Women Travelers - In and Around Antigua Guatemala

Old Dec 2nd, 2011, 08:51 PM
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Women Travelers - In and Around Antigua Guatemala

Women Travelers - In and Around Antigua Guatemala

As a woman now living in Antigua Guatemala, I can offer general advice about visiting the country and specific counsel on staying in and around Antigua Guatemala.  I'm pleased to share with you any information, advice or insights I might have about this astonishingly beautiful and compelling part of the world.  

When approaching new travel destinations, women usually have five main concerns:  what to see; where to stay; safety issues; language challenges; and cost.


Let's look first at the safety issues for a woman traveling in Guatemala.  I'll say something obvious first.  Like anywhere a traveler might find herself, there are rules that can't be trifled with.  Like, don't wander around by yourself alone at night looking lost and perplexed (this is a no brainer).  And don't get overly refreshed in a bar and strike up fast relationships with strangers.  (Think twice. Do you really want to wake up next to Ramone?  Exactly.)

In general, you are safe in most tourist destinations in Guatemala.  Having said that, you need to be forewarned when arriving here.  More than likely you will first set down in the capital, Guatemala City, a sprawling metropolis of some 1.3 million people.  It can be a rough town and it is not recommended that women walk around at night alone.  Zona 10 is near the airport and this is where the major hotels and embassies are located.  Its pretty safe during the daytime, but you're better off to stay inside once nightfall descends. 

You will likely be taken a little aback at the sight of armed security folks with pump shot guns in front of banks, government buildings, many of the stores and other businesses. Though Guatemala City has many interesting cultural and historical landmarks and museums, I would not recommend a long stay. 

The best thing to do is land in Guatemala City and take a taxi from the airport and head immediately to Antigua Guatemala.  The standard trip price is $30 US and the airport taxis generally abide honorably with this rate.  Still, make sure you establish the price before handing over your luggage and installing yourself in the cab.  


Even if you don't speak Spanish you can still get around quite easily as an English-only speaker. In Antigua Guatemala, for example, there are many people who speak excellent English and just as many who speak enough to help you along. 

If you do find yourself in a situation where English meets Spanish, the international rules apply.  Learn to say "please, excuse me and thank you" and you'll do well for a start.  There is no need to speak loudly and s-l-o-w-l-y in English. You'll get a better reception  if you try a few words in Spanish.  The general rule applies in Guatemala as it does in other parts of the world: exercise humility, gratitude and show that you are making an effort by speaking a word or so in Spanish.  Guatemalans in general have a very hospitable and  accommodating nature and I have found that I can generally make myself understood on a basic level in any given situation. As well, almost all travel booking and tourist operator services have English-speaking staff as do most hotel front desk employees. 


However  you like to travel, four-star hotel or hostel accommodation, Guatemala is generally a great deal cheaper than North America or European destinations.  To give you an idea, a restaurant meal for two in a version of an American steak house, including wine and tip, comes to about one-third of what it would cost anywhere in the US or Canada.  More modest establishments offering Guatemalan cuisine are even cheaper.  A lovely lunch of tortillas, chicken or beef stew with rice and seasonal vegetables can come in at the less than the  price of a big latte in your home town.  

There is a wide variety of accommodation  in Guatemala. If, for example, you wanted to stay in the centre of town in Antigua Guatemala, you can find hotels that range from $25 to $300 a night.  Even the lower priced rooms are clean and comfortable, almost all of them with en suite bathrooms.  

Travel costs range in price, from 40 cents for a 10-kilometer ride on a chicken bus to a few hundred dollars to fly to Maya ruins.  In the main, the "gray hound-like" buses, whether traveling short or long distances, are about a quater of the costs of similar distances in North America. 


Antigua Guatemala is a much more relaxed and gentler place for tourists than the nearby capital.  It's charms are obvious upon arrival.  This is a Spanish colonial town, first established in the mid 16th century.  There are many remnants and fine restorations of its former glory days as the capital of the mighty new world Spanish empire.  

A first-time visitor would do well to use Antigua Guatemala as a base from which to take day trips or longer junkets to the surrounding areas of interest.  

