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Quetzaltenango

Photo © Susanha

Travel Guide Central America Guatemala Quetzaltenango

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Introduction

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.

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History

The city of Quetzaltenango, the capital and largest city of the department of the same name, is situated on an extensive plain and surrounded by hills and volcanoes. The city of Quetzaltenango conserves the old K'iche' Maya traditions and the colonial past, while maintaining the dynamism of modern life.

The city's roots go back to the Pre-Columbian Maya era. The Mam authority, called Kulahá, reached its most important expansion. The K'iche' lords later conquered the area, and founded the city of Xelajú here, moving it from a previous location at the base of the volcano Santa Maria.

The city was already some 300 years old when Spanish Conquistadors came to conquer Guatemala in the early 1500s. Their native allies the Nahuas from Central Mexico called the city "Quetzaltenango", meaning "the place of the Quetzal bird" in the Nahua language. The Spanish took the name from the Nahuas. It's still the city's official name, but locals are more apt to casually call it "Xela" from the ancient name of Xelajú.

It was the administrative capital of the Western Highland region in the Spanish Colonial period. With Central American independence from Spain in the 1820s it was part of the Central American Federation. Conflicts between the interests of Quetzaltenango and Guatemala City led to the creation of "Los Altos", the "Sixth State of the Central American Confederation", consisting of Western Guatemala (and a slice of what is now part of Chiapas Mexico) with Quetzaltenango as its capital. When the Central American Federation fell apart in 1839-1840, Los Altos was briefly a de-facto independent state, until the army of Guatemalan dictator Carrera brutally conquered the city and hung its leaders.

The city enjoyed prosperity with the boom in coffee production in the late 19th and start of the 20th century, when many of the city's "Belle Époque" style landmarks still seen were built. Plans for a railway to Quetzaltenango dated back to the 1890s, and construction was started in the 1920s and finally completed in 1930. The "Ferrocarril de los Altos" was proclaimed the engineering marvel of the age -- until it was destroyed by landslides in 1933. The fabled railroad is still remembered in local song and story, and there's a museum dedicated to it in town.

Quetzaltenango's prosperity declined from the Great Depression through the Guatemalan Civil War in the later 20th century, and for a time much of the city looked on the scruffy side. With the new millennium, however, better times are back. The old landmarks have been refurbished and new ones added, and the city is more beautiful and vibrant than ever.

Quetzaltecos are proud of their city, its distinct regional culture, and its rich heritage.

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Sights and Activities

  • Market (La Democracia). The main market in the city is in Zona 3, covering various city blocks around the covered market, with an enormous variety of produce at cheaper prices than in formal shops (often for identical products). The covered market itself occupies the block between 15 Avenida and 16 Avenida, and 2 and 3 Calle, Zona 3. Fresh meat is sold inside the covered market, fruit and vegetables outside. Clothes, shoes, and toys are mostly sold outside. Many buses and microbuses pass the market, usually breviated to "La Demo". On the north side of the market is the attractive Parque Benito Juárez, with the San Nicolás Church on its east side.

The town conserves traces of the colonial period in its streets and avenues. The classical, neoclassical and Italian renaissance styles are evident in the buildings and the houses which have been built during the past century and the beginning of the 20th, with volcanic stones by artistic "Quetzalteco" masons.

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Weather

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.

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Getting There

By Car

Use the Panamerican Highway (CA-1) which crosses the Highlands or the International (CA-2), parallel to the Pacific Coast.

By Bus

As with most cities in the country try to arrange to arrive well before dark since moving around in the city is more complicated and dangerous after dark.

From Guatemala City, chicken buses run frequently from the Trebol terminal to the Minerva terminal in Xela for Q35 (quetzales). More comfortable direct connections are offered by companies such as Galgos and Linea Dorada (US$9, 4½ hours, office in 16 Calle 10-03, Zona 1, Tel +502 2415-8900). For 1st class buses to Guatemala City, Galgos has its terminal on Calle Rodolfo Robles, at the southern end of the La Democracia market district in Zona 3, at the end of 18 Avenida. Alamo also has its office in Zona 3, on 14 Avenida, near the corner with 5a Calle, a few blocks northeast of La Democracia.

From Antigua, take a chicken bus from the terminal in Antigua to Chimaltenango for Q5. Get off on the main road (under a massive concrete bridge,) walk one block west to catch one of the buses which go from Guatemala City to Xela, Q30.

