We are really going to break down all the activities that we did for you in this blog. Normally we just complain a lot and tell you what we loved/hated. But we really killed this trip (well, part of it at least). We are going to tell you what you absolutely have to do if you decide to go to Guatemala. Do you have to spend a night in a hobbit house? Absolutely fucking yes you do.
Things to know:
#1. Guatemala is dusty.
Dusty AF. Prepare to feel dirty from the minute you wake up to the minute you fall asleep in every single crevasse of your body. If you want to get a manicure and pedicure before your trip, do yourself a favor and pick a dark color. Don’t get those cute little french tips because your nails are going to turn brown…I kid you not…brown. You’ll also be blowing out black boogers up until the moment you get home.
#2. You NEED cash here.
They’ll accept USD but you are going to get a horrible exchange rate on it. If your bank doesn’t offer Quetzales (we called it Pretzels), then do yourself a favor and ask everyone you know to see if their bank has it. Find yourself a way to get Quetzales before you come because you will be raped at the ATM. You will need cash for transportation, and like most Latin American countries, be expected to tip (which will be well deserved).
#3. Arrange your transportation ahead of time.
Yes, Guatemala has Ubers but what we did not realize, Ubers are only available in Guatemala City, Antigua, and Panajachel (Lake Atitlan). Luckily those were the three places that we were, except we had a little bit of difficulty getting an Uber from Antigua to Panajachel, because it was about a 2 hour drive. Our first Uber driver didn’t want to do it because let's be real, Uber does not pay their drivers all that well and he was going to pay more in gas than what he was making to bring us there. Do yourself a favor, check in with your Airbnb/Hotel/Hostel or google other options before you go. The roads are windy, so don’t forget to get yourselves those magic little seasick patches (lifesaver on all our trips). Overall, do your research on your transportation.
#4. Go to Panajachel first and then Antigua.
If you plan on following our itinerary, which obviously, you should, the only thing we would have changed was to start with Panajachel, and give yourself enough time there. We only had two days and we did not even scratch the surface due to our poor timing and planning. We really killed the first half of this trip but the last little bit in Panajachel, not so much. Panajachel is the furthest distance from the airport, so getting the longest drive out of the way in the beginning is smart. No one likes that pressure of getting to the airport on time, and no one wants to end their trip with a 3 hour bus ride where a window legit falls out and hits someone in the head.
#5. The weather.
The weather is so unique here because of the altitude. Pretty much all year round, it feels like a late spring going into summer compared to Long Island, except with NO humidity. It gets pretty warm during the day in the sun and pretty cool at night. You won’t find air conditioners anywhere you go because it’s not really necessary. You will need a sweater in the morning and night. Mid day it will get warm enough to ditch that sweater. It is a bit of a challenge because you are packing for two seasons, so pack layers. Don’t bring your heavy winter coat, just a cute little sweater that you can tie around your waist is fine.
#6. Don’t overpack.
Alright guys and gals, let's talk about luggage. Most people that travel to places like
Guatemala, do it backpack style. I hate to use the word boujee, but we are not backpackers. Amy has the potential. Stephanie absolutely does not. You won’t need as many cute going out outfits as you think you’ll need. There are a ton of backpackers and solo travelers in Guatemala. Everyone dresses pretty casually. Even if you are going to go out at night, you can probably get away with whatever you were wearing during the day. You do not need multiple outfits per day, this is not a cruise dumbass. We each brought an overstuffed backpack and a huge checked suitcase (that fully reached the max weight allowance for planes). The suitcase was a pain in the dickhole to fucking lug around on cobblestone streets and about 3,000 hills and steps. You’re in the mountains fools, this ain’t Long Island. Every single transportation driver looked at us as if we were nuts as they were lifting this 50lb bag into the trunk, like “wtf is wrong with you two?!” Save yourself the headache and go backpacker style here. Or if you are like Stephanie, and you are physically not strong enough to hold a backpack, a small carry on will do.
#7. Learn a few key phrases in Spanish.
Much like Ecuador, a lot of these people do not speak English. Google translate comes in handy. It is definitely worth learning a few key phrases like: Donde esta el bano? (where’s the bathroom), buen dia (have a good day), buenas tardes (good afternoon), lo siento que somos tan tontos (sorry we are so dumb), etc.