The following provides:

Itinerary building blocks through a list of the eight main attractions and must-sees in and around Antigua Guatemala.

A sample itinerary, which you can use as a model for building your own schedule according to your interests and duration of vacation time.  

Once you've looked at the sample itinerary, there are longer descriptions provided in this post which outline in more detail the attractions and must-sees.


Antigua Guatemala - guided walking tour or do-it-yourself  

Pacaya - spectacular live volcano

Market Day - Chichicastenango, the most famous market in Guatemala

Lake Atitlan - the most beautiful lake in the world

Tikal - Mayan ruins in a national park

Coffee Plantations - tour "fincas" to see how coffee is grown, harvested and processed

Pacific Beach -  Monterrico, Guatemala or in the Liberdad area of El Salvador 

Day Tours - Mayan villages - do it yourself by local buses (chicken buses) or take a guided tour


Arrive in Antigua, stay two or three days and walk around the Spanish colonial town at your leisure; take a half-day guided tour so you know what you are looking at and learn more about the town's rich history.

Then start to take a day trips to Maya pueblos, using Antigua Guatemala as a base; get on a chicken bus (local buses, which provide inexpensive transit) and head off to local Maya pueblos  (it's easy and fun to go by bus on your own or you can go with a package guided tour); we can recommend a few good pueblos 30 to 60 minutes outside of town which are interesting and not flocked with tourists.  

Next, a few days on a Pacific beach; Monterrico is a black lava-based beach and is about an hour by car or an hour and-a-half by bus from Antigua Guatemala;  Monterrico is a beach town with lots of hotels and other tourist amenities; Monterrico is popular with Guatemalan families as well as gringos.  El Salvador beaches, around the Liberdad area, also provide a Pacific beach experience and can be reached by taxi (about $100 US each way) or local bus in three to four hours from Antigua Guatemala.

Next, a longer trip -- one and half to three days to see the Maya ruins at Tikal;  there are packages that include a hotel stay near Tikal, a guided tour of the site and meals etc; this is a chance to see spectacular remnants of an ancient and very advanced and complex society.
Next, a trip to Pacaya, live volcano with flowing lava, smoke, everything; guided tour -- you can go for half, full-day or two-day package that includes spa experiences, meals, etc.

Next, a trip to Lake Atitlan.  Suggest two to three-day stay.  You can stay in Panjachel (the main town) and take day trips to the pueblos around the lake or you can stay in a hotel across the lake at any number of beautiful spots and take the water taxis to the pueblos.  We can fill you in on the smaller places to go around the lake when you get here.  There is nowhere at Lake Atitlan that is not beautiful.  


Next, round out your stay with a day or so in Antigua -- restaurants, more walking, last-minute shopping before heading home.

Hope this sample itinerary helps you in making your plans.  A lot of the planning can be done when you get down here.    The following is a longer description of the must-see attractions.  



When you pull into town, from no matter from which direction, you will want to get walking and exploring this charming cobblestone Spanish colonial town.  Your instincts will guide your feet as you will likely start in the very heart of Antigua, Parque Central.  Get a feel for the place by strolling in any direction from the park. You will be struck by the authentically restored and well preserved Spanish architecture, dating back to the 18th century with a few 16th century models too. Moorish touches are everywhere as they are integral to the Spanish tradition brought here.  Personally, when I first set foot here, I just walked and walked, discovering on my own the earthquake-ravaged El Carmen Church, built in the latter 16th century.  The arch on fifth avenue is magnificent in daylight or night illumination as is La Merced, a butter-coloured convent, built in the 18th century and now lovingly restored to at least most of its former glory.    These are only a few highlights.

If you do want a guided walking tour, they run all day and it's best to deal with an official and well-trained guide.  These can be arranged at the small storefronts that face the central park or through INGUAT, located in the Palace of the Captains-General, just across from the northeast side of the park. 

Price ranges from $10 (which does not include entrance fees at the sites) and $20 (all inclusive).

