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Guatemala for a woman travelling alone

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Hi -

I'm going to Guatemala next month and will be on my own and on a pretty tight budget.

Can anyone recommend places to stay in Guatemala City and Antigua that are both charming and safe for a woman travelling alone? I like to walk around a city at night and want to feel safe going back to the hotel/b&b/hostel.

Also, what's the best way to get from Flores airport to Tikal? The place I'm staying offered a taxi but they charge $50 and I think that's too much for me.

Thanks!

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    I'd avoid Guatemala City and caution you about "feeling safe" walking around any Central American city at night. It's simply not a good philosophy for CA for a woman traveling alone. I've been out at night in Antigua where and when there were other people around and felt fine, but when the streets empty, imo it's not safe and you should take a taxi (the tuktuks are widely available).

    You can get a taxi on the spot in Flores for the ride to Tikal; I was asked for $40 but ended up paying $25 for a friend and I in 2007.

    I don't know what you're thinking budget wise but consider Casa Cristina in Antigua and Mario's Rooms in Panajachel - both cute, safe budget-ish places in great locations, helpful owners, free internet and purified water.

    Below I've pasted the link to my photo collections; there are links on the main page of each collection for a travelogue that includes my recommendations for lodging with live links to the hotel website if available. Below I've pasted my safety precaution response from a previous thread. Have a great trip, whatever you decide, and be sure to tell us all about it when you get home.

    http://flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

    I'm heading back to CA for my 8th visit this summer, splitting 5-6 weeks between Guatemala and Belize.

    Sometimes I travel alone, sometimes with kids or my husband, sometimes with a group in tow. I don't feel overly paranoid but have never had a problem and would like to keep it that way.

    Here are my concessions to safety when I travel in Central America:
    :: I avoid the big cities as much as possible
    :: I don't "party"
    :: Where recommended I take specific transportation (Hedman Alas in Honduras, for example, or avoiding chicken buses on the mountain runs in Guatemala, taxis after dark)
    :: I know where I am and where I'm headed
    :: I don't wear jewelry (not even my wedding band) and try not to flash camera equipment or money around
    :: Some trips I carry a “throw down wallet” with an expired card or 2 and the day’s cash in it
    :: I keep important documents and cash under my clothes (except what I need for shopping, buses, etc. for that time period)
    :: I ask locals about safety in an area - evenings, hiking, etc.
    :: I travel really light so I don't feel vulnerable getting my bag off and on buses, shuttles, etc.
    :: I continue to build skills in Spanish

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    Hello Met,

    I just returned from Guatemala a few days ago (I will post a thorough report as soon as I can). You are going to love it!! I am daydreaming about my own trip as I sit in my office right now. Yes, you must be careful and know where you are going and have some understanding of what life is like there. As long as you keep your wits about you and travel smart, you should be okay.

    I agree with hopeful - do not walk around any larger cities at night. Even Antigua. Whatever restaurant or bar you are at should be able to call a cab for you if needed. I actually stayed in Guate City for 2 nights and enjoyed myself, believe it or not, but I have no desire to spend any more time there should I go back. However, I know that a lot of people fly into GC at night and the only viable option is to stay there their first night. If this is your case, I would *highly* recommend GuateFriends Hostal (not hostel) Bed and Breakfast: http://www.guatemalahostal.com/. It is run by an American, Joe, and his wife, Anna who is Guatemalan. They will pick you up from the airport for free, no matter how late at night it is. Their place is just a few minutes from the airport in Zona 13. They are wonderful hosts, the beds were cheap, clean and comfortable, breakfast was great, and I would not hesitate to stay there again. They had great tips and advice for our stay in GC as well. To reiterate what hopeful says though, it is not safe to walk anywhere at night, or really even in the daytime in GC, and especially not alone.

    Regarding taxis from Flores to Tikal, it is easy to find one and negotiate with the crowd of drivers who surround you as soon as you leave the airport. We ended up paying $40USD, even though I think we could have gotten it even lower. But we were too tired to really try bargaining with them. Just a note though - make sure you have decent-looking US bills with you, as in not ripped or really worn. We had two different taxi drivers who would not accept $5 bills that we'd given b/c of small rips in the bill. I'm guessing there is a problem with counterfeit US dollars here.

