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There are tons of good hotel options in Guatemala City, with something to fit any budget. Most visitors choose to stay in the ritzier and safer side-by-side neighborhoods of zonas 9 and 10, which I highly recommend. Budget travelers and those seeking a heavy dose of the city's colonial center gravitate to Zona 1, but keep in mind that you need to be very careful about walking around this neighborhood at night.

Zonas 9 & 10

These side-by-side zones contain the greatest concentration of hotels, restaurants, bars, and shops in the city, and heavy police presence makes them relatively safe for strolling and exploring on foot. Most of the hotels here are high-end business-class affairs, but there are actually options to fit most budgets. This area, particularly Zona 10, is often referred to as Zona Viva, or the "Alive Zone," because of all the dining and nightlife options.

Very Expensive -- In addition to the places listed, the Guatemala City Marriott, 7a Av. 15-45, Zona 9 (tel. 888/236-2427 in the U.S. and Canada, or 502/2410-1777; www.marriott.com), is another excellent high-end hotel, though I think the similar-class hotels listed are better located.

Expensive -- In addition to the hotels listed, the Holiday Inn, 1a Av. 13-22, Zona 10 (tel. 502/2421-0000; www.holidayinn.com), is a good option.

Zona 1

This is the heart of the downtown colonial core of Guatemala City, and is often referred to as the "Old Town," or "Old City." The area is convenient for visiting many of the city's colonial-era attractions, and is full of hotels. You'll definitely get more bang for your buck down here as well. However, this is a busy part of town, and tourists are often targeted for pickpocketing and petty crime. Tourists need to be particularly careful after dark, when I recommend you take a taxi, even for short trips.

Inexpensive -- In addition to the places listed below, Hotel Spring, 8a Av. 12-65, Zona 1 (tel. 502/2230-2858; www.hotelspring.com), and Hotel Ajau (tel. 502/2232-0488; hotelajau@hotmail.com), 8a Av. 15-62, Zona 1, are two other good budget options.

Zona 11

While not generally mentioned in the typical list of tourist-recommended neighborhoods, Zona 11 is home to the Tikal Futura, a major, modern high-rise hotel. This hotel is located right at the point where the highway to and from Antigua and the Western Highlands enters the downtown area. If you're planning on renting a car, it's convenient to stay here and have it delivered to the hotel. When you head out, simply turn right as you exit the hotel, and you'll be on Calzada Roosevelt, which soon turns into CA-1.

Zona 13 (Near the Airport)

There are a couple of hotel choices right near the airport. However, given the fact that hotels in zonas 9 and 10 are less than 10 minutes away from the airport by taxi, this is a very limited advantage and minor consideration. You'll enjoy much better access to restaurants, bars, and shopping if you stay at any of the hotels listed above. However, these are two good options if you really want to be close to the airport.

Adoptions

Adoptions of Guatemalan-born children by foreign couples, particularly Americans, is a major phenomenon. Many of the high-end hotels in Guatemala City have whole floors dedicated to serving adoptive parents as they go through the process.

Guatemala is an attractive choice for international adoption for a number of reasons. There are few restrictions on who can adopt in Guatemala. The government of Guatemala requires only a short visit, and Guatemala is a lot closer to the U.S. than countries in Asia or Africa, where adoptions by foreign nationals are also common.

The number of adoptions in Guatemala continues to grow. In 2006, there were 4,135 adoptions. Recent adoptions have been evenly split between girls and boys, and most of the children are infants under 1 year of age.

The adoption process can be completed in as little as 6 months, but can be expensive. In 2008, the cost of an average adoption ranged from $20,000 to $45,000. This goes toward bureaucratic costs and attorney fees, but also pays for foster care and medical care of your child from acceptance of referral until the adoption is finalized.

As with any important interaction, it goes without saying that you should beware of shady dealers. Tragically, child trafficking in Guatemala is a reality. Both abductions and baby-farming, where poor peasant women and girls are encouraged to have children for a small fee, have been reported. There are many legitimate organizations (secular and religious) that will help coordinate the process for you. Ask to speak to some adoptive parents to get a feel for an agency before making a decision.

On January 1, 2008, Guatemala began following the Hague Adoption Convention, hoping to curtail corruption in the process and reduce the number of abducted or "baby-farmed" infants entering the process.

Prospective parents can find a wealth of information online. The U.S. State Department's page on the subject (http://travel.state.gov/family/adoption/country/country_389.html) is a good place to start. You could also contact the Guatemalan Embassy (tel. 202/745-4952; consul@guatemala-embassy.org). Once in Guatemala, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City is very accustomed to working with prospective adoptive parents, and they are quite helpful throughout the process.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.