PACAYA - Awesome Live Volcano

There are two ways to appreciate the volatility and beauty of the Pacaya Volcano.  You can sit on a terrace in some bars and restaurants in Antigua Guatemala and watch the red lava ribbon make its way down the volcano slope. It's most dramatic at night. Or you can go to Pacaya on a guided or unguided tour. Both are great experiences.  Pacaya is only a 90 minute drive from the centre of Antigua and there are a variety of excursion packages from which to choose.  You can choose an all-day trip, which includes a hike up the volcano to watch the lava and steam flow first-hand, then a stop over at a lunch place and, for the ultra package, a rest at a spa to enjoy sitting in the hot springs.  Price depends on how elaborate you want to make your trip.  Just about everyone we know opted for the simple half-day package and they were pretty pleased with the experience.   Whether a full day or half, be prepared for a 6:30 a.m. start.  You'll get back to Antigua about 1 p.m. if you choose a half day. Or you if you're out all day you'll get back around 6 p.m.day.  Be warned though. The climb up the volcano slope is a bit of a hike. While you don't need to be an Olympic athlete, you do need to be in reasonably good shape for the climb.  

Half day packages start at $30; full day packages are around $60.  Be prepared to pay extra for an English speaking guide and about 50 Q ($6.00 US) to get into Pacaya National Park.  These excursions can be arranged through any number of local operators.


Many have called Lake Atitlan the most beautiful lake in the world.  When you get there you will see this is no idle boast.  Go for the colours alone, but go.  It's only a 2 1/2 hour ride from Antigua Guatemala.  The ride provides a real insight into the variety of landscapes and climate zones in that part of the country.   From your van window you will see everything from jungle vegetation to parched landscapes and finally, the majesty of Lake Atitlan. 

First stop is Panajachel, a town that has a lot to offer in and of itself.  But if you are only going for the day, it's best to buy a package that includes transport to and from the lake and a boat ride to two or three Maya towns that ring the lake.

If you opt to go by van without the boat trip included in the package, you will find yourself negotiating with people in Panajachel stopping you to offer overpriced boat rides and you don't want to waste your time on haggling when you could be cruising across the lake.  

Once on the lake you will be struck by its colours, landscape and the solemn and eerie presence of three extinct volcanoes.  It might remind you of Greece in once second and a Norwegian Fjord the next.  It's a mysterious and magical place.  

A typical day trip would find your boat docking at San Marcos, San Pedro and Santiago.  Each of these Mayan towns have gringo establishments close to the water, e.g., restaurants, bars, trinket vendors.  In any case, each affords a different view of lake and, though a bit touristy, each provides a breathtaking aspect of the lake and its surroundings.  

Back in Panajachel you will find street stalls on the main street leading to the lake.  Every conceivable Guatemalan souvenir is on offer here.  If you do stop to shop, make sure to haggle with the vendors.  They expect that and its part of the fun.  

Day trips, including transport and boat ride costs range from $30 to $40. There are many local tour operators in Antigua Guatemala who offer this service and are easily found when you get there. 

TIKAL - Ancient Mayan Ruins

Tikal, an ancient Maya ruin dating back to the 4th century BC, is not to be missed.  It was once the capital of one of the most powerful Mayan kingdoms, but was abandoned around the 10th century AD. Everyone who goes says it's worth the effort.  It's a bit of a trek to get there since it's about 325 kilometers from Antigua Guatemala. There are one and two-day excursions on offer, each with the option of flying to Flores or taking the bus the whole way.
In our view, the best deal is to take the all-bus route, but take the two-day package, which includes a hotel stay.  The one-day bus trip is a bit wearying, with the bus leaving at 6 p.m. and arriving in Tikal around 6 a.m. and then a four hour walking tour of Tikal and park surroundings.  Then back on the bus, retuning to Antigua Guatemala at 6 a.m. The cost is approximately $180 US.  For about $30 more you can take the two-day package which includes a hotel stay and more leisurely pace for the return.  Otherwise the package that includes bus, hotel and flight, which you catch at Flores airport, can be done over one or two days at a cost of about $320 for one day and about $425 for two days.  We think the two-day all-bus excursion is the best deal.  


