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Guatemala City is the capital and largest city in Guatemala with about 1.3 million people living in the city proper but probably around 3.5 million people live in the greater metropolitan area, making it one of the bigger cities in Central America. The city is located in the central southern part of the country on an elevation of about 1,500 metres, surrounded by high mountains and volcanoes, which gives it a rather mild climate. It's the economic heart of the country and together with Antigua (the former capital) it als has a lot to offer culture-wise.
Most people flying into the country arrive here and spend at least a few days here before moving on. The city is threatened by earthquakes, mudslides and volcanoes, with the first killing thousands of people during the last century as well as damaging and destroying lots of buildings. The historical centre remains beautiful though and a visit to the city should start here.
The city is divided into 21 zones (zonas). Zona 1 is the old historic center. Here are the national palace, the presidential palace, the cathedral, the main plaza, and the Central Market. South of Zona 1 is Zona 4, with many of the official buildings like the national bank, the national theatre, and the tourist board (INGUAT). Farther south is Zona 10 and Zona 9, divided by Avenida La Reforma. Zona 10 hosts most of the high class hotels, restaurants, bars, shopping facilities. A small part of Zona 10 is called Zona Viva (the lively zone) because of its nightlife.
Antique churches provide the capital city with a very special historic and architectural touch, such as Cerrito del Carmen, Catedral Metropolitana, Calvario, Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Iglesia de Yurrita, and Iglesia de la Merced. The archaeological site of Kaminal Juyú is located within this capital city, which according to specialists, is a city buried under one of the most commercial areas of the city, comprising Zona 7 and Zona 11.
Guetemala City has a very pleasant climate, with generally slightly lower temperatures and humidity compared to areas at lower altitudes. The wet season lasts from May to November, like most of Central America. The coolest months are December to February, the hottest April and May. Temperatures vary from 12 °C on average at night in January to 29 °C on average during the day in the month of May.
La Aurora International Airport (GUA), located 6 kilometres outside Guatemala City, does not only serve the city but is also the main gateway to the country.
TACA has flights to Cancun, Chicago, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Miami, New York, San José in Costa Rica, San Pedro Sula in Honduras, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa and Washington, D.C.. Several other destinations are mostly within Central America or the United States. Iberia is the only European carrier that has direct flights from Madrid to the city.
Central American highways CA-1 and CA-9 run through Guatemala City.
CA-1 is part of the Pan-American Highway and comes from the border with Mexico near Tapachula through the western highlands. Within the city, CA-1 is first Avenida Roosevelt, then Boulevar Liberacion and then Bulevar Los Proceres. It then becomes Carretera an El Salvador outside of the city and it leads to the Chinamas border with El Salvador.
Litegua has connections between Guatemala City, Rio Dulce, Morales, Puerto Barrios and many other towns and cities.
In almost any town in Guatemala, you will find a bus that eventually will take you to Guatemala City. The second-class extra-urbanos are often crowded and uncomfortable but cheap. Expect to pay around Q10 per hour if you are a foreigner. There are also various first-class buses from some of the larger cities and from neighboring countries (Belize, México, El Salvador and Honduras). Most buses end up in Zona 1 or Zona 4.
There are two kinds of taxis: the ones with a meter and the ones on which you have to agree on a price before the trip. Of the metered taxis, the best service is given by Taxis Amarillo (yellow cabs). It is not possible to hail them in the street so you have to call 1766. They will demand an address (they can sometimes by quite picky about getting an exact address: look around at nearby houses, and give the correct zona) and normally a telephone number, so it might be wise to have someone call on your behalf from a restaurant or so. With Amarillo, every trip is logged, and riding is considered safe.
The other kind of taxis are white. With these you have to negotiate a price, and as you are a tourist/foreigner, they most likely will demand more than the normal fare. Normally, the white taxis should be cheaper, but unless you negotiate well, the yellow taxis might actually be the cheaper choice. Also is also the question of safety. There are approximately 800 unregistered/unlicenced/stolen white taxis circulating the city. If you do find a white taxi who is decent, the driver will be happy to give you a card and pick you up if you call in advance; many locals who can afford the odd taxi have their favorite "taxista" whom they call, and the drivers themselves can refer you to another reliable driver should they be busy. The minimum price for a metered cab ride is 25Q.
The common way to get around in Guatemala City is by bus or taxi. If you walk, make sure to do so accompanied. Traveling inside the city by bus costs Q1.00, but a few routes cost Q1.10 (then, there is see a sign in the window), and all buses charge Q1.25 on Sundays). The buses end at 8PM It is not advisable to take the bus after dark as there are many robberies on the buses.
Recently, Guatemala Municipality has established a system of buses called "Transurbano" (blue& white) and "Trasmetro" (green) which is the closest thing to a 'Metro' but by a long articulated bus using a dedicated lane along the streets. To use this system you have to buy a pre-paid card in various places of the city, and there is a special card for tourists as cash is not accepted on board. You can also also pay with Q1 coins to the machines at the stations for the "Transmetro". Routes and stops are predefined and each trip costs Q1. There are transfer points in some places and they can reach almost any area of the capital city with this system. This system is constantly growing and is much safer than the traditional red city buses, with police surveillance, security cameras, panic button, GPS. You can check the routes and stops on the system websites for Transurbano and Transmetro.
Most of central Guatemala City can easily be explored on foot.
You can find quite an array of American fast food restaurants (McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, etc.) as well as Pollo Campero which is the most popular Guatemalan fast food chain. Fast food restaurants in Guatemala are very clean and accessible only to the middle class.
Though a little risky, there are great street vendors that offer a variety of good local foods. Just remember to scope out the one with the best hygiene.