From many villages around Lake Atitlán, buses go to Xela (from some infrequently, usually early in the morning.) A frequent service goes from Panajachel to Sololá and from there to Los Encuentros. There you can hop on one of the frequent buses from Guatemala City to Xela. Make sure to get to Los Encuentros well before dusk since no buses pass by after a certain hour and it is not a very pleasant place to spend the night.

From San Cristóbal in Mexico (as a tourist hotspot well connected to many places in the country) inexpensive shuttles go to Xela several times a day. They usually go to Antigua but stop on the way there in Xela. Alternatively you can get on a micro to Comitán, take a micro from there to the border at La Mesilla, get on a chicken bus to Huehuetenango, and from there to Xela.

From Tapachula in Mexico, micros run frequently to the border between Ciudad Hidalgo and Tecún Umán from where there are frequent buses until the early afternoon to Coatepeque and from there chicken buses (Q18) to Xela. As the service on both connections in Guatemala terminates relatively early in the afternoon, you should try to leave early in Tapachula.

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Getting Around

By Car

Taxis are relatively common around the city, especially around nightlife hot spots. At night, it is not safe to walk around, so taxis are highly recommended, especially if you are by yourself. Catch a taxi on a public square rather than on one of the side streets and note its number. Negotiate the cost of the ride before you leave. If the driver seems sketchy to you, make a reasonable excuse and do not take it.

By Public Transport

For travel around the countryside, the local buses are very reasonable. They can be entertaining and, at times, quite crowded. Do not plan on carrying much luggage with you on these: some buses have backpack storage above the seats, but most of the time you must store bags that do not fit on your lap on the top of the bus. While they are generally safe up there, they are at risk for weather.

These second-class buses will leave at regular times, but if you load your things on the bus, do not get off as the driver may leave without warning.
These buses at the main terminal do make other stops prior to leaving town (7th Street and 16th Avenue, for example).

The city has grown enormously in the 2000s. Minibus routes thread through all parts of the city and, although cramped, cost only Q2.50. The bus costs less but is slower and less frequent.

When using the minibus to get to Hiper Paiz (the large mall with a movie theatre and a supermarket) go to the back part of central park to catch the van. The guy will call "Hiper Hiper Hiper" and it is Q2.50 in the day and Q3 at night. This same van also drops you at La Democracia Market and Paiz (a slightly smaller mall which also has a supermarket).

This is also the van that you catch to get to the Chicken Bus terminal that takes you to Antigua or Panajachel. Most people tell you to get off at the Roman Columns-Minerva Terminal. You can ask someone where the bus station is or just walk down the street alongside Hiper for 4-5 blocks.

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Eat

  • Churrascaría Cajola - This place is bare bones, dirt cheap, and delicious. You can get carne asada, with tortillas, beans, and cabbage for 10 quetzales (USD $1.25). A soft drink will cost another 4 or 5 quetzales. Located just east of Cervecería Nacional, next to the small roundabout.

Sabor de La India A great Indian meal from Q40 to 70, plus drink. Address is 15 Avenida 3-64, Zona 1, next to Vrisa Bookstore
Comida Taiwanesa Their specialty is the Taiwanese empenada which is entirely vegetarian. They're Q3.00 a piece and two will make a decent size snack. They also sell soy milk and snow cones with all kinds of toppings. Located south of the Parque Central on 8a calle between 8a avenida and 9a avenida.