Many of the larger Mayan towns have market days one or two times a week.  If you are in Antigua Guatemala, don't miss the huge market, La Bodegona, which is near the bus terminal just off the Alameda Santa Lucia.  Bursting with colour, Mayan chocolate and flowers and food of all descriptions, this is a bustling and authentic marketplace that attracts local Guatemalans and tourists alike.  

The market at Solola, about a 15-minute drive from Panajachel is a wonder too.  It's a crowded and authentic market, with very few souvenirs.  It's packed with serious-minded shoppers, most of them Maya and hardly a gringo in sight.  It's worth going just for the trip from Panajachel via El Pickup (yes it's a pick up truck).  It takes you for a breathtaking ride with a view of Lake Atitlan as the truck ascends and you hang onto the steel poles inserted into the truck for just that purpose.  Cost of a one-way ride is 3Q (about 40 cents).  

Of all the markets located in Antigua Guatemala's environs, Chichicastenango is the most popular and for good reason. It's about a 3 hour bus ride from Antigua Guatemala with market days on Thursdays and Sundays.

Affectionately known as Chichi, this Maya town is famous for its market.  It's teeming with local produce and, be warned, a lot of Guatemalan souvenirs everywhere. Some items are authentic and handmade while others are mass produced by machine.  Haggling is encouraged and expected so don't go for the first price offered.  Even if you don't feel like shopping, the experience of entering this sprawling patchwork coloured market is a treat.  It's not just for tourists, but rather a regional market where much real commerce and staple shopping is done by people who live there and nearby. 

The main market plaza is right beside Santo Tomas church, a 400-year-old building, built on the platform of an ancient Maya temple.  Often you can see the devoted going on their hands and knees up the stairs of the church while bearing swaying cans of incense. 

It's easy to arrange a bus trip to Chichi when you get to Antigua Guatemala and prices are around the $30 range.  

DAY TOURS - Antigua Guatemala surrounding pueblos 

The perfect half-day tour outside of Antigua Guatemala is the one that includes a six-village tour.  Here the shuttle will take you through mountainous roads and into verdant valleys with stops in Mayan villages. Included on the trip are: San Juan del Obispo, which features one of the first Catholic churches in Guatemala; San Pedro Las Huertas, nestled at the foot of the Fuego Volcano; Cuidad Vieja, site of the regional capital (established 1527) until destroyed by volcano-induced mudslide (that's why the capital was moved to Antigua); San Antonio Aguas, famous for its outstanding textiles; and Santiago Zamora, featuring a successful women's co-op, which is of special interest to those with a communitarian outlook.   Cost of the half-day trip is in the $30 range.  There are also one-day bike tours of the nearby Amogolonga Valley.  Price of the bike trip varies, but it's usual in the $40 to $60 range.  Or Villa de Antigua can offer advice on how to get to less visited, but no less interesting pueblos off the beaten track.  These can a be self-directed, safe and fun journeys via chicken bus (local buses that charge an average of 40 cents to take you from one pueblo to the next).  

PACIFIC BEACH - Monterrico/El Salvador 

A special day trip is the bus ride and day's stay on the Pacific side.  Monterrico is renowned for its black volcanic beach sand.  There's an undertow so if you do go for a dip, stay close to shore.  Pleasant restaurants and bars offer views of the Pacific.  A day tour includes the bus ride and lunch, which makes for the perfect day-away.  Return shuttle buses charge about $18, leaving around 8 a.m. and returning to Antigua Guatemala around 3 p.m.  Or you can stay for a few days in one of the many holiday hotels in this beach town.  

El Salvador's Liberdad beach area is also a popular destination for beach lovers.  Located only three to four hours by road (taxi at $100 each way or inexpensive bus fare) from Antigua, it offers a variety of hotels at various prices ranges, restaurants, bars, shopping night life as well as the beach experience. 

