Where the streets have no name.
May 22, 2008 4:51 PM   Subscribe

Please help me find a map of Santiago Atitlan, Solola, Guatemala!

I have been in Santiago for 4 days now, and getting around is pretty confusing. I haven't really been able to go outside of a four block radius, for fear of geting lost. I have asked many people, both natives and expats, where I could find a map, and no one seems to have a good answer for me. I have tried teh google, to no avail. I do realize that the streets don't really have any names, and that streets and alleys aren't really discernable from each other, and that everyone is directed to places according to their approximation to other places, but I need help! I am going to be here for another four weeks, and it would be helpful to have some sort of visual guide if I'm ever to explore safely.
Just to ward off certain answers:
I do not have much to time walk around and find my own way. I work all of the daytime hours, I am female and protective of my safety, and I have very little time before it gets dark to explore. I would like to use what little free time I have to get from point A to point B without getting lost.
Any kind of map, no matter how rough, would be greatly appreciated.
posted by greta simone to Travel & Transportation around Guatemala (10 answers total)
It's not labeled, but maybe this high res satellite image would help? Especially if you could print it out and have a local point out major landmarks for you.
posted by OpinioNate at 5:15 PM on May 22, 2008

Well, Google Maps can do better that the crappy satellite photo at OpinioNate's link... You can zoom in one more level on that, then Google runs out of detail. But since the streets are unnamed, maybe a satellite photo is about as good as a map?

And don't be a prick, telstar.
posted by nicwolff at 5:53 PM on May 22, 2008

I searched and could not find one. However, in some places in Guatemala travel agencies have free maps - just stop in and ask. Not sure if that will be the case in Santiago, but it's worth a shot.

Can you get up extra early for a morning or two and take a walk to orient yourself? Or do the same during a lunch/break? I know you said you don't have much free time, but if you're there for four more weeks it will probably make you feel a lot better to set aside some time to do this in the next few days.

If you can't find a map anywhere, what about making your own? It sounds like you have certain places you want to move between. Sketch out the routes you've been taking, and from now on keep your eyes open for landmarks and stuff that helps you orient yourself (eg, a building with a distinctive color combination, a place where you bought something, restaurant/grocery you've been to, etc).

While the way telstar "answered" your question was unnecessarily harsh and assumption-laden, he made a great point about landscape. Pay attention to the geography around you. You're right on the lake - that's one big help. Is there a volcano in a certain direction, hills, etc? Add those to your sketched map.

Pretty soon you'll have a mental (and physical) map and will feel more comfortable.

You're right not to wander (esp alone) when it's dark. I've spent quite a lot of time on my own in Guatemala (single white female), and have walked from place to place on roads not often traversed by non-chapines. I rarely felt unsafe, but sometimes I did. I'm a quiet and non-flashy person by US standards, but in Guatemala I suddenly stand out a lot (esp when not in touristy places). I have to adjust to the extra attention and be more careful with my body language, eye contact, etc when I'm down there.

Stay alert and pay attention to your surroundings. Try not to carry much around with you if you can avoid it. Be discreet with your cash - learn the denominations, about how much you need at a time, and don't take out large bills or have money everywhere when you're paying for something. You're going to be seen as affluent in relation to the vast majority of Guatemalans whether you consider yourself wealthy or not. Most people I meet in chapinlandia are curious (as we all are) and respectful, but most are also very poor and poverty makes people (not just Guatemalan people) do desperate things sometimes.

Be aware, be careful, be polite but not overly friendly or familiar, and try as much as you can to expand outside your current radius. I hope this will give you ideas about how to be more comfortable and safe when you're there. Enjoy your time in Guatemala!
posted by splendid animal at 6:14 PM on May 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

Pay attention to the geography around you.

That is a good point - since you have the single volcano San Pedro to your west, and the double peak of Atitlán and Tolimán to your east, you should always be able to tell which way you're headed.
posted by nicwolff at 6:59 PM on May 22, 2008

Hmm, a cursory search turns up no maps, and some unpleasant information about the town's history. It doesn't appear to be terribly tourist friendly, which might explain why there aren't any ready maps available for it.
I suggest that you befriend a local, and allow them to show you around. They should be able to tell you where you as a gringa you will be safe, and what places to avoid, and when. A local friend was also be nice, they could show you the cool things that the average tourist would not be able to discover. I have had many pleasant experiences abroad by adopting this tactic.

What the hell did telstar say?!
posted by msali at 10:53 AM on May 23, 2008

Santiago is a big tourist town; ask where the centro de turismo is. INGUAT (I think) is the official government tourist agency - I couldn't get their website to tell me where their office in Santiago was, though. That's what we always do in Guatemala; head for the central plaza, find the tourist office, and load up on maps, tour offers, etc.

Come to think of it, any tourist agency should have a map for you.

Do you have a coworker who could escort you? I know it's hard for a white female to travel alone in Guate. Have you asked your coworkers for help? I think they'd be able to tell you better than Metafilter.

Dang, now I really want to know what telstar said - I guess it got removed?
posted by GardenGal at 1:29 PM on May 23, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so far. A few things:
I have been to the tourist center as well as a few libraries around here, seeking a map and have been unsuccessful.
I have been walked around quite a bit by locals, but this is a large town, and there is much left to see.
I really have maybe two half-hour blocks of time during the day to walk around, but this doesn´t get you far when you don´t know where you´re going.
The google map doesn´t zoom in close enough for a print out.
Yes, I can see all of the volcanoes, and yes I can head toward them, but that means I can also head down a narrow dead-end alleyway when it´s starting to get dark and get disoriented.
All these reasons and more are why I seek a half-decent map.
I don´t know what telstar said, but I´m angry anyway.

Thanks for any more leads you can give me.
posted by greta simone at 4:43 PM on May 23, 2008

Response by poster: Oh yeah, and I haven´t found any other tourist agencies here so far. If you could send me a map so I could find one....
posted by greta simone at 4:44 PM on May 23, 2008

Response by poster: And also, I have already sketched out my own map, but there are a lot of holes.
posted by greta simone at 4:45 PM on May 23, 2008

Rereading your post, four days is a very short time to get to know a place; don't be hard on yourself for getting lost so far. I take way longer. Though obviously you're a pretty intrepid gal if you're working in another country.

I find it very strange that the tourist center doesn't have maps - isn't that what they're for? How frustrating. Though come to think of it, even if they did have maps they might be of only the historical, touristy part of the city.

I wonder if you could call INGUAT's center in Guatemala city and have them mail you a map? By the time it arrives (probably 2 weeks) you may already be familiar with your area. But that's the only other thing I can think of!
posted by GardenGal at 10:13 AM on May 24, 2008

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