Advice wanted -Guatemala

Old Jun 23rd, 2012, 05:17 PM
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Advice wanted -Guatemala

Hi My wife and I , both in our 40's, will be first time travellers to Guatemala in Feb 2013. I have been making enquiries about seeing some of the sights and have contacted a Guatemalan tour company. I would like some advice as to whether the following itinery provided is a) do-able , b) value for money c) could we do it ourselves cheaper and d) Any other suggestions of what to see. To me it seemed a bit rushed. Any thoughts and opinions would be greatly appreciated.

Hostels, B& b's, 2 star hotels are ok with us.

Day 1 - Arrival to Guatemala City International Airport La Aurora, pick up at the Airport and transfer to Hotel Posada
Belén Museo Inn.

Day 2 - CHICHICASTENANGO/LAKE ATITLAN 6a.m. pick up at the Hotel by the shuttle bus company to transfer you to Chichicastenango for the Market day, while you are here you will be by your own (while in the market, the luggage will be in the bus, which is locked and the driver stays there. At 2p.m. transfer to Panajachel, Lake Atitlan to the Hotel Cacique Inn or similar.

Day 3 - 9-9:15 a.m. pick up by the same shuttle bus to transfer you for a boat trip visiting 3 villages around the Lake Atitlan, when finish it, will have to walk by your own from the dock back to your Hotel (about 3 blocks). Overnight at the same Hotel.

Day 4 - 9a.m. pick up at the Hotel by the shuttle bus to transfer you to Antigua to the Hotel Posada del Hermano Pedro or Posada de La Merced (according to availability). The rest of the day by your own.

Day 5 - Sun/Wed - ANTIGUA, all day by your own. Overnight same Hotel.

Day 6 - Mon/Thurs - ANTIGUA/GUATEMALA CITY, pick up at the Hotel at 9 a.m. to transfer you to Guatemala City, to Hotel Posada Belen Museo Inn. At 2p.m. pick up at the Hotel for a WALKING TOUR of the Historical Center, with a professional English speaking guide. Then return to the Hotel around 4:30 - 5p.m. Dinner included at the Hotel.

Day 7 - TIKAL 4:45 a.m. pick up at the Hotel to transfer you to the International Airport for the flight for the tour to Tikal, (they ask two hours in advance) the plane departs at 7a.m. when arrive to the Flores Airport a representative from the HOTEL TIKAL INN will be meeting you to transfer you to Tikal (63 Kms. away), leave your luggage at the Hotel, then will have an English speaking guided tour in the morning, then lunch included, and afternoon by your own.

Day 8 - After breakfast included, the whole morning by your own. Then at 2:30 p.m. transfer from the Hotel to the Airport for the flight back to Guatemala City, pick up and transfer you to Antigua, to Hotel Posada del Hermano Pedro or
Posada de La Merced.
Day 9 - NOTE: The transportation here from Antigua to Rio Dulce will have to be by private transportation just for you, leaving at 4 a.m., otherwise won't have time to visit Livingston and also because there are no shuttles from Rio Dulce to Copan.
Or will have to stay in Guatemala City Day 8 to catch the bus that goes to Rio Dulce, but I don't think will have time to do Livingston, if it's not with private transport. Arriving to Rio Dulce around 10 a.m. to Fronteras, then by boat to Livingston to stay overnight at the Hotel
Hill Resort. The easiest way to go to Livingston will be hiring a boat there, because if we hire it from here will be more expensive.

Day 10 - 8a.m. will have to take the public boat to Puerto Barrios, where the same bus driver will be waiting for you to transfer to Copan, arriving more or less at 1p.m. to the Hotel Plaza Copan. The rest of the time will be by your own to visit the site.

Day 11 - Sat/Tues - All morning by your own. Then 11:45 -12 mid day the shuttle bus (not private there is more people) will pick you up at the Hotel to transfer you to Guatemala, to Antigua to the Hotel Posada del Hermano Pedro or Posada de La Merced. End of the trip.

11 Hotel nights, all the transportation (less boat from Rio Dulce to Livingston to Puerto Barrios.
Boat trip at Lake Atitlan, Guatemala City guided walking tour, 1 dinner at Hotel Posada Belen in Guatemala City.
Flight Gua-Flo-Gua, guided tour in Tikal the first day in the morning, one entrance to the park, one lunch and one
breakfast at Tikal.
Private transportation from Antigua to Rio Dulce, and from Puerto Barrios to Copan.
Shuttle bus from Copan to Antigua.

Tips, beverages, departure taxes, border fees to Copan, entrance to Copan, guide at Copan, meals and services that are not specified.

$1,429.U.S. per person already including taxes.
gary062 is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2012, 06:25 AM
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Although I have no comment on the layout of your trip or the cost, I can say that it is not at all difficult or expensive to travel on your own in Guatemala. I was there for 8 weeks last year and got most of my advise right here and on Thorntree. Hopefulist is an active poster that gave me great tips and she will probably weigh in here.

