Homecoming 2020 Travel Tips

Need to spend a night in Guatemala City pre or post Homecoming?

Please consider Keith and Barbara's favorite accommodations near La Aurora Airport in Guatemala City:

Traveling to Lake Atitlan from La Aurora Airport:

There are a myriad of options that will get you from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan.  We believe the easiest and most direct is via a private car.  But there are many options for each budget range.  When you officially register for Homecoming, you will be added to a private Facebook group “Keith’s Cacao Homecoming” (please send a note to @keithscacao via messenger to alert us).  On this group you can arrange to share a car with other attendees. We highly recommend Mario Antonio Batz Hernandez (via FB messenger) Price is 600 Q for one passenger and 900 Q shared between 4 passengers, so if you are travelling in a small group to or from the La Aurora Airport, this is a great option!

Payment for transportation will need to be made in Quetzales (Guatemalan Cash).

We recommend arriving in San Marcos La Laguna before nightfall, so that you can navigate easily and locate your accommodations while venues are still open and the village is still awake. (Please Note: it's typically quite dark by 6:30 pm year-round so please bring an LED headlamp and/or LED flashlight (bring extra batteries!)

Best Accommodations in San Marcos La Laguna closest to La Paz (our main gathering place for the week):

Hotel Quetzal  https://hotelquetzalatitlan.com/

Hotel Paco Real https://www.facebook.com/pacorealhotel/

Bosque Encatado http://www.hotelposadaencantado.com/

Lush Hotel https://www.lushatitlan.com/

We have seen many great rental options on AirBNB for San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala. Don’t delay booking one of these if this is your preference! Our recommendation is staying in San Marcos La Laguna, on the lake side of the main road that parallels the lake shore, as when you go "above" that main road, you'll likely be climbing steep hills to get back to your place, which may not be ideal for some folks.  Perhaps explore these sites and see what feels best to you. If you want a second opinion about a particular accommodation venue, please ask us.

Guatemalan Currency – Quetzales:

We advise that you bring Guatemalan Quetzales with you to Homecoming.  It is best to order currency from your local bank prior to your departure.  You can also easily exchange your native currency at the airport, but this is a more expensive option. There is an ATM in San Marcos La Laguna, but it is not 100% reliable.  Credit card usage is limited at the lake (but growing), having Quetzales is your most reliable option. We recommend that you have 100 Q notes or smaller, as many places cannot give change for larger denominations.

You will want some Quetzales (cash) for food, souvenirs, shuttles, tuk-tuk rides, boat rides at the lake, tips and more. We recommend a minimum of $2,000 Quetzales for the week, some folks will need more and some less, but best to be prepared.

If you find yourself in a cash-jam, Keith can exchange $100 US dollar bills in good condition for Quetzales. 

Keith also suggests that you notify your bank of your travel plans and be sure to bring your banks contact phone number – just in case.

 Do you know basic Spanish?

Although this is not crucial for an enjoyable visit to Guatemala, you will find knowing some basic phrases very helpful in getting around and exploring the villages around Lake Atitlan. We recommend the fun app called DuoLingo (it’s FREE!). Basics like “please”, “thank you”, “where is the bathroom?”, simple food and drink names, etc will be fun to learn using this App. You may also encounter local indigenous people around the lake who do not speak much Spanish, as their native languages vary, so do not be surprised if this happens in some of the remote places around Lake Atitlan! A smile is universal though…so Go to Glow!

What should I bring with me?

Clothing: Most will be comfortable in shorts, but in the evenings, pants are recommended.  Jacket and/or sweater for cool evenings and travel across the lake.  Wool socks if you only have sandals (good for mosquitoes).  Long sleeve shirt.  Clothes for sun and warm, and hot.  Poncho or rain jacket is likely not necessary, but good to have. Just in case

We also recommend a backpack for carrying things around with you

Appropriate footwear: Here in San Marcos La Laguna, a few wear sneakers, most sandals, and some go year-round in flip-flops.  We will be traveling to the rainforest and for this journey we recommend a hiking shoes or durable sneaker.

A towel: For those staying at La Paz, towels are not provided.

Flashlight or headlamp: You will need one for navigating paths at night.  Bring a backup and/or bring replacement batteries. Certain types of batteries can be difficult to find in town.

Sunscreen and a hat: The sun at 5000 feet (1500 m) elevation burns a lot faster and tans a lot slower than sea-level.  By the way, a good amount of cacao in your system is an excellent sunburn preventative.

Swimsuit: Some of you may want to swim in beautiful Lake Atitlan.  Local sensibilities suggest your swimsuit be on the modest side.  A wrap is also recommended as the lake is cold.

Insect repellent: Bugs are rarely a big problem, except for sand flies (no-see-ums) and mosquitoes. 

Pad Lock: For those staying at La Paz.  There are lockers available where you can stash belongings.  Locks are not provided.

A little heads up about the magical climate at Lake Atitlan:

It’s warm and sunny most days, pleasantly warm and not steamy and sweaty like the tropics (except the day that we all trek into the tropical mountains to hug the cacao trees!).

Average daily highs in March are 28C/83F and the night time lows are averaging 12C/53F, so you’ll want layers of clothing with you to stay comfortable. Stay tuned for more details soon!

Very important note about local water:

Do NOT drink the water in the lake or out of local faucets. DO not use local water for brushing your teeth. Do NOT eat from wet plates. Keep your mouth shut while swimming or showering. ALWAYS ask for “agua pura” when in restaurants or asking for water – it is readily available. Parasitic amoebic cysts are endemic, Amoebiasis and occasionally Giardia.  You do not want to spend your time at the lake fighting off flu like symptoms. 

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