Secrets To Travel: How To Get From Antigua To Guatemala City And Return For Under 3 Bucks

Visiting Guatemala for the first time and enjoying your stay in Antigua? Need To visit Guatemala city for your passport, to see the historic city center, the Maya museum, or other reasons? Are you turned off by the fact that these cities are only 33 miles apart, and yet it is going to cost you at least $20 for a round trip shuttle? If you happen to be in the majority and are not travelling alone, just this less than an hour trip (depending on traffic) can eat a hole in your group's budget for the day.

Taking the public buses may seem like a risk to some, but if you follow basic precautions 1), this is a great way to see the country from where its citizens see it. So often we get caught up in staying with secure hotels and secure transport that we miss a lot of what a country has to offer. No trip to Guatemala is complete until you have ridden on a absolutely pimped out U.S. school bus from the 70s!

Follow these guidelines and you'll be travelling into and out of the city for under 3 bucks. We will outline a general plan on how to get into Guatemala City AND we will provide a way to use the cities recently upgraded public transport buses (which are as nice as any bus hot off the assembly line).

Starting In Antigua

You should familiarize yourself with the guide written here 2) about proper precautions when riding the public buses in a developing Central American country. Briefly stated, you should wear simple, non flashy clothing, sit near the front, and try to ride the bus during daylight hours. This almost guarantees a hassle free ride.

The trip starts with orienting yourself within Antigua. There is a common tourist location called La Merced. It is a big, yellow church. Anyone who is anyone in Antigua can direct you to it. This location is in the *north* of the city.

La Merced is located at a “T” in the road, being at the top of the T. When you are at La Merced and facing the church, the road to your left points *west* and towards the food market. The road to your right points *east* and towards residential areas and a few museum like places. The road directly behind you points *south* and leads to the central park.



Your hotel will probably be near the central park or La Merced. To find the Antigua public bus terminal, go to either one of these locations and face north. From the central park, you should be looking towards the direction of La Merced. Turn left (on the north or south side of the central park, it doesn't matter) and walk until you reach a road that has cars going north, a dividing barrier, and then cars going south. Look for the Pollo Campero fast food restaurant and go left of that restaurant. Turn right on the next block and you should see chicken buses lining up a few hundred yards away. If you don't, you are on the wrong block.

From the other point, you should be looking at La Merced's big, yellow exterior. Turn left. Walk along the left side walk until you notice a road that has two way traffic; some coming north towards you, a little grass or cement barrier, and cars going south. Follow the cars going south by turning left here. Walk until you see a Pollo Campero on your right. Pass it and turn right on the next block. You should see chicken buses in the distance.


Just one of the many varieties of chicken bus style…these were actually from Nicaragua, as most of the Central American countries have pimped out hand-me-down buses from the United States.

On the top of all chicken buses, front and center, are the cities the bus visits on its route. Look for “Guate”, which is short for Guatemala City. The bus drivers and fee collectors will also point you to the right bus if you say “para Guate?” to them.

An Example Bus Ride To Guatemala City

Sit in the front of the bus and just relax. They won't take payment until later in the trip. *The cost from Antigua to Guatemala is 10 Quetzales, or about $1.30*. You can expect to sit 3 to a seat at some point. There will also be vendors stepping onto the bus like you wouldn't believe. They sell candy, baked goods, skin care products, bibles, religious music cds, tooth brushes, headphones, whatever the hell you want. It is perfectly okay to buy from these vendors so if they have something you want, go ahead and buy.

As you enter Guatemala City, you have about a 15 minute ride until the end of the bus stop. *Keep your eyes open*. You will be looking for *Transmetro* buses which are green. As you near the end of the ride, you might start to see these buses. If you see one of these buses a block away, go ahead and move towards the front of the bus to get off. Walk towards where you saw the green Transmetro bus. You shouldn't have to walk more than a few blocks.

If you don't jump out when you see the buses, more often than not the last bus stop is only a couple blocks from the Bolivar station 4). If you didn't see the Transmetro buses, you can always ask the bus driver which direction.

You CAN wait until the end but there is a chance the bus driver will end his route further away from the Transmetro stop. Out of the 6 times this author has ridden this bus, 5 of those times the bus stopped two blocks from the Bolivar station. Almost everyone left on the bus walked towards the Transmetro station. One time the bus stopped about 7 blocks from the Bolivar station, creating quite the adventure for this anxious traveler. (Everything worked out fine after asking a gas station attendant where the Transmetro autobus was located).

Riding the city buses for 1Q

There are a few different kinds of buses within Guatemala City. It is true that the city (and by extension lots of Guatemala) has been marred by gangs extorting the bus drivers and bus companies. They have no interest in harming the passengers, but it is a bad situation nonetheless.

