Traveling into Guatemala

Antigua Travel Blog

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Antigua's breezey Parque Central.

Hello all,

Today is another travel day, and although I was looking forward to a nice air conditioned bus, I was surely not looking forward to the early sounding of my alarm clock.  As it turned out, it wasn't so bad.  Even though I got to bed after midnight, I still woke up about 20 minutes before the thing went off.  That probably means that I will be sleeping good tonight.

I packed my things, paid for the hotel, and headed out with my pack to find a taxi to the bus station.  I tried three different taxis before finding one that went as low as the $3 I was willing to pay, but I felt like I had to make up for the $8 I shelled out two days ago.  I arrived in plenty of time for the bus, and the ComfortLines representative checked my passport when I checked in.

The Iglesia Catedral as viewed from Parque Central.
  They asked why I had not gotten a stamp in there since the June 5th entry stamp from Nicaragua.  I told them that I had noticed this, but I had no explanation.  During the chicken bus trip across two borders two days ago my passport was given the one over several times, and I did pay the fees that were required at each point, but for some reason there was no stamping.  I hoped that this would not be a problem in the future.

The bus was very nice, and there were only about 12 people on board for the 4-1/2 hour drive to Guatemala City.  At the border stop I was given some extra scrutiny by the border agent, but was allowed to exit El Salvador and enter Guatemala with no trouble.

3766 meter (12,356 feet) Volcan Agua with the Catedral and Parque Central in the foreground.
  But also with no stamp.  I asked the two American girls behind me if they had been stamped, and they said they hadn't either.  Their guess was that these countries had a co-operative 90 day visa that all of them recognized.  Sounds good, but why do the keep asking for the stamp, but not stamping the thing?  Again I hope there are no future problems because of this.

We arrive to Guatemala City just before noon, and I cannot help but be impressed by the apparent affluence of the area.  The outskirts are all new developments, and car dealerships, and the views into the city are fabulous.  Like most cities I've been to in Central America, Guatemala City is built in a valley, and the approach is wonderful to look at.  The bus pulls into the private terminal, and I get the feeling from the area that we are nowhere near the public bus terminal I need to be at for the bus to Antigua.

Iglesia y Convento San Francisco in the southeast of Antigua.
  Taxi drivers circle and pitch for my business, and the first price I am quoted for the trip is $10.  I retreat back into the terminal to figure out better where I am, and if a city bus can get me to the terminal.

My research complete, I exit again looking for a public bus and hoping to pay about 25 cents to do so.  As I walk past them one of the taxi drivers makes a final pitch of $5 to me.  I think about the bit of doubt I have with my bus plan and agree.  David from Sacramento and the UK shares the cab, as we both have the same destination in mind.  The taxi drive is a long one, and I certainly feel like we got our $5 worth by the time we arrive.  The driver helps us get to the correct bus and we jump on board.  David and I are the only people on the bus, and I am surprised when the bus leaves with just us two.

Parque Union as viewed through an archway.
  Along the way the conductor hangs from the door repeating his line.  "Antigua, Antigua, Antigua..."  over and over again as we head for the outskirts of town, until the bus is near full.  The fare is 7 Quetzales, but I pay $1 because I haven't exchanged any money yet.  I guess I can accept the 12 cent loss on the deal.

There is some road contruction along the way, but the road is otherwise great.  A 6-lane highway until the road splits into two directions, and then a nice 2-lane road through a mountainous area until we arrive in Antigua at about 2pm.  We collect our gear from the top of the bus, and are met by a couple of tourism companies with maps of the area.  It's a very nice soft sell approach that I was not prepared for, and a welcome change from some of the hard-sells you get in Central America.

The wall of Iglesia Santa Clara with several horse drawn carriages in front.
  I have a hotel in mind, but have no idea where it is located, so I head for the local tourist info office.  After about 25 minutes of walking with my full gear I am quite happy to arrive at Hotel Casa Cristina.

The first thing I noticed during my online hotel search in Antigua was that there was zero mentions of air conditioning, even in the most pricey of places.  This led me to believe that the climate must be very different then some of the places I have been, due to the elevation of the city.  The closest weather forecast I had been able to find online was for Guatemala City, which predicted a high of 75 °F/24 °C, and lows of 62 °F/17 °C.  Sounds great to me!  Maybe i can do without the A/C.

The rooms are beautiful, and the wi-fi works great so I feel very happy about the price I am paying.

A partially ruined wall of Palacio Capitanes.
  I head out to investigate the town, and it is beautiful.  But it is also overrun by tourists.  I really have no problem with this, as the infrastructure is great because of it, and the prices are low.  The city is filled with great old architecture, some restored, some still in ruins.  And the place is surrounded by three volcanoes.  I have a great view of Volcan Agua to the south out of my hotel window.

I grab some food, and book an excursion tomorrow to the highly active Volcan Pacaya (think flowing lava).  Things get going at 2:15pm and that will give me plenty of time to relax and play with the web before I have to get moving.

I crashed in my room by 9pm.

Later, Phil

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Antiguas breezey Parque Central.
Antigua's breezey Parque Central.
The Iglesia Catedral as viewed fro…
The Iglesia Catedral as viewed fr…
3766 meter (12,356 feet) Volcan Ag…
3766 meter (12,356 feet) Volcan A…
Iglesia y Convento San Francisco i…
Iglesia y Convento San Francisco …
Parque Union as viewed through an …
Parque Union as viewed through an…
The wall of Iglesia Santa Clara wi…
The wall of Iglesia Santa Clara w…
A partially ruined wall of Palacio…
A partially ruined wall of Palaci…
Another Volcan Agua view through t…
Another Volcan Agua view through …
Iglesia La Merced on the north end…
Iglesia La Merced on the north en…
Volcan Agua from my hotel room.
Volcan Agua from my hotel room.
Antigua
photo by: monky