Keep calm and love Guatemala


Guatemala was the first country I explored. The first day in Cancún was more like a stopover because of the connecting flights. I gave myself 48 hrs just in case of delays of flight or baggage. When I arrived in San Pedro La Laguna in the middle of the night, it was really dark, and I couldn’t tell if I like that place. However, immediately on my first day when I strolled around and tried to find my school, I felt safe and welcome.

I would like to summarize which places I went to and which other places have been recommended to me by other travelers in Guatemala. Moreover, I’m going to share two other minor things which couldn’t get an individual text on their own.


Recommendations for Guatemala

In this context, I would like to list places which I visited. Highly recommended! I linked my respective posts to the places mentioned. The respective posts offer more detail than the list, for sure. 🙂

Other locations which are very popular among travelers

  • Rio Dulce and Livingston (Caribbean side)
    I met travelers who sail along the Rio Dulce or live in a boat on the Rio Dulce for some time.
  • El Paredón (Pacific side)
    Black beaches from the volcanic ash, relaxed atmosphere as I have been told.

I have not met any traveler yet who considered Guatemala City as a destination to check out. On my way to the airport, I only recognized a bus terminal with better buses (no colectivo-type shuttles). So these buses might also be an option to get around Guatemala or to the adjacent countries. I am not sure, however, how frequently they run and how secure they are. Especially with respect to their size and the serpentine roads. I have heard that they offer proper international services to El Salvador.


One remark about the Quezal, the local currency. It is quite common to pay in cash, no matter where you are. I haven’t found any ATM that doesn’t charge you fees for getting out cash, so try to get the maximum amount whenever you get cash out. When I stayed in Guatemala, the maximum amount to withdraw from a 5B ATM (the most common ones) was Q2500 per day (~360€). The fee of the 5B ATM was Q50 (~7€).

You might be able to pay by card (con tarjeta) in some restaurants in, e.g., Antigua. So use your cash and card wisely, always consider if it’s worth withdrawing more or if you pay something by card. For me, both VISA debit and credit worked for getting out cash and when paying by card.


Events I “participated” in

Día de los Muertos – Sumpango Kite Festival

You might have seen pics of these huge kites that they have in a festival “somewhere in America”. Well, there are two kite festivals on the 1st of November, the Day of the Dead, in Guatemala. One in Sumpango and the other in Santiago Sacatepequez. However, the one in Santiago Sacatepequez is not considered secure, so if visiting a festival, then Sumpango is the choice.

Kites on the Day of the Dead

The Day of the Dead is a huge thing in Central America, I have also heard of big festivals and events across Mexico. Since I stayed in Antigua at the beginning of November, I decided to head to Sumpango on the 1st and start the volcano hike on the 2nd. I was surprised that this day was not about grief, but instead about communicating with the dead. Yes, people (also) went to the graves of their family and friends on that day, cleaned them up, put many colorful flowers.

Moreover, Guatemaltecans explained that Kites are believed to “communicate with the dead”. So they write texts on Kites before trying to rise them to the sky. As kids, they learn that when kites are high up in heaven, the dead are able to see or read the messages. If kids are patient, they draw images. If not, they write texts. So in Sumpango, there was a big festival about the Kites next to the cemetery.


The festival

The whole festival area is overcrowded on that day, people come by car, by colectivos, by chicken-bus, to stroll through plenty of stores which sell more or less useful stuff (similar to any festival you know). I assume there were definitely more than 50,000 people present during the day. People try to rise their own little kites, which can be bought at every corner. Moreover, there are plenty of (street-) food and drinks options. However, the highlight of the entire festival are not the small, but the really huge kites.

It takes more than 3 months to build one of the big kites. They are all out of paper, nothing else but paper. Considering how colorful and specific they are, it’s really a huge effort, including creative ideas. The paper-construction is wrapped on a bamboo-construction and then tried to put up into a standing position. In that position, they are the highlight for people to take their family and friends selfies. Later during the day, there is a competition in rising and flying those big kites.

It’s dependent on the wind situation, which size of kite is still able to rise or which is too big. In our case, there was not much wind and the sun was burning down, so the big ones didn’t make it, they were not even started. Because as soon as they crash down in a trial, they are broken, as they are only paper-based. The smaller ones made it, really cool to watch. However, if you only come for the kite competition, you might be good with a few hours during the afternoon, that might save you from hours of buying drinks to get some shade within their seating areas. 😉


Street blocking

which you most likely won’t hear about on international news

Yeah, a street blocking was another “event” which I unintentionally participated in. Gas and fuel prices were ridiculously high in Guatemala while I stayed in San Pedro la Laguna. Many people in town don’t own cars and use TukTuks to get around. If they need to get to other places further away, they use colectivos. But the truckers need to pay that price to be able to drive and deliver their goods. Considering the average income compared to fuel prices, they don’t have much money left.

In order to protest and maybe reach something, the truckers blocked many roads for hours. There were no blockings while I stayed in San Pedro and Antigua, but during the time I spent in Flores. You knew which roads were likely for blockings, but didn’t know the time and the direction that is blocked. Some tourist-shuttles didn’t operate around Antigua at that time because of too many blockings.

Being stuck in a blocking near Flores

In my case, when we went from Palenque, Mexico, to Flores in Guatemala, there was a blocking approximately 1 hour away from Flores. We reached the spot, queued. It passed on from person to person that we would have to wait for at least 2 hours. Two hours later, another hour has been added. The truckers blocking the road allowed tiny cars and trucks with animals to pass after a certain time. The sun was burning down and cows or chicken could not be fed on the trucks.

Not long after the blocking started, people from the surrounding area popped up selling drinks and food. On the one hand, I was surprised how well they know how to use such situations to earn some money. On the other hand, it felt good to know that if you run out of water, there are options to buy some, even somewhere in nowhere on a road in Guatemala.


After we figured out that the street will be blocked until 11pm or even longer, we considered hitchhiking for the small cars. However, our driver considered TukTuks more secure. He went to the blocking and figured that there are TukTuks waiting at the other side to pick up people, since it was allowed to pass by on foot. So we decided to split in pairs of two and take three TukTuks to get to Flores. Honestly, TukTuks are convenient for short distances, however, one hour in such a tiny thing, with all the luggage and in the dark was not the thing we anticipated.

We exchanged phone numbers before we started and took pics of all the TukTuk plates to secure each other, just in case anything happens. Our driver did the same and enforced the drivers to stay together during the whole ride. All six of us safely arrived in Flores, yes, however, exhausted! That’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime experiences which you won’t plan. You have to trust other people, and I was happy that I had some basic knowledge of Spanish to communicate.

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