Hopefulist's 2013 Guatemala Travelogue

Old Apr 13th, 2013, 12:36 PM
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Hopefulist's 2013 Guatemala Travelogue

Hi, all -
A summer Guatemala visit was out for me this year due to happy, busy plans to reconnect with host families in Scotland (mine) and The Netherlands (son Isaac's) and a focus week in Cambridge for Isaac's Master's program graduation. I traded to obtain 3 work days each side of spring vacation, a shorter trip for me than usual, right at 2 weeks, the majority of which I spent - happily - in the town of San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlán.

I flew in to GUA on a Wednesday evening and spent a quick overnight in Antigua at my favorite hotel, Casa Cristina ($25 single including tax) - just enough time for an evening stroll around the parque central, pepián at La Fonda de Calle Real (~$7), portable treats the next morning from Fernando's Kaffee on the corner by the hotel, a brisk morning walk around town, and a visit to the new garden campus of the Academia Antigüeña. I chose a private shuttle from Adrenalina Tours instead of a share shuttle or pullman bus this trip in order to choose a mid morning departure for Panajachel. Cost was $90 for the comfy, friendly ride and included nearly 3 hours of Spanish practice to get my arrows lined up for the weeks aheads.
http://casa-cristina.com/
http://www.lafondadelacallereal.com/
http://www.fernandos-kaffee.com/
http://spanishacademyantiguena.com/
http://www.adrenalinatours.com/

You can view my Antigua 2013 blog post here:
http://hopefulistinlatinamerica.blog...re-begins.html

My usual Guatemala visits include fellow travelers numbering 1 to 20 and I enjoyed the simplicity of visiting sola. My focus this trip, as usual, was my beloved Beca Project:
http://www.becaproject.org

Due to time limitations I visited just the homes of this year's 13 new students (instead of all 43) and substituted pizza lunches with each crop of Beca kids (10-13 in groups delineating by the year they became Beca students) instead of a grand celebration dinner for all the families with cultural entertainment by the students. I took many of the kids shopping for new shoes and clothes and loved seeing the kids and family members around town. In order to connect with families I spent a few evenings in the park meeting and greeting - lots of hugs and gratitude all around.

You can select blog posts specific to these Beca experiences from this April 2013 blog summary:
http://www.becaproject.org/2013/04

The cultural entertainment for this year's trip has a huge historic presence there - the celebration of Semana Santa, Easter week. The majority of our Beca students are Catholic and participate in these events, the most important of the year. I was excited and privileged to celebrate with them.

I specifically requested a Catholic homestay from the Cooperativa Spanish School; total cost was $120 for 11 nights including all meals except on Sundays).
http://www.cooperativeschoolsanpedro.edu.gt/
I lived with a fabulous family: María, José, and their 7-year-old son Felix. I loved my room, the funky bathroom set up, the neighborhood (away from the center, quiet and great exercise hiking to and fro), plus the food was amazing. I felt carried aloft by gratitude for how they included me in their family and in their spiritual commitment to Semana Santa.

Here's a blog post about the family:
http://hopefulistinlatinamerica.blog...st-family.html

and one with Semana Santa highlights:
http://hopefulistinlatinamerica.blog...ana-santa.html

There are 4 more blog posts about my time on the lake
Market Day:
http://hopefulistinlatinamerica.blog...arket-day.html
Searching for Corte:
http://hopefulistinlatinamerica.blog...for-corte.html
Highlights:
http://hopefulistinlatinamerica.blog...ighlights.html
Misc. Atitlán:
http://hopefulistinlatinamerica.blog...4/atitlan.html

After Easter I headed back to Guatemala City via Adrenalina share shuttle (~$24 for a trip that took 5 and a half hours due to heavy traffic in GC) and stayed 2 nights at Villa Toscana near the airport ($38/night single including tax, breakfast, and airport shuttles). The full day between I hired a driver named Elmer (arranged by Villa Toscana) to take me around to various zones, the central plaza, and several awesome museums - 4 hours for $45.
http://hostalvillatoscana.com/

Here's the Guatemala City blog post (hit "Newer Post" at the bottom to see my photo rainbow):
http://hopefulistinlatinamerica.blog...-and-home.html

There's a complete Guatemala 2013 collection of photos organized into 14 sets on my main flickr page:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

