Getting Oriented

Most Guatemalan cities are divided into numbered sectors. Guatemala City has 21 such zonas, although you will likely spend time in only five of them: Zonas 9 and 10, which make up the New City; Zona 1, which constitutes the Old City; the somewhat seedy Zona 4, which lies between the Old and New cities and contains many bus terminals; and Zona 13, where La Aurora International Airport and several fine museums are situated. The city's major arteries are 6 and 10 avenidas: 6 Avenida runs from Zona 1 to Zona 4 to Zona 9, passing three series of identically numbered calles; 10 Avenida runs through Zonas 1 and 4 before becoming the 10-lane Avenida La Reforma in Zona 10.

Numbered avenidas (avenues) run north–south, whereas calles (streets) run west–east. Addresses are given as a numbered avenida or calle followed by two numbers separated by a dash: the first number is the previous cross street or avenue and the second is a specific building. Building numbers increase as they approach the higher-numbered cross streets and then start over at the next block, so 9 Avenida 5–22 is on 9 Avenida near 5 Calle, and 9 Avenida 5–74 is on the same block, only closer to 6 Calle. Hit the pavement and you'll get the hang of it. A word of warning: make sure you're in the right zone. Each zone replicates the same grid system. In theory, the same address could appear 21 times throughout the city. Street signs always specify which zone you're in.

The New City. On the south side of the capital, the New City takes in Zonas 9, 10, and more, and is home to most of Guatemala City's upscale lodgings, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. This is where you'll want to stay if comfort is a priority.

The Old City. Zona 1, the Old City, encompasses the heart of the capital and contains most of its historic sights, budget lodgings, and bargain shopping.

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