    Buen viaje!
    Carla

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    I agree with others that Guatemala City would be hard for a woman traveling alone and that empty streets at night in any city could be a problem. I just got back from a trip with my husband and two young adult sons and was able to avoid walking alone at night

    We stayed two nights in B & B's right near the airport because we arrived late and left early from the airport. These are in suburban neighborhoods and were fine for short stays but there are really no restaurants nearby. The archeological museum is in the same zone as the airport so it was easy to visit that on our last day

    What is your price range for lodging? We stayed at Hotel Posada Los Búcaros in Antigua at $45/night for a double. It has complimentary parking which we needed. It is listed under Fodor's destinations section and I think that the description captures the pros pretty well. I liked the location even though it was not as near the central plaza as some others. Casa Cristina mentioned in another post was nearby and also looked nice.

    It sounds as though you are planning to stay in Flores when you visit Tikal. We really enjoyed staying right at the park for two nights which gave us a day and a half in the ruins. The wildlife there is also amazing--we loved watching the spider monkeys

    We had the same experience as carlyshells with refusal to accept US money not in pristine condition

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    Hey Vttravler! Did your son find good vegetarian things to eat on your trip? If I remember correctly, you were in Tikal with your family right before I was. My veggie friend had pretty boring meals there. Actually, Tikal was the most disappointing of all our meals in Guatemala, but c'est la vie. I was not there for the culinary delights!

    I keep thinking about being amongst the ruins as the sun was setting and having the park virutally to oursevles. What an amazing place!

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    carlyshells--My son did ok with his vegetarian meals but had a lot of rice and eggs and beans and not-very-exciting pasta dishes. He does eat fish/seafood so was happy when we stopped en route to Tikal along the Rio Dulce. And Antigua had plenty of restaurant choices. We had a car and did shopping at some supermarkets and had cheese and crackers, yogurts, etc for lunch several days. We were all really happy with the fruit options -- bought pineapple, bananas, melons, mango at roadside stands and markets.

    I was also amazed by Tikal. My husband and sons have seen some of the major Mayan ruins in Mexico but Tikal and Quirigua in Guatemala were my first. I did read in my Fodors' guide to G. that the walk we took to Temple VI at Tikal one morning is not recommended w/o a guide because it is so isolated but we had no problems. I wish we had been able to talk to the workers there who were doing restoration on the altar there but our Spanish was not up to it. Sitting at the top of Temple IV above the jungle canopy and looking out over the other temples was incredible

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    Hi there,

    was wondering if you have made it back from your trip yet. I am also going to GUA in a few months, am traveling alone, and am a female. I was just wondering how it was, since this is my first time traveling alone in a foreign country I am trying to have all my ducks in row before I go. Would love to hear any advice you may have.

    Thanks!

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    I spent 6 weeks in Guatemala last year more or less as a "single woman" (I am mid-20s) although my husband joined me for the last week and I had some friends I sometimes traveled with. I know the original poster has gone and returned, but as general information for other interested readers:

    -in Xela I did not venture out alone at night: I had requested Celas Maya (the Spanish school) put me close to the school and they put me with a host woman who lived less than a block away. During the day I felt fine to walk around by myself but at night my host (a single woman) had warned me not to go out and I listened to her. I only went out after dark when I was with other Spanish school students or going less than 2 block or so.

    -For travel purposes I would highly recommend the tourist vans that take you city to city (can find them in all the major towns) rather than chicken buses. They are relatively cheap ($5-15 depending on where you are going) and worth the relative safety. I never, ever felt nervous on these trips (other than the general adventure of the Guatemalan roads). The only times I took a chicken bus/pick-up were with a Guatemalan accompanying me.

    -For the most part, I did not drink while I was there. I'm not a big drinker anyway but the only "tourist horror stories" I heard while there were involving alcohol.

    Since someone mentioned it above, I also second Casa Cristina in Antigua. The rooms are not huge but nicely decorated, clean, with a "doorman" type person out front at all times (nice to have when waiting for those 4am pick ups for the airport or tours). I was with my husband in Antigua but I felt very comfortable here, even at night. It is MUCH more rich and American/European than anywhere else in the country I visited.

    I also would suggest for someone interested in a "safe" enviroment a smaller town on the lake like Santa Cruz la Laguna. I felt very very safe here (I was there for 3 weeks working) since it is an isolated community and also has a relatively large gringo population at places like the Iguana Perdida...which can be a drawback but if you want to meet interesting people at dinner (served family style) it can be a really nice enviroment for a single traveler. (I stayed at another "hotel" but ate all my meals there.)

    I would also suggest Spanish school in Xela (Antigua is prettier but you will absolutely learn more Spanish in Xela due to forced immersion from lack of English speakers) for single travelers: it allows you built in companions and activities you can choose to do or not do as well as make you a little more comfortable forging ahead on your own afterwards (my Spanish was very rusty before the 2 week refresher I did).

    To reiterate what I have seen on every message board for Central and South American travel: use common sense and be aware of your surroundings.

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