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Getting There

By Boat -- From Panajachel, the docks for boats to San Pedro are found at the end of Calle del Embarcadero. The boats operate roughly every half-hour from around 5am until 6pm. However, if you're coming back to Panajachel, try to grab a boat by around 4pm, as service after that becomes less frequent and less reliable. Schedules change according to demand, but you should never have to wait more than a half-hour to find a boat heading in your direction. These boats ply a route that stops at Santa Cruz La Laguna, Jaibalito, and San Marcos La Laguna en route to San Pedro La Laguna. In addition, they will stop at any number of other smaller docks, whether they are for tiny communities, individual homes, or hotels.

Boat taxis, their captains, and street touts almost always try to gouge tourists. There is a difference between what locals pay and what tourists pay, and it's often hard to get a firm sense of what the official rates are or should be. Always ask your hotel or the INGUAT office about current fares before heading to the docks, and then try to be polite but firm in sticking to those guidelines.

A boat taxi between Panajachel and San Pedro La Laguna should cost around Q25 ($3.35/£1.65) each way. Between San Pedro and Santiago or San Pedro and San Marcos should run Q15 ($2/£1). Note: Only pay for the leg of the ride you are actually taking. There is absolutely no reason to reserve a return trip in advance, and you run the risk of not meeting up with that specific boat or captain at the appointed time and losing your fare. The slow water taxi between Panajachel and San Pedro leaves about twice a day from the docks below the end of Calle Santander and should cost Q20 ($2.65/£1.35). However, I recommend you take the much faster and more frequent boats from the end of Calle del Embarcadero, which charge just a few quetzales more.

You can always hire an entire boat to make the trip for around Q300 ($40/£20). These boats hold between 10 and 12 people, so if you can round up a group, it's not too expensive.

By Car -- To reach San Pedro La Laguna by car, take the exit for Santa Clara La Laguna and San Pedro La Laguna off the Pan-American Highway (CA-1) about 20km (13 miles) west of Los Encuentros. Don't take the exit for Sololá and Panajachel. San Pedro La Laguna is also connected to Santiago de Atitlán by a paved road.

By Bus -- There are no express or luxury buses to San Pedro. If you're coming by bus, your best bet is to head Panajachel first, and then catch a boat taxi to San Pedro (above). However, San Pedro does have regular "chicken bus" service (cheap, local, commuter buses) to and from both Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango. Ask your hotel, or contact Asistur (tel. 1500) for current schedules.

Getting Around

Although distances are short, the hill between the docks and the center of town is formidable. You can usually find a taxi or tuk tuk near either dock to take you to the center of town for around Q5 (65¢/35p). Alternately, you can pile into one of the collective pickups that provide this service for just Q3 (40¢/20p).

Orientation

San Pedro La Laguna is located on the southwestern shore of Lake Atitlán. The center of the town sits on a small plateau a steep climb up from the shores. This is where you'll find San Pedro's Catholic church and central plaza, as well as most of the town's shops and services. From this plateau, streets run down on either side of a steep ridge. The roads heading down the west side of this ridge lead toward the muelle municipal, which is the main dock for boats arriving from and departing to Panajachel. The roads heading down the east side of this ridge lead toward an area known as la playa, or "the beach," and the muelle santiago, the main dock for boats arriving from and departing for Santiago de Atitlán. These two main docks are connected by a winding, narrow road, known locally as "Gringo Alley," where you will find most of the hotels, restaurants, and bars listed in this section.

Fast Facts

There is a Banrural office (3a Av. 1-51, Zona 3) in the center of town just up from the church. You'll also find the post office and a Telgua telephone office on the street behind the church. To contact the local police, dial tel. 502/7762-4000. There's no hospital or major medical clinic in San Pedro. In the event you need medical care, ask your hotel. There are several Internet cafes around San Pedro. I like Dnoz.com (tel. 502/7721-8078). Most hotels and several private operations will launder your clothes. If you can't have it done at your hotel, try Laundry Karina (tel. 502/7721-8194).

Language Lessons

San Pedro has become a hot spot for foreign students looking to learn or brush up on some Spanish. There are a half-dozen or more language schools in San Pedro. Most offer either individual or small-class, intensive instruction combined with a homestay with a local family and various organized activities and tours. Try Corazón Maya Spanish School (tel. 502/7721-8160; www.corazonmaya.com) or San Pedro Spanish School (tel. 502/5715-4604; www.sanpedrospanishschool.com). Rates range from Q750 to Q1,125 ($100-$150/£50-£75) per week for 4 hours of class per day and a homestay with a local family. More adventurous students might want to learn some of the Tz'utujil Mayan dialect. Ask at any of the language schools, and they'll be able to set you up with a local instructor.

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.