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need advice for young female traveler

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Rockville, MD
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need advice for young female traveler

My 25-year-old daughter, who does not speak Spanish, is flying alone to Guatemala City in August, arriving about 7:30 pm on a Friday. She will stay at a GC hotel with a friend for 2 nights, then they will go to Lake Atitlan to stay at a rental house for a week, after which they will spend a week "traveling around" the country before returning to GC for the flight home. I've searched the forums and other sources for phone, money, and transportation advice but still need advice on what's best for her situation.

First, can she buy an inexpensive cell phone (with prepaid minutes) at the airport? If they don't sell them there or will be closed at the time she arrives, where is a convenient place in downtown GC for her to buy one the next day? (I don't know which hotel her friend will be at but assume it is in the GC center.)

Second, will she be able to get cash from an ATM at the airport and/or change travelers checks or US$ at an airport bank Friday evening?

Third, what is the safest way for her to get from the airport to downtown GC on Friday evening? If a taxi or shuttle, where should she go to get it and what should she expect to pay? Can she pay with a credit card or with US$?

Fourth, what is the safest way for her and her friend to get from GC to Lake Atitlan on Sunday?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Port Richey, Florida
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1. Re: need advice for young female traveler

Hi there, She could buy either a cell phone or a SIM card at Los Proceres mall, but unfortunately I think they close around 8PM. But she could do that first thing in the morning and send you an e-mail from the internet cafe at the mall giving you her local number. And of course I don't recommend for her go to downtown as all the shopss close around 8PM also, and the dowtown area after dark is not a safe place to be wandering around . You're not giving the name of where she'll be staying but there are several safe and nice places near the airport and she could go to la zona viva to have a nice meal with her friend or order from her hotel. I'd say the best way to get to lake atitlan would be to take a shuttle from the airport via antigua or hopefully a direct one. For taxis you're expected to pay in local currency (quetzales) or US dollars. Don't worry about it, she'll be fine and enjoy her trip.

Rockville, MD
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609 posts
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2. Re: need advice for young female traveler

Thanks for the suggestions--I guess my anxiety level was pretty obvious from my questions. If I can just get a little more detail:

Regarding a taxi from the airport, is there an official taxi stand and/or taxi company name that she should look for? Or could the INGUAT desk at the airport help her get a ride (and are they open Friday evening)? The idea of staying near the airport is probably a good one, but she wants to meet her friend the evening she arrives (and plans to stay at his hotel in the center).

Regarding money, would it be a good idea for her to arrive with a combination of quetzales, US$, and travelers checks? We live in the Washington, DC, area and can easily get foreign currency.

Can she and her friend get a shuttle directly from downtown Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan, or do they need to go to the airport to make this connection? If downtown, where would they get it and is there a company name they should look for? Also, do they need to reserve ahead?

Port Richey, Florida
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3. Re: need advice for young female traveler

All the taxis at the airport are properly marked. So, its OK to catch one there. Unfortunately I don't think the Inguat provides that service of assisting outside the terminal building. Now, regarding the hotel I guess you mean they'll be staying downtown. Believe or not that's where I stay, because there are some good hotels. I stayed at Hotel Sevilla on 7a Avenida and 12/23 calle. Its about $22 single and very clean w/cable TV and private bath. One of the best dowtown is Hotel PanAmerican right on 6th Avenida close to all the shops, but more expensive. Tell her she can find several computer/cell phone parts places and internet cafes at Plaza Vivar, a multi story shopping center. About a block north from the McDonalds/BK on 6th Venida in the dowtown area. The area is perfectly safe during the day and at night you can always have one of the taxis that park around the corner to take you any where. Or call one the taxis amarillos (yellow taxis). A visit to the museums in the city is worth it. To get a good meal, the zona viva is the best place. Even though you can find Pollo Campero the local's favorite all over the place. To take a shuttle to Atitlan, you have to take a taxi to the airport. Shuttle vans are very affordable and chicken buses are not safe because the drivers turn into maniacs on the road, and armed robberies happen all the time. So, for a few more dollars is better to stay safe. There are lots of police in the downtown area. To take a look at some hotels in guatemala go to www.laguiahotelera.com.

(the hotel guide).

Rockville, MD
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4. Re: need advice for young female traveler

Muchas gracias, 00bongosero, this is very useful advice. I will be passing this along to my daughter along with other info found from reviewing previous posts from you and others. Although I can't stop worrying completely (that's my job as a mother), I do feel somewhat reassured by comments I've seen on the forums about the safety of traveling in Guatemala.

