Antigua – Guatemala – to – San Cristobal de las Casas – Mexico

San Cristobal - Pedestrian Street 3

MAY 2017:


Click here to read our Guatemala Retirement Reviews.

Click here to read our Mexico Retirement Reviews.


OVERVIEW:

I started in San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala and made my way to Antigua, Guatemala. From Antigua, I caught a ‘direct’ shuttle to San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico.

Read this post for a detailed break-down of costs in San Pedro LL.

Read this post for a detailed break-down of costs in Antigua.


SAN PEDRO LA LAGUNA:

I stayed in San Pedro La Laguna for nearly 2 months in March / April. I, then, spent 6 weeks in Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico.

On my return to San Pedro in late April, I stayed at the El Barrio Inn. The El Barrio Inn is run by the El Barrio Restaurant and Bar. It is not yet listed on the internet. San Pedro - El Barrio - Rooms

I stayed in a large Double Room with fan.San Pedro - El Barrio - Bed San Pedro - El Barrio - Furniture

The room shared a Bathroom with 2 other rooms. It had a hot water shower.
I negotiated a price of GTQ100 / night (US$13.50) which included a free Breakfast at the El Barrio Pub.San Pedro - El Barrio - Room EntrySan Pedro 2 - El Barrio - Shared Washing San Pedro 2 - El Barrio - Shared Shower San Pedro 2 - El Barrio - Shared Toilet San Pedro 2 - El Barrio - Shared Sink

San Pedro - El Barrio - Free Breakfast

A Breakfast on the street is worth about GTQ25 (US$3.35) per person … so, I got a very good price on the room.

The El Barrio Inn had a balcony with a view out over a small garden.San Pedro 2 - El Barrio - BalconySan Pedro 2 - El Barrio - Courtyard

A ‘plus’ was that it had a nice Shared Kitchen which helped to keep costs down.San Pedro 2 - El Barrio - Shared Kitchen 1 San Pedro 2 - El Barrio - Shared Kitchen 2

The El Barrio provided free drinking water in the kitchen.


LAKE ATITLAN TO SAN CRISTOBAL:

You can catch a Shuttle Bus directly from Lake Atitlan to San Cristobal.

These Shuttles leave from Panajachel.Panajachel - Calle Santander

You can buy tickets in any town around Lake Atitlan and the ticket price includes the Lancha (boat) across the lake to Panajachel.Panajachel - Boat at Dock

You need to catch the first Lancha of the day (at about 6am) so that you get to Panajachel before 7am. The ‘direct’ Lancha should get you to Pana in about 30 minutes.

The Shuttle leaves from Panajachel at 7am and takes about 10 hours to get to San Cristobal.Panajachel - Waiting for San Cristobal

The ticket from San Pedro to San Cristobal costs GTQ165.


SAN PEDRO TO ANTIGUA:

One of the volcanoes around Antigua was active, so I decided to spend 3 nights in Antigua first … in the hope of seeing something …

There are 3 shuttles leaving from San Pedro to Antigua each day: 8am, 11am, and 1pm.

The correct price is GTQ60 and pickup is from your hotel.Panajachel - Shuttle to Tapachula GTQ225

I pre-booked the front seat next to the driver. Most people don’t know that you can pre-book a specific seat … you can … but, sometimes, the seat is (still) already taken when the shuttle arrives. I was lucky … the driver had kept my seat free. I was even luckier … there was no-one in the ‘jump seat’ between me and the driver (so I had plenty of leg room).

The Shuttle from San Pedro finally left San Pedro at 11:20am. It went via San Juan and San Pablo to route 14.

The first hour of the journey is along poor roads riddled with potholes. By 12:15pm we were in Santa Clara. The roads improved and we were at the junction to CA1 (the Pan-American Highway) by 12:35pm.

We stopped at 1:30pm for a 15 minute ‘comfort stop’.

We were dropped off at the front of the Antigua Market at 3:30pm.


ANTIGUA:

I booked 3 nights in the Casa De Leon. I met up with my travel partner in Antigua.

For a more detailed look at hotel prices, read my Antigua – Information post.

We got the room at a discounted rate of GTQ128 / night (US$17.50) including a free Breakfast for 2.

The rooms are built around a cosy, central communal area with a TV.Antigua - Casa De Leon - Communal Lounge Antigua - Casa De Leon - Rooms off Lounge

Our room was small and simple.Antigua - Casa De Leon - Bed Antigua - Casa De Leon - Room EntryAntigua - Casa De Leon - Furniture

The ‘wardrobe’ was really just shelves with nowhere to hang your clothes. The fan was so noisy that we had to switch it off at night.

