Help with Guatemala itinerary

Feb 15th, 2009, 10:06 AM
  #1  
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Help with Guatemala itinerary

We need some advise on our proposed itinerary for an early May trip to Guatemala. My sister, daughter(20), and I are planning a spur of the moment trip to Guatemala. We are planning on 12 days but could flex one way or the other. Here is what we are thinking.
1. Fly into Gua. city, flight arrives in the morning so we are thinking of going straight to Tikal for two nights.
2. From there we want to go to the eastern lowland area, we got a killer deal on acommadations at a resort in Puerto Barrios. We are going to stay in that area and take day trips for 6 or 7 nights.
3. Head back to Antigua and Lake Atitlan for 2 or 3 nights. Home from there.
Is this too ambitious, and what is the transportation from Tikal to Eastern coast like?
kmh7 is offline  
Feb 15th, 2009, 11:05 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
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I'd add some time if you can. If you know you're going to spend so long on the east coast during the hottest time of the year you'll be glad to hit the highlands, where it's always springy. The highlands are the best part of Guatemala, in my opinion, and deserve more than just a few days.

You might want to spend your 1st night in the park at Tikal, then head in the afternoon to Flores for your 2nd night. All the bus options to Rio Dulce and beyond leave from there, not Tikal. It's a cute town, much cheaper, and you could have ac or at least fans in the night there. There are different classes of buses and probably shuttles.

There's a brand new Rough Guide shipping this week which should be excellent, and I'm pleased with the Moon Handbook, too. Either would have general information about your transportation options and agency contact information to get updates.

Have a wonderful trip, whatever you decide, and be sure to post a trip report when you get back. I have to live vicariously through others until I get to head back myself in July (6th trip to Guatemala). Photos and recommendations below - happy trails!

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

hopefulist is offline  
Feb 18th, 2009, 07:52 AM
  #3  
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Hopefulist, Thank you for your response. I have several more questions and have altered our itinerary. First off I looked at your pictures and can't believe how wonderful they are. Are you a photographer? I am an artist and your pictures have really inspired me! Do you take a big camera? I was concerned about taking mine from I theft standpoint. We have booked our flight and made modification to our plans, does this sound better? We will spend 5 nights in the highlands using Antigua as our base, then Tikal one night, Flores one night, 5 nights Atlantic lowlands, back to Gua. City, home. We are so excited, Guatemala looks like a wonderful place. Thanks
kmh7 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2009, 11:08 AM
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Hi, kmh - That sounds way better to me. I think of everyone with a camera as a photographer so I fit that description. By trade I'm an autism specialist but I do love to take photos. I use an outdated 4 megapixel Pentax Optio 450; it's clunky and a bit archaic but I continue to be very pleased with the clarity of the photos. It's starting to be unreliable so I've purchased what I hope will be a similar camera with some new features, the Pentax Optio W60, way more megapixels, smaller, waterproof, and a really incredible 1cm macro function. I haven't had much time to play with it and compare but it looks great so far. Here's my best photo tip: TAKE THOUSANDS OF PICTURES - you're bound to get some good ones! I take a lot of high resolution crowd shots from the hip and then isolate specific images or people by cropping.

Thanks for your kind words! I really love those photos - they conjure up so many interesting moments, smells, sounds, tastes. Guatemala is indeed a wonderful place. I'll look forward to hearing all about your trip. Happy trails!
hopefulist is offline  
Feb 18th, 2009, 05:03 PM
  #5  
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Hopefulist, Thank you for your input. I am also a Pentax user, mine is a K110 large camera with big zoom lense. Will it be too cumbersome? My daughter will take her waterproof camera for water adventures. My big concern is safety, I would hate to lose my camera to theft. I will post a trip report and let you know if I paint anything wonderful. The people fascinate me. Thanks again
kmh7 is offline  
Feb 18th, 2009, 05:16 PM
  #6  
 
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Here's my 2 or 3 quetzales' worth on the camera thing. It would be a shame to go to one of the most picturesque places on earth without a beloved camera to record the memories. We've taken an SLR and lens for wildlife photography a time or 2 but the weather has been horrendous on it. Personally, I'm unwilling to take photos of people in developing countries with a big camera and I've had good luck with my small one. Most of the indigenous people are uncomfortable having their pictures taken so being less obvious and less professional looking has been an advantage to me, I think. Please remember to avoid paying obvious attention to children in Guatemala or photographing them without the parent's consent (which will rarely be given).