We started our trip in Antigua (yes, there is an Antigua in Guatemala), which is a gorgeous little city. We did one full day there which for us felt like was enough. We move quickly, take our pictures and go. There were two convents that were both recommended but like we said, we did not bring cash and they did not accept credit cards. Eh, we missed out, but that’s what we’re here for. To make mistakes for you, so you don’t have to. Antigua is a very old, charming little city with cobblestone streets, so sneakers are your best bet here. It is a bumpy ride, expect them titties to be flying everywhere. Antigua is very safe. Don’t be an idiot and maybe don’t walk around at night, but we never felt unsafe, and everyone was very friendly and welcoming. The biggest issue you will find in all the places we went is pickpocketing and petty theft, but news flash, you can get mugged in NYC, and if you’ve ever been to Europe, the threat is exactly the same there in any major city.
Later that day, we got transportation to Hobbitenango. It is the cutest goddamn place on this earth. Period. It is an adorable little world up in the mountains and we assume it is Lord of the Rings themed (we know, we’re terrible.) You can stay in an actual hobbit house. An actual fucking hobbit house! When you do your research on Antigua, Hobbitenango will definitely pop up. We highly suggest splurging and staying a night there. It was worth every penny. You will be treated like royalty, and you get your own little Nelson that will come and make a fire in your little hobbit house whenever you want it, he will bring you your food, he will bring you your drinks. He is just a walkie talkie click away from whatever you need. And when the park closes you will be one of the very few people staying there. You barely even see the other guests that stay over. You can fart wherever you want, burp wherever you want. In general you can be your comfortable swine self there. The food was good, the scenery was awesome. For all you skinny influencer bitches…this is your heaven.
The next morning we headed back to Antigua. We checked into our room and got ready for our adventure on Mount Pacaya. A few things about this active volcano: when you are doing your research you will find a range of thoughts on the difficulty of this hike. Shit is fucking hard, and not just for oversized swine like us. Listen to us carefully, get the fucking horse. Just book yourself the tour that includes the horse to begin with, but if you are dumb and still insist on this hike, don’t worry, there are a ton of kids with horses there once you realize what a big mistake you’ve made. And don’t worry, if you feel like you are going to miss out on the experience of hiking, the horses can only go so high up the volcano. You’ll have about 10-15 minutes to go the rest of the way up on foot. So you will still get that hike in. It is steep and slippery. It is all loose volcanic gravel. There is no paved trail, no railings. And the way down is possibly even harder than the way up. So when you get the option of an additional 150q for just the way up on a horse, or 200q for up and down, don’t be a cheap bitch. You need good sneakers or hiking boots that are going to end up filthy along with whatever you’re wearing. That sweater you’re wearing up there? If you had a thought you were going to wear that later on in the trip…you’re not. That sweater is going into a garbage bag and it is tied shut and it is being put to the side because you don’t want it touching anything else. It is dusty as fuck up there. Make sure you have a back up sweater for the rest of your trip. There are typically two tours a day (you can not hike Pacaya without a tour guide). Morning and afternoon. We wanted to go up the volcano to see the sunset but it was super foggy up there. We are sure there are better seasons as far as fog goes. However, we don’t regret doing it later on in the day because the fog was pretty cool. There were moments w
here you couldn’t see the person in front of you. It gave it a really cool, eerie look and feeling. It did clear up for about 5 minutes when we were up there so we were able to get some pretty cool pictures without the fog. Yes, you will be able to roast marshmallows in some volcanic rock, and yes they will be the disgusting flavored kind. But you are going to eat them regardless. Our tour group provided the marshmallows for us. You shouldn’t need snacks but bring water.
The people that live here are very sweet and most of them live under the poverty line. Another reason to bring extra cash; tip your tour guides. It means everything to them. We only wished we had more cash than we did so we could have given a better tip to our young boys who walked our horses up the mountain. These kids were dying walking up the volcano. They were sweating, drenched, while we were sitting pretty on our horses not even lifting a finger. Make sure you tip everyone along the way. It may seem annoying but it makes a difference in their lives.
