*This is Part 1 of 4 posts of my trip to Guatemala. You can find links to the additional posts at the end of this one.
When I moved to Costa Rica, I knew that visiting all of the Central American countries would become a travel priority. What I didn’t know was that it is not always cheap or fast flying to other Central American countries from SJO- the primary international airport of Costa Rica. Guatemala is one of the easiest Central American countries to travel to from Costa Rica. There are direct flights between SJO airport and Guatemala and you can book a flight for around $160 roundtrip. Guatemala also has a pretty good reputation of being safe and beautiful.
Side note: My first flight on Avianca airlines was very nice. It was only an 1.5 flight, the attendants were nice, the plane was clean and the seats were comfy (I paid for an exit row seat). The flight itself was calm compared to descending into Costa Rica which is often choppy.
A Little bit of Background
Guatemala is bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize to the northeast, El Salvador southwest and Honduras to the Southeast. Guatemala has 27 volcanoes. Typical temperatures range from 50º-80º depending on the location within the country. Mestizos make up more than three-fifths of the population; most of the rest are Maya. The colorful native attire is common all over. The official spoken language is Spanish. Many people call Guatemala a 3rd world country but according to Worddata.info, it is considered a developing country. Developing has replaced the term 3rd world which is considered offensive and outdated. Guatemala is a sovereign democratic republic. “The birth, death, infant mortality, and fertility rates are among the highest in Central America, and life expectancy is low.” (Britannica) The countries currency is called the quetzal. One Quetzal equals 0.13 USD. Guatemala City is the capital.
We flew into La Aurora International Guatemala Airport or GUA on the evening of Dec 17. My friend flew in from Washington DC and we met up at SJO airport where she had a layover. We stayed our first night in Guatemala City. GC is separated into zones. The zones make it easy to know which parts to venture to and which to avoid due to safety. Zones 9 & 10 are considered the safest. While zones 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, and 16 are also considered safe. The historic district is in zone 1. We stayed at the Real InterContinental in zone 10. A very nice hotel with helpful staff. That evening we walked around a bit to check out the nightlife. We felt safe walking around this area at night.
We had a shuttle to De Lago Atitlan booked at 11am but we didn’t want to miss an opportunity to check out some sights in GC so in the early morning we took an uber into the historic district. Again we felt safe walking around this area. There were also guards in the main square. We even walked down a side street and found a pretty little cafe, where we enjoyed breakfast.
It would have been nice to spend a full day here to see some more historical sites. I think 1 or 2 days is enough for GC.
Click the links to read more about Guatemala.