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5 Things I wish I knew before going

Chicago, Illinois
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17 posts
22 reviews
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5 Things I wish I knew before going

1. Every tourist that comes here speaks Spanish. Every. Tourist. From. Anywhere. It means the locals don't have to work too hard to try to communicate. Which also means that for people like me who are deaf and need to gesture, communicating is much more difficult than usual.

2. Don't expect any kind of nightlife if you're dependent on the Lanchas' schedule. We opted to stay at a private resort, which means we didn't have to deal with dirty hippie-wannabes, but it also meant that we were stranded in other towns without any way back or stuck in our room by 7:30pm.

3. Do we tip or what???

4. Find a local to guide you. It is really hard to find restaurants and find your way around the towns along the lake. They're not neatly divided into grids. There are footpaths that you take through obscure trees and shacks until you finally find the place you were looking for. Just ask. Then do we tip or what???

5. These locals have seen it ALL. Thanks to the bizarre creatures that venture here. I was worried about my attire and jewelry until I saw what the other tourists (if you want to call them that?) looked like. OH. Go ahead and wear what you want to wear. Trust me, there isn't anything that would shock the locals. Yeah, most people dress for comfort. But you don't need to dress like Janis Joplin to try to blend in. No matter what, you will stand out.

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
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328 reviews
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1. Re: 5 Things I wish I knew before going

I'm a hearing person who speaks Spanish and it still surprises me sometimes how quirky communication can be in that neck of the woods. Part of the challenge (and cultural interest) is that true locals speak Spanish as a 2nd language and only if they benefitted from years of school, still sadly unavailable to many.

I have avoided the private resorts for the reason you name - I like to be where I can go out and about, shop at produce markets, and prepare much of my own food. Often the guides I've used have been kids and I do tip them if they go out of their way. You have to be careful about being guided to hotels, though - you may be charged more if the tout gets a cut and they may try to convince you to head a different place than you had in mind (and might prefer). For 1st timers in San Pedro, I often recommend to just hire a tuktuk; that town is tricky to figure out at 1st imo.

Re: attire, I choose to avoid shorts for cultural reasons but don't have any illusions about blending in. ;-)

Thanks for posting!

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San Pedro
San Pedro
Ambergris Caye, Belize
Central America
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1,958 posts
30 reviews
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2. Re: 5 Things I wish I knew before going

Re tipping, if the resturant does not include a service charge then a tip of about 10% is reasonable. For other services its really up to you. I usually tip for good service.

Chicago, Illinois
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17 posts
22 reviews
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3. Re: 5 Things I wish I knew before going

Thanks for making me feel a little bit better about the communication barrier. I did try to speak any Spanish words I knew, but usually deaf people make great international travelers because we're used to not having to rely on spoken language. We do great with facial expressions and gestures. For the most part we got along well, but wow - it was tricky at times!

Chicago, Illinois
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17 posts
22 reviews
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4. Re: 5 Things I wish I knew before going

BZ, we knew about the restaurant gratuity. But sometimes we'd ask a local for help finding a place and we weren't sure what was appropriate. Or we would do tours, like the Volcan San Pedro hike, and we weren't sure if gratuity was included. We didn't want to ask, because we weren't sure if people would be honest. So I did tip our hike guide, but not the tuk-tuk drivers that were involved in the hike. Just little things like that. In the US you tip for every little thing and I didn't want to seem cheap or overly generous.

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Volcan San Pedro
Volcan San Pedro
258 Reviews
San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala
Canberra
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128 posts
33 reviews
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5. Re: 5 Things I wish I knew before going

Thanks for your post. Still in the planning process and was wondering if I should try and learn Spanish or not given how many indigenous languages there seems to be in Central and South America.

As for tipping, its even worse when you travel from Australia. We don't tip anyone so its very confusing working out the rules for when and how much to tip.

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
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13,254 posts
328 reviews
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6. Re: 5 Things I wish I knew before going

In my opinion you can enjoy travel in Guatemala without speaking Spanish if you stick fairly close to the beaten path; I did that for years. However, as my Spanish has improved, my enjoyment has grown exponentially. I highly recommend working on your Spanish before a trip and - better still - picking a good school in Guatemala and studying for a week or 2.

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Guatemala
Guatemala
Central America
7. Re: 5 Things I wish I knew before going

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