Travel Tips- Quetzaltenango, Guatemalaprint resource
Some travel tips that might be helpful to read before visiting Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
Quetzaltenango, commonly called Xela (Shay-la), is the second largest city in Guatemala, located in the province of Quetzaltenango. What follows are some of my observations about Xela that might be useful to know before visiting. This post is based on my personal experiences, so read it with a grain of salt.
There are three main zones in Xela. Zona 1 is situated around Parque Central, and has the highest concentration of Spanish schools, hostels, restaurants, bars, and cafes. To help you navigate, the avenidas run north to south, while the calles run east to west. If traveling in taxi, be sure to specify which zone you want to go to.
Xela is a noisy city. From roosters, to dogs barking, to car engines reving, to fireworks, there is rarely a moment of quiet. If you are a light sleeper, earplugs are essential.
The sidewalks, when they exist, are very uneven, and often littered with trash or stray dogs. I would recommend sneakers over flip flops.
You do not need to bring an adaptor, electronic devices work the same as in the US.
The weather can change drastically in the course of a day. The sun is very strong, so a hat/ sunscreen are recommended. I also never leave the house without an umbrella, to be prepared for any sudden downpours that occur.
The exchange rate right now between the US dollar and quetzal is 1 to 8. You can get lunch for around 20Q on the low end, 60Q on the higher end. A bottle of water costs 4Q.
There are plently of ATMs in Xela, usually they charge you a set fee for every transaction.
Upon arrival you can buy a cellphone for 180Q ($25), that comes with 100Q worth of minutes.
In my two different experiences in homestays, I ate a lot of eggs, black beans, beets, plantains, small portions of either chicken or beef, and rice. On special occasions I frequently had tamales, either made of rice or potatoes. Every meal comes with tortillas and a bag of pan frances from XelaPan on the side. Coffee or tea is served with breakfast and dinner. Lunch tends to be the biggest meal of the day.
The water from the tap isn't drinkable, but most houses have big bottles delivered weekly. I have never had a problem with ice in my drinks.
Once you are finished eating and are ready to leave the table, it is common to say "Gracias", with the response from anyone left at the table being "Buen provecho."
Dress here is pretty conservative, I rarely see women with exposed legs.
When passing people in the streets, usually there is a mutual greeting of Buenos Dias/Buenas Tardes/ Buenas Noches. When entering and leaving a room, usually you kiss each person on the cheek, and say hello or goodbye. To not 'saludar' someone is considered bad manners.
In my experience, drinking is generally frowned upon, as well as smoking.
The population is largely Catholic or Christian. I've found that people will ask you your religion, and seemed reassured if you say you believe in God or your that you also are Catholic/Christian.
It is common to be called 'seño', a shortened version of señora. It took me much longer than it should have to figure out what seño meant.
If you learned your Spanish in Spain, do not use the verb "coger" in Guatemala. While common elsewhere, here it means "to f***", and can get you into trouble.
Also in Guatemala, unlike in Spain, the 'Usted' form is always used. As far as I can tell you use tu with people your age or younger, usted with everyone else. I still haven't figured out when it is acceptable to switch to tu from usted, I always just wait until the other person does it and then make the switch as well.
If you are a woman under the age of 50, the men will give you extra un-wanted attention. This can consist of whistles, hissing, name-calling, and even occasionally groping. I have found the best tactic is simply to ignore them, as difficult as that might be.
Another odd thing about Xela are the drunk men passed out in various places around town at any given time of the day. And men peeing wherever they feel like it. Doesn't have much relevance, but I found it startling at first.
A large percentage of the population is Mayan, and as a result you will frequently hear people speaking K'iche, and see people in traditional dress.
Guatemalans are some of the nicest people I have encountered in any of my travels. They are very loving, helpful and have a great sense of humor.