Transportation - Get In

By plane

Guatemala's main airport, La Aurora International Airport (IATA: GUA), is in Guatemala City. International flights arrive mostly from the other Central American countries, United States, Mexico, Colombia and Spain. The airport recently underwent modernizing reconstruction. It is now a glass-and-concrete edifice with modern shops and duty-frees that you might expect in any large city. Food options may be somewhat still limited, however. American Airlines, Avianca, Copa, Delta, and United all offer service to Guatemala, albeit at high prices. Iberia also serves Guatemala City.

Guatemala's secondary airport is situated in Flores (IATA: FRS), Petén. This small airport receives flights from Guatemala City and neighboring Belize.

By car

From Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador access is via the Pan-American Highway. Road access is also possible with more difficulty from Belize.

By bus

  • From Belize. Multiple companies have express buses from Belize City to Flores (Guatemala), , passing through San Ignacio and Xunantunich, with connections to Guatemala City. A cheaper alternative is a local Belizean bus to the border town of Benque Viejo, a taxi to the border and onward from Melchor de Mencos to Flores by colectivo, or taxi to Tikal.
  • From El Salvador. Buses are available from San Salvador and Santa Ana.
  • From Honduras. Services run from Copán Ruinas, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba and Tegucigalpa.
  • Mexico. Buses are available from Tapachula, Palenque, Chetumal, Tulum, Cancún and Mexico City.

From further afield, it is possible to reach Guatemala from Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The following are bus companies that provide international services (The addresses provided in the below links are their Guatemala City addresses):

Pullmantur1a Avenida 13-22 Zona 10 (Hotel Holiday Inn),  +502 2495-7000. Operates buses between Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa and San Salvador.
Trans Galgos Inter.7a Avenida 19-44 Zona 1,  +503 2232-3661, +503 2220-6018, +503 2230-5058. departs 1pm. International services to Tapachula from Guatemala City via Retalhuleau and Coatepeque on one route and twice daily to San Salvador on another. They also operate a third domestic route to Quetzaltenango from Guatemala City. $17.
Platinum Centroamerica (King Quality), 4 Ave 13-60 Zona 10,  +502 2501-1000. Serves Guatemala City, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and Managua.
Comfort Lines4 Ave 13-60 Zona 10,  +502 2501-1000. Operates mainly between the Guatemala city and San Salvador.
Ticabus (Transportes Internationales Centromaericanos), Calzada Aguilar Batres, 22-55 Zona 12,  +502 2473-3737. departs 6.00am and 2.00pm. Major Central bus company operating buses across the Central American isthmus between Panama City and Managua. From Managua one route goes to Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula in Honduras while another continues along the Pan American Hwy to San Salvador, Guatemala City and Tapachula in Mexico. They also have another north-south route connecting El Salvador to Honduras..
Transportes del Sol (Hotel Crowne Plaza),  +502 2422 5000, +502 4147 3104. departs 3.00am and 4.00pm. =Serves Guatemala City, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, and Managua. $28 (one-way).

By boat

There are several ferries to and from Puerto Barrios and Livingston, and Punta Gorda, Belize.

Transportation - Get Around

By bus

It's hard to miss the colorfully-decorated buses that crowd the streets of major cities and highways of Guatemala. These are chicken buses, or camionetas in Spanish, and are a common form of travel for Guatemalans and a travel adventure for tourists. They are much cheaper than tourist vans or taxis and are usually very crowded, with three people squeezed into seats barely big enough for two children, and more people standing in the aisles.

The buses are often used North American school buses with the "Blue Bird" and "Ford" logos clearly visible. In addition to the driver there is usually a conductor standing in the door -many a times these people are very rude and can even be dangerous if you tell them something you don't like (for example to turn down the volume to their oftentimes nightclub subwoofers). The conductor collects fares, and from time to time jumps out to direct the bus through a blind intersection or around a tight turn. On the highways, the chicken bus drivers are aggressive, not hesitating to overtake in the face of oncoming traffic. Riding these buses on the steep highways of the Western Highlands is especially harrowing, but may be the most quintessential Guatemalan experience there is. It has to be mentioned that regularly there are many people killed in these harrowing quintessential experiences when these buses crash head on with other vehicles, go flying into a roadside ravine or tumble and spin alongside the highway, disassembling the bus in the process and working as a blender and squasher for the passengers inside.

Bus conductors may sometimes charge out of country tourists more than the going rate. If you look to see what other travelers are paying you can usually avoid this problem, however, they often charge you the same as everyone else. Sending a message to the Guatemala tourism department, Inguat [www], will let them know of this problem.

You can board a chicken bus almost anywhere along its route. If you put out your arm, it will stop. You board and find a space to sit or stand. The conductor will come back to you after the bus is underway, and collect your fare. You need to recognize where your stop is, and move to the door in time. You ask the bus to stop, more or less wherever you want to get off.

Also, robberies of the buses is frequent in the highway in the countryside and in the capital itself. Usually several people, one or more in the front, middle and back of the bus get up, take out their guns and announce a robbery or simply a group of people -or even children- surround you and demand your possessions from you. Sometimes this is part of the regular routine of the bus drivers, sometimes even the drivers organize these robberies.

By plane

Regular domestic flights operate only between Guatemala City and Flores on Transportes Aereos Guatemaltecos and Avianca Guatemala (formerly Taca Regional).

By trolley

Guatemala City has a local trolley service aimed at tourists.

By train

There is a rail network, but aside from the occasional steam charter aimed at tourist groups, no trains, freight or passenger, have run since 2007.

Leave a Reply