, download and unzip PDF file   http://www.prensalibre.com/especiales/ME/mapas/index.htm


FAQ’s

Weather & Seasons

The weather in the Rio Dulce and Tikal area is similar to Florida, but wetter.  Hot and steamy in the summer and cooler in the winter.  The weather in the higher parts of the country (Guate City, Antigua, Atitlan) is much cooler and can be quite chilly at night even in the summer.  High Season in Guatemala is June-Aug and Easter.  Prices tend to be higher then and places more booked (but also more scheduled activities going on). 
Wet season is Aug – November.

Money

The local currency is the Quetzal.  Current exchange rate (11/07) is $1 to 7.6Q.  Take some emergency US cash, including some smaller bills, but ATM’s are available in country all over, and are the best way to get Quetzales.  Many Guate establishments will accept credit cards but typically charge you a 6-12% premium. Cash is preferred everywhere.  Many places quote prices in US dollars.  Sometimes you can pay in USD, especially in an emergency.  If quoted in one currency and you pay in the other, sometimes you get ripped on the exchange rate, so ask.
Check the current exchange rate in the local paper, Prensa Libre (in Spanish).  http://www.prensalibre.com Right now it is now fluctuating that much.

Flying Here

Spirit Airlines (www.spiritair.com) flies into Guatemala City and several other Central American locations from several U.S. cities. American flies here also.  Taca is a local airline that I’ve heard mentioned by other people www.taca.com   Prensa Libre (one of the local papers) publishes the daily airline schedule, so check that for other airlines.
December 2008 Update:  Why We Don't Like Spirit Airlines Anymore

Newspapers

There are several daily newspapers.  I like the Prensa Libre, it’s a little more upscale than the others.  3Q on the street.  Or find it here: http://www.prensalibre.com

Security

Guatemalans are extraordinarily friendly and generally as honest and trustworthy as the rest of the world. However, as elsewhere, tourists attract people who prey on them.  You should always be on ‘high security’.  Keep your money and expensive things close and hidden as much as possible.  Keep your daily money in a different pocket than your ‘stash’ so you are never flashing a big wad.  Take personal pepper spray (check in your luggage, don’t carry on) and keep it with you in case you feel threatened.  Ask at your hotel where it’s safe to be and where it isn’t and get them to recommend a cab.  See Thorntree ‘security’ threads.  See also the US Embassy notes on security.  http://guatemala.usembassy.gov/

Contact by Telephone

Recently they added an extra digit to the phone numbers.  All phone numbers should be 8 digits.  If you have a 7 digit number, try putting a ‘2’ in front.  This *may* work.  To call any 8 digit phone number from the U.S.  011-502-xxxx-xxxx.

Cell Phone

You can buy a ‘pay as you go’ cell phone in any bigger town for about $20 and calling in country and out of country costs about 10-15 cents a minute.  Look for Tigo, Claro, or Movistar signs.  You can roam in Guatemala on Cingular/ATT but it costs about $2.75/minute.  It doesn’t take many minutes to justify purchase of a local phone.  If you have your GSM phone ‘unlocked’ before you come, all you need is a Sim card (but it may cost the same as buying the whole phone).  Watch for ‘triple minute’ and ‘double minute’ days for your carrier and charge your minutes then. (doble saldo in Spanish).

Medical

For the most part, the Guatemalan doctors are well trained and *most* speak pretty good English.  The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City has a list of English speaking doctors in Guate City.  You can get treatment for just about anything here at a pretty reasonable price.  However, we were ‘taken’ at least once by a Guatemalan plastic surgeon who wanted to charge us exorbitant US prices.  ASK the price!

Speaking Spanish

Do you NEED to know Spanish to get around?  No, but you will in general pay more and not have as good time if you don’t have at least some basic Spanish.  There are hotels and tour companies that cater to English-only tourists, but you will pay US prices for these.  See Antigua Language Schools.  If you have time, start in Antigua and go to school for a couple of weeks, it will be well worth the time spent, and you can see all of the Antigua, Atitlan, Chichi, and highlands area in daytrips while in school.  Almost every major town has a couple of language schools so if you want to go someplace different, try Quetzaltenango (aka Xela), San Pedro, Coban.


