Guatemala City

Guatemala City is the capital of Guatemala, a country in Central America.

Understand

Guatemala City is located in the department (territorial division) of Guatemala, and it's the capital of the country. All the main highways start at Kilómetro 0, located inside Palacio Nacional de la Cultura (National Palace), in Centro Histórico (Historic Center).

Guatemala City became the capital after Antigua Guatemala had been destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. With a population of around 3 million people, Guatemala City is the largest and most modern city in Guatemala. It can be interesting to visit "Guate," as it is also called by the locals. Guatemala City has attractions and restaurants, often with few tourists. Sunday evenings' gatherings of hundreds of locals at the main plaza is certainly an unforgettable experience.

Tourist Information

Get in

By plane

Guatemala City has one big airport called La Aurora International Airport (IATA: GUA) located in town, in the south side of town, in Zona 13. There are daily arrivals from the US, México, El Salvador, Honduras (San Pedro Sula, Tegucigalpa), Costa Rica (San José), Nicaragua (Managua), Panamá. The number of arrivals is in parentheses.

The online newspaper Prensa Libre has live arrival and departure information for the airport.

There are always taxis at the airport. They operate with fixed prices (around $12US from the airport to Zona 10) that are 2-3 times higher than what you would pay for the same distance with an ordinary taxi. If your hotel is in Zona 10, chances are high that there is a free shuttle service.

Regular shuttles run to Antigua each day, several times a day from 6AM to 8PM (prices $8–12US per person).

There is also a bus route operating the road that passes the airport that will take you to Zona 10 at around La Reforma and 12 Calle. If you are going to the old city center (Zona 1), many buses go that way from La Reforma or from 7 Avenida that runs in parallel with La Reforma, one block away. The red city buses are not safe due high incidences of crime against the driver and passengers. It is recommended passengers use taxis locally.

By car

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.

By bus

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.

NOTE: As of January 2007, there has been a transition to a new mass transit system that has more or less removed buses from their normal terminals in Zona 1 and Zona 4. Guatemala City is currently converting to a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, where intercity buses bringing in riders from other parts of the country drop them off at different stations at the periphery of the city, and the privately-owned municipal bus system brings them to their respective destinations within the city. Currently, intercity buses heading in the direction of Antigua can be found at the Plaza del Mariachi at the periphery of Zona 3. This arrangement is currently in flux, however, with the bus cooperative members fighting for a legal right to use the old terminals in Zona 1 and Zona 4 again. It would be best for travelers to consult locals to find out what the situation is instead of going anywhere for the buses.

Buses to all of Guatemala leave from various parts of the City. An overview is on this map: .

Destination (via) Comp/departureaddr. schedule time/dist price
Antigua Guatemala (& San Lucas) Various
18 Calle/4 Avenida Z1
7:00-20:00
every 15min
1 hour
45 km
Q8
Panajachel (Chimaltenango, Los Encuentros, Sololá) Transportes Rebuli
21 Calle/4 Avenida Z1
5:30-15:30
every hour
3 hours
148 km
Q15
Puerto Barrios (El Rancho, Teculután, Río Hondo, Los Amates, Quiriguá) Transportes Litegua
15 Calle 10-40 Z1
4:45-15:00
every hour
5 hours
307 km
Q60 as of Jan 2009
Flores (El Rancho, La Ruidosa, Río Dulce, San Luis, Poptún) Fuente del Norte
17 Calle 8-46 Z1
every hour 9–10 hours
506 km
Q80
Autobuses del Norte Estación Central 8a Avenida 16-41 Zona 1 first class buses, two overnight and one in the day. 8–9 hours Q180 one way.

Get around

Map of Guatemala City

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.

By bus

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" and "Trasmetro" which is a similar service to The Metro but on bus on the street. To use this system you can buy a pre-paid card in various places of the city, and there is a special card for tourists. You can also just pay with Q1 coins at the stations. Routes and stops are predefined and each trip costs Q1. At some points can be transhipped and can reach almost any area of the capital city with this system. This system is constantly growing and is much safer than traditional buses, with police surveillance, security cameras, panic button, GPS. You can check the routes and stops on the system website and

By taxi

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.