  • La Genovese - A small Italian Restaurant just two blocks south of the Municipal Theater on 14 avenida A serves great pasta dishes perfect for vegetarians, as well as a great selection of meat based sauce dishes such as the famous Lasagna Bolognes, Spaghetti ala Amatriciana. You will also be surprised to find gourmet dishes such as Fettucinni with black trouffles and smoked salmon, Penne alla Gorbachov which is penne pasta with a vodka based sauce. Part of the charm of this restaurant is its chef Alfredo Trovatti who can entertain you with stories of his travels all around the world.
  • Luna Cafe has the best hot chocolate (spicy!), and decent food (some original takes on local ingredients & dishes) too. They are closed on Sunday. They are located off the east side of central park on 8a Av between 4a and 5a Calle. Around the corner on 4a Calle, is Bajo la Luna that has an excellent wine selection (seriously) and cheese plates.
  • Cafe RED is located in Zona 1 on 3a Calle just west of 15a Av. and has delicious coffee, excellent salads (spinach - no iceberg lettuce thankfully), sandwiches, pasta, soups, tipico meals, and wine for only 15Q a glass. They are closed on Sunday.
  • El Cuartito Cafe is located at the intersection of 7 Calle 7 & 13 Avenida, Zone 1, a block from the SW corner of Parque Central, across from the supermarket La Despensa Familiar. Open daily 8AM-11PM. This cozy & trendy modern-art-decorated cafe serves amazing coffee drinks (Q10-23 using 100% organic & fair-trade Xela cooperative produced coffee), teas (Q15-20), hot chocolate (Q12-17), alcoholic (mojitos - Q20; wine - Q16; commercial beer - Q15; artisan beer - Q30; Irish coffee - Q200), excellent pastries, breakfast plates (Q20-35), and great snacks (chips & salsa - Q15, nachos - Q25, quesadilla - Q20). Free Wi-Fi. Live music often.
  • Panorama Restaurante y Mirador, 13 Avenida A, D16-44, Zona 1 (http://restaurantepanorama.com/videos/como-llegar/), ☎ +502 5319-3536, +502 7765-8580. Tue-Fri 5-11pm, Sat-Sun 1-11pm. Amazing view overlooking central Xela (beside Iglesia Monte Sinai). Sit outside on the lawn as you gaze across the Quetzaltenango valley at the mountains all around. Excellent for celebrating an occasion or impressing that special someone. Specializing in Swiss cuisine and serving delicious fondues, raclette, sandwiches, pizzas, hamburgers & more. Q25-110.
  • Baviera Cafe, 5a Calle 13-14, Zona 1 (1 block west of central park), ☎ +502 78799958. 7a-8:30p. This charming cafe/restaurant offers tables, a lounge/sofa area, flat-screen TV showing sporting events. Serves wonderful teas (from Q6), locally sourced & roasted coffee drinks (from Q8), hot chocolate (from Q12), milk shakes (from Q20), juices/horchata/sodas/beers (from Q10) as well as soups (from Q20), sandwiches (from Q25), salads (from Q25), pastries (from Q20), snacks (from Q8), and breakfasts (from Q20). Free Wi-Fi internet to paying customers. There are also 3 other locations in Xela.
  • Cafe Nim Sut, 4ª. Calle 9-42, zone 1 (Half block NE from Central Park), ☎ +502 7761-3083. 9AM-7:30PM. Excellent location & service, with a terrace & panoramic view. Offers delicious breakfasts, snacks, lunches, & dinners. Lunch specials every day just Q25. Also offers a variety of coffee, cappuccino, espresso, latte and more. Can plan/host events & gatherings. Also a hostel with nice rooms decorated in a warm style. Offers wi-fi internet access to customers.

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Drink

Don't drink the tap water. Some hostels will have a water filter, which many drink from, and it seems to be safe. Otherwise, drink purified water (agua pura).

Cabro, which some consider one of the best beers in the world, is made locally in Quetzaltenango. Another local beer, Gallo, is more like the Bud Lite of Guatemala -- bland, available everywhere, and sponsoring everything.

If you like dark beer, try the Moza, another local beer, it's some people's favorite. Shop at the liquor store and return Moza bottles for credit but not all bottles will receive a 1 Q credit.

  • El Cuartito Cafe is located at the intersection of 7 Calle 7 & 13 Avenida, Zone 1, a block from the SW corner of Parque Central, across from the supermarket La Despensa Familiar. This cozy & trendy modern-art-decorated cafe serves amazing coffee drinks (Q10-23 using 100% organic & fair-trade Xela cooperative produced coffee), teas (Q15-20), hot chocolate (Q12-17), and many alcoholic beverages (mojitos - Q20; wine - Q16; commercial beer - Q15; several styles of artisan beer - Q30; Irish coffee - Q200). Free Wi-Fi. Open daily 8am-11pm. Live music often.
  • Baviera Cafe, 5a Calle 13-14, Zona 1 (1 block west of central park), ☎ +502 78799958. 7a-8:30p. This charming cafe/restaurant offers tables, a lounge/sofa area, flat-screen TV showing sporting events. Serves wonderful teas (from Q6), locally sourced & roasted coffee drinks (from Q8), hot chocolate (from Q12), milk shakes (from Q20), juices/horchata/sodas/beers (from Q10) and food (see "Eat" section). Free Wi-Fi internet to paying customers. There are also 3 other locations in Xela.
  • Dos Lobos Panaderia y Cafe, 2a calle, 14a-32, Zona 1 (a few blocks northwest of central park), ☎ +502 77617023. A cute cafe owned by a lovely pair of American expats. The bagels are fresh and home made and very delicious. Definitely worth a visit. US$9 Cafe negro, $11 Bagel with cream cheese.
  • Chill Out (3 blocks west of central park). 12am-4am. Bars in Xela close by law shortly after midnight. Chill Out defies this rule and provides the after party on most nights. The place can get packed with local students on weekends. The music is danceable but relatively low volume and most people just come here to chat with their friends. If you show up early (before they officially open) you might be able to get a voucher to get in for free later. Q20 entrance fee.