I do worry about theft; be sure you have insurance to cover and be very careful to keep your things right with you. I think most theft is a crime of opportunity - someone sticks their bag on the rack above their heads on a bus or leaves it by their chair when they stand up to throw something away in a restaurant and it's gone (or slashed and the camera's gone). I carry a stack of SD memory cards and trade them out often, storing the full ones with my documents under my clothes. I've read sad stories of people who had their full cards in their camera case and lost a whole trip's photos at once. Happy trails!
hopefulist is offline  
Feb 18th, 2009, 08:42 PM
  #7  
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Hopefulist, I can not thank you enough for your input. I will take my small point and shoot and do my best to stay discreet. My only previous travel experience is standard European stuff and that is a very different experience. I am really getting out of my box to have a travel experience with my daughter that we will both treasure. Thank you again for your help. Do you by any chance live in California? would love to swap stories. Kim
kmh7 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 05:43 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
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No problem - all I ask is a travelogue. I live in north central Oregon on the Columbia River, but you could email me at hopefulist @ yahoo . com if you want contact me.

Here are a few bonus tips:
Travel REALLY light, just a loosely filled carry-on each. Check out
www.onebag.com
http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/tips/packlight.htm
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntre...28622&tstart=0 (my packing list is #14)

If you haven't purchased a guidebook, consider buying the Moon Handbook or the brand new Rough Guide that came out this week. The historical and cultural sections will give you good background information and they make nice keepsakes after the trip (although I always razor out and reinsert the bits I want to pack around with me; I also make xerox copies of the town and ruin maps I'll want so I don't have to pack the actual page [or worse yet a book] around with me when I'm exploring).

Don't miss the Inguat office in Antigua - great 1st stop. They'll set you up with maps and ideas for places to visit including local hikes and neighboring villages, many free.

You haven't read my travelogues (links on the main page of the photo collections, check them out for recommendations for lodging).

Here's the CDC's travel site for Guatemala; I take their advice seriously:
http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinationguatemala.aspx

I've pasted my small concessions to safety in Central America below; I don't feel especially paranoid when I travel but I've never had a problem and hope to keep it that way.

Happy trails!

CENTRAL AMERICAN SAFETY CONCESSIONS:
:: 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
hopefulist is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 08:43 AM
  #9  
 
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I would just like to say "excellent advice" from hopefulist. I also completely agree with the itinerary changes.. the highlands are great- Antigua, and Lake Atitlan. We spend two nights at the ruins in the Tikal Inn- it was great (all things considered and especially after reading tripadvisor). We were also sisters (with families).. and we traveled over land thru GUA city to Antigua. Please post your thoughts on the Eastern region (Puerto Barrios) when you get back
Haven't been there, but assume it is a bit like Belize (?)
kdove is offline  
Feb 19th, 2009, 03:11 PM
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Livingston has a bit of a Belize-like feel but I wasn't overfond of it. Rio Dulce town is just a strip of scruffy stores on either side of a wide spot on the highway. The highlight of the region (in my opinion) is the trip between them up and down the Rio Dulce - really beautiful. I haven't been to Puerto Barrios and will look forward to kmh7's trip report.
hopefulist is offline  
Feb 20th, 2009, 05:34 AM
  #11  
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Thank you everyone I will let you know how Puerto Barrios is when we return. We are big lovers of water adventures so we are excited to see the coast as well. I will take your advice hopefulist and travel light (not my normal MO!) I am looking forward to the freedom of just a backpack. I am big on the only carry todays money on you, too much time at the Florence train station taught me that. Better safe than sorry. Thanks again,
kmh7 is offline  
Feb 20th, 2009, 05:36 AM
  #12  
 
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Happy trails!
hopefulist is offline  
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