Buses

* See table of major bus companies here *

Litegua

Fronteras, Guatemala City, Morales, Puerto Barrios

50Q ‘Express’ bus from Frontera (aka Rio Dulce) 0830 to Guat City.  Reserved seats, few stops, sometimes A/C.  Pre-Booked 40Q Litegua shuttle from Guate to Antigua (if you wait til you get to Guate, a taxi will cost you plenty). 

Fuente del Norte

Hourly runs between Fronteras and Tikal

Has mostly old poor condition second class buses, but the prices are right.  You can buy a ticket that assures you of a seat, but they also cram on more people so there are usually people staning in the aisles.  This company also has a Premier Class service bus called Maya del Oro, it is much better, but more expensive.  The cruisers in the Rio Dulce call Fuente del Norte Muerte del Norte.

Shuttle Buses

All Over

With the exception of the Greyhound style ‘express’ buses, the local buses are cheap but dangerous.  If you have luggage, the door to door service of the minivans is well worth it. Every town visited by tourists has shuttle buses for the other major cities.


Antigua – Hotels
Travel Dates: July – December 2007 (several trips)

Name

Address

Phone

Description

Posada Don Quixote

Next to ‘Yellow House’  at 1a Calle Poniente 24

 

Not in 2007 Lonely Planet.  Several hotels we chose were full.  This wasn’t.  Similar to other ‘budget’ hotels.  About $16US for a small double/private bath.  Had wifi.

Posada Juma Ocag

Calzada de Santa Lucia Norte 13
(near the Mercado at the west end of town)

7832 3109

This was our budget hotel of choice.  Decent clean rooms (but not luxurious), hot water, pretty grounds.  A few blocks from Central Plaza and right next to local market.  $15 US for double with private bath and hot water.  No wifi/internet in room but several café’s nearby.  Restaurant across the street.

Posada de Don Rodrigo

5a Ave Norte 17

7832 2664

Not in 2007 Lonely Planet.  Dave stayed here before and it is nice and pricey $85US.  Restaurant on site and gorgeous grounds.

Casa Santo Domingo

3a Calle Oriente 28

7832 0140

We did not stay here, but toured it as part of the Elizabeth Bell tour.  It looked gorgeous.  LP says it is ‘from $120US’.  Multiple  professionally done museums

Hotel Casa Rustica

6th Ave. Norte # 8

7832 3709

One block west of plaza, across from Black Cat Hostel.  Great location, adequate rooms, reasonable price.  WIFI
http://www.casarusticagt.com/


Antigua – Eating / Entertainment

Café la Escudilla

4a Ave Norte 4

 

Good food, great value, nice grounds, clean bathrooms.  Our favorite restaurant in Antigua. See LP writeup.

Café Condessa

Off the center square, thru the bookstore.

 

Very good, convenient, reasonable prices.  Has good bathrooms.

La Fonda del Calle Real

3 Locations, see LP

 

This was ok, seemed a little on the touristy side.  We were serenaded at our table by guitars.  A little pricey for what you get.

Café Sky

1 Ave Sur 15

 

A little away from the center square, but worth the walk.. both for drinks on the roof and lunch in the middle section (covered)  Awesome quesadillas.

Weiner

Across from Juma Ocag

 

Had a nice inexpensive lunch here.  Has free internet use with meal.

Bagel Barn

Just off the Central Park, on the road that runs on the south side of the park.

 

Good bagels, also bring-your-laptop wifi  Free while you eat

Café Flor

4a Av Sur 1

7832-5274

Good Thai food.  Live piano music nightly, interesting film star photo collection.

Pena del Sol Latino

Same road as Bagel Barn

 

Great food.  Run by an American couple (ie well run).  Live music nightly, usually Peruvian acoustic music (very nice).

Mono Loco

5 Avenida Sur

 

Close to square, has bar, food,  nice internet café with wifi, several TV’s for sports.

Cuevita del las Urquizas

2a Calle Oriente 9D

 

We finally found this place on our 3rd trip.  It was a great meal for cheap—where the locals eat.  They close early on Sunday evening.