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Sleep

Quetzaltenango has a variety of accommodations for a variety of budgets, though world travelers will find the prices and facilities in the "high end" accommodations more like that of mid-range places in larger world cities. It is best to always ask to see your room before moving in to it; whether budget or more pricey, some rooms in the same place can often be much better or worse than others. At cheaper places don't expect hot water or heat unless you ask for it; in some the "heat" may be wood to put in a fireplace that you have to order and pay for by the bundle.

  • Casa Argentina, Diagonal 12 8-37. Friendly and central, very close to a small fruit and vegetable market. Home of Quetzaltrekkers, a non-profit trekking company. It has a wi-fi (or use their computer), kitchen (a bit dirty and run down), hot water (use the top one - hottest, and it's solar ). Q25 for a Dorm room, Q35 for a single room.
  • The Black Cat Hostel is in the old House Kahel (13 av 3-33 zona 1), located one block from central park, with a patio where you can have breakfast or sit in the sun. Both travelers & locals gather in the bar, so you can practice your Spanish. If you are a big breakfast eater, the extra $ for the room is well worth it - breakfast of your choice from a menu until 11am. Wi-fi internet included. Rooms with wheelchair access. Visa card accepted. Pets accepted. No smoking but smoking area provided. Phone: 77658951 or 77612091. http://www.blackcathostels.net Prices: dorm bed (with shared bathroom) - Q60, Private room (with shared bathroom) - Q160, Private room (with private bathroom) - Q200. *All prices include breakfast.
  • Hotel Pension Bonifáz, 4a. Calle 10-50 Zona 1 (Just off the Central Square), ☎ +502 761 4241. One of Xela's top hotels since 1935. Convenient location; offers parking for those who came with a car. On the pricey side for Quetzaltenango. Even if you decide to stay somewhere cheaper, you may wish to stop by the fashionable bar and restaurant for a meal or a cocktail.
  • Casa Doña Mercedes, ☎ +502 5687-3305, e-mail: guest_house_michelle@yahoo.com. is off to the southeast corner of central parque at the corner of 6a Calle and 14 Av. The rooms run US$11/night for the shared room, $70/week for a private room (both with shared bath), and $110/week for a private room/bath. The private baths hot water coming from a water heater. There is a sun room, kitchen, TV in the rooms, and the staff cleans your room every day. Also, they will do your laundry for 30Q/load.
  • Hostal La Estacion, 16 Avenida 1-23 Zona 1, ☎ +502 7761-8065, +502 7761-0219, +502 5407-9583 (cell), e-mail: mugeniacif@gmail.com. The hostel is located not far south of Mercado de Democracia and is a short walk to Parque Central. Q40 for a room with two double beds (similar to dorm style) and Q50 for a room with one bed. There is also a cheap single room on the terrace that costs about Q30 per night. If you stay for a week or a month you can get a cheaper rate. You can also buy great home cooked food for Q15 a meal. The hostel is run by a very nice woman (Doña Maria) who has years of experience hosting backpackers. It has a fully equipped kitchen, 24 hr. hot water, free bicycles that guests can borrow and a family atmosphere.
  • Itzamna Xela Homestay, e-mail: itzamna.xela.homestay@gmail.com. is a service placing travelers with a family for a homestay. They can accommodate stays of a few days to months.
  • Casas Luna De Xelaju. Nice two storey house with 3 beds, 2.5 baths with garage and apartments 2 beds, 1 bath.
  • Hotel Modelo, 14 Ave A 2-31 zone 1, ☎ +502 77612529. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 12pm. Owned and operated by the same family for over 100 year the Hotel Modelo offers old world charm in the heart of Quetzaltenango. US$30 up.
  • Hotel Real Virginia, 11 Avenida 8-11, Zona 1. More quiet than many of the hotels right in the heart of downtown

