13 Things to know before visiting Antigua Guatemala

13 Things to know before visiting Antigua Guatemala

If you are thinking of visiting Antigua Guatemala good job! You are going to LOVE it. Antigua is one of the most visited places in Guatemala, and most people traveling through Central America will pass through Antigua at some point, even if it’s just for a few days.

Whether your trip is for sightseeing, volcano hiking, or to learn Spanish at one of Antigua’s many language schools there are some things to know before visiting Antigua Guatemala.

1. You will probably sprain your ankle when visiting Antigua Guatemala

I managed to sprain mine not once, but twice! It’s a pretty common sight to see people on crutches or walking with a limp. Antigua has cobbled streets and they often have huge holes in the roads or pavements. These roads make cycling pretty uncomfortable and walking hazardous! So when visiting Antigua Guatemala avoid this nightmare wear decent shoes, tread carefully, and pay attention to where you are stepping.  I can’t even tell you how many pairs of flip flops I went through while living there…

Things to know before visiting Antigua, Guatemala
My rather green and swollen ankle! Watch out for the many potholes in Antigua!

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2. There are processions all the time

As a predominantly Catholic country, there are a lot of religious festivals and they almost always include some kind of procession the biggest being Samana Santa in Antigua.

You can normally tell when it’s a holiday as you will hear the fireworks going off through the night and then most of the day. If it’s a big festival like Samana Santa in Antigua then you will notice them starting to ‘dress up the city’ and block off roads. If you are lucky (or unlucky) enough to be visiting Antigua Guatemala for Samana Santa you will be in for 5 weeks of processions. These processions get bigger and bigger as the weeks go on. Most of the parades are on Sundays but on the actual week of Semana Santa in Antigua there will be something happening each day.

 

A word of warning if you are visiting Antigua Guatemala around Samana Santa, book your accommodation well in advance and be aware if you plan on leaving Antigua during any of the parades you will likely have to make your way to outside the city walls for your bus/ shuttle.

Guatemala Guides | Things to know before visiting Antigua, Guatemala

 

 

3. You will need to choose your tour company wisely

You won’t be able to move in Antigua for tour companies selling tours to Acatenango and Pacaya. Don’t just go with the cheapest company. Take a read of my guide on choosing a tour company first. luckily a lot of the companies got together and set a fixed minimum price for the Acatenango tour. Some companies were charging insanely low prices and were running pretty shady tours. Hiking Acatenango is a serious challenge and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Choose carefully!

Another company I recommend is GuateGo. They are a Guatemala run company that allows you to book tours within Guatemala. They have hand-picked the best companies to work with so you can trust you will get a professional and insured guide.

 

4.  Walk on the opposite side of the road if you need to find somewhere

I know this might sound strange but trust me on this, it’s the best piece of advice I received when I arrived in Antigua. Because of Antigua’s UNESCO status, it’s very strict about signage on buildings and it can be impossible to find anywhere because of this. So if you are visiting Antigua Guatemala walk on the opposite side of the road so you can get a much better look at the building and its sign.

Things to know before visiting Antigua, Guatemala

5. There are a lot of Fast Food Chains

I was really surprised at how many fast food chains there are! McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Dunkin Donuts – the only thing missing is Starbucks! I actually have my weekly Spanish classes in McDonald’s in their garden. Do yourself a favor and choose a nice restaurant to eat in Antigua.

 

6. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site

Antigua Guatemala is a UNESCO world heritage site and when you arrive and take a walk around its Spanish Baroque-influenced architecture it’s not hard to see why. If you want to do a free walking tour of all of the ruins in Antigua you can download the walk I created on Walkli here.

How to spend a day in Antigua Guatemala

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7. The Food and Drink is pretty good

One thing you will notice when visiting Antigua Guatemala is that it is full of places to eat and drink. You can find anything you want here! Missing bagels? English muffins? Domino’s Pizza? Or maybe you have a craving for Sushi? You can not only find all of these things in Antigua but most of them also offer home delivery.

Things to know before visiting Antigua, Guatemala

It’s also a great place to have a night out. If you are around on a Monday then check out the bar crawl organized by the Terrace Hostel. Or if a bar crawl with a load of backpackers isn’t your thing then download my bars of Antigua walking tour on Walkli. The free tour gives you information on each bar so you can decide if you want to go there or skip it.

8. Antigua Guatemala is surrounded by Volcanos

It’s hard to miss the volcanoes surrounding Antigua on a clear day. To the South, You have Volcan Agua. Then to the west, you can see Acatenango and Fuego. Pacaya is also close but you can’t normally see it.

Guatemala Guides | Things to know before visiting Antigua, Guatemala

Thinking about hiking one of them? Don’teven consider Agua, it is very unsafe and since I’ve been here I’ve heard of at least 2 separate shootings. If you fancy a nice easy hike you want Volcan Pacaya or if you want a bigger challenge then Acatenango is the volcano for you. But if you are feeling really crazy you can do a Double Whammy like I did and do Acatenango and Fuego. Or do all three, otherwise known as the trident, this is only for the superhumans among us. 