There was 1 Shared Bathroom and a 2nd Shared Toilet between 5 rooms.Antigua - Casa De Leon - Shared Bathroom Antigua - Casa De Leon - Shared Shower

The shower had hot water.

You often had to wait to get into the bathroom (especially in the mornings and early evenings – when everyone is getting up or getting ready to go out for dinner).

The 2nd toilet wasn’t much help as you still needed to wait for access to the bathroom to wash your hands.Antigua - Casa De Leon - Shared Toilet

We had access to the kitchen for cooking and there was a fridge for guests to use. Antigua - Casa De Leon - Communal KitchenAntigua - Casa De Leon - Communal Dining

They also supplied free water.

They had a roof terrace with a covered table and chairs … and a view out to 2 active volcanoes. Antigua - Casa De Leon - TerraceAntigua - Casa De Leon - Terrace View Antigua - Volcano Ash


ANTIGUA TO SAN CRISTOBAL DE LAS CASAS:

Shop around for your tickets! We were initially quoted GTQ400 each for a Shuttle to San Cristobal. In the end, we found a place selling tickets for GTQ240. They use the same Shuttle Bus!Antigua - Central Square2

The ‘direct’ Shuttle to San Cristobal takes about 10-12 hours (depending on how long you spend at the border).

We wanted good, comfortable seats, so we asked our Travel Agent for the 2 seats immediately behind the driver (seats #3 and #4). These seats almost always have the best legroom. The Travel Agent called the driver and confirmed the seats. We asked her to write down these seat reservations on our tickets. She obliged.Minivan Best Seats

Pickup was from our hotel (the Casa De Leon) at 5:30am. They ask you to be ready 15 minutes before. We packed our bags the previous night, arose at 4:45am, and stood at the front of the hotel waiting by 5:15am.

They are not always on time. Sometimes, you are the last ones to be picked up … they can be as much as 1 hour late! We were lucky, the driver arrived at 5:25am.

Someone was sitting in seat #3! We showed the driver our reservations and he moved her to seat #1.

The Shuttle finally left Antigua at 5:55am. But, we had to wait on the edge of town for 15 minutes to collect 2 more passengers arriving on another connecting Shuttle (we don’t know where it came from). Our Shuttle was full except for the 3rd seat (seat #5) next to us at the front.Antigua - Church

At 8am we stopped at the junction of route CA1 and Route 1. Here we changed to another Shuttle (the 7am from Panajachel). The long distance Shuttles tend to be newer and more comfortable than the short distance ones.

Luckily, we managed to retain our reserved seats … but only because the people swapping to our shuttle vacated them. If not for this stroke of luck, we could have ended up sitting anywhere.

At 9am we had a ‘comfort stop’ for 15 minutes near Xela.

At 10:15am we stopped with a puncture that took 20 minutes to fix.

At 1pm we reached the Guatemalan border. It took us 15 minutes longer to get through because one of the passengers on board had over-stayed his 90 day visa. He had to pay a fine of GTQ15 / day of over-stay.

At the Guatemalan border we changed Shuttles again. Again, we were lucky and managed to fend off others trying to get into our ‘reserved seats’ … even though they were the same people and knew that those seats were ours.

In this final Shuttle we drove a few 100 meters to the Mexican border. We all filled out our Arrival / Departure Cards and checked through Immigration. There were no Customs / bag checks. We cleared the borders by 1:50pm.

It was 3+ more hours to San Cristobal. We arrived at the central square at 4:30pm.San Cristobal - Main Square Building 2

We had to put our clocks forward 1 hour for Mexico … this made it 5:30pm.


CONCLUSION:

It is a long, boring journey … but an easy one.

GRANDPAckers should have no problem with it. However, you can make it easier for yourselves by booking seats #3 and #4 so that you have more room. Make sure that these seats are confirmed and written on your ticket.

You start so early that you miss Breakfast. You don’t get many ‘comfort stops’. Make sure you take food and drink on the Shuttle with you.San Cristobal - Typical Side Street 1

You arrive in San Cristobal too late to ‘walk the streets’ to find accommodation. I advise you to book at least 1 night in advance.

Read my next post ‘San Cristobal – Information’ for more information about where to stay and what San Cris is like.

TTFN


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