How to get from Guatemala City airport to Antigua 2020

blue bus

When you first set foot in Guatemala, one of your first questions is certain to be: how do I go from the Guatemala City airport to Antigua? In fact, this type of question is generally the first anybody asks when they land in a foreign country. Understandably, this is always a very intimidating step.

Picture this: You get off your plane, collect your luggage and cross customs, already thinking about heading to Antigua. Months of planning have been leading to this very moment. Being the careful type, you contacted your hotel and arranged for pickup. You walk out of the unimpressive La Aurora International Airport, expecting someone with a sign and your name on to pick you up, but you just can’t quite see it. Taxi drivers, shuttles, touts, souvenir vendors, the whole crowd is there, and everyone is trying hard to grab your attention but none of them is the one you’re looking for. No problem you think, in this age of technology I should just check out my phone, login the airport Wi-Fi and contact the hotel to see what’s the hold up.

Wait, Wi-Fi? Not a thing in La Aurora airport’s arrival area. Fear not, there is Wi-Fi nearby, we’ll explain to you below how to reach it. Now here’s your dilemma: there are plenty of options, plenty of ways to get from Guatemala City airport to Antigua, but how to choose properly when traveling on a budget? What is the cheapest way to reach Antigua? Which way is fastest? Is Guatemala City safe? Read on for our in-depth analysis of your transport options.

First off, many people would advise you to head straight to Antigua. Despite being the country’s capital and hosting a wealth of interesting museums, Guatemala City has a bad reputation. Tourists and locals alike dread roaming its streets after dark. Gang violence is omnipresent, and the police are clearly overwhelmed and outnumbered. This is why most tourists prefer to head straight to the beautiful colonial city of Antigua Guatemala (Literally, Old Guatemala in Spanish). If you land at night, evening, or even late afternoon, you shouldn’t try to make your way from Guatemala City airport to Antigua using public transport.

We’ll also cover in details how to get to Antigua by chicken bus. We have included a couple of maps of the area with the exact bus stops and the cost of chicken bus to Antigua.

But you said there was Wi-Fi

Check-in area at La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City
Check-in area at La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City

Despite a lack of dedicated Wi-Fi in the Guatemala City La Aurora International Airport’s arrival area, there is Wi-Fi in the airport in two other areas. The first one is the simplest to get, but it isn’t always available. Restaurants found to the left and the right of the arrival lobby can provide you with a much-needed internet fix. This is new in 2019. Before that, you needed to exit the airport and get back inside to use the Wi-Fi and plan your route from Guatemala City to Antigua. Keep in mind, however, that these restaurants are not 24/7. On our first time in the airport, we couldn’t access the restaurants and had to find an alternative.

There is another Wi-Fi shrine you can access. To reach it can be tricky. When you get to the arrivals lobby, you need to exit the airport. When you exit, there is a small road filled with taxis and cars waiting to pick up people. Across the road is a concrete interior parking lot. Enter it by the biggest door, located in the center, and make your way up. Either take an elevator, located on your right shortly after entering but often not working, or walk up the ramp on your left to the top floor. Don’t worry, it’s really not that high. When you exit, you’ll be presented by almost exactly the same scene.

Welcome to the departures level. Cars, taxis, and shuttles drop people off to leave the airport. Wi-Fi is inside that part of the terminal. The entrance is guarded by a few security people who will probably ask where you are going. To get in, make up an excuse. The one I generally use is the currency exchange office located inside. In Spanish, you can say “necesito cambiar dinero”, meaning you need to change some money. Walk in and head straight for the Currency Exchange counter. Behind it, you should be able to get some slow but free Wi-Fi and an ATM. Head up the stairs to the fast-food kiosks if the connection is giving you trouble. Keep in mind the connection time is limited so do your business quickly.

Tip: Be sure to have the proper maps of the area before you head out!

Is there an ATM in Guatemala City airport?

The answer is yes, but barely. To our knowledge, there is only one ATM in the whole airport. The precious machine (Cajero) is inconveniently located in the departures level, directly behind the Currency Exchange office. Follow our steps for Wi-Fi to find it. We needed to use the Guatemala City airport ATM three times and it worked for us, but some people report it’s not the most reliable. Keep in mind it will likely charge you a Q40 withdrawal fee. Despite rumors claiming that some banks do not charge fees for using ATMs in Guatemala, every Guatemalan ATM we’ve used has fees, generally between Q40-43. Dirt Cheap Trick: Do not change money directly at the Currency Exchange, the airports always give the worst rate.

Spending the night in Guatemala City

The clean, modern dorms at Kaena Point Hostel.

