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Arriving

By Plane

All flights into Guatemala City land at La Aurora International Airport (tel. 502/2332-6086; airport code GUA), which is located in Zona 13 on the edge of the city center and about 25km (16 miles) from Antigua.

There is an INGUAT (Guatemalan Tourism Commission; www.visitguatemala.com) information booth inside the airport, which is open to meet all arriving flights.

There are a couple of banks inside the airport that will exchange dollars and some European currencies, and cash traveler's checks. They are usually open whenever there are arriving or departing flights. There's also an ATM near the baggage claim area.

You'll find various shuttle companies offering hotel transfers as you exit either the national or international terminal. These companies charge between Q38 and Q75 ($5-$10/£2.50-£5) to any hotel in Guatemala City, and between Q75 and Q113 ($10-$15/£5-£7.50) to Antigua. Many of the larger hotels also have regular complimentary airport shuttle buses.

If you don't want to wait for the shuttle to fill or sit through various stops before arriving at your hotel, there are always taxis lined up at the airport terminal exits. A taxi downtown will cost around Q45 to Q75 ($6-$10/£3-£5).

Avis, Budget, Hertz, National, Tabarini, and Thrifty all have car-rental desks at the airport.

By Bus

Guatemala's bus system is a chaotic mess. Scores of independent companies provide service to just about every nook and cranny in the country. However, there is little rhyme or reason to their terminal locations. If you arrive in town by bus, you may end up at the large and hectic main bus terminal and market area in Zona 4, or at any number of private terminals around the city, often in Zona 1. It's always easy to find a taxi near any of the bus terminals, and I recommend taking one to your final destination in the city, which should cost Q45 to Q75 ($6-$10/£3-£5).

Warning: Guatemalan buses are often the targets of crime, both violent and non-violent. Do not arrive by bus at night if at all possible, as the bus terminals and surrounding areas are very dangerous at night. If you do, hop in a cab immediately after you arrive.

By Car

Unless you're already familiar with the city, arriving by car can be a confusing and challenging endeavor. Prepare for gridlock and a general disregard for anything resembling common courtesy. The road in from Antigua and the Western Highlands turns into Calzada Roosevelt, which becomes the Bulevar Liberación as it heads toward Zona 10. If you're heading to Zona 1, take the Anillo Periférico to the northeast soon after entering the urban sprawl.

The road from the Pacific Coast (CA-9) enters Guatemala City from the southwest and turns into Calzada Raul Aguilar Batreó as it heads toward downtown. On the other side, CA-9 enters the city from the northeast, bringing in traffic from the Atlantic Coast, El Oriente, and Las Verapaces.

Visitor Information

The Guatemalan Tourism Commission (INGUAT; tel. 502/2421-2800; www.visitguatemala.com) has an airport booth for arriving tourists, as well as a main office at 7a Av. 1-17, Zona 4. This office is open Monday through Friday from 8am until 4pm, and can provide maps and brochures. They can also make a call for you if you need a hotel or car-rental reservation. To get tourist assistance and information from anywhere within Guatemala, dial tel. 1500.

Hotel concierges, tour desks, and local travel agencies are another good source of information. There are scores of tour agencies around Guatemala City. I recommend Clark Tours, 7a Av. 14-76, Zona 9, inside Clark Plaza (tel. 502/2412-4848; www.clarktours.com.gt); and Maya Vacations, 11 Av. 7-15, Zona 13 (tel. 502/2426-1400; www.mayavacations.com).

Getting Around

Note: Guatemala City has an extensive network of metropolitan buses, but a vast number of assaults take place on them at all times of day and night. I highly recommend you take a taxi instead.

By Taxi

Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive, and while they're supposed to use meters, many don't. It's always best to ask before taking off whether it will be a metered ride, and if not, to negotiate the price in advance. A ride anywhere in the city should cost between Q15 and Q75 ($2-$10/£1-£5).

If you need to call a cab, ask your hotel or try Taxi Amarillo Express (tel. 502/2470-1515), Taxi Blanco y Azul (tel. 502/2440-8789), Taxis 2000 (tel. 502/2433-9984), or Taxis Las Amaericas (tel. 502/2362-0583). Taxi Amarillo Express cabs all use meters.

On Foot

Guatemala City is not very conducive to exploring by foot. The city is spread out, and many of the major attractions are far from one another. Plus street crime is a problem. It's relatively safe to walk around zonas 1, 4, 9, 10, and 13 by day. However, with few exceptions, you should never walk around Guatemala City at night. Those few exceptions include the most developed parts of Zona 10, or the Zona Viva; and the hip, strip of bars and restaurants in Zona 4, known as Cuatro Grados Norte.

By Car

Driving in Guatemala City falls somewhere between a headache and a nightmare. There is little need to navigate Guatemala City in a car. I highly recommend you take taxis and leave the driving to others. If you do find yourself driving around Guatemala City, go slow, as pedestrians and vehicles can appear out of nowhere.

If you want to rent a car, the following all have airport locations, and some also have offices in downtown or at major hotels: Avis (tel. 502/2339-3249; www.avis.com); Budget (tel. 502/2232-7744; www.budgetguatemala.com.gt); Hertz (tel. 502/2470-3737; www.rentautos.com.gt); National, 14a Calle 7-57, Zona 9 (tel. 502/2362-3000; www.nationalcar.com); and Thrifty (tel. 502/2379-8747; www.thrifty.com). Tabarini (tel. 502/2331-9814; www.tabarini.com) is a good local company with offices at 2a Calle A 7-30, Zona 10, as well as at the airport.

Rates run between Q263 and Q750 ($35-$100/£18-£50) per day, including unlimited mileage and full insurance.

By Bus

Killer Tomatoes -- Guatemala's urban buses are the popular stamping ground for armed robbers and muggers. They are also largely driven by aggressive and carefree drivers whose homicidal tendencies might be better served in the armed forces. These factors, along with the fact that they are painted a deep red, have led local residents to dub them "los tomates asesinos," or "the killer tomatoes."

Guatemala also has an extensive network of buses servicing almost every little town and village in the country, including all the major tourist destinations. Unfortunately, the system is very complex and entirely decentralized.

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.