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Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

Denver, Colorado
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Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

Hello,

Thank you in advance for any help that you can provide.

My wife and I are planning to go to Guatemala and Belize in March and were recently researching the best way to get around. We came across some concerning things and I wanted to come here to ease my fears and get some advice.

1. How is traveling throughout Guatemala in terms of safety? My sister recommended the trip and she felt perfectly safe with her husband there, but they also had stories of bus strikes and people "holding up" buses and shooting the bus driver while they were there (5 years ago). Is this still happening?

2. We land at 11pm in GUA and would like to immediately go to our hotel in Antigua. We plan to arrange a hotel shuttle and have them pick us up at the airport. Is this the safest option? Should we be concerned in Guatemala City at that time and traveling at that time?

3. We depart from BZE and are deciding on how to travel from Lake Aitlan to Belize. Our current thinking is to take a shuttle back to GUA and fly but it is very expensive. We also thought about taking a shuttle back to GUA and flying to Flores (less expensive) and then taking an express bus from Flores to Belize City. Is crossing the boarder via the express bus the safest option?

I apologize if I am being overly concerned. I am a fairly seasoned traveler having been to many places and never too concerned for my well being. It is just with the stories of the bus strikes and the US Dept of State listing the situation as "critical" has my family worried and I would like to know if they are warranted or if you can help me ease their concerns.

California
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1. Re: Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

I was in Guatamala last month and never felt threatened. You just need to have common sense such as not walking down dark streets at night exploring. Leave your jewelery at home. Don't flash your electronics. If you have a shuttle already to meet you at the airport that is good. It is a small airport and when you exit your driver will be there with your name. My thought would be to fly from GC to Flores and visit Tikal for at least one night and try to stay at the park. I have not taken transportation from Flores to Belize but a lot of people do so that ought not to be an issue.

The Dalles, Oregon
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2. Re: Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

1. I'd recommend against taking the red camionetas (local buses) in Guatemala City (which you wouldn't have anyway), otherwise this should not be a concern.

2. I think you'd be safe enough but I'd be tempted to fall into bed 2 minutes from the airport if my flight landed that late; if you decide you'd rather sleep near the airport and head to Antigua in the morning, here are 2 recommended hotels in a very safe, gated neighborhood just a couple of minutes from the airport that offer free airport shuttles as well as breakfast in the morning; the 1st is budget, the 2nd midrange, both great value:

http://hoteldoslunas.com/

http://hostalvillatoscana.com/

3. I'd fly from GC to Flores and go by road from there after visiting Tikal. I recommend staying at least a night in the park, and maybe 1 in Flores ahead of the early morning express bus. Or you could arrange transport straight from Tikal. Here are 2 transportation providers I’ve been pleased with in Guatemala for share shuttles, private transfers, and flight arrangements:

Adrenalina Tours: http://www.adrenalinatours.com

Rainbow Travel: http://www.rainbowtravelcenter.com

Consider hiring a great guide for Tikal. I love tours provided by Roxy Ortiz so much that I schedule my visits around her availability. She can sometimes be a piece of your transportation plan, depending on your schedule and hers. Consider a visit to Yaxhá as well as Tikal, really amazing.

http://www.tikalroxy.blogspot.com

You might want to consider at least a couple of nights in western Belize for some caving; these 2 are both amazing:

Most popular: http://pacztours.net/actun-tunichil-muknal/

Another, less-visited amazing cave option in Cayo: http://www.actunchapatadventure.blogspot.com/

My photos with blog and travelogue links on the main page of each collection are below in case you're interested - all my recommendations are embedded there. Happy trails! flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

Edited: 09 January 2014, 10:25
Denver, Colorado
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3. Re: Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

Thank you so much for your feedback. Thank you hopefulist for the recommendations. I think that is exactly what we are going to do. Stay near the airport and head to Antigua first thing next morning.

Thank you.

California
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4. Re: Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

I don't know your budget but we stayed at Dos Lunas last month due to getting in late arrival. I was emailed that Victor would be there to greet us and he was not. No problem tho. There will be taxi people there and helpful. One made the call to Dos Lunas and Victor arrived 10 min later. I gave the taxi guy $1 for the call. For a quick night the place is ok. But the entire hotel is in need of sprucing up. Old and tired place. Owners are nice. Since there were no others going to Antigua the next day, Victor took us to the airport in the morning and we took the shuttle. Easy.

The Dalles, Oregon
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5. Re: Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

Yeah, I choose Villa Toscana near GUA - lovely place, great value.

Denver, Colorado
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6. Re: Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

Hello hopefulist. You have no idea how great it is to have someone like you on this forum. With so much knowledge and willingness to help, I really appreciate it.

Anyway, we are booking reservations with Villa Toscana and they seem to have a strange requirement. They want me to send them a scan of my credit card (both front and back) to hostalvillatoscana@yahoo.com. I am sure it is safe since you recommended it, but I did not want to be the fool to send my credit card to a yahoo address and then wondered why it was used for unauthorized purchases. Is this safe to do? Is there any other way to make reservations? Is this common for most hotels in Guatemala?

Thank you again for your help.

Lancaster...
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7. Re: Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

Oh, JeremyCO, DO NOT SEND your credit card information via email.

I did it one time with Jordanian hotel and got a problem by next morning.

Central America
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8. Re: Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

"...but they also had stories of bus strikes and people "holding up" buses and shooting the bus driver while they were there (5 years ago). Is this still happening?"

These problems (major) were with the urban buses (red camionetas mentioned above). An extorsion tactic used by gangs in some of the rougher parts of the City. Tourists do not normally, and should not, use these buses. They are being phased out with new Transurbano buses to reduce the issue (no cash aboard, security cameras) and improve air quality (the old buses belch black smoke). Liscenced Taxis, first class buses, and tourist shuttles are just fine.

Re 11PM arrival. Do yourself a favor and get some rest in a nice Zona 10 hotel just minutes from the airport. Then enjoy the short scenic drive to Antigua the next AM in the day when you can see it. Zona 10 is quite nice with many upscale shops, bars, resturants, and hotels.

Re

Central America
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9. Re: Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

Requiring a card image and ID is common in Guate. The idea is to prevent fraud, but email is not secure. FAX it to them or send it in a password protected attachement and provide the password over the phone.

Edited: 16 January 2014, 20:20
The Dalles, Oregon
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10. Re: Guatemala, concerns about travel within the country

I stay there often enough they don't ask me for that, but I wouldn't be willing to send that information over the internet. I'd just call and give the info to them over the phone.