Zona Viva, between Avenida La Reforma, 6 Avenida, 16 Calle and 10 Calle in Zona 10 is the best place to find restaurants, bars and nightclubs.
Most accommodations in the Zona Viva are within a few blocks making location less important than amenities like airport transfers or breakfast. Check for hidden costs and taxes (22%) before booking.
|Comfort Hostel||17 calle 14-35 Zona 10 Guatemala, Guatemala||HOSTEL||-|
|Dos Lunas||21 Calle 10-92, Zona 13 Aurora II||Guesthouse||-|
|Hostal Guatefriends||16 Calle 7-40 zona 13 Aurora I||Guesthouse||89|
|Hostal Hermano Pedro||6 av. 20-53 zona 13 Aurora 2||Hostel||81|
|Hostal Los Lagos||8 Ave 15 - 85 zona 13 Aurora I||Hostel||87|
|Hostal Los Volcanes||16 street 8-00 Zone 13 Aurora 1||Hostel||-|
|Hostal Villa Toscana||16 calle 8-20 zona 13 Aurora 1||Guesthouse||87|
|Hotel Aeropuerto||15 Calle A 7-32 Zona 13||Guesthouse||-|
|Hotel Bed & Breakfast Mi Casa||5ª Avenida A 13-51 Zona 9||HOTEL||-|
|Hotel Cantabria||9 Avenida 1-12 zona 1||HOTEL||90|
|Mariana's Petit Hotel||20 Calle 10-17 Z.13 Aurora II||Hotel||88|
|NovoHostal||9 Avenida 17-58 Zone 13 Aurora I||Guesthouse||-|
|Posada Belen Museum Inn||13 calle A 10-30 zona 1 Historic Center||Hotel||-|
|Jack Rabbit Hostel||15 Calle A 7-52 Zona 13, Aurora 1||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hostal Casa del Angel||18 calle 9-50 zona 13 Aurora II||Guesthouse||-|
|Patricias Bed & Breakfast||19 calle 10-65 Zona 13 Aurora 2||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hostal Plaza Aeropuerto||6a. Ave. 13-52 zone 9||Hostel||-|
|Hotel Casa Santorini||7ma Av A 17-17 Zona 13 , Colonia Aurora 1 Local A 300 mts sur Aeropeurto Internacional La Aurora ,||HOTEL||-|
|Las Amèricas||25 Calle 13 - 56 Zona 13||Hostel||-|
|Quetzalroo||6ta Avenida 7-84, Zona 10||HOSTEL||89|
|Hotel San Pablo||8 Calle 7-29 Zona 9 #65||Hotel||-|
|Hostal Aroche||13 avenida 7-12 zona 12||Hostel||-|
|Xamanek Hostel||13 Calle 3-57 Zona 10||HOSTEL||-|
|La Coperacha||4 Av 2-03 Zona 2||GUESTHOUSE||86|
|Hostal del Centro||17 Calle 6-25 Zona 1||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hotel Estacion Gerona Bed & Breakfast||13 Avenida 19-35 Zona 1||GUESTHOUSE||84|
If English is your native language (with Spanish as your second language), you might find work as a private English tutor or translator. Look at the classifieds in Prensa Libre.
Internet access is widely available. Even most of the more remote areas have some type of internet access available. Many larger areas also have WiFi. All of the Camperos chicken/pizza restaurants (which are numerous) offer free WiFi, as well as many other restaurants and cafes. Some hotels may also offer computer banks with internet access. Just ask and you eventually will find some sort of free access.
If you have a smartphone such as iPhone, Google Android, you just need a local SIM card (roughly Q25) and can start enjoying the prepaid access plans, which generally come in lots of an hour, a day, or a week.
See also International Telephone Calls
Guatemala's emergency phone numbers include 110 (police), 120 (ambulance) and 123 (fire). Guatemala's international calling code is 502. There are no area codes. Phone numbers all have eight digits.
The phone system isn't great, but it works. Tourists can call abroad from call centers, where you pay by the minute. It is also easy to purchase a calling card to use at public pay phones. The phones there do not accept money, so to use a public phone on the street you must purchase a telephone card. Typically, the cost is around 8 quetzals for a 10-min call to North America, and slightly more to Europe. Cell phones are quite cheap and calling overseas through one can get as low as $0.08 a min. If you are planning to stay for a while and plan to use the phone, you should consider buying a cheap prepaid phone. Wireless nation-wide internet access for laptops is also available as a service from some companies. Telefónica has good coverage with their PCMCIA EV-DO cards.
El Correo is the national postal company in Guatemala. It offers a wide range of services, including sending cards and packages both domestically as well as internationally. Most Guatemalan towns have a post office, although your best bet is to send mail from a large city. Service at El Correo is improving, thanks to consultation and assistance from Canada Post. Most post offices open from 8:30am to 5:30pm. Airmail letters to North America and Europe cost from Q6.50 and take a week or two to arrive. High-end hotels can usually send your mail for you, too. Expect packages you send through the Guatemalan mail system to take a very long time to arrive. They usually get there in the end, but it's worth paying extra for recorded delivery (correo registrado). Many stores can ship your purchases for you, for a cost. Valuable items are best sent with private express services. Couriers operating in Guatemala include DHL, UPS, and FedEx. Delivery within two to three business days for a 1-kg package starts at about Q500.
We have a comprehensive list of accommodation in Guatemala City searchable right here on Travellerspoint. You can use our map to quickly compare budget, mid-range or top of the range accommodation in Guatemala City and areas nearby.
Ask centramerica a question about Guatemala City
Living in Guatemala for quite some time now. Love the country and all that it has to offer to travelers. Travel inland quite often.
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