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I made my way from Monterrico to Panajachel, Lake Atitlan via a stop-over in Antigua.
I stayed 8 nights and paid an average of GTQ100 / night.
It was time to move on to Lake Atitlan …
MONTERRICO TO ANTIGUA:
Adventurous people can catch a combination of a ferry and local ‘Chicken Buses’ and get from Monterrico to Antigua for about GTQ30 each … but it will take up to 5 hours. You catch the boat from the boat terminal (the same terminal that you start the Mangrove Tour from).
There is a new Chicken Bus service that goes direct from Monterrico to Antigua. This leaves at 3:00pm each day, costs GTQ35, and takes about 3 hours.
I took the 4:00pm Shuttle. I bought my one-way ticket at the El Delfin for GTQ70. The El Delfin called the Shuttle company and confirmed my seat.
We left 15 minutes late. There were only 3 others on the Shuttle with me: 3 young lads from the USA with surf boards. The Shuttle driver wanted to charge them extra for their surf boards but Juan, the owner at the El Delfin, sorted that out with the driver.
The trip was uneventful and I was dropped off at my Antigua hotel at 6:30pm.
I decided to stay 3 nights … I wasn’t in a rush. I pre-booked the Hotel Posada Santa Teresita through BOOKING.COM.
The room was small but came with an ensuite with a hot shower and cable TV.
A Breakfast is worth about GTQ25 … so the room was good value at GTQ121 but IT IS NOT worth the Rack Rate of GTQ380 / night that it is listed for.
My Antigua stop-over allowed me to have one more ‘night on the town’ with some Antiguan friends.
ANTIGUA TO PANAJACHEL:
I booked a 12:30pm Shuttle from Antigua to Panajachel for GTQ70 at a Tour Agent on the street.
As usual, the price included pickup from my hotel.
You are advised to be ready and waiting at the front of your hotel 15 minutes beforehand; I was outside and waiting at 12:15pm.
The pickup didn’t arrive until 1:00pm. Again, I was the last person to be picked up … this usually means that I get the worst seat … but, this time, fate was kind and I got the seat at the front with the driver.
They say that the journey takes 2 hours. It took 2.5 hours. We arrived at the Panajachel Boat Dock at 3:30pm. They only stop at the Boat Dock … they do not drop you off at your hotel(s).
The elevation is 1,597 metres (5,240 ft). The population was 11 thousand in the 2000 census, it is estimated as 15,000 now, and it has approximately doubled each of the last few decades.
The town of Panajachel has become a centre for the tourist trade in the area as it provides a base for visitors crossing the lake to visit other towns and villages.
I had my Tigo SIMcard that I bought on my trip to Livingston & Estor. I bought a 1 month ‘Mes Social’ pre-paid plan with 1.5GBs of data. The total price including the SIMcard was GTQ166.
I topped it up with GTQ100 in Antigua so that I would have enough credit to buy a 1 month 2GB Data Plan in Panajachel as and when I needed it. The wifi in my hotel was so bad that I needed it sooner than I expected.
My Tigo card didn’t get a signal in Rio Dulce / El Golfete but I have had no problem with it elsewhere in Guatemala.
WHERE TO STAY:
Some cheap places can be found in and around town. They are not all listed in the (normal) online search engines.
Accommodation-wise, this is typical of what you find … this is for 1 night at the beginning of February 2017 …
HOTELS & HOSTELS (Nightly Rates):
PLEASE NOTE: Hotel and Hostel search sites sometimes display prices EXCLUSIVE of TAXES. You may have to add up to 22% to the displayed price to get the final price.
VACATION RENTALS (Weekly Rates):
If you plan to stay a week or more, another good option is to use AirBnB or TRIPADVISOR.COM to book a Holiday Rental / Vacation Rental.
Holiday Rentals are usually rented by the week. A comparable search reveals the following … please note that these prices are in US$s …
Vacation Rentals are, usually, displayed INCLUSIVE of TAXES but EXCLUSIVE of any Security Deposit (if required). BUT, the displayed price may be EXCLUSIVE of the host site’s Service Fees (which can add as much as 16%).
In S.E. Asia, I wouldn’t touch AirBnB with a barge pole … in my opinion and experience the accommodation that you find is an absolute rip off. However, in Guatemala they are definitely worth a look.
Once again, Tripadvisor Vacation Rentals disappointed in Guatemala … Mexico seems to be much more suited to Tripadvisor than Guatemala.
The hotel that I chose was ‘on the edge’ of where I would advise GRANDPAckers to stay. I wouldn’t of wanted to be any further away from the Town Centre nor the Boat Port. I would advise you to find somewhere within this area:
You will find several options within GRANDPAcker price range.
