Transportation - Get In
Use the Panamerican Highway (CA-1) which crosses the Highlands or the International (CA-2), parallel to the Pacific Coast.
As with most cities in the country try to arrange to arrive well before dark since moving around I'm the city is more complicated and dangerous after dark.
- From Guatemala City, chicken buses run frequently from the Trebol terminal to the Minerva terminal in Xela for Q35. More comfortable direct connections are offered by companies such as Galgos and Lines Dorada ($9, 4.5h, office in 16 Calle 10-03, Zona 1, Tel +502 2415-8900).
- From Antigua, take a chicken bus from the terminal in Antigua to Chimaltenango for Q5. Get off on the main road (under a massive concrete bridge,) walk one block west to catch one of the buses which go from Guatemala City to Xela, Q30.
- From many villages around Lake Atitlán, buses go to Xela (from some infrequently, usually early in the morning.) A frequent service goes from Panajachel to Sololá and from there to Los Encuentros. There you can hop on one of the frequent buses from Guatemala City to Xela. Make sure to get to Los Encuentros well before dusk since no buses pass by after a certain hour and it is not a very pleasant place to spend the night.
- From San Cristóbal in Mexico (as a tourist hotspot well connected to many places in the country) inexpensive shuttles go to Xela several times a day. They usually go to Antigua but stop on the way there in Xela. Alternatively you can get on a micro to Comitán, take a micro from there to the border at La Mesilla, get on a chicken bus to Huehuetenango, and from there to Xela.
- From Tapachula in Mexico, micros run frequently to the border between Ciudad Hidalgo and Tecún Umán from where there are frequent buses until the early afternoon to Coatepeque and from there chicken buses (Q18) to Xela. As the service on both connections in Guatemala terminates relatively early in the afternoon, you should try to leave early in Tapachula.
Transportation - Get Around
The city has grown enormously in the 2000s. Minibus routes thread through all parts of the city and, although cramped, cost only 2.50Q. The bus costs less but is slower and less frequent.
For travel around the countryside, the local buses are very reasonable. They can be entertaining and, at times, quite crowded. Do not plan on carrying much luggage with you on these: some buses have backpack storage above the seats, but most of the time you must store bags that do not fit on your lap on the top of the bus. While they are generally safe up there, they are at risk for weather.
Taxis are relatively common around the city, especially around nightlife hot spots. At night, it is not safe to walk around, so taxis are highly recommended, especially if you are by yourself. Catch a taxi on a public square rather than on one of the side streets and note its number. Negotiate the cost of the ride before you leave. If the driver seems sketchy to you, make a reasonable excuse and do not take it.
When using the minibus to get to Hiper Paiz (the large mall with a movie theatre as well as a supermarket) go to the back part of central park to catch the van. The guy will call, "Hiper Hiper Hiper" and it is 2.50Q in the day and 3Q at night. This same van also drops you at La Democracia Market and Paiz (a slightly smaller mall which also has a supermarket).
This is also the van that you catch to get to the Chicken Bus terminal that takes you to Antigua or Panajachel. Most people tell you to get off at the Roman Columns-Minerva Terminal. You can ask someone where the bus station is or just walk down the street alongside Hiper for 4-5 blocks.
These second-class buses will leave at regular times, but if you load your things on the bus, do not get off as the driver may leave without warning.
These buses at the main terminal do make other stops prior to leaving town (7th Street and 16th Avenue, for example).
Panajachel - 11AM. This is the bus to the lake. 30-35Q for this trip. Otherwise take any bus to Guatemala City, and change at La Cuchilla (and possibly again in Sololá).
San Pedro La Laguna - 11:30, 12PM,1PM, 2PM,4PM & 5:30PM
San Marcos - 4AM-8PM Frequent
Cantel & Zunil - 6AM-7PM Frequent buses
Huehuetenango - 4AM-6PM Frequent.
La Mesilla border with Mexico at 7AM, 8AM, 10AM, 2:15PM
Retalhuleu & Champerico - 4:30AM-7:30PM
Santa Cruz del Quiché - Leaves hourly, 8AM-4:30PM