9. If you don’t want to eat in a restaurant in Antigua there is plenty of Street Food to choose from

You can find some pretty good street food here mostly around Iglesia La Merced

How to spend a day in Antigua GuatemalaOr on Alameda de Santa Lucia close to the local market. It’s not the best country in the world for street food, but it’s not bad.

10. Yoga is huge here!

There is a big yoga community in Antigua. Most teachers are bilingual and will do their class in English or Spanish (or both) depending on who is the class. My favorite studio is Shakti Shala, the Shakti Tribe is headed up by Irene and Lauren and I really can’t say enough good stuff about them. So if you are traveling and looking for a place to practice and connect with the local community it’s a great place to do it. They also have an amazing juice and light bites bar! Make sure you follow them on Instagram and Facebook too.

11. Antigua Guatemala has a lot of Spanish Schools

There are so many Spanish Schools in Antigua! I have written a lot on learning Spanish here so take a read of my posts for more information. But the school I personally recommend Union Language school. I studied there and loved every moment of it.

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If you don’t want to learn in such an intense way then check notice boards in places like Cafe No Se or Rainbow Cafe for teachers offering private classes. 

12. If you need to buy any clothing you will find what you need at The Paca

If you are in need of a particular item of clothing and you are on a budget. The best place to find things is in the Paca. Be warned this place is huge and crazy. But you can pretty much find anything in there! Need a good waterproof coat for hiking Acatenango, or maybe some hiking boots?

You are sure to find some in the Pace. To find it head to the local market, walk right the way to the top to where they sell fruit. As the path moves round to the left you will see a narrow opening to your right in between stalls. Go through the gap and be prepared to rummage!

13. You will need to pay for accommodation in cash

Most hotels and hostels are cash only. You can expect to pay around $6-12 for a bed in a dorm room and $20 for a private room. I always use booking.com or just take a walk around and go in and ask. If you use booking.com make sure you check for Booking.com promo codes first as you can save even more money.

There are 3 places I recommend Selina or Yellow House Hostel if you are looking for a hostel. Alternatively, if you want an Airbnb I can’t recommend this house enough. The owner Chelsea is a very good friend and I stayed in the larger one last time I was in Antigua. For hotels, I recommend Hotel Mesón de María, Barbara’s Boutique Hostel, or Hotel Paseo de la Merced.

Would you like up to $29 off Airbnb? Just use this link.

 

13 Things to know before visiting Antigua Guatemala

 

Planning a Trip to Guatemala? You might be interested in these articles:

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The night I thought I was going to die in Guatemala

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11 things to know before visiting Guatemala

The Top 5 Tours in Guatemala

The Best Yoga Retreat Guatemala

 

Book your trip now

Are you ready to book your trip?  To help you get the best deals and service here are the companies that I personally use to book all of my travel online. I always shop around before booking anything, but these are my tried and tested starting places.

  • Skyscanner – I’m a bit fan of Skyscanner, it is who I use to book all of my flights. I often will check other like Google Flights or Momodo, but I always go here first and it is who I book 99% of my flights with.
  • Booking.com – I LOVE booking.com especially when I can book and cancel free up until a certain point, mostly because my plans are forever changing. It’s easy to use and has one of the widest selections.
  • Airbnb – I’m not a huge user of Airbnb, but sometimes I do like to use it, and I ALWAYS check it before I book anything else. You can get some really cool places to stay here, and it is especially good in places like Cuba. If you don’t have an account and you click on this link then you will get $36 off your first booking.
  • Hostelworld – If you are looking for hostels then this is a great place to check first. They often have additional places that you won’t find on Bookin.com.
  • Agoda – Although I don’t use it as much as booking.com, Agonda is especially good if you are traveling in Asia as they really do dominate there.
  • Worldpackers – If you want to travel on the cheap and save money on accommodation then you need Worldpackers in your life. You can read more about it here. If you click this link to sign up and use the code CLAIRESITCHYFEET then you can get a 40% discount on your membership!
  • Book a Way – If you are traveling in Asia and want to pre-book your transportation then bookaway.com is a fantastic site to do so. They have buses, trains, and cars.
  • RentalCars – Looking to rent a. car while you are away? I always book through Rental Cars as they do a search of all of the big sites and find the best deals.
  • Welcome Pickups – Very occasionally getting from the airport to my accommodation is a total pain in the butt, or I’m traveling in a group and it makes sense to arrange a pickup. When I do I use Welcome pickups.
  • World Nomads – If you are looking for flexible travel insurance then it’s World Nomads all the way. I wrote all about insurance here if you want a more thorough review.
  • SafetyWing – AsI’m a Digital Nomad and not moving around quite so much anymore I personally use SafetyWing now for my health insurance. I wrote a full review here.
  • Viatour – Sometimes it can be a little expensive, but I like Viatour for somethings, especially if you can get a discount code! It’s also great for inspiration.
  • Klook – If you are traveling in Asia, then Klook is great! You can book all kinds of tours, activities, and train tickets, plus they even have sim cards and WiFi.

Claire Summers

Dancer, producer, traveller, photographer, cake maker, dog lover and knitter of Christmas scarfs.

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