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Getting There

By Bus -- Several bus lines provide regular service in comfortable modern buses throughout the day between Xela and Guatemala City. Líneas Dorada (tel. 502/2220-7990 in Guatemala City, or 7767-5198 in Xela) has express buses leaving from 16a Calle and 10 Avenida, Zona 1, in Guatemala City, at 8am and 3pm. The return buses leave Xela from 12 Avenida and 5a Calle, Zona 3, at 4am and 2:30pm.

Transportes Galgos (tel. 502/2253-4868 in Guatemala City, or 7761-2248 in Xela) has buses leaving Guatemala City for Xela at 8:30 and 2:30 and 5pm. The return buses leave Xela from Calle Rodolfo Robles 17-43, Zona 1, at 4 and 8:30am, and at 12:30pm.

The trip on either bus line takes about 4 to 5 hours. The fare is around Q50 to Q70 ($6.65-$9.35/£3.35-£4.70) each way.

By Car -- To drive to Quetzaltenango, take the Pan-American Highway (CA-1) north out of Guatemala City. At Cuatro Caminos, take the turnoff for Quetzaltenango, which lies 13km (8 miles) to the southwest, after the small city of Salcajá. The trip takes about 4 hours from Guatemala City. Quetzaltenango is also connected to the southern Pacific Coast Highway, which visitors would use to go down to Retalhuleu and the Pacific beaches.

Getting Around

Taxis and tuk tuks are plentiful in Xela. You can always find one around Parque Centro America. Fares around town should run between Q15 and Q30 ($2-$4/£1-£2). If you can't flag one down, have your hotel call one for you, or call Taxi Blanco y Azul (tel. 502/7763-2285) or Taxi Catedral (tel. 502/7761-8472).

If you want to rent a car for the day, or longer, contact Tabarini (tel. 502/7763-0418; www.tabarini.com). Rates run around Q338 to Q675 ($45-$90/£23-£45) per day, depending upon the size and style of the vehicle.

If you want to rent a bicycle for getting around town, check out Vrisa Bookshop (tel. 502/7761-3237). These folks charge Q40 ($5.35/£2.65) per day, or Q120 ($16/£8) per week. However, I find the congested streets and hilly terrain to be very inhospitable to bicycles.

Orientation

The long, narrow Parque Centro América is the central hub of Xela. You'll find most of the hotels, restaurants, language schools, and offices, and the main Catholic church either right on this central plaza or within a few blocks. You can see the massive cone of the Santa Maria Volcano 3,677m (12,256 ft.) towering over the southern horizon from almost anywhere in town.

Xela sits at 2,334m (7,656 ft.) above sea level. The climate here is relatively cool, and sometimes damp, particularly from May to mid-November. Be sure to have a light jacket or sweater for the evenings.

Fast Facts -- There's an INGUAT office (tel. 502/7761-4931) fronting the Parque Centro America in the Edificio Casa de la Cultura. They can provide you with a city map and basic information on tours and attractions in and around Xela. The main post office (tel. 502/7761-7608) is located about 4 blocks west of the central park at 4a Calle 15-07, Zona 1.

Banco de Occidente, Banrural, and Banco Industrial all have branches right on Parque Centro America, and there are dozens of other bank branches around town. Since this is a university and language school city, you'll also find an abundance of Internet cafes in Xela. If your hotel doesn't provide the service, there are several coin-operated and self-service laundromats, and most of these will also wash and fold for you. I like Pila's Laundry, 15a Av. 3-51, Zona 1, inside the Plaza Centro (tel. 502/5515-2877), which has three locations around the city.

In the event of a medical emergency, the Hospital La Democracia, 13a Av. 6-51, Zona 3 (tel. 502/7763-5671), is a well-equipped, modern hospital. You might also try Hospital Privado Quetzaltenango, Calle Rodolfo Robles 23-51, Zona 1 (tel. 502/7761-4381), a well-equipped private hospital. To reach the National Police dial tel. 502/7765-4987. However, for most tourist needs, whether it be for information or an emergency, you should call Asistur (tel. 1500), which is a toll-free call.

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.