Antigua – Language Schools

La Union

1a. Avenida Sur #21

7832 7337

Located in the SE side of town, on 1st Ave Sur, near Café Sky.  Good operation, reasonable prices, no registration fee.  Sherry attended school here for 2 weeks.  http://www.launion.edu.gt/

Centro Linguistico Internacional

Avenida Espritu Santu #6

7832 1039

Located on the SW side of town.  Our friends went here and had a few better amenities for the price of lodging.  Reported good teachers, same one-on-one as La Union
http://www.spanishcontact.com/


Antigua – Wifi
Though there are lots of internet café’s in Antigua, most don’t have wifi or encourage laptops.
Below locations are verified laptop friendly places.

Bagel Barn

Just off the Central Park, on the road that runs on the south side of the park.

 

Good bagels, also bring-your-laptop wifi  Free while you eat.  Free DVD movies on big screen twice a day.  Serves beer and other drinks.

Mono Loco

5 Avenida Sur

 

Close to square, has bar, food, nice internet café with wifi, several TV’s for sports.

Y Tu Pina

1 Ave Sur (across from Café Sky)

 

Nice laptop lounge area with a number of couches and tables, AND 3-prong plugs for your charger.  Serves coffee, drinks, and smoothies.


Antigua – Other

La Ruta Maya

Tour Company off Central Park

 

They book lots of tours.  Door to door shuttle service all over Guatemala.  They were the best price and the only company that put together a shuttle package to go to ChiChi, leave our luggage in the van, and go on to Pana.  $7 US pp for each leg.  New van with good driver.  Reliable services (have now taken 5 trips with them)  Emergency number 24 x 7 (in case your driver doesn’t show).

Plus Travel

Tour Company

 

Best prices in town.  OK service.  They tend to ‘pack’ their shuttle buses.

De la Mancha Expeditions

Tour Company
Yellow House lobby

 

Where we booked the 8$ Pacaya Hike.  Great guide and good driver.  10 persons on our hike.

Elizabeth Bell City Tour

Meet in Central Square

7832 5821

Pricey ($20 US pp) but very good 3 hour walking tour in good English with lots of insight. Great way to learn the town. 9:30am in the Central Park Tu, Wed, Fri, Sat.  No reservations required.
http://www.antiguatours.net

Textile Demo at Casa de Artes

4a Avenida Sur #13

 

Wed 4:30-6 PM.  $4 pp.  Seminar in English with best description of textiles and what to look for before buying.  Racks of textiles for sale ($$).

Textile Museum
Casa del Tejido Antigua

1a Calle Poniente #51

 

Inexpensive entry, has textiles on display (and for sale $$) by region.  English speaking guide available sometimes.

Artisans Market

On West side of Calzada Santa Lucia

 

Extensive local artisan market, also regular city market next door

Museo de Santiago de las Caballeros

On the Main Square

7832-2868

Good museum with old paintings, arms, clothing, furniture, etc of the Colonial period.  Great bronze cannon display. 10Q pp

Great Marimba Band

Free Daily in Posada Don Rodrigo from 2pm to 4pm

 

Don Rodrigo is one block N of the park.  LP only lists them under ‘restaurants’ but they have (fairly expensive) lodgings too.  But for Marimba, just walk in and hang out.  Free

Cerro de la Cruz walk

Meet at Municipal Police Tourism Office on side of City Hall Palace

 

10 AM and 3 PM daily hike to city overlook with police officers.  1.5 hours.  Free.

Nim P’ot Artisan Market

5th Ave Norte

 

Many huilpuiles and lots of other local artisanry.  Comparable price to the markets, but no one bugging you to buy.  Inside out of the weather.  Also can pick up the Finca Azotea shuttle there.  http://www.nimpot.com

Jades, SA

4a Calle Oriente#34

 

Great place to learn about Jade from experts.  Lots on the history of jade in Guatemala and the best displays of old pieces.  Lots to spend money on here.  MUCH cheaper prices but unknown quality in local vendor stands.

