This summer I was very fortunate to spend nine weeks exploring Central America. The misconception of Central America being unsafe for single females was certainly blown out of the water, especially when catching public transport.
The only issue we faced during our time in Central America was figuring out how to get from place to place. A lot of the information we found was very helpful but often it was old, the information was out of date and the costs involved had substantially changed.
Over the next few posts I will be exploring how we made our way through Central America, the journeys we took, the costs involved and when possible the alternate routes to take.
Check out our Central America itinerary and keep reading for the first instalment navigating Guatemala.
Navigating Guatemala can be a time-consuming process, the short distances you cover take substantially longer due to the poor infrastructure of the roads. Many of the roads you will travel will be narrow, full of pot holes and in places unsealed.
While it’s possible to navigate your way through parts of Guatemala with public transport, generally this will take longer due to the short distances the buses operate within.
Minibuses are generally the way you navigate the county – there are little offices everywhere to make a booking to your next destination and generally your accommodation will offer a booking service also.
Guatemala Airport to Antigua
Flying into Guatemala City we caught a shuttle directly to Antigua, this was relatively hassle free. There are two shuttle companies (both cost the same) located just outside of the baggage hall.
We had a small wait while they tried to fill the shuttle but in the end, we had a taxi to ourselves that dropped us at our accommodation.
- 45 minutes – 1 hour
I’d advise you to take the correct amount with you in either local currency or USD to save you time exchanging money at the currency exchange. Once you leave the baggage hall there is no access to currency exchange or an ATM.
Antigua to San Pedro via Chichicastenango
This was quite a big travel day for us but it also saved us a whole night. We had planned to head to Chichicastenango Markets and stay a night there before continuing our journey to Lake Atitlan.
We were struggling to find local transport or the best route to complete our onwards journey. When someone suggested we just do all the travel in one day, having a stop off in Chichicastenango for a couple of hours (which was more than enough time for this market).
- Shuttle: Antigua – Chichicastenango – 4 hours (we were told it would take 2 hours)
- Shuttle: Chichicastenango –Panajachel – 2 hours
- Boat: Panajachel – San Pedro – 40 minutes (the time will vary depending where else they are stopping)
- Antigua – Chichicastenango 75q ($10USD)
- Chichicastenango –Panajachel 60q ($8 USD)
- Panajachel – San Pedro 25q ($3.50USD)
As stated above it is possible for you to complete these journeys on local buses. We decided to opt against this as it would only save us a couple of dollars, it would take longer and it would be less comfortable.
We booked our shuttle through our accommodation. The shuttle service was a well-oiled machine, they were efficient and had people to watch our luggage as we explored the markets.
The shuttle will drop you at the boat stop in Panajachel and boat drivers will meet you to help find the correct boat to your destination.
San Pedro to Lanquin
This was the longest journey and most expensive journey we encountered in Guatemala. While it was a straight forward journey it was a lot of sitting in cramped conditions on a small shuttle. The journey took longer due to us foolishly sleeping through our alarm after a big night out.
- Shuttle: 14 hours (with a short stop in Antigua)
- 200q ($28USD)
There are several different shuttle companies in San Pedro, generally they are around the same price, just be sure to enquire about the stops the shuttle will make. As some of the shuttles will stop in Antigua for a couple of hours.
If you book for the 5am shuttle it will take a couple hours less, just make sure not to have a big night and sleep through your alarm.
Lanquin to Flores
This was the most horrific of all of our journeys in Guatemala. It was a painfully slow journey with majority of the roads being unpaved. We had a delayed start, a flat tire and cramped traveling conditions. To top it all off, we had a minibus that was trying to roast us to death.
- 12 hours (we were told between 5-8 hours but it’s more commonly 11-12 hours)
- 100 q ($14USD)
While I’m sure there were cheaper ways to navigate through Guatemala we preferred to save on time.
If we were to complete the trip again, we would head straight from the airport to Lake Atitlan and then to Antiqua. The only impact this would make was to save us from doubling back on ourselves and give us a shorter journey to Lanquin.
We weren’t worried about booking our shuttles in advance due to our flexible itinerary. We didn’t have any trouble booking shuttles and we found the offices easy to find and communicate with.
If you are after a bit more certainty check out these travel agents to book shuttles.
Adrenalina Tours: http://www.adrenalinatours.com
Rainbow Travel: http://www.rainbowtravelcenter.com
It’s an easy place to navigate and we didn’t feel uncomfortable at any point of our journey. Happy travels!
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