I traveled around Guatemala, though didn't make it to Rio Dulce or Livingston. Shuttles are very easily arranged and not expensive. I made reservations the day before and never ahead an issue, but didn't have a tight itinerary. The boat trip around Lake Atitlan can be booked simply by walking to a dock and getting on the next boat bound for whatever town you want to explore. There is no real reason IMHO, to spend one second longer in Guate City than you need to. No tour is necessary as there is nothing anyone has ever said to indicate anything interesting. Fly in, transfer to Tikal ( or take an overnight bus) hire Roxy Ortiz to guide you in Tikal, take a bus to Antigua (or fly back to GC and take an immediate shuttle to Antigua) and go to the lake from there.

Have fun. Any way you do it, you'll be sure to have a wonderful trip.
ginger50 is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2012, 09:34 AM
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Thanks for the shout out, Lynne.

Gary -
You could do the same/similar itinerary for less if you do it yourself; the planning is part of the fun for me so I've never been tempted to hire someone else to do it. As above, share shuttles are easy to arrange. Here are 2 agencies with bilingual reps I've had good luck with if you want to arrange transport - private or shared - in advance:

They could also book an overnight Tikal package for you, but do consider hiring archaeologist/naturalist Roxy Ortiz for tours in the north - she's amazing (don't do this through a hotel - contact her directly).

With 11 nights I wouldn't try to put in so many stops. Since it takes 2 nights to = 1 day to explore, you don't want to be averaging less than 3 stops per place; imo that would make it seem like half of your days were transition days (can take surprisingly long and be surprisingly tiring) and half "good" days. I'd leave out the Rio Dulce/Livingston/Puerto part at least and maybe save Copán for another trip - it's worth at least 3 nights imo.

Loads of photos with blog and detailed travelogue below. Happy planning!
hopefulist is offline  
Old Jun 24th, 2012, 01:47 PM
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I agree with the two replies.Go nowhere near Guate City. Antigua is lovely as is Lake Atitlan. Every street corner in every city has a travel agent where you can buy transportation. If you have time you could read the second part of my trip report where I travel by bus in Guatemala. I am going back this New Year to see the Caribbean side and Tikal, and so look forward to your own notes when you return
AndrewLondon is offline  
Old Jun 25th, 2012, 12:02 AM
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I think the price for the tour is reasonable considering all that is included, but I agree you can do it cheaper on your own. It depends on whether you have the desire and time to do the research. Also whether you feel comfortable traveling through a Spanish-speaking country on your own.

I went to Guatemala and Honduras in March, and planned the trip independently. I went to Antigua, Lake Atitlan with a trip to Chichi market, and Copan. However, I speak intermediate level Spanish and would not have been able to navigate as easily if I didn't speak the language.

Not saying you have to speak Spanish to travel in Central America--many travelers don't. However, I encountered several situations where there were no English speakers (cafes in Panajachel, some of the hotel staff in Antigua, staff at Copan hotel, gate staff at Guatamala city airport, shuttle driver, etc). If you feel comfortable with that, and like planning trips, then by all means go for it.

If you decide to do it yourself, here are some things I did and places I stayed you may find useful:

Casa Cristina in Antigua:
TA review:
Posada Juma Ocag in Antigua:
La Posada de Belssy in Copan:
Copan Ruins:
Mario's Rooms in Panajachel:
La Posada de los Volcanes in Pana:
Macaw Bird Park in Copan:
Pacaya Volcano:
Casa Santo Domingo: Beautiful 5-star hotel. Didn't stay here, but toured the grounds, and took the free shuttle uphill to the restaurant for lunch (not the on-site restaurant which is expensive). Lunch was only $15.

I would base myself in Antigua, and not stay overnight in Guatemala City (GC). When you walk out of the airport in GC, there will be shuttle vans that will take you straight to your hotel in Antigua for $10--no need to book in advance. It usually takes 45-60 minutes, but can take longer depending on traffic.

Antigua to Copan took about 5-1/2 hours by shuttle van and cost $15-$20. Much more comfortable are Hedman Alas buses. Antigua to Copan is $41: I also took a shuttle from Antigua to Pana for $12.

Another shout out to hopefulist. She is very knowledgeable and you can trust any advice she gives you.

Whether you take a tour or do it independently, have a great trip!
walkabout is offline  
Old Jun 25th, 2012, 04:21 AM
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Thanks everyone for taking the time to reply and provide links, it is very much appreciated. I will follow things up but must admit I am leaning towards the independent approach. My wife has a decent comprehension of Spanish, we survived 9 weeks in South America, so hopefully we will be fine in Guatemala too
gary062 is offline  
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