Finca Azotea
(coffee tour)

Just outside Antigua on the north side

7831-1120

A coffee plantation with a visitor’s center and also 2 other museums on site.  30Q entry includes free shuttle service from Central Park in Antigua (comes by every hour on the hour from 10am to 4pm)  Good tour, good coffee.  http://www.centroazotea.com

Photo Chip Backup/CD

Mono Loco
Near the Square

 

Back up your Photos (and/or offload them)  Mono Loco will make a CD for you in the internet cafe.

 
Panajachel & Atitlan Hotels
Trip Dates: August 2007

Hotel Utz Jay

Panajachel-5ta Calle 2-50.

762-0217

Small, quiet, nice grounds, very clean.  Restaurant.  $25-$30.  Best value we saw in Pana.  We personally checked 4-5 hotels in the $15-25 price range.
http://www.hotelutzjay.com

Hopedaje Tzutujil

Panajachel

 

Lonely Planet made this sound much better than it was.  Average budget hotel in a not great location for a private-bath-double.

La Casa Del Mundo

On Lake Atitlan at Jaibolito

5218-5332

A not to be missed hotel.  Best on the lake.  Great food, swimming, hiking, kayaking.  $25-$85.  Reserve ahead.
http://www.lacasadelmundo.com/

Atitlan Eating

Sunset Bar and Grill

On the water at foot of Calle Santander

 

Great view of the lake, big seating area with good food and drinks. 

Hotel Utz Jay

See hotels

 

Nice quiet good breakfast.

Casa Del Mundo

See hotels

 

They serve meals to the public (come by water taxi or on foot).  Every meal here was very good.  If you’re staying there, don’t miss the ‘family style’ dinner.

Atitlan Other

Boat transport

From lake docks in Pana

 

Local boat shuttles leave from Pana to most points on lake every half hour.  Check at hotel or with Inguat for fees to where you want to go (generally 10Q for a 1 leg trip, 20Q for a full lake run).  Full day lake tours leave in morning to several towns around the lake, stop in each town and wait for you, higher prices for tourists.

Santiago Atitlan Visit

 

 

Most visited town on lake besides Pana.  Interesting history and lots of artisan shops.  Hike to church at top of town for great view.

Other Lake towns visits

 

 

See Lonely Planet Guide for description of what there is to see in each town.



Guatemala City
– Hotels
Trip Dates: July-Dec 2007

Hotel Spring

Zone 1
8th Avenida btwn 12 & 13 Calle

 

Good Zone 1 location.  Longtime cruiser favorite in old building with big courtyards.  Very helpful staff.  Clean rooms $22 private bath, but a little shabby.  4 blocks to Litegua bus station.

Posada Belen Museo Hotel

Zone 1
13a Calle 10-30

 

$43 double with private bath.  Will pick up at airport (for cost).  Within walking distance of Litegua terminal & Zone 1 shopping.  Friends said nice things about it.  Great pillows
http://www.posadabelen.com

Las Torres

Zone 10
near Holiday Inn

 

Mixed rep with cruisers.  Rooms about same as Spring.  $25 private bath with ‘Rio Dulce Cruiser’ discount.  Walking distance of shopping and restaurants in Zona Viva.
http://www.aparthotel-lastorres.com

Biltmore

Zone 10

 

Supposedly $65/nite if you reserve ahead.  A nice (in US terms) hotel for high-end Guatemalan prices

Hotel Patricias

Zone 13,
19 Calle 10-65,
Aurora II

2261-4251

Very close to airport.  WIFI.  $12-$15pp, call ahead for reservations.  Price includes airport pickup and Continental breakfast.  Will accept credit cards but it’s cheaper to pay cash.  Family hotel, quiet, clean but simple.  Only has shared bathrooms (3 rms to 1 bathroom).
http://patriciashotel.com/

Hotel Dos Lunas

Zone 13,
21 Calle C 10-92
Aurora II

2261 4248

Very close to airport.  Includes transport to airport.  Free wifi.  Double w/ private bath $32 US.  Bunk bed $12. http://www.hoteldoslunas.com

Hotel Casa Blanca

Zone 13
15 Calle C 7-35
Aurora I

2261 3116

About $35/nite.  Bar and (limited) food on premises.  Free shuttle to airport.  Our picky friends really liked this place.
http://www.casablancagt.com/

Good comments on Guat City Hotels (and some other places) here:
http://www.mostlymaya.com/2Guathotels.html

Restaurants

Lots throughout city,  Check Lonely Planet

 

Zone 10 is best area for having a variety of restaurants within walking distance of hotel. 