The tour guide from the volcano gave us a little speech that really hit home. Not just for Guatemala but for other places as well. Guatemala really relies on tourism. Most people there are not able to afford their living expenses. The number one reason that keeps people from coming to Guatemala is because they’re told that it is not safe. He looked at everyone in the group and asked “does anyone here feel unsafe?” The whole group shook their heads no, never. He asked for us to please spread the word about their country and how beautiful it is and that they are good people. Yes, they have a corrupt government much like any other Latin American country, but if you are smart, you will always feel safe in Guatemala. They really appreciate our tourism and visits. It helps them immensely and they genuinely enjoy having us there. So if you take nothing else away from this blog, take away this. Places like Guatemala, Ecuador, Mexico; they get a bad rep because they are considered “unsafe” but everywhere in the world can be unsafe if you’re not smart. Really take note of the effect you can have on another human's life by simply just taking a vacation. Consider it.
The volcano experience was one thousand percent worth it. Afterwards we took a much needed shower, Uber eated ourselves some Burger King, and just relaxed before we left the next morning for Lake Atitlan.
This was a long ride (about 2hrs). Try to leave early. We stayed at a place called Selina. They were not perfect but they were pretty cool. It is hostel style, however they do have private suites available for a pretty affordable price. It was definitely an experience. They had activities, and a beach bar down by the water. We were taught Salsa dancing, and got properly drunk to celebrate Amy’s birthday. We only wished we had more time to spend there because their activity schedule wasn't very accurate and it kind of fucked us up a little bit as far as our planning went.
Chichicastenango. Here is what we have to say about it. It has a street market, much like the ones in Asia. But what it has, that Asia doesn’t, is the most colorful cemetery in the entire world. It was breathtaking, beautiful and so unique. If that tickles your fancy, make the hour and half windy, curvy, hilly ride there. If you are into markets and like to do local shopping, this is for you. If the cemetery isn’t for you and seeing a picture is fine and spending time at a market isn’t for you, you can probably skip this excursion. Because of our poor planning, it cost us nearly $100 round trip with the private transfer because we didn’t go with the group going from the hostel that morning (that’s were we fucked up). Keep in mind, they are only open Tuesdays and Sundays, and Uber is not available there. While you may possibly be able to get an Uber from Panajachel there, you will not be able to get one back. From what we heard and read, there are much smaller markets around Lake Atitlan that you can see, even in Panajachel. However, this is one of the biggest and best markets in Latin America.
There is much more to do near the Lake that we failed to plan for and did not have enough time for. It is the only thing we felt like we missed.
We wouldn’t be Amy and Stephanie if we didn’t talk about the food. As you should know at this point, we are picky eaters, and we have traveled to some places where eating was a difficult task. Guatemala was easy. They are very vegan/vegetarian friendly (Amy), as well as 5 year old friendly (Stephanie). French fries, burgers, salads, scrambled eggs, nachos, are all easy to find here. But…as it was in Ecuador, google maps is all wrong when it comes to opening hours of establishments. So that little 80’s themed coffee shop around the corner from your hostel that you really wanted to try, that is open every day from 7am-8pm? It was not open at 7am. It also was not open at 8am, or 11am. It was however open on a Saturday at 1pm when we walked past it. So if your hostel only offers dirty dish water for coffee in the morning, you will drink dirty dish water if you really need that caffeine pick me up.
Another notable thing about Guatemala. There are a ton of ratty looking street dogs everywhere, even at the top of Mount Pacaya. But they are extremely docile and friendly. They do not bother you, and they are in no way intimidating, even for a non dog lover like Stephanie (yes, people like that do exist). Just please, for God’s sake, don’t touch them. White girls love to pet a random stray dog…don’t do it, it’s disgusting. (See below for said white girl touching dog)
If you are afraid that somewhere is not safe to travel, just remember that it is becoming really unsafe to be a five year old in an elementary school in the US. Wrong places and wrong times can happen anywhere in the world. If you travel smart, you’ll be fine wherever you go. Don’t be a dumbass and do your research.
We opted not to do Guatemala City, as they have zones that could be dangerous, but we felt like we didn’t miss much there. You will find that most tourists just fly into Guatemala City and get straight in a car to go somewhere else. However, all of the other places, drivers, etc, felt one hundred percent safe. Our biggest complaint was the dust and the pollution. It constantly smells like burning oil and eggs when you are on the roads. The air quality and elevation can be challenging, but just come prepared. Expect to have a lump of phlegm in the back of your throat and a cute little cough for days after you get home (still fucking worth it). Moral of the story, don't be dumb, and don’t let some false fear, usually from people that don’t know shit, stop you from seeing some pretty amazing places on this earth. That is all.