Crossing the border here is quite a thing, you go thourgh a no-mans-land by taxi. After that you come to the second border for entrance. Depending which way you go you arrive at or the Mexico or the Guatemalan border. For us it was from Mexico to Guatemala. Be patient at the visa office and watch you suitcases here as things are very busy here.
I strongly recommend to avoid the travel agency UNIVERSAL & PLUS +
Why? Why they are cheap but not a deal. If you think your time has more value than USD 12,00... And if you discover other better agencies, they do not refund!
I took a shuttle van (like a little chicken bus, `cause it was full like a chicken bus) from Panajachel to Coban. Not at all. A shuttle from Panajachel to Guate City, connecting in Antigua. They are always late. In Panajachel and in Antigua. I lost the bus (Pullman) in Guate City and had to sleep in Cobán.
Unique Suggestions: It depends on the value of your time
Fun Alternatives: Other agencies charge from 32 to 50 US dollares
when taking first class transport from chetumal to tikal, be sure to get off at Ixlu. If you don;'t they will drive you another 30 km to Flores. Ixlu is halfway between Flores and Tikal.
Unique Suggestions: When in Ixlu, you can either continue on to Tikal (just hitch a ride, there is plenty of transport) or stay at El Remate, which is a very pleasant town at a lake. No need to stay in dusty Flores. Flores is the tourist trap: hotels, souvenirs and restaurants, you will not find local life here! Its all touristy.
Fun Alternatives: El Remate!
Supposed to be the gratest Mayan Markt, and it is...full of beautiful hand made artifacts...but youcan buy them everywhere in Gutemala, and Chichi is full of beggars and with the highest concentration of poverty I ever saw in my life...Guatemala is great country, but Ididn't liked Chichi...better go immidiately to Atitaln
Okay, this issue isn't unique to just tourists. My friend who lives in Antigua has this happen to him all the time as well. This is what happened.
I rented a scooter/moped to get around town during my stay in Antigua. Well, one day when I parked my scooter near Antigua's arch around 6 p.m., there was a group of three locals sitting at the curb. They asked me for money. My thoughts to myself, "they haven't even earned the money yet, When I come back and they have done something to earn it, I will give them money."
Yeah, right....I get back about 2 hours later and another group of 2 guys is sitting at the curb. They too ask me for money and I say no.
Then I ride off on my trusty scooter. Or so I think.
About 2 blocks later, I realize that the back tire on my scooter was flat. The first group of 3 guys was angry with me for not giving them money right away, so they slashed not the outside tire, but the inner tube. Instead of just giving them a few quetzales, (8 to 1 exchange rate for U.S.$), I got angry and wanted them to earn their money.
Unique Suggestions: Well, you can still be safe in Antigua and walk the streets the ride a scooter and stuff. But when you park your vehicle, if you can avoid locals standing/sitting curbside right by your vehicle when you park, try. If you can't, just give in a give them some money. It's a small price to pay for some peace of mind.
A few Quetzales will do.
After adventure in the Mayan highlands of Uspatan and Coban, Lago Atitlan will provide comfortable hotels, especially at Panajachel. The selection of clothing and other Mayan handicrafts is good, it not at bargain prices.
Unique Suggestions: Take the ferry across to San Pedro where the bargaining is more relaxed.
Fun Alternatives: Lago Atitlan is worth a couple of days before moving on, but some expates choose to live here because of the year around pleasant climate.
The crafts sold at the entrance to the "on foot" portion of the park are so unbelievably overpriced you'll faint when you find the same thing for less (before haggling) in other places. However, the Tikal guide books sold on the way into the park area (while driving through the gate) are great souvenirs and guides.
Unique Suggestions: Get a tour book if you like and cruise through the mercado as you enter the forest.
after having travelled for hours from Costa Rica to Guatemala, only to jump on a bus about 20 minutes later and head to Tikal from guate, I guess that we were tired and not really thinking straight. I know all the tricks that are pulled on tourists, but I guess that sometimes you get to a point that you forget or just dont care.Make sure you dont do that!! We were hussled of the bus from Guate and crammed into a small van. Having been told that nearly all the hotels were full because of the carnival, we simply agreed to stay where they dropped us off. It was obvious that the van driver (associated with the tourist agency next door) was working with the hotel. So, we payed for the room because, of course there were not other rooms in the entire city of Santa Elena.....ya right. After tyring to relax in our room, only about 4 meters from the blarring speakers from the carnival (which was convenitnaly located outside our hotel-music and all...), we decided to see if there really was other hotels that had rooms...and well. to make the story short, we changed hotels and stayed at a much quieter and cleaner place. We did not, however, get our money back, depsite the fact that we had not touched at thing at the hotel. -I was a bad girl and kinda freaked at the hotel owner, and then we stole the soap and TP because, well i think we payed for it.... -
Fun Alternatives: First, never believe what they tell you. Go and see for yourself. Things would have been much easier had we just thanked them for the info and voyaged for a little ourselves. But it all worked out fine. Also, as a side note, as we were told, and truthfully (as I did ask a bunch of locals...) Santa Elena is far safer than Flores. Thy are the distance of a bridge over the river apart. I suggest that you stay in St. Elena and if you wanna spend the evening at a disco or something, then go to Flores for a little....
I would have to say that, unless you are interested in staying at one of those big Hilton-type hotels, and/or have to conduct some kind of business, stay away from the capitol. Visit if you wish, but do not devote more that two days and one night there. Make Antigua your home base. It is located less than an hour from the airport and is loaded with charm.
If you are rusty on Spanish, take some time to brush up. When doing business with open currency (cash) numbers will be spoken to you very fast and you better be able to do the math pretty quickly to make sure you aren't getting taken for a ride.
Be very careful when purchasing textile goods. You can very easily get ripped off and you should familiarize yourself with prices before getting anything. Always offer 1/2 or less than their original asking price.
Everything was expensive. Tours, textiles. The cheapest was the food. I guess this happens everywhere, but we were dissapointed that we paid $75 to a tour agency to take three of us hiking a volcano and found out, that our guide, who did all the work, got $12 out of the $75.
Everything you buy is negotiable, except in some stores. Even with negotiated prices, the textiles cost as much as some products cost in the us. The catch: you can't get those here--so pay up if you really want it. (we did buy some beautiful textiles and crafts)
Don't bother watching the sunrise from the top of Temple Three (or whichever is the trendy temple to watch the sunrise). You'll be surrounded at least 100 other people looking for a soulful experience. The blather is likely to drown out the howler monkeys.
Hotel Belmont in Guatemala City is the worst I've ever seen.
It has no windows and its toilets can terrify even the most experienced traveller. What's more it's in a really dangerous area and it's not that cheap.
Really beautiful and small. Close to parque central but not in the center of things. Nice...more
We stayed two nights here, choosing it because of its nearness to the ruins. The plan was to be able...more
Nice hotel in a comfortable safe neighborhood in Zone 9. An easy walk to the Los Procures Mall and...more
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