Posada San Andres, 4a calle, D12-41, Zona 1, ☎ +502 54815000, +502 77669826, e-mail: sanandresxela@gmail.com. Located next to Bab's Home, 5 blocks from the park, 7 huge rooms surround a colonial courtyard. Guests share a kitchen and two bathrooms with hot water. Wi-fi internet also available. Perfect for more long term guests. Q700 a month.

  • Casa San Bartolomé, B&B, 2da ave. 7-17 zona 1, Barrio San Bartolomé (one block from Parque Bolívar, take 6ta, Calle from Parque Central), ☎ +502 7761-9511, e-mail: casasanbartolome@yahoo.com. A quiet, clean and comfortable bed & breakfast with very nice gardens. The hotel has six bedrooms and two equipped and furnished apartments, all with private bathrooms and enough hot water. Rates include full breakfasts to select from a six options menu. Special rates for longer stays. Free Wi-Fi. Q205-350.
  • Hotel Villa Real Plaza, 12 Ave & 4ta Calle Zona 1. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 11am. The Villa Real Plaza sits on the same block as Quetzaltenango's wonderful Central Park. It is a lively area with lots of restaurants and nightlife. Nice rooms, hot showers with Cable TV in every room. US$30 up.
  • Casa Xelajú, Callejón 15, Diagonal 13-02, Zona 1, e-mail: info@cx.edu.gt. Offers two-story house for rent and 10 apartments with big windows where you can see the city, mountains and volcanoes. They are completely furnished including central heated water, washing machine, a dining room, living room, full kitchen and three bedrooms/one bedroom, two bedrooms and balconies. Located five minutes walking distance from the Central Park, in the Historic Center of the City. Free unlimited high speed Wifi, 24/7 US$35/day for the house which include three bedrooms. edit
  • Hotel Casa Mañen, 9a Av. 4-11, Zona 1., ☎ +502 7765-0786. Casa Mañen is a wonderful bed and breakfast located two blocks from Parque Central. The service is first class, the staff dedicated to helping visitors. Whether short or longer stay, this hotel is a few blocks from many schools, attractions and the night life of Xela. The rooms are comfortable, each with its own character.
  • Hotel Casa del Viajero (casadelviajeroxela@gmail.com), 8 av. 9-17 zona 1, ☎ +502 77614594, +502 77615297. Well-known colonial style traveler's home located in the historic center, a few blocks from Central Park. Offers: rooms with private bath, hot water, cable TV, Wi-Fi, breakfast and dinner, parking, Event room. Prices start at Q75 per person in single, double or triple rooms. US$10+.
  • Flora Inn Hotel, 12 av. 3-61 Zona 1, ☎ +502 7761-2326. Located at the central park, based on the European hotel tradition. Nice, spacious rooms. Great for business travel. Single room Q190, double room Q270, triple room Q325, extra person Q35, additional bed Q80, breakfast Q25.
  • Loc Chocoyos Casa Siguan, 7 calle 15-20 zona 1, ☎ +502 77616497. 2-3 beds per room, private bathroom, hot water, wi-fi internet included, breakfast included, restaurant & bar adjacent, laundry, bed linens included, towels included, luggage storage, guest kitchen use, reception 24 hrs, common room, no smoking, taxes included, pets accepted. Its cultural center (meeting room) often hosts music events, theater, poetry, art exhibits, photography, etc. Sister bar "Ojala" offers a smaller venue. Dorm Q60, private room Q70 per preson.
  • Hostal Don Diego, 6 calle 15-12 zona 1, ☎ +502 77631000. Friendly environment, comfortable & very clean. Meet people from all over the world. Wi-fi internet access, parking, laundry, bed linens included, accepts credit/debit cards, towels included, luggage storage, guest kitchen use, reception 24 hrs, travel information, common room, bicycle parking, no smoking, taxes included in prices, smoking area. Dorm Q45 per person, double room Q90, triple room Q125. Single room w/ small bed Q50 per person. Single room w/ bigger bed Q70 per person.
  • Hotel El Centro, 10 calle 11-69 zona 1, ☎ +502 77631357, +502 77650620. 3 blocks from Central Park with 24-hr reception. Rooms have hot water, cable, wi-fi internet & free parking. Towels & bed linens included. Visa cards accepted. From Q130 per person, breakfast included. Children under 5 are free.
