Transportation in Guatemala
The best way to move around Guatemala as a tourist is by private transportation. We recommend confirming these arrangements before arriving in Guatemala. Tourist transportation companies have proper documentation, clean cars and vans, and insurance to transport tourists. We don’t recommend using public transportation as it is complicated and dangerous. We know people talk about the chicken buses but we recommend avoiding them. Car rental is another option but driving in Guatemala can be chaotic. This is more an option for guests which speak Spanish.
The best option in Guatemala is having a private transportation company to drive you around the country. They pick you up from the airport and take you wherever you want to go. This is a door to door service. They pick you up in your exact location and you let them know the place where you want to go. You can choose the pick-up time to suit your schedule and preferences. The vehicles must be registered in Guatemala’s tourist institute, and have tourism insurance. The vehicles have stickers given by the tourist institute to identify themselves. Drivers are responsible and professional and know the safest and best roads to every destination.
Guatemala hast two airports. The main point of entry to Guatemala is La Aurora International Airport (GUA), located in Guatemala City. The 2nd much smaller international airport is located in Flores (FRS) close to the Mayan Ruins of Tikal. There are regular flights between Guatemala City and Flores every day in the early morning and late afternoon. Charter flights by small aircraft and helicopters are an option as well, and you can land at various other smaller airports if you book a private flight.
A few tourist destinations are connected via shuttle. They circulate between the airport and Antigua and between Antigua and Panajachel. You will have to reserve a seats before arriving so you can be sure of the time and place of departure.
There are public buses and vans in every city or mayor town in Guatemala. These buses do not have a fix schedule and the stops have no signs. This makes it difficult to get them and only works if you don’t have an fix schedule. In Guatemala City there is a bus service running all over the city for which you will need a card to board the buses. The best option if you need to take public transportation in Guatemala city is “Transmetro” that runs only in the metropolitan service. Transmetro is safe and has proper stops with signs.
Rural collective transportation
Rural buses are also referred to as Chicken buses. Buses many times are driven by young, unexperienced drivers that want to get to the destination quickly. Buses do not go to every town so you might have to change from a bus to a local bus or van to get to the exact town you are going. If you decide to take an adventure you will need to start practicing your Spanish as these drivers won’t speak English.
In Guatemala City there are two types of taxis: white taxis and yellow/green taxis. White taxis run all over the city and you can take them at any moment when you see them. But these taxis are not really safe and they overcharge even common Guatemalans. If you plan to take a taxi it is best if you use a yellow or green taxi. These taxis do not stop when you are on the street unless for you. You can call and ask them to send a taxi, they will give you the estimated time for the taxi’s arrival and call you when the taxi is in your location and give you the registration number of the taxi. Uber is also working in Guatemala but you must have the Guatemalan app and register.
There are car rental companies at both international airports. Some car rental companies have offices at hotels as well. It is better to have the car reserved prior your arrival to be sure you will have the car you need. Driving in Guatemala can be chaotic. If you want a relaxed vacation it is not an option unless you like adventures. Main roads have signals but we recommend having a GPS to help you navigate through Guatemala.