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BEFORE YOU GO TO GUATEMALA

 

When to go to Guatemala

The most convenient time to visit Guatemala is from November to May. A big part of Guatemala is at high altitude and therefore it’s colder there. The warmest month is April, while most rainfall is in the summer.

 

 

Where to go and what to see in Guatemala

Guatemala Antigua

There are almost two million tourists in Guatemala each year. Vast majority of these visitors come from the USA and Canada. Top-class attractions being colonial Antigua in the south of the country and Mayan Tikal in the north, near the border with Belize and Mexico. The traditional tourist route therefore starts in Antigua, which was the capital of Central America almost for 200 years. The journey from there leads to the villages around the lake Atitlan which is surrounded by majestic volcanoes. These villages are also popular with tourist for Spanish courses. The tourists also visit local markets in the village Chichicastanengo, make a half-day trip to a volcano Pacaya or a two day trip to a volcano near the town of Xela. Starting by the lake Atitlan and the village Panajachel you can travel through Antigua to a small town Flores in the north. Flores is the starting point for visiting the majestic Tikal. You can also get to Flores with one stop in Semuc Champey near the town of Cobán. You can either enjoy the countryside here or go across Rio Dulce and Livingston in the east and enjoy the Caribbean mood for a change.

There is also a less touristy route where only the so called ‘chicken buses’ operate and which the locals use. This route leads to Tikal from the lake Atitlan, via Chichicastanengo, over the mountains to Nebaj and then to Cobán and Semuc Champey. From where you can take a tourist minivan to Flores/Tikal. Those who spend longer time in Guatemala usually visit easily accessible Mayan Copán right outside the borders with Honduras. The most capable ones then inaccessible El Mirador on the borders with Mexico. Who wants to see the black beaches by the Pacific goes for instance to Monterico.

 

 

Travelling in Guatemala on your own

Guatemala Tikal

When planning this journey safety aspects immediately came up. When first researching the safety aspects, unfortunately I came across scary stories of people being mugged, of concerns about travelling on the night buses and stories about incidents when people were kidnapped. Moreover there are not many travelogues on the internet and even Lonely Planet is unusually full of warnings. In the end, I came to the conclusion that the enthusiasm for the Mayan sites prevailed and I joined the two million travellers and set out for this journey. After taking this trip, my experience is such that if you follow common safety rules, there’s nothing to worry about on a typical tourist trip. However, I don’t count Guatemala City into a typical tourist trip.

Although it doesn’t seem that way, from Europe it’s further to Guatemala than to, for example, to Beijing. Corresponding with this distance is also the time difference of 8 hours. When I went to bed, people at home got up to go to work. When flying to Guatemala you typically have a layover in Europe and then in busy Miami. Alternatively at a less busy airport in Texan Houston. Layover in the USA unfortunately means arranging ESTA or having a valid visa.

Based on my latest trips, I packed everything into a small cyclist backpack for this journey - viz. 'Tricks - What to bring on a trip'. My backpack weighed less than 6 kilograms in the end. I had all my toiletries in a packaging up to 100 ml so I could take my backpack as a carry-on luggage on board. Since two thirds of Guatemala lies in higher altitude I packed long trousers, and because of a trip to an active volcano Pacaya, also closed shoes.

I mainly met American tourists on my travels who mostly spoke Spanish. Spanish language is a great asset in Guatemala but you can also use English in most tourist destinations.

I wasn’t very impressed by Guatemalan cuisine. I sometimes treated myself to Mexican burito or fajitas but most of the time I ate chicken with rice and omnipresent bean paste. I practically didn’t come across fish. Lunch was about 60 QTZ in restaurants in tourist places. In street eateries I paid 20 QTZ for a simple meal. Ballo beer - 1 liter - cost 27 QTZ, one liter of water 10 QTZ.

I booked my accommodation online for the first days in Guatemala and for the last days in Belize. I was flexible with all other places to stay and managed everything on spot. I mostly asked someone at the reception to call my other destination and book a place for me. There were no mosquitoes on my journey so after a long time I didn’t have to sleep under a mosquito net.

Transportation in Guatemala is dealt with in two ways: there are shuttle buses in tourist places, which are small white vans for approximately 15 people. They run from door to door and you can arrange to take them at the hostel reception or directly in the agency’s office. They can also take you to Guatemala City, into zones 9, 10 and to the airport. It’s therefore a good option how to quickly and easily leave the capital city. Useful websites: www.adrenalinatours.com, www.rainbowtravelcenter.com or  www.posadadelosvolcanes.com. Although I mostly try to plan my holiday in order not to spend half of the way transferring from one public transport to another, it’s hard to avoid this in Guatemala. Due to a mountainous terrain there are extreme distances and transfers for up to 10 hours aren’t an exception. The only overnight service is to Flores/Tikal. So called chicken buses provide transport for locals and they are colorful, modified and decorated American school buses.

There’s a different type of electrical sockets in Guatemala.

 

 

VISITED COUNTRIES

zeme 100

37

KM ON THE ROADS

km 100

48 560

DAYS ON THE ROADS

dny 100

397