See

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.

Guatemala's National Palace, now known as the "National Palace of Culture"

Do

Recreational activities can be done as well, from climbing volcanoes (Agua and Pacaya), to swimming in several recreational facilities, as well as water sports in Lago de Atitlán (lake).

For recreation, you can visit 4 Grados Norte: pedestrian roads that offer great entertainment, commerce and cultural activities, and Zona Viva, an area of Zona 10 that has become the main center for nightlife. Guatemala City is an urban center with cultural diversity, cosmopolitan as well as traditional, in which traditional and folkloric abundance stands out, with legends such as El Cadejo or La Llorona. The city offers the tourist all the services and commodities and is normally the center of operations to set out to any of the other destinations in the Republic.

Cinema

Fútbol

If you want to experience a fútbol game in a fútbol nation, spend a Sunday morning/afternoon at Estadio Mateo Flores. You can catch a match of the most popular fútbol club in the country, CSD Municipal ("Los Rojos"). Tickets are cheap and you can get them at the stadium entrance. Go to to see when there is a local match. "Palco" is the most expensive seating with ample spaced seats followed by "Preferencia", "Tribuna",where the "hinchas", or fanatics, sit and "General Sur y Norte" which are the cheapest. The first three are best for a good view.

The other big Guatemala City fútbol team is Comunicaciones ("Los Cremas"). If Municipal isn't playing, go see Comunicaciones play as they both share "Estadio Mateo Flores" as their home venue.about 12

Learn

Language schools

University courses

Some of the universities give courses open to the public. Check out their websites for more information.

Other studies

Work

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.

Buy

Souvenir market.

Guatemala is famous for its textiles. In the city you should be able to find textiles from all over the country. If you are particularly interested in Guatemala or the Maya, you might find books (in Spanish) here that are hard to get anywhere else. For books in English, you get better prices at an online bookstore like Amazon in most cases.

Textiles/artesania

Bookstores

You can rarely find travel guides for the region at these places (not even a Guatemala guide).

Geminis Bookshop, 3a. Avenida 17-05 Zona 14, Edificio Casa Alta; 23661031. Books in Spanish and English.

Shopping Malls

6 Avenida (Zona 1)

This street has undergone massive changes in the last year and is now free of street vendors. Now almost fully pedestrianized, it is best experienced on a Sunday afternoon or early evening. Several coffeeshops and restaurants.

The Aurora International Airport

The Airport is going through remodeling in phases. The first phase, the North wing, has been finished as of December 2007. It is a modern design with nothing to envy from airports in developed nations. Phase two will see the construction of the South wing. When finished, the airport is said to be the most modern and largest airport in Central America being able to tend to 32 airplanes of different sizes at one time.

One thing you should take home with you from Guatemala is the prize winning rum Ron Zacapa Centenario. If you don't drink, somebody else is bound to be very happy for a bottle of this exquisite rum. The price tag is around $45 for a full liter, slightly cheaper than at a supermarket. Note that there are two duty-free shops. The fancy one everybody passes by on the way to/from the gates and one at the end of the terminal behind Gate 11. The latter one is about 20% cheaper for Ron Zacapa rum. The souvenir shops have some nice things if you need some last minute gifts before you leave the country (a bit more expensive than the markets, but not too bad). The books they sell at the airport are ridiculously expensive, double or triple price of a bookstore.

ATM

Visa is the most common credit card for use in ATMs. In the main shopping areas, especially in Zona 10, you should have no trouble finding an ATM that takes Visa.

There is a Visa/MasterCard ATM at the south side of the central plaza 8 Calle 5-36, a Visa-only ATM at 5 Avenida 9-39, and a MasterCard only at the corner of 5 Avenida/11 Calle, all in Zona 1.