Port Richey, Florida
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5. Re: need advice for young female traveler

Hello there, I suggest you also read testimonials/trip reports of recent travellers on the Thorntree.lonelyplanet forum including solo female travellers to reassure yourself that guatemala is no different than any other country on this planet provided you use common sense. Most people that go to guatemala always go back for a longer stay for all kinds of reasons. Good hiking shoes to hike the pacaya volcano and a jacket is recommended. It gets chilly in the highlands in the mornings and the evenings.

Boston...
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6. Re: need advice for young female traveler

I just returned from traveling by myself in Guate for a month (I'm female and 26). Didn't have any problems at all! Taxis and shuttles are the easier way to get around, and you can meet other travelers on the shuttles. Pretty much any hostel can make arrangements for you. I'd recommend to your daughter that she make the trip to Semuc Champey (near lanquin). It's about a 6-7 hour shuttle ride from Antigua, but absolutely worth it. One of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. And staying at nearby El Retiro Lodge was also a rare treat.

I didn't get a phone for my trip, there are plentiful internet cafes, and she could set up a Skype account. It's very inexpensive to make calls.

And my one last piece of advice is to skip staying in Guate city for 2 days and head directly to Antigua. You can get a taxi directly there from the airport, it should cost about $20-25 american dollars, and takes about 45 minutes. Antigua is much safer and more relaxed, and quite beautiful. The Black Cat Hostel is a great place to stay.

She should also be able to learn some basic Spanish by August, which is definitely helpful. But everyone I met was very understanding, and I managed to get by with my mangled Spanish. (Two phrases that come in handy when bartering "No, eso es muy caro! La semana pasada yo paque ??? quetzales." Trans - "No, that's very expensive. Last week I paid ??? quetzales."

Sorry for rambling, I just had a great time and want everyone else to leave as happy! I'm also happy to answer any other questions she (or you) might have.

Rockville, MD
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7. Re: need advice for young female traveler

Thanks, Whitewave, for sharing your experience. It does make me feel better about safety and also about the phone situation--she already has a Skype account so hopefully can use that in Guatemala.

Did you need reservations for hotels (or hostels) and/or shuttles, and if so how far ahead did you reserve? Did you use local travel agencies to arrange tours, or did you reserve online or by phone? For example, how did you arrange the Semuc Champey trip (both shuttle and lodge)? Same question for Tikal and/or Rio Dulce, if you went to those places.

Unfortunately, she can't skip Guatemala City. The friend she is meeting there belongs to a U.S. dance company that is performing at a festival in GC; she's timing her arrival to be able to see the final performance, then the two of them and other dancers will go to Lake Atitlan to a rental house.

I will encourage her to learn a little Spanish before the trip. I was a Spanish major (back in the "dark ages" when I was in college) and can still read it pretty well, so I can translate websites and communicate in Spanish for reservations if necessary.

Washington, Virginia
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8. Re: need advice for young female traveler

Hello freedshop, in answer to your above question about wheather or not to get Quetzales before or after....I would say, go to Guatemala with the cash you want to spend immediately already in Quetzales. Your daughter should get about $100 of American money changed to Quetzales to take with her on the plane. That way she can step out of customs and go right to a cab or bus and not have to fool with stopping at an airport ATM or exchange station. Then, once she's in her hotel room, after she has safely made it there, she can use an ATM to get out more $$. My experience in Guatemala was amazing, but I didn't think to get any Quetzales before I left the states, and I found myself waiting in line forever trying to exchange them in the Guatemala City airport...it would just be much less stressful to already have them. Also, i think there are buses she can take to Panajachel...which is where Lake Atitlan is. They run regularly and are safe as long as you stay in twos. I don't remember the exact name of them, but they are the green buses....she can ask at her hotel. As far as the "not speaking spanish" thing goes, she really won't have a problem.

Rockville, MD
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609 posts
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9. Re: need advice for young female traveler

Thanks for the money and other advice, BambinaBella. I agree about bringing foreign currency--my husband and I always do this when we travel, and it definitely saves time and makes things easier. I think it's especially important in this case since she is arriving in the evening.

Utah
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10. Re: need advice for young female traveler

We went in May and loved it!!

We went to Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Chichicastenango and Tikal~ loved everything about it!!

Get as much money as she can beforehand. We did not realize that we would need quetzales and so we struggled trying to find places to get them. We always could but I wish we would have had them as we walked off the plane! :)

I posted photos etc from our trip on my blog if you want to take a look, it is about 6 posts down ~ but I tried to summarize everything the best I could~

Hope it helps some!!

www.photographsbytiffany.blogspot.com