Let me know if I can answer questions.
Happy trails!
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Old Apr 13th, 2013, 04:05 PM
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Thanks for all the info. Looks like another great trip.
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Old Apr 14th, 2013, 09:09 AM
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As usual, I enjoyed your TR and photos very much. We would love to get to Guatemala sometime for Semana Santa
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Old Apr 14th, 2013, 10:13 AM
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Thanks for sharing. I'm going to go back and read each of your blogs later. It had to be relaxing traveling on your own!
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Old Apr 15th, 2013, 07:57 PM
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Thanks, all!
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Old Apr 16th, 2013, 11:02 AM
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Sounds like another great experience for you!
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Old Aug 14th, 2013, 12:37 PM
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Do you have an email address where i can ask you more questions?

I would like to plan a solo 6 day trip to Guatemala visiting both Antigua and the Lake. If you can point me in the right direction of hotels, travel agents and saftey measures of both that would be great..

All this was oh so helpful. I leave the end of Sept
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Old Aug 14th, 2013, 03:38 PM
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I'm happy to help and can respond here on the forum, Aderonke - that way others with similar questions will find the information if they search and other posters can add their opinions.

We can help you more if you let us know:

:: the date and time of your arrival and departure flights
:: any special interests
:: general budget (how much you are thinking of spending per night on hotels, for example).

Looking forward to hearing back from you!
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Old Aug 15th, 2013, 03:24 PM
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I havent purchased any tickets yet, but I am planning the last week of September for my trip for a good 4 to 5 nights (hows the weather around that time?)

Im generally interested in some tours, volunteering and RELAXING. I live a very busy life in NYC. So I need to calm the mind lol. I preferably would like to stay in both Antigua and Lake A. What are your reviews on Antigua Tours and the safety of shared shuttles from Antigua to Lake A.?

Im trying to spend as little as possible. For flight and hotels my budges is a little under 1000 from NYC.

ANY OTHER SUGGESTIONS

I look forward to your answers and appreciate the help
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Old Aug 15th, 2013, 03:26 PM
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I havent purchased any tickets yet, but I am planning the last week of September for my trip for a good 4 to 5 nights (hows the weather around that time?)

Im generally interested in some tours, volunteering and RELAXING. I live a very busy life in NYC. So I need to calm the mind lol. I preferably would like to stay in both Antigua and Lake A. What are your reviews on Antigua Tours and the safety of shared shuttles from Antigua to Lake A.?

Im trying to spend as little as possible. For flight and hotels my budges is a little under 1000 from NYC.

ANY OTHER SUGGESTIONS

I look forward to your answers and appreciate the help
Aderonke is offline  
Old Aug 15th, 2013, 07:42 PM
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Go for as many nights as you can. I would split between Antigua and the lake, maybe Panajachel since it's an easy base for a quick trip. When you have your flights we can help more with where to head 1st and when to head between. Here are 2 great value places I love:
http://casa-cristina.com/
http://www.mariosroomsatitlan.com/

Here are 2 transportation providers I’ve been pleased with in Guatemala for share shuttles, private transfers, and flight arrangements:
Adrenalina Tours: www.adrenalinatours.com
Rainbow Travel: www.rainbowtravelcenter.com

Since safety comes up a lot I'm reposting my response from a previous thread below. Happy planning!
_________________________________

I travel in Central America every year. Sometimes I travel alone, sometimes with one or more of my kids and/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 (ex: Hedman Alas in Honduras, avoid chicken buses on the mountain runs in Guatemala, take taxis after dark)
:: I know where I am and where I'm headed and make major transitions with plenty of daylight left
:: 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) and keep close watch on my things, especially in crowded places and when I’m tired
:: 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 (doesn't apply to Belize)
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Old Aug 31st, 2013, 09:09 AM
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I am going on a trip to Guatemala in a week's time to try the immersion method of speaking Spanish and would love to hear your suggestions for a terrific trip. I have seen several of your past posts with advice to others wanting to take such a trip and have taken notes. My brother tells me that Guatemala has one of the highest rate for crime in Central and South America but this is not publicised. I am a little concerned about my safety and would like to hear your perspective and any others about traveling in Guatemala. I am planning to base myself in La Antigua.
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Old Aug 31st, 2013, 11:09 AM
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Hi, there -
As noted above, I visit frequently and have never had a problem. It is my opinion that the majority of the crime is gang/city related so if you avoid the rougher bits of Guatemala City you should be fine. Most of the rest is crime of opportunity so protect your stuff and just be smart as noted in my post above.