Coffee Plantations - Tours 

Antigua Guatemala is surrounded by coffee plantations, or "fincas" as they are called in Spanish.  You can visit the large plantations that are big enough to be major suppliers to Starbucks and other international brands or you can visit the family-owned fincas where the owners sell their coffee at the local markets.  You can even go to coffee fincas where you husk, sort and roast your own bag of coffee to take away as a souvenir of your time in Guatemala.  Some of the larger plantations are set up to provide "cuppings," which are tastings for coffee from different zones and bean varieties.  Half-day tours start at $30. 
AntiguaGuatemala is offline  
Old Dec 3rd, 2011, 03:44 AM
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Guatemal safety and security, crime, health and transport.


great site for clueless newbies to review.

aroundantigua.com good general site

pretty dodgy in many areas caveat emptor.

journeywoman.com great site to help solo females to stay safe.
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Old Jan 12th, 2012, 06:13 PM
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Thanks for the great information. I am a newbie, leaving in two weeks.
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Old Jan 12th, 2012, 07:43 PM
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Thank you so much for this great information!!!

@Rpowell, me too! See ya in Antigua ;
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Old Mar 1st, 2012, 05:44 AM
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This is great info! We leave in 4 days for a stay in Antigua and Lake Atitlan. Thank you for all this info!
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Old Oct 4th, 2012, 06:48 AM
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Thank you for your great article. I find that all of our guests at Casa Ocho are women and they love the safety and security in my gated community. Happy AND SAFE travels! www.AntiguaLiving.org
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Old Dec 23rd, 2012, 05:32 PM
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Than you a lot of the great info! Could you give some places hotels to stay under $100.00- (possible links) and places to eat around those 8 major attractions on a budget..Is is possible to go to TIKAL without taking a tour?
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Old Dec 29th, 2012, 02:08 PM
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Most places in Antigua are under $100/night. You can stay anywhere from a $10/night hostel to what would be considered a 4-star hotel in the US for that price.

Posada Juma Ocag: very cheap, about $18/nt. No TV in the room.
TA review: http://goo.gl/WtBD4

I liked Casa Cristina. Paid $35/nt for a single room.
TA review: http://goo.gl/3MAaW

Posada La Merced: http://goo.gl/NjTsi

For something a bit more upscale, try Casa Antigua:

Hotel Aurora: http://www.hotelauroraantigua.com/en/accomoddations

I also recommend visiting Hotel Casa Santo Domingo. It's out of your price range, but worth a visit to see the grounds, museum, and birds, all of which you can take advantage of without being a hotel guest. You can also take the free shuttle to El Tenedor restaurant up in the mountains, and get a great view, beautiful grounds, and reasonably-priced lunch. In fact, if you stayed at a budget hotel for your first few nights, you could afford to stay at Casa Santo Domingo for your last few nights and your total cost would be the same.
Hotel Santo Domingo: http://www.casasantodomingo.com.gt/default-en.html
El Tendedor: http://goo.gl/imFdF

Lake Atitlan is very beautiful, and I recommend that you stay at least a couple of nights there. Trust me, you won't regret it. I have traveled all over the world, 42 countries and counting, and I think Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Two hotels I recommend in Panajachel are:
Mario's Rooms: http://goo.gl/BP0Oz (about $20/nt)
Posada de los Volcanes: http://goo.gl/1OGsg ($50-$60/nt)

Also check out the other villages around the lake:

And yes, you can visit Tikal without being on a tour. You can fly to Flores, stay in a hotel on your own, and go to the park on your own. You can pick up maps at the Visitor's Center for about $3 USD. You can also stay in the park itself.

I also recommend you pick up a free copy of The Revue, which is an English language magazine in Guatemala. Or you can browse the latest issue online.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2013, 10:29 AM
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You are seriously the most helpful person in me planning this trip to Guatemala! Thank you so much
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Old Jul 23rd, 2013, 04:15 PM
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Hi there, are you still living in Antigua? We are looking for a home and would appreciate some input from someone residing there. Thanks a million. BB
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Old Jul 24th, 2013, 08:58 AM
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nbetancourt....check out the Revue Magazine for rentals...
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Old Aug 5th, 2013, 02:52 PM
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You have been amazing. I am looking to get a tour guide or escort for the days Im going in September. How do I arrange that? WHich is the most reasonable priced hotels out there? And are you sure Ill be safe lol. Im so worried but not worried. You know.
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Old Mar 24th, 2014, 08:45 PM
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Best homestay experience!! (From a single woman, solo traveler, early 20s)

I lived with Silvia for 5 months in 2012 and had an amazing experience. Silvia is the kindest, most sincere person who genuinely cares about everyone who stays with her. She will take care of you and help you improve your Spanish. I have since returned to stay with Silvia for a few days in March 2014 and was just as satisfied with the experience. The best part of staying with her is the individual connection she makes and maintains with each person.

