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Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

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Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

My boyfriend and I are traveling to Guatemala in October and we are looking for some safety and just general traveling tips when there. We are there for a little over a week and I think we will head to Antigua right away when we land, then check out the volcano and Lake Atitlan. From there we wanted to find a cheap option to travel to Tikal for the rest of the trip.

-I've heard of the overnight buses to Tikal from Antigua. Are they safe? If you know of one can you share links to some good ones?

-What are some affordable but safe/nice options for hotels/hostels in Antigua and Tikal?

-is five days too much for Tikal? Should we do a day trip from Timal to somewhere else? Recommendations?

-what areas should we avoid in Antigua and which ones are safe?

-any other recommendations for things to see? I speak Spanish and we love hiking and exploring nature.

Thanks!!

24 replies to this topic
The Dalles, Oregon
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1. Re: Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

I'd allow at least 2 nights for Antigua, at least 3 nights for Lake Atitlán, and 1 or 2 for Tikal. The buses go from Guatemala City to Flores for Tikal; you can set up the whole trip in advance if you're heading from Antigua which would mean a shuttle, the overnight bus, and a shuttle to the Maya site. I recommend staying in the park at Tikal and purchasing your ticket at a Banrural bank anywhere in Guatemala before you get to the National Park or you'll have to wait in an additional line at the entrance there.

Here are 2 transportation providers I’ve been pleased with in Guatemala for share shuttles, private transfers, and flight arrangements:

Adrenalina Tours: http://www.adrenalinatours.com

Rainbow Travel: http://www.rainbowtravelcenter.com

My photos with blog, travelogue, and review links on the main page of each collection are below in case you're interested - all my recommendations are embedded there. Happy trails!

flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

Paris, Canada
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2. Re: Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

If you only have a little over a week don't spend 5 days in Tikal. A day in Tikal is good with one night at the park so you are there early morning as well. There are three hotels in Tikal. Double rooms start at $45 or so (could be cheaper in October). But you can also sleep in the hammocks at the campground. That is a great experience and the hammocks are comfortable (used to be $10 per person, maybe a bit more now). If you do have time you could go to Yaxha as well.

2 days for Antigua is fine. If by volcano you mean Pacaya you could still get away with 2 days. Pacaya is a half day excursion. You like to hike so maybe you would like to climb volcano Acatenango. I recommend the overnight trip and in that case you would need 3 days for Antigua. You should also be acclimatized so I would go to Lake Atitlan first as that would help. It is a tough steep climb. You can see Fuego erupt from the top. It is an amazing experience.

3 days at Lake Atitlan would be great too. It is fun to explore the different Maya villages and markets. Great hiking as well. The nature reserve in Pana is nice too.

As stated above, most tourists buy a ticket to Flores in Antigua which includes a shuttle to Guatemala City and an overnight bus to Santa Elena/Flores. But you could also go to Flores first, when you arrive, as you will be in GC. You can just go to the bus terminal and buy tickets. There are three bus companies that have overnight buses: ADN, Linea Dorada and FDN (Fuentes del Norte). We have always gone with FDN, their luxury version Maya de Oro.

By the way, the overnight bus goes to the Santa Elena bus station and from there you can take a tuk tuk or taxi (short ride) to Flores. If the bus stops earlier (at the causeway to Flores) you might be told to change to a shuttle ("included in the price") that will take you to Flores. Or that shuttle might be waiting at the Santa Elena bus station. Don't get on it. Those people are notorious (just do a search on this forum). They will try to bring you to their hotels (sometimes even claiming that no hotels are available in Flores so you have to go to their hotel in El Remate), they will try to sell you tickets and tours at inflated prices and if all that does not work they have even charged for the shuttle ride when they drop you off. They get quite aggressive. So don't get on that shuttle. If the bus stops near the Flores causeway and you can see it you can just walk across. Short walk and Flores is small. Or stay on the bus till you get to the Santa Elena bus station and take a tuk tuk or taxi. If you do end up on the shuttle just say no to everything.

There are shuttles from Flores to Tikal. But from the Santa Elena bus station you can also take a public minibus to Tikal (Q25 a few years ago). As the overnight bus arrives early you might have to wait for a bit till the public buses start running but there is a market across from the bus station and you can have breakfast there when it opens.

In Antigua I like El Jardin de Lolita. It is quiet with a nice courtyard. There is a kitchen you can use. Basic but very clean rooms. There is also Yellow House, across the street. Or A Place to Stay. We took a look at Yellow House and A Place to Stay but preferred El Jardin de Lolita. Or Bigfoot (if you like to party... I believe it can be noisy). Antigua is quite safe and very walkable. Just be careful at night if you stay out late. If streets are empty take a taxi.

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3. Re: Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

Is the overnight bus safe?

Also what are your favorite activities in Antigua and Lake Atitlan? Is Lake Atitlan close enough that you can stay in Antigua and take a shuttle to Lake Atitlan every day or is it better to stay at Lake Atitlan? I just know it's a hassle and you lose time when you switch hotels so I was wondering what place would be best to stay...

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4. Re: Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

Do you know of any day trip tours that go from Tikal/Flores to Belize City? Or other fun day trips in the area?