Guatemala City
– Other

Transportation

 

 

Taxies are relatively expensive, city buses ridiculously cheap-1Q to anywhere.  Most hotel staff can tell you which busses to catch.  Watch your wallet and stuff anywhere you go. Backpacks should be hard to open and worn on front (friends had camera stolen out of backpack while walking)

Taxi Drivers

Roderico Lopez

5703-0606 (c)
2288-3180 (h)

English speaking taxi driver near Zone 10 that can be had for approximately $10/hour and will escort you anywhere you want to go.  Recommended by Vita.

Taxi Drivers

Moises Hernandez

5616-0282 (c)
5482-4565 (h)

Taxi driver that can be had for approximately $10/hour and will escort you anywhere you want to go.  Recommended by Vita.  Little English.

City Market

Just east of the main Square at the top of 8th Avenida

 

Full city block 4 stories high.  Anything you want including excellent quality $3 Guatemala souvenir Tshirts

Shopping

6th Avenida Zone 1

 

Daily inexpensive street stalls along the top of 6th Avenida

Shopping

Los Proceros Mall,
Zone 10

 

There are 2 huge malls within sight of each other at the intersection of Proceros and Reforma.  You can buy any U.S. style goods you are looking for there.


More Info:

Rio Dulce       Lanquin/Semuc Champey       Tikal/Flores/El Remate
 

Other Links with Useful Info

Guatemala City Recommendations by Monkey Bay Cruisers http://www.svargo.com/guatcityrecmonkeybay.htm

The Rio Dulce Chisme BBS Thread for Inland Travel
 

Major Bus Companies in Guatemala
(Greyhound style buses)

Company  

  Location  

  Telephone  

  Web Page or E-mail  

  Destinations  

MONJA BLANCA

8ª Avenida 15-16 Zona 1, Guatemala City - Cobán

2238-1409
2251-1878

www.autopullmanmonjablanca.com

Guat City,
El Rancho, Biotopo del Quetzal, Coban

ADN AUTOBUSES DEL NORTE

8ª. Av. 16-41 Zona 1 Guatemala City
- Santa Elena, Peten

2251-0050
2251-0079
2251-0610

www.adnautobusesdelnorte.com

Guat City, Río Dulce, Poptun, Flores, Tikal

TRANSPORTES LITEGUA

15 Calle 10-40 Zona 1 Guatemala City
- Zacapa, Izabal

2220-8840
2326-9400

www.litegua.com

Guat City, Puerto Barrios, Río Dulce, Zacapa

RUTAS ORIENTALES

19 calle 8-18 Zona 1 Guatemala City
- Zacapa, Chiquimula

2253-7282
2251-2160
2251-5373

rutasorientales@gmail.com

Guat City, Zacapa, Chiquimula, Honduras

FUENTES DEL NORTE

Calzada Aguilar Batres 7-55 Zona 12 Rutas del Sur: 8ª. Av. 4-25 Zona 12

2471-0952/53/54

fdn@intelnet.net.gt

Guat City, Peten, Izabal (special buses)
Retalhuleu (normal buses)

LINEA DORADA

16 calle 10-03, Zona 1 Guatemala City
- Peten , Izabal, Quetzaltenango, Hehetenango,

2220-7990
2232-9658

tikalmayanworld.com

Guat City, Tikal, Flores, Poptun, Rio Dulce, Huehuetenango, Belice

Buying Guatemalan Weavings: We had no intention of buying any textiles, but you kinda get caught up in it.  Recommend you visit one or two textile museums or seminars (see Antigua info) before you start buying--it gives a real appreciation for the art and effort involved.  If you're adventurous DON'T buy Guatemalan textiles in a nice store.  There are extreme bargains if you can buy in a market or on the street ($10 on the street, $100 in the store), but you have to be brutal about bargaining.  The price drops 25% when you walk away. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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