Her home is cozy and in a great location, very close to the main square. Each room is private, fully furnished, and very clean. The address is:
Calle del Hermano Pedro #D1

She offers stays with or without food. Her food is delicious! And she is more than willing to cater to picky diets/allergies (I was vegetarian for my first stay and gluten-free on my second...long story).

If you have any interest in visiting Antigua, I highly recommend staying with Silvia. Her home is perfect for Spanish learners or anyone else who is looking for a fun, affordable, comfortable place to stay for a long or short period of time.

Check out her Facebook to contact her (in Spanish preferably-a google translate message should suffice) and see how many people love her and enjoyed their stays:

Phone: 502-5255-8262
Address: Calle del Hermano Pedro # D1 3050-1607
E-mail: [email protected]
Edited byheidi.quetzal
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Old Apr 26th, 2014, 07:22 PM
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I would also suggest you to check Cissus Hotel, Panza Verde and Posada del Angel.
Cissus Hotel http://www.cissushotel.com/ I believe is managed by a French woman, their rates are low and the place is really nice.
Panza Verde http://www.panzaverde.com/ This is a very romantic place, it is quite safe.
Posada del Angel http://www.posadadelangel.com/ is lovely as well, but perhaps a little too expensive.
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Old Apr 4th, 2018, 07:41 AM
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Travel from Guatemala City to Antigua

Is taking a taxi from the airport still a safe and easy way to travel to Antigua? Are certain taxi companies better than others?

Are there any minibuses you would recommend? How late in the day do they run?

Thank you.
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Old Apr 4th, 2018, 05:43 PM
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Here's my take on getting from the airport to Antigua, reposted from a previous thread:

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. Deal straight with the drivers if you can instead of with a middle man who might upcharge you and be sure to have your hotel address handy; they'll say they know where it is to get your business but that hasn't always been the case for me. Arriving after 8pm there are likely to be share shuttles there, but there is a chance there won't - that happened to a friend recently. I’ve recently read that shuttles aren’t generally available for the early morning flights, either. No worries - have a Plan B ready.

You can hire a taxi on the spot; cost might be $25-40, depending on your negotiating skills and the time of day/night (shared, not per person). When I'm arriving at night I have my hotel - Hotel Casa Cristina - Antigua Guatemala - Welcome - arrange a shuttle for me, $35-40 for up to 3; many hotels will make arrangements for you and Spanish schools will, too, some charge more. Uber is just getting started in Guatemala, maybe worth a try as I think it would be cheaper. After a long trip it's kind of nice to exit the airport and see my name on a sign but I usually only do that if I'm arriving after dark or with a group in tow.

Here are 2 transportation providers I’ve been pleased with in Guatemala for share shuttles, private transfers, and flight arrangements:
Guatemala Tours - Vacation Packages - customized trip itineraries

If you are specifically interested in a private driver, Alfredo Garcia is bilingual, personable, prompt, and safe, and has nice vehicles: [email protected]

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 hotels just a couple of minutes from the airport that offer airport shuttles (free from 5am to 9:30pm, might be a small charge otherwise) as well as breakfast in the morning; the 1st is budget, the 2nd midrange, both great value (ask how early breakfast is provided; they might provide snacks in a bag if you're too early):
Dos Lunas Bed & Breakfast | Guatemala City International Airport
http://hostalvillatoscana.com/ (we really love this 1)
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Old Apr 5th, 2018, 01:11 PM
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hopefulist~ i just love your taste in hotels/places to stay. thanks as always for posting your excellent information.
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