The Dalles, Oregon
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5. Re: Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

Belize City isn't a great place to visit and not really day trip material - it's about 5 hours from Flores or Tikal if you don't have to wait at the border. We love the Yaxhá Maya site which is off the main road leading to Belize. There are add'l sites as well; maybe contact Marlon Díaz for tour info? www.gemtrips.com

There's a nature park near Flores: www.ixpanpajul.com

If you really want to cross into Belize there are some outstanding caving trips on offer. The ATM trip is the most popular, a full day trip, quite a distance from the border; you'd have to arrange with an agency to meet you early at the border, I think (as well as transport to the border). Here's who we went with:

pacztours.net/actun-tunichil-muknal/atm-cave…

Actun Chapat is based from an office quite close to the border in the small town of San José Succotz and the cave itself is nearer the border than the ATM - rarely visited but pretty amazing.

http://actunchapatadventure.blogspot.com/

Have a great trip, whatever you decide!

Bethesda, MD
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6. Re: Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

Maybe you should visit your local library and get a guide book. Or read through the multitude of posts on this site that address your questions.

Paris, Canada
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7. Re: Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

I have taken the overnight bus from GC to Santa Elena/Flores 4 times or so. Obviously I think it is safe.

Antigua: the ruins of course (La Merced, Las Capuchinas, La Recoleccion, the ruins of the cathedral...), the markets, wandering through the streets (especially at dawn), stores like Nim Po't, people-watching in the parque central... Volcano Acatenango overnight.

Lake Atitlan: bus from Pana to the Solola market (Tuesdays and Fridays), boat to Santiago (go see Maximon), the nature reserve in Pana, pick-up truck to Santa Catarina Palopo from Pana, boat to Santa Cruz and the walk to Jaibalito, San Pedro (not so much the dock area but the town up the hill), the views (especially from Panajachel, Jaibalito, Santa Catarina Palopo...), hiking...

Much better to stay at Lake Atitlan. You don't want to bus or shuttle back and forth from Antigua every day. Choose a village (or two) and explore from there.

I agree: reading a guide book and more threads on this forum will give you lots of ideas.

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8. Re: Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

We are visiting Gautemala City in November. We would like to take day trips. Is Antigua an option...how? by bus? how long is the trip and what are the optonis? Are there other good day trips...or two adults and two teens. Thanks. rodney

The Dalles, Oregon
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9. Re: Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

Antigua is an easy day trip from Guatemala City and would be a better place to sleep, too, imho. You can get between with private or share shuttles. Here are 2 transportation providers I’ve been pleased with in Guatemala for share shuttles, private transfers, and flight arrangements:

Adrenalina Tours: http://www.adrenalinatours.com

Rainbow Travel: http://www.rainbowtravelcenter.com

Our favorite private driver, Alfredo Garcia, is bilingual, personable, prompt, and safe, and has nice vehicles: alf.transport@yahoo.com

Can you tell us more about your trip so we can help you better? Generally I'd recommend against staying in Guatemala City with so many beautiful, accessible other options. How many nights is your trip? Are/were you planning to stay in GC the whole time? What are your interests?

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10. Re: Tips for traveling in Guatemala?

I just returned from a fantastic trip to Guatemala! I flew into GUA arriving in the morning, then took a TAG flight to Flores arriving around 6 p.m. Based on a recommendation from a Forum post, I hired Edil Calderon to drive me to Tikal Jungle Lodge. Edil was fantastic! He suggested that we start by going to a bank to buy Tikal tickets for the next day. The banks are open until 7pm and have long lines. He then suggested stopping at the grocery store next door to get some fruit and snacks as food in Tikal National Park is limited. Great suggestion! His vehicle is comfy and he is very personable. He charged about $100 each way for two people but his van would fit 6. Having the Tikal ticket in advance really helped. You have to have a ticket if you are staying at one of the lodge hotels and the ticket office there closed before I arrived. Edil_Calderon@yahoo.com. He arrived early to give me a ride back to Flores.

From GUA, I booked a communal shuttle to Panajachel with Tropical Travel. We had a very positive experience with this service. I booked the 11am communal shuttle prior to our trip for $25/person. The emailed instructions said to look for a driver with a sign with my name on it at the airport exit (there is only one exit). It also said to wait at Café Bareto. The latter was correct. Note that when you exit the airport, there is a café to the left AND to the right. Café Bareto is the one on the right. I couldn’t find a driver and called. Alan, the driver arrived right away and we had a private SUV all the way to Panajachel. It was great!

From San Pedro, we used Casa Verde Tours for a communal shuttle to Antigua. This was super cheap, but an uncomfortable ride. The van is packed and there isn't much leg room. Luggage is stored on the roof. The ride itself is up the very steep and twisty roads around Lake Atitlan. The views were incredible and it was interesting to see the small communities you don't see from the lake. The shuttle departed about 30 minutes late. If I did it over again, I would take a lancha to Panajachel and do a communal shuttle from there as it would be faster and the boat is fun.

From Antigua, we used Adrenolina Tours for a communal shuttle to GUA. It was comfortable. We paid $15 when buying the ticket online prior to our trip. Luggage was stored inside the vehicle. The driver picked us up where we were staying which was very convenient. Traffic was bad and it was probably 90 minutes from the planned time of departure to the airport. There was a line for customs in addition to the usual lines for check-in and body scans. We had the 12:30 shuttle for a 3:45 flight and had about 30 minutes to wait for boarding. Allow sufficient time!

Guatemala is amazing! It is a beautiful country with friendly people.

Edited: 13 November 2017, 04:40
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