I paid 40 quetzales, five USD, to ride a minibus from the Guatemala City airport to Antigua. I had to negotiate with the drivers for this price, as they initially wanted $10 to $15. The minibuses or shuttles can be found to the left as you exit the arrivals terminal of the airport. Expect to pay between 40 and 50 quetzales for this ride.
ANTIGUA, Guatemala- We walked through the automatic sliding doors of the airport and into Guatemala beyond. Airport doors are like portals to other dimensions, you do not what you are going to get when walking up to them in the safe confines of the arrivals hall, and then — BANG — the doors open:
You are in another country.
Guatemala. I have been here before, in 2008. At that time I could only regard the country with a shrug, it did not hook me in immediately, though the people here smile and nod towards travelers and the road is often not very difficult to travel Though as I began negotiations with the minibus drivers over the cost to be delivered to Antigua — one hour away — a grudging feeling elbowed me in the gut: I was not that excited to be back in this country.
Chaya and I said that we would pay 40 Quetzales ($5) for the ride from the Guatemala City airport to Antigua — this was the price the last time I was here. The drivers laughed and told me that the price was now more than double the amount that I was offering. I did not believe them. I continued arguing, laughing, smiling, and ribbing my way down to a good price — my price. One driver said $15 for both my wife and I, I said no, we will only pay $5 each to Antigua or take the bus into Guatemala City for one quetzale and transfer to a local bus for half the price that I was offering the minibus drivers to take me to Antigua.
I did not really want to do this — my seven month old baby, wife, and myself had been going for nearly 22 hours since we began traveling from the Dominican Republic. We just wanted to make a “home” somewhere. I knew of such a place only one more hour away in Antigua.
My wife and I kept the negociations jovial, speaking only amiably, and responding to outragous prices with laughs: “Eres loco, Senor, eso es muy caro, te damus ochenta quetzales por dos pasajeros.”
A clean faced young man finally walked up to the crowd of drivers that had surrounded us and took our offer. But there were a couple ground rules that we would have to follow to take this ride:
1. We must wait until the minibus fills up with passengers.
2. We must not tell the other passengers what we pay (as they were going to be charged at least double).
We accepted the terms of the agreement, walked over to the bus, and sat on our packs.
Antigua is a comfortable hub to determine your next moves in Guatemala. You can walk there without hassle, have easy days, and be an anonymous, one in a million, white face. There is also many transportation options to the west and north of the country, as well as buses to Guatemala City that leave every five minutes. It is a good stop to recuperated from a day of travel, my family had just undergone 22 hours of self imposed restlessness as we moved from Sosua to Santiago, waited for a 3:27 AM departure from the Dominican Republic to Ft. Lauderdale, and then underwent a five hour layover in Florida before getting on another plane, landing, and walking through the automatic sliding doors of the arrivals hall and into Guatemala. We wanted an easy road out of here — as we don’t know what the next intersection may bring.
I thought about the last time I was in Guatemala, and realized that I had been to many places in this country that could be described as I did Antigua above. This is a comfortable country for travel, it is an easy country. I know of few countries that are really difficult for traveling — the USA and Western Europe are truly the most difficult places that I have ever traveled in — but I also know of few other countries as easy as Guatemala. This country has their tourist shipping systems so completely worked out that it is almost a challenge to break out of the tourism bubble. Though I cannot complain, it is my impression that Petra should be happy here, and the wife, and me, too.
Guatemala is a break on the traveler’s road, a global bench to sit on and watch the world move past. As I sat on my pack, on a sidewalk at the Guatemala airport waiting for the minibus to fill up with tourists, I became conscious of a slight feeling of excitement coming to life: I realized that I was in a good country to travel with my family.
I got into the minibus — taking the front passenger seat all for myself. I slid 100 Quetzales over to the driver out of view of the other passengers, he pocketed it. I asked if he had my change. He said that he did and then did nothing to get it for me. I asked him if he had my change right now. He dug it out.
Upon arrival in Antigua one of the other passengers asked how much the ride costs.
“How much did the driver tell you?”
“He said ten, but I don’t know what he wants ten of.”
“Ten dollars,” I spoke, before making a quick get away.
There is a rule of travel, a maxim perhaps: find out the cost of transport before boarding or you may pay double. Search the internet, ask people, confirm the price of what a bus, taxi, tuk tuk, tap tap should cost before dealing with the driver, and pay no more. This is a simple travel strategy, it is easy to do, and it will save you money at every turn in the traveler’s Road.
We are now at a good hotel in Antigua, comfortable, the baby is happy, the wife is happy, we are making friends, I am happy too.