What to expect
We recommend that you stay near the airport or nearby zones 9 or 10, where there are small, simple airport hotels that cost $15 – $30 per night. The luxury hotels in Zone 10 provide shuttle service to and from the airport and have drivers at the airport exit with signs.
These links provide information about travel and hotels:
General travel information for Guatemala City
Hotels near the airport (over $50)
List of hotels/hostels near the airport, many of which include airport pickup and drop-off service:
Hostal Aurora II
20 Calle “A” 9-58, Z.13, Aurora II
Tel: (502)2261-4505 or (502)5201-1493
The airport has an exchange kiosk, although the exchange rate is not good. There is a yellow 5B ATM machine downstairs, on the left.
Good hotels in Zone 10 have reliable ATM machines, as does the new Walmart in Guatemala City.
There are two reliable ATM machines in Santiago Atitlan and three banks. Traveler’s checks can be changed in the local banks. Dollars and Euros are more difficult to change.
There are various options, listed in with the quickest, most comfortable and costly first.
Private van — We can arrange a private van to pick you up at your hotel or at the airport. If you arrive on an evening flight, we recommend that you spend the night in Guatemala City, as the travel time to Santiago Atitlan is 3.5 hours. With a private van, the driver can take you shopping (cheese, wine, things you cannot find in SA) and make any stops you want along the way.
Cost: Q800 or about $107.
To schedule a private van pickup, please email volunteer coordinator Febe Sosof prior to your departure with all flight arrival information, so that your flight can be monitored. We cannot arrange airport pickups without your airline and flight information. If there are any flight delays, please email Febe with updates. The driver will be waiting for you as you exit the airport. If you cannot find one another, go to the information center and contact the driver (5346-5911) or the volunteer coordinator (4045-5776). Please carry these numbers with you on your flight.
Tourist shuttles — Shuttles run by Atitrans can pick you up at your hotel or airport. (A reservation is required.) Travel time is five hours to Panajachel. Cost: $25
From there, you can take a boat across the lake to Santiago Atitlán. Cost: $3.50. From the docks you can take a tuk-tuk — a motorized rickshaw taxi — to the Hospitalito. Cost: $1.00
Atitrans can be contacted via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: (502) 7831-0184/5572-0288. Reservations can be made online: www.atitrans.net/.
Chicken Buses (camionetas) — For the foolish traveler, there are second classes buses that leave from CEMA almost every hour until 4:00 pm. Cost: Q35/about $5. Take the green TransMetro public transportation to CEMA which is located about ten miles from the center of the capital.
These colorful buses drive very fast, and you’ll have to share your seat with up to four other people. Your luggage will go on top of the bus. You are seldom allowed to keep it with you. Ayudantes (helpers) will want to help you find your bus. Make sure that you clearly state that you want to go to Santiago Atitlán. The buses have an Atitlán sign in the front window. If not, an ayudante will offer a partial trip, and you’ll have to get off along the route and wait for the Atitlán bus.
We do not recommend the public buses unless you have experience traveling in developing countries. The bus terminals and buses have skilled pickpockets and diversion artists, who find disoriented travelers an easy target.
Once our volunteer coordinator has accepted you as a volunteer, you will receive a document listing the housing options in Santiago Atitlán, which includes descriptions and prices.
You can also go online to check out and make reservations at the better local hotels:
Posada de Santiago: www.posadadesantiago.com
Bambu Hotel: www.ecobambu.com
Hotel Tiosh Abaj: www.tioshabaj.com
Homestays are only successful with families that have experience opening their homes to visitors. Problems can include food preparation and a healthy environment. We recommend homestays for those who plan on staying a month or more. For about $10/day (Q75), you will get a private room, meals, and laundry service. Home stays are listed in the housing list.
There are several Internet cafes in town that charge $1/hour. Several coffee shops have Wi-Fi available with purchase of food or a beverage. Wireless Internet is available at the Hospitalito, free of charge.
Cell phones are sold in town for $20 or Q150. Local calls cost Q1 per minute; calls to the US are Q2 (25 cents) per minute.
US cell phones generally do not work in Guatemala. Check with your provider to see if you can purchase a special SIM card that will allow you to make calls within Guatemala, as well as international calls. There is a kiosk in the airport that offers SIM cards (next to the exchange kiosk).
Another inexpensive way to call other countries is through Skype or other Internet-based phone services.
The following are some tips for staying healthy while in Guatemala:
• Use purified water for drinking and when brushing your teeth.
• Soak fruits and vegetables in water with a few drops of chlorine, iodine or other disinfectants.
• Eat street food at your own risk!
If you rent a house, the house staff will find a woman to come do your laundry, weekly or more frequently, if needed. This will cost about Q20 or $3/load. Be advised that hand washing can be hard on delicate fabrics, so you might want to give special instructions. Or, bring more durable cotton fabrics.
If you do a home stay, your laundry may be included in the cost. However, if your clothing is heavy or difficult to wash, you may be charged extra.
Dolores (5384-7441) has a laundry service. She will pick up and return your laundry.
Santiago Atitlán has a thriving indoors market that is open daily but better to shop in the morning. Fresh produce from around Guatemala is available at cheap prices. There are a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and meats. In addition, there are a number of small “convenience” stores that sell packaged foodstuffs. The town also has a number of restaurants.
If there is any food that you must have during your time in Santiago Atitlán, it is best to pick it up in Guatemala City prior to arriving.
There are a number of Spanish teachers, with varying levels of experience. Classes range from conversation to formal.
We particularly recommend Rosa Archila. This is the longest standing Spanish school in town, run by Rosa and her daughters, who have many years of experience. They charge by the hour, and you can arrange one-on-one lessons in your home or hotel.
Phone: (502) 5414-0307
• Semana Santa — the week before Easter Sunday.
• Fiesta of Santiago, celebrating the patron saint of Santiago Atitlán — July 25th.
• Guatemalan Independence Day —September 15th.
• Todos Santos (All Souls Day) — November 1st and 2nd.
• Christmas holidays — Begin in mid-December and last until January 6th (Three Kings Day).