But, as always, start your search early and wait for deep discounts.
I saw a last minute deal on BOOKING.COM that I couldn’t resist. It was at the Hotel Los Angeles.
I booked a Double Room with Cable TV and Private Bathroom for GTQ90 / night. I booked 5 nights over the weekend so that I could have a good look around and organise a Spanish School for the next 3-4 weeks.
But, the hotel is still being renovated (hence the discount) and I had no hot water on my first night (and cold water in Panajachel is cold … not a ‘comfortable cool’ like it is it hotter climates) and the wifi was almost unusable.
The hotel was on the edge of town but not too far. It was a 5 minute walk to the main street (to all of the Tourist Restaurants and Bars) and a 10 minute walk to the Boat Dock.
Have a look yourself:
You can walk everywhere.
A ‘Ranchero’ Breakfast usually costs GTQ30 on Calle Santander.
There are a couple of exceptions. My favourite was Lazaronnes. It is located half way down Calle Santander. They do a Ranchero for GTQ20 which comes with a porridge starter, the Ranchero, and unlimited coffee / tea.
You can find a ‘Comida de Dia’ (Meal of the Day) from a budget cafe for GTQ20.
You can, also, find your usual 3xTacos for GTQ10.
There are plenty of meal options advertised on Calle Santander for GTQ30. A small Grilled Fish meal is very popular at this price.
Again, if you get out into the side streets you can find meals for GTQ20. Examples are a leg of BBQ chicken with beans, salad, and unlimited tacos or a Chilli Con Carne.
Expect to pay GTQ20 for a typical Breakfast with coffee. Expect to pay GTQ20 for a cheap Lunch. Expect to pay GTQ30 for a cheap Dinner.
The standard price for a 350ml bottle of local beer (like Gallo) is GTQ20 … almost everywhere.
You will find some places that do Happy Hour. Most end at 6:00pm. Some at 7:00pm. In Happy Hour, you might get some of the cheap beers in 2-for-1 deals.
Get out into the side street cafes and you can buy a Corona for GTQ10 or a 1 litre Dorado Ice for GTQ20.
YOUR HEALTH & SAFETY:
There is no reason to feel unsafe here. But, as always, exercise normal levels of caution … don’t make yourself an obvious target.
The main problem is Petty Theft … which is a ‘typical’ problem in Central America.
WHERE TO GO / WHAT TO SEE / WHAT TO DO:
There are a couple of local attractions, including a walk to the nearby villages.
AROUND THE LAKE:
The one-way price to Santa Cruz is GTQ15, to San Marcos GTQ20, and to San Pedro GTQ25. These are smallish boats with seating for about 20 people. The boats leave about every 20 minutes with the last boats leaving at about 5:30pm in every direction.
Finally, we arrived at San Marcos.
The water at San Marcos is known to be clean enough for swimming (unlike San Pedro) … but I didn’t see anyone swimming. There are a couple of Restobars on the lakefront which are a bit pricier than those in the village.
San Marcos has little alleyways (some paved but most not) that riddle their way to the various accommodation options, health spas, and restobars.
San Marcos is a ‘Hippy Village’.
I had a good look around for accommodation. The ‘standard’ price for a basic room with a Double bed, no furniture, and Shared Bathrooom is GTQ150. Expect to pay GTQ200 for one with a basic Private Bathroom.
I wanted to stay 1 month so that I could do 3-4 weeks of Spanish Classes. I found the Hotel Lush who rented out rooms by the night, week, or month. Their cheapest room was US$50 / night. It was a good size, tidy, clean, and had a cute Ensuite with hot water shower. They rented this out for US$550 / month (US$18.50 / night). You can book these online in advance at their website at this price.
Alas, they were full for the time that I was looking. It was by far the best value for money that I found for a month stay.
I liked San Marcos and its vibe but I abandoned the idea of studying Spanish there … I couldn’t afford it on my budget.
MONEY / PRICES / SHOPPING:
There are shops around town selling the usual ‘tourist items’. Calle Santander is riddled with market stalls.
There are several ATMs around town.
The cash withdrawal limit is GTQ2000 per transaction and you get charged a whopping GTQ45 for the privilege. This is just at the Guatemalan end … you will get charged by your home bank too.
There are a couple of Supermarkets in town but they are not the cheapest. You are best to bring any ‘rarities’ that you need with you.
WHEN TO GO:
Otherwise, Lake Atitlan has a very stable 23-26 degrees all year round.
But it does get cool in the evenings … especially December through February.
From Panajachel, I head across the lake to San Pedro La Laguna.
It is known as a bit of a ‘Party Town’ and I found a well priced Spanish School that provides well priced accommodation.
I will tell you more about that in a future post.
A week here is enough.