Quetzaltenango, also commonly known by its indigenous name, Xelajú, or more commonly, Xela, is the second largest city of Guatemala. It is both the capital of Quetzaltenango Department and the municipal seat of Quetzaltenango municipality. It has an estimated population of around 225,000. The population is about 61% indigenous or Amerindian, 34% Mestizo or ladino and 5% European. Quetzaltenango is located in a mountain valley at an elevation of 2,330 metres above sea level at its lowest part. It may reach above 2,400 metres within the city.
There are two main seasons in Quetzaltenango (as in all of Guatemala); the rainy season, which generally runs from late May through late October, and the dry season, which runs from early November until April. During the rainy season, rain falls consistently, usually in the afternoons, but there are occasions in which it rains all day long or at least during the morning. During the dry season, the city frequently will not receive a single drop of rain for months on end. Coldest months are November through February, with minimum temperatures averaging 4 °C, and maximum temperatures averaging 22 °C. Warmest months are March through July, with minimum temperatures averaging 8 °C and maximum temperatures averaging 23 °C.
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.
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