My main warning is that immersion study is addictive - something to watch out for. ;-)

Travel anywhere can be risky but I'm planning trips for next summer with my brother and his daughter and grandkids and another with some high school girl friends from the 70s; I wouldn't be planning trips with best beloveds in tow if I felt it was unsafe for them to visit.

Let me know if there's more I can do to help with your trip.
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Old Aug 31st, 2013, 09:23 PM
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Thanks for the info and may I say that your posts have been inspiring especially your causes.
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Old Sep 1st, 2013, 02:05 PM
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Thanks!!
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Old Sep 4th, 2013, 07:58 AM
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You have mentioned Antiguena Spanish Academy and the Cooperative School San Pedro for immersion learning. Would you be able to suggest any others? I would like to experience several. Also I am trying to arrange for airport pickup with the first school that I plan to study with..... You mentioned Adrenalina Tours but when I checked their website I am not seeing any mention of a shuttle to La Antigua. How do you normally travel from the airport to La Antigua?
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Old Sep 4th, 2013, 09:40 AM
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Those are my favorites in Guatemala and make a great combination, in my opinion. Antigua is beautiful and makes a safe landing spot since the tourist infrastructure is so strong - less of a culture shot for a 1st time visitor, I think. My heart is at the lake, though, and esp the Cooperativa.

Another school I love is the Ixbalanque School in Copán Ruinas in western Honduras
www.ixbalanque.com

Quetzaltenango (generally referred to as Xela) is another popular study spot; I'm not much of a city person and it isn't high on my list. There are a few schools in Petén, too; I haven't been tempted to study there because it's so HOT. How many schools are you looking for?

Re: airport to Antigua:
You can just walk out of the airport and choose someone who has "Antigua" on a sign; the cost will be $10 per person. You may have to wait a few minutes for the van to fill and a few minutes on the other end if others are dropped at their hotels/destinations in Antigua before you are.

You can hire a taxi on the spot; cost might be $25-35, depending on your negotiating skills (shared, not per person). When I'm arriving at night I have my hotel - http://www.casa-cristina.com - arrange a shuttle for me, $30-35 for up to 3; many hotels will make arrangements for you and Spanish schools will, too. After a long trip it's kind of nice to exit the airport and see my name on a sign.

Here are 2 agencies I've used for transportation in Guatemala:
http://www.adrenalinatours.com
http://www.rainbowtravelcenter.com

All forms of transit from the airport should accept USD. If you arrive late and decide you'd rather sleep near the airport and head to Antigua in the morning, here are 2 recommended places that offer free airport shuttles and breakfast in the morning; the 1st is budget, the 2nd midrange, both great value:
http://hoteldoslunas.com/
http://hostalvillatoscana.com/

That's an error on the Adrenalina site; they not only do that route but pretty much all their shuttles to Chichi, Panajachel, etc., stop in Antigua to pick folks up. I'll let them know.
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Old Sep 4th, 2013, 04:59 PM
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I am not much of a city person myself and I am hoping to experience 3 to 4 schools. I will be there for about 6 weeks (short by 2 days) and do not want to stay the entire time in Antigua. I will be arriving in the late morning (before mid-day)so hopefully I will be able to get on to a shared ride to Antigua. I will check Petén out via the internet as I have not encountered schools from this city during my search thus far. Thanks so much for the info.....
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Old Sep 4th, 2013, 08:13 PM
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Petén is the Department (like a state) in the north of Guatemala where Flores and Tikal are located. Here are 2 schools I've heard of up there; haven't really read reviews so can't recommend.
http://www.flores-spanish.com/
http://gus-drakopoulostoday.com/

With 6 weeks I'd start in Antigua and study for 1 week (if that feels like enough) or 2, then head to Lake Atitlán for a week or 2. At that point you'll have had the opportunity to see what fits you best and to talk to other students who might have recommendations. You might love 1 or both of those and want to spend more time, or you might want to take off a week here and there to travel and to use your Spanish in natural settings. This is slow season so you won't have a problem finding space.

If I were to pick a 3rd school it would be Ixbalanque, noted above. ¡Buena suerte!
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Old Sep 6th, 2013, 01:25 PM
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How safe is the ride from Antigua to Lake A. and how safe is San pedro alone as a female
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