Guatemala City – Worth a visit? – Guatemala City, Guatemala

Guatemala City – Worth a visit?

Guatemala City, Guatemala

On a trip to Central America, it tops the list of places you are not supposed to go. A “Google Search” of the city returns such advice as “Guatemala city…is a dangerous city…vehicle jackings are an every day occurrence,” or warnings against theft, and robbery. Travelers are also often told to prepare for ear-splitting busses chugging up and down narrow streets, pumping the air full of thick black clouds of exhaust.

Recently, I flew into Guatemala City with a friend and because of circumstances out of my control, ended up spending the better part of a week ‘enjoying’ all Guatemala City had to offer. We flew in on a weekday night, and got to experience our first Guatemalan evening while the sky was lit with pink and purple lightening, and a light rain fell down. The next day, we took a cab into the heart of the city, relocating to our budget hostel, Hotel Fenix. Our upstairs room had a window opening onto the street beside us. Luckily, the side street happened to be what turned out to be a main bus route, and every morning at 5 a.m. we were awoken by blasting engines and a thick, barely tolerable scent of exhaust. Perfect! No need for an alarm clock!

We spent the days exploring the city, walking up and down curving and potholed roads, in and out of the tiny stalls that were selling everything from pink “No Pain No Gain” Lance Armstrong knock-off bracelets to underwear, to exotic fruits and vegetables. On the second day, a tall man in a track suit stopped us in the middle of a busy market. “You speak English? OH thank god!!” He went off about how much he disliked Guatemala, and was so happy to find some other English speakers. Turns out, he was a professional football player from Europe, but after one night with him and his friend, we realized that we didn’t fly out of a developed country to hang out with the likes of them.

Clown from El Salvador at the Sunday market
Clown from El Salvador at the Sunday market
In the evenings, we would walk up two blocks to the main street, where a market would be set up, hawking wares and hastily cooked, cheap meals. Surrounded by hundreds of people, we would spend a few dollars and get a huge meal of corn tortillas, cabbage, meat, all dripping sauce and wrapped in a greasy plastic bag to go. Or we would cross the street and have a cerveza or two at the bar that stayed open until the last customer left.

Sundays saw the set up of a market in one of the main plazas, where mostly indigenous Mayans set up small stalls with their families. You could buy roast corn, barbequed chicken, fresh cut fruits, dried herbs and fresh baked treats, or just sit by the fountain and watch the children playing with the pigeons. We met a clown from El Salvador, who pointed out “his woman,” who was a “little fat.” As we walked through the stalls, different sellers tried to lure us to eat at their stands and one little boy proclaimed his want to “fuck us.”

Not once did I feel unsafe while in Guatemala City. Although, it depends on what your definition of unsafe is. We (two girls) walked miles every day, exploring. We took public transportation and chicken buses all around the city. We went out at night or wandered through the covered street markets, dodging rain or the crazy traffic. If ever we were lost, we kept our wits about us and asked for help, and in general, were given the most gracious help we could have hoped for. I wouldn’t go back to ‘Guate’ unless I was flying through, but there is no need to fear the city if you do happen, in your travels, to find yourself somewhere stuck for a day or two.

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