a VirtualTourist member from Chicago
I was thinking of renting a car and driving in Guatemala. I did it in 1988 and was wondering if anyone was done it recently.
I want to drive from the Guatemala City airport to Chichicastenango - Panajachel - Quetzaltenango - Pacific Ocean - Antigua - back to Guatemala City.
With all the talk about safety concerns, what do you think of 4 people driving around in a compact-sized 4-door?
I will probably be going June 25. Thanks for any advice.
I live here and drive daily. The biggest problem I've had in 2 years is being stopped by the police. There always seems to be a "problem". What they really want is money from a "rich Gringo". Because I have the time to put up with them I've never paid them. If you don't have time, ask them to take you to the station to get a receipt. They probably will let you go. I've also had luck by telling them I don't speak Spanish. Don't let them see that you have anything but a few Q's.
As for driving safety....I would rather drive in NYC at rush hour than to drive here. They are the worse drivers and a lot of them have no respect for others. Signal lights don't mean anything. I have been passed on the left while trying to make a left turn with my signal light flashing. On a 3 lane road they will make a right hand turn at an exit from the left hand lane with no warning. Many of the vehicles shouldn't be on the road. You also have to put up with the buses drag racing each other to the next bus stop. Whoever gets there first usually gets all the passengers. There will be bicylists weaving in and out of traffic, people walking in the road or even sitting very close to the travel lane. There will be animals in the road too.
Also try to avoid Antigua on a weekend. There's no parking and there are
traffic jams because everyone comes out from the city. Try not to travel anywhere too late at night.
My wife and I just got done traveling through Guatemala. We entered in Mexico, went to Xela, then to Panajachel, Antigua, Chichicastenango, then up to Tikal. The roads are better than in Mexico, we found few potholes. However, as of December 2008, Highway 1 from Quetzaltenango (Xela) to Antigua is in construction to turn the road into a four lane highway. This will cause delays and dangerous situations due to poorly marked constructions signs. It is advised to follow other vehicles since the road will change from a four lane highway to both directions of traffic sharing one side of a 4 lane highway without good signs indicating the change. You will also encounter hazardous low shoulders and low visibility due to dust.
Road signs are minimal, but stopping in populated areas to ask for directions is useful. Be careful to not stop in isolated areas, and I would recommend to always park your car overnight at a hotel with secure parking.
I am currently working on posting more information at www.drivetheamericas.com
Enjoy your trip!