…**A Word About Safety On Inner City Guatemalan Buses** Guatemala City's response to this problem was the Transmetro bus system. None of the buses in Transmetro buses (big, green buses) have any cash on them. All of the stops are covered stops with policeman guarding the payment dock. All sectors of Guatemalan society use the Transmetro buses, including business people and the middle class, so you can tell these buses do not have the same problems as the other buses. The buses we do not recommend riding are called the “red devils” by expats, and quite obviously are all red. Transmetro is the safe public option that even Guatemalan locals really enjoy using. They are turning away from the red devils when they can because it is such a good upgrade.

The following source 5) provides a bus map of the Transmetro stops. You will notice after looking at this map that “Plaza Barrios” is a hub where multiple bus lines meet. When you enter the Bolivar station, ask the attendant which direction is towards Plaza Barrios. He will point you to the right one.

This is important to know before you arrive…**you will need 1 Quetzal to ride these buses. It needs to be a coin, not a bill**.

Looking at the aforementioned source, *you can travel for .13 cents between zones 4, 9, 5, and 1*. Most other places suggest you take a shuttle into the city and then taxis to get around the city. The shuttle is $10 dollars each way and a taxi will be anywhere from $4-15 dollars, depending on how far you want to go.

Keep this page 6) handy because you can get to the immigration office, US embassy, and a few other notable places using this transport.

It is probably worth making a quick sketch of this bus route, the zones it encompasses, your intended destination, and the bus stop names. That way if you truly get lost and cannot speak Spanish, you can revert back to your map about where you want to go.

Leaving The City

This author will warn that the next step is a little tricky. See if you can follow the logic theoretically. There is a back up option that will probably cost you an extra $4-7.

Wherever you go in Guatemala city, you can use this aforementioned bus line to get to the bus depot that heads towards Antigua. The bus stop you need is *Saint Cecelia*. Find it on the map above; it is on the track that heads diagonally down and left.

Also pull up google maps on your computer. Search “El Trebol” in Guatemala City and begin to zoom in. Shift your zooming in northeast a tad so your image looks something like this.

Note: The Saint Cecilia bus station is not visible at all zooming ranges. Scroll in and out of google maps until it comes into focus. It is one stop northeast of Trebol, which should be visible on google maps much more readily.

When you get off at Saint Cecilia, you have to walk down the street a couple blocks and to the right. To be honest, this author did not know how to get to the bus “station” heading back to Antigua but did know that Saint Cecilia was the stop to take. Since it is so close, you can ask a tienda owner or food vendor where the bus station is for Antigua. This author's group asked two separate people for confirmation and each one gave the same (not so specific directions); walk down the street a couple blocks and turn right. You will cross a small overpass and you should see the buses across the street. All the Antigua buses start here. It is not really a station. 10 buses line up on the street to get ready for their route.

Can't Find the Bus "Station" To Antigua? A Back Up Plan

We advise that you do go through the trouble of finding the origin of the bus leaving to Antiuga because you get can a good seat at the front of the bus (see source notes on why this is a good idea 7) ). Our backup plan will get you on the bus but there is no guarantee about finding a good seat.

You should always have a back up plan. In the event you cannot find the bus station, the solution is to take a cab to the Grand Tikal Futura (GTF). If you scroll up and take a look at the more zoomed out google maps image of Guatemala City, you will see that the buses go right past Grand Tikal Futura on their way to Antigua.

GTF is a huge hotel inside of a mall. The bus stop may feel a little shady, but their an armed military man standing on guard. He is actually more there to protect the bus drivers from extortion than to protect you, but that is another story.

You can take a cab to this spot as every taxi driver knows where it is. Assuming you have attempted to find the bus station but failed, your cab should be more than $10 (around 77Q) and should be closer to $5-7 (40-55Q) because the Saint Cecilia bus stop isn't all to far from the Grand Tikal.

Saving Money And Seeing The Real Guatemala

If you do this flawlessly, you will spend $1.25 getting into the city, $0.13 per inner city bus trip, and $1.25 leaving the city. This should leave the budget traveler with plenty of extra quetzales to spend on the things they enjoy more, like food or entrance fees to museums.

There is something special about riding the chicken bus into and out of Guatemala City. Maybe it's the food vendors who come onto the bus and sell candy and other things. Perhaps its the Christian preacher who rides the bus for 10 minutes to deliver an impassioned sermon. It could be the bizarre mix of Christian graffiti and rap music that blares from the speakers. All of it is a more authentic slice of Guatemala and you should realize that you are gaining more in value by riding these buses smartly than you are saving money.


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