Note that ATM key pads can be oriented with the 9 at the top left with the numbers descending right and down, or with the 1 at the top left with numbers ascending. If you have a spatial memory and have memorized the motion of punching in your PIN instead of the actual numerical sequence, you might be in for a surprise!

Banks (International)

CitiBank or Citi is found throughout the country. The retail branch in La Antigua Guatemala is a fine place to bank and perform international transactions.

Eat

Fast Food

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.

Street Food

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. This is the most more local.

Carretera a Antigua Guatemala

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.

Zona 10/Zona Viva

Zona 9

Zona 1

Carretera an El Salvador

Santa Catarina Pinula (suburb just above Zona 10 and the airport)

This town is historically famous for its pork products, and the best tasting, cleanest, most authentic place around is "La Cabanita" which is a quarter block directly south of the cathedral. Fresh "carnitas" Guatemalan style, plus "chicharrones", "longanizas", etc... if you're a fan of those exotic dining-gems from the Food or Travel channels then you'll love this place.

Supermarket and food markets

Drink

The gay circuit in Guatemala is somewhat extensive, and it is growing every day.

Sleep

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.

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Apartment Hotels

Connect

Phone

There are phone booths spread out generously over the whole city. Most of them are from the company Telgua, some from Telefónica, and most take only phone cards. Look for the sign Ladatel or Telefonica both on the phone booths and the places that sell the cards.

There are 3 cellular airtime service providers in this country. GSM frequencies used are 850, 900, and 1900 MHz. If you have an unlocked cell phone that can use one of these three frequencies, you’ll find prepaid SIM cards for sale. Should your phone be of the wrong sort to use locally, very cheap prepaid phones with airtime are said to be available for as little as 150-200 GTQ.

Internet Cafe

Post office

The main post office is in 7 Avenida/12 Calle, Zona 1. A stamp for a postcard to Europe costs around Q4. The postal system in Guatemala has a reputation for not being very reliable, and many Guatemalans have a P.O. Box in Texas where they receive post/magazines/online purchases (brought to Guatemala by courier). You can buy stamps or post mail only at the post offices or affiliates.

Stay safe

Guatemala City has a high level of crime. Check the U.S. Embassy website for a summary of recent crimes against foreigners. These include carjackings on the road from the airport, robberies and assaults of tourist vans, and ordinary buses and cars.

Even though it has a high level of crime, if you use some common sense and good travel practices, you should not be exposed to any of it. Make sure you sharpen your street smarts because as with any other big metropolitan urban area, you might be exposed to crime. Just make sure you are aware of your surroundings at all times just as you would be in any big city around the world.

If you experience a robbery, please be advised to give away anything the robbers want. Though some would suggest to just stay inside in most places after sunset, at night you can have fun safely in Zona Viva (Zona 10), Zona 14, or 4 Grados Norte.

But despite some of its negative aspects, Guatemala City is the largest Central American capital city, and one of the most beautiful in Latin America, with varied and rich culture. It is important that visitors not return to their hotels too late, and that they don’t walk alone in dark places, but as long as they keep this in mind, they should have a beautiful stay.

Stay healthy

Guatemala City is at a somewhat high elevation (about 1500 m) in the mountains (plus the air is very polluted in Zona 1), so if you are coming from a location near sealevel, you might wish to plan to take it easy and get extra rest on your first day while your body adjusts to the altitude.

Also, make sure that any food that you eat is well-washed and well-cooked, or you might get quite ill.

Pharmacy

Pharmacies are all over the city.

Cope

If you have electrical equipment that need 220-240V 50 Hz input instead of the country's standard 110V 60 Hz, you can find a transformer at Electronica Panamericana, 3 Avenida y 11 Calle, Esquina, Zona 9. They have various models with prices depending on how much power you require. Q230 for a 500-Watts transformer.

Also, in the smaller hotels/motels, the electrical outlets only take 2-pronged plugs. So, if you have a laptop, for example, you'll need a plug adapter that will allow you to utilize the 2-pronged outlets.

Embassies

Go next

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