How do I get out of Guatemala city after I land?
June 14, 2012 9:56 AM   Subscribe

I'm landing in Guatemala city at around 1:30 pm. I've been told I want to get out of the city to Xela or lake atitlan or Antigua as quickly as possible. Once I land at the airport, how do I find a bus to my destination and where should I go first? (I'm staying for a few weeks, so I'm on no set schedule)

I want to make my way to a Spanish school on lake atitlan eventually, but I think I might be more comfortable staying in a hostel in a city at first.

Basically the primary point of this question is to stop me from panicking when I land, since I don't know spanish and won't know where anything is.

What do I do first when I get off the plane, and then how do I catch a bus to Xela or Antigua?
posted by empath to Travel & Transportation around Guatemala (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, what do I do if there are delays and I land in the evening? Should I stay in Guatemala city and where?
posted by empath at 9:57 AM on June 14, 2012

This place looks ok.
posted by mareli at 10:40 AM on June 14, 2012

sent message to your gmail.
posted by empatterson at 10:49 AM on June 14, 2012

I took a cab from the airport to Antigua when I first arrived, it wasn't very expensive. This was at about 10 PM, which is actually a good time to go, since rush hour traffic leaving to Antiqua is hellacious. You could probably find another tourist at the airport to share a taxi or minibus. There will be lots of people going to Antigua, most likely.

By the way, I think the warnings about Guatemala City were extremely overrated, at least when I was there five years ago. I ended up hanging out there a few days, it's not an amazing city, but not the pit of hell it was made out to be.

Lake atitlan is great, you'll have a great time, people will be willing and able to help you with simple problems (I'm trying to go to Antiqua where is a bus, etc.) if you are polite.
posted by skewed at 11:40 AM on June 14, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, that makes me feel better. You read a lot of warnings about getting off the road at night and so on.
posted by empath at 11:56 AM on June 14, 2012

It's very easy to get from Guatemala City to Antigua (which is closest) during most times of the day and night. The tourist shuttle buses are numerous and accept quetzals or dollars (I think it's $10). You just go out through the front door of the airport, follow the dude in the orange safety jacket to a shuttle, and wait until there are enough people. (It took about 20 minutes in early January, for me.) The shuttle will take you to your hotel or hostel or whatever.

Antigua's a better jumping off point for major destinations, anyway.

And I'd highly recommend learning greetings and numbers and basic questions in Spanish. Guatemala was not the English-friendly country people had told me it was, but you'll do fine. Lake Atitlan is amazing!
posted by lunalaguna at 12:51 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used a shared minibus as described by lunalaguna when I went to Antigua and it really was that easy. Make sure you know the name of your hotel in Antigua so they can drop you off.

If you have to spend a night in GC on either end of your trip there are a number of hotels that offer pickup/dropoff at the airport. I stayed at Hotel Dos Lunas and they were super nice, they fed me and the driver who took me to the airport at 5:30AM was very cheerful. I've also had Posada Belen recommended to me.
posted by cabingirl at 12:54 PM on June 14, 2012

Please be advised that Guatemala City, and many parts of the country, are much more dangerous than they were five years ago. I lived there for 2.5 years (Peace Corps 2002-2004), and there are whole regions of the country that have been cleared of volunteers for security reasons.

It's an amazing country, just stunning. Just make sure you are getting up-to-date information. I wouldn't go wandering around Guatemala City unless you know exactly where you are going. Be careful anywhere at night.

As far as destinations, spending some time in Antigua and taking some day trips is a great thing to do. Be sure to hike Pacaya Volcano (I lived in the main town there and worked in the national park).

The country is incredibly diverse in climate and landscape. Xela and Atitlan are great, Tikal is worth it, and places like Coban and environs, the Ixil triangle, and El Estor are very worthy of consideration. The Oriente, the eastern cowboy country, is narcotraficante-riddled now and unsafe.

Be careful. The life of a Guatemalan isn't worth much. If you can afford tourist shuttles instead of chicken buses for long travel, consider doing that. Watch what the locals do if you feel nervous somewhere. People are generally lovely there.

MeMail me if you have any other questions.
posted by oneironaut at 1:59 PM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Honestly, what I would suggest you do is get in touch with the Spanish school in Antigua that you're planning on going to. Ask them the questions you're asking here. Those guys are pros: they deal with hundreds of us gringos a year, and they've gotten really good at moving us around with minimal hassle and stress. They will have up-to-the-minute information on what hostels are safe, which bus companies are reliable, when it's okay to be out on the road, blah blah blah. (Their advice will probably err on the side of caution, but it's okay to be cautious on your first day in the country. There will be time for adventures later.)

If you ask nicely, they can probably even arrange everything for you — you'll still have to pay for whatever services they arrange (driver, hotel room, whatever), but you won't have to deal with setting it up yourself, which will totally be worth it if you're a worrier.

I'm also of the opinion that Guatemala City is worth visiting. But it is worth visiting carefully, since even some of the formerly nice neighborhoods have apparently started to get iffy recently. Your best bet would probably be to spend a few nights there on your way home. Stay at a hotel or hostel that's been well-recommended, and get the staff's advice on where it's safe to go when, because again, those guys are the experts on Not Getting Gringos Mugged and their advice is guaranteed to be better than mine.
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:24 PM on June 14, 2012

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