  • Casa Latina, Diagonal 12, 6-58, Zona 1, ☎ +502 5613-7222. beautiful, new guesthouse, just a few minutes walk to Parque Central and bars/restaurants. Las Flores market is across the street! Casa Latina has a friendly, home-like atmosphere. 2 floors, each with 4 rooms. Both floors have bathroom, kitchen, living room & balcony. Spanish School Sol Latino is just a stone’s throw away, www.spanishschoolsollatino.com Includes wi-fi internet access, parking, bed linens, smoking area, & travel info. Available services include laundry & airport transport. Per night: US$7 for 1 person or $10 for 2 people, per week: $35 for 1 person or $48 for 2 people, or per 4 weeks: $122 for 1 person or $173 for 2 people. $30 deposit per room (returned at checkout if room in good condition).
  • Guesthouse El Puente, 6a Calle 14-55 Zona 1 (http://www.celasmaya.edu.gt/how-to-get-here.html ), ☎ +502 7761-4342. Located in the rear part of the main Celas Maya Spanish school building/facility, a small hostel used primarily for student residency. Each room accommodates 1-3 guests. Kitchen is shared and fully equipped. Beautiful private sunny garden. 4 ample sized rooms, 1 with private bathroom (Q65/day or Q1,650/month) & the other 3 with a shared full service bathroom (Q50/day or Q1,350/month)..
  • Orejas Hostal, 2a. Calle 16-92 zona 1, ☎ +502 7768-3218, +502 5207-3006. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: noon. A quiet & friendly environment in a cozy atmosphere with rooms decorated in Guatemalan style. Located in the historic district with easy access to cafes, discotheques, bars, travel agencies, Spanish schools, et al. Wireless Internet, Cable TV, private bathrooms, security storage (bring your own lock), linens & towels, reading light, luggage storage, free continental breakfast, free coffee, tea & drinking water all day, 24 hours reception, Parking with reservation. Restrictions: No pets, no smoking, no drugs, no visitors in rooms. Dorm bed (8 available) - Q65/US$9 pp. Single room - Q150/$20 (weekly - Q840/$112, biweekly - Q1,400/$187, monthly - Q2,550/$340). Double room - Q230/$31 (weekly - Q1,295/$173, biweekly - Q2,170/$290, monthly - Q3,900/$520. Triple room - Q285/$38 (weekly - Q1,690/$225, biweekly - Q2800/$374, monthly - Q5100/$680).
  • Hostel Nim Sut, 4ª. calle 9-42, zone 1 (Half block NE from Central Park), ☎ +502 7761-3083. Excellent location & service, with a terrace & panoramic view. Nice rooms decorated in a warm style. Offers delicious breakfasts, snacks, lunches (lunch specials every day just Q25), dinners, and a variety of coffee, cappuccino, espresso, latte, etc. All accommodations include breakfast & wi-fi internet access. Private rooms with private bath Q200 for 1 person. Dorm beds are Q70.
  • Kiktem-Ja, 13 Av 7-18 | Zona 1, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala (across from Cuartido about 2 blocks from Parque Central). Check-in: Noon, check-out: Noon. Clean and comfortable. You may be able to get a discount if you stay a while. The location is unbeatable - two blocks from Parque Central. Hot showers with good pressure and televisions in the room with both Espanol and English channels. Q160.

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Learn

Xela is an excellent place to take language lessons (both Spanish and some of the Mayan languages specific to the area). There are various schools and NGOs in the city most offer rates based on one week of instruction (approx. 5 hours per day). Some schools offer volunteer opportunities for an additional cost while others offer it for free. Most also offer home stay options, which is an excellent way to make sure you keep practicing at all times. One of the best reasons to learn in Xela is the price. You can expect to pay about US$140-160 per week including home stay. This often includes internet access at the school. Arrangements can be made ahead of time or upon arrival (most schools have multilingual administrators who can help make arrangements via email or phone - some even offer airport pick up from Guatemala City).

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Keep Connected

Internet

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.

Phone

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.

Post

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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This is version 3. Last edited at 8:56 on Jan 31, 18 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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