This is where you have to make a choice. If some time has passed and you have less than three hours of daytime ahead, we strongly advise against taking public transport to Antigua– just stay in the capital for the night. That’s what happened to us our first time. After everything we’d heard about the city, the prospect of walking around town after landing at midnight wasn’t enticing. Looking at Google Maps, it’s also not very clear that there are any hotels near La Aurora airport that you can safely walk to. Areas surrounding the airport have a bad reputation, and Guatemala City is no different.

While we generally like to walk into hotels and check it out for ourselves, we make exceptions for special situations and this was clearly one of them. After some research on booking.com, we found a hostel that was away from downtown, well reviewed and cheaper than all others. There has to be a catch, right? Well, the only one we could find was that free breakfast ended before we left our beds, around 10am. Can’t really blame them.

The name is Kaena Point Hostel and we can’t recommend it enough. Dorms were clean, a too-rare feat in Guatemala, and they even converted into a private room for us without asking! Common spaces were pleasant and well decorated, food was very good and the neighborhood is ideal: quiet, safe, very close to the Transmetro bus system and a bank with a safe ATM.

Even after all this, the manager Axel is the reason we’re so happy to recommend the place. When he personally came to pick us up, we were in the wrong area and since it was past midnight, he went back home to sleep, thinking we hadn’t shown up. When contacted over WhatsApp, he promptly sent us an Uber to get us to the hostel! Kaena Point’s airport shuttles are often free, otherwise affordable around 30Q.

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How to get from Guatemala City airport to Antigua

So, it’s daytime and you’re ready to get your trip underway. Which mode of transport should you choose to get from Guatemala City airport to Antigua? It depends on your time schedule and how much you are willing to spend. Each mode has its pros and cons, and prices range from expensive to dirt cheap so read on to decide which is best for you.

Ways to get from Guatemala City airport to Antigua

  • Private airport pickup
  • Taxi
  • Uber/Lyft
  • Shared shuttle
  • Rental car
  • Chicken bus (our favorite)

Private airport pickup

The price for a private airport pickup in Guatemala goes up to $70 (Q540).
Many tour companies, Spanish schools and hotels in Antigua are willing to book private transport from Guatemala City airport to Antigua for you. Unfortunately, the prices vary widely between companies. We have seen the price as low as $20, but it is usually closer to $40 and some higher-end locations happily charge up to $70. This is clearly not the budget-friendly method. At $70, you could stay five nights in a cheap hotel for two. This is not a good value. Additional fees for waiting time and late hours are possible.

Taxi

The price of a Taxi from Guatemala City to Antigua is between $30 and $45 (Q230-345).
Want to get out ASAP? Try a taxi. There are almost always taxis waiting outside of the airport, so no worries if you haven’t planned transport in advance. After 11pm prices may rise further. You can arrange taxi pickups from your Antigua hotel, for about the same price. Taxis are one of the most expensive way to get from Guatemala City airport to Antigua, but they are quick, safe and get you exactly where you want to go. Be sure to bargain between different drivers to get a fair price.

Uber/Lyft

The price of taking a Uber or Lyft from Guatemala City to Antigua is between $20 and $35 (Q154-270).
Uber and Lyft have recently become popular in Guatemala, and using Guatemala City airport’s free Wi-Fi you can hail one from your phone right away. This will work best if you already have Uber and Lyft accounts, so plan ahead as they otherwise ask for a phone number confirmation. You can check fare estimates on Uber’s site but beware of deceptive price surges.

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Shared shuttle

The price of shared shuttles between Guatemala City airport to Antigua is between $10 and $25 (Q77-192).
Shared shuttles are much cheaper than private transport, and there are often shuttles waiting outside, although you may have to wait for your shuttle to fill up. If you are interested in going this route, check your flight arrival time, as shuttles will be harder to get after 8pm. Shared shuttles can also be arranged in advance by your hostel or a tour company.

Rental Car

The price to rent a car to drive from Guatemala City to Antigua is $20 plus gas and fees.
Have you ever driven in Central America? Between 40-years-old school buses racing against the traffic, herds of grazing animals crossing the highway and slow-moving scooters, it’s pretty hard to understand where your prized rental car fits in the ecosystem. The minimum age for a rental is 25 years old and this comes without mandatory insurance. Keep in mind, even if the agency is reputable in your home country, in Guatemala many have a reputation of finding a way to charge you for some imaginary damage on the vehicle.

Hertz is reputable and well known, but they are on the pricier side ($30/day min). Guatemala Renta Autos is also pricier (starting at $35/day) but likewise popular. At the time of research in 2019, Budget was the cheapest rental car in Guatemala. Search engines like Kayak and Expedia can help you find cheap cars, but check out reviews on TripAdvisor before you choose your company. Again, be very careful and wary of overpricing.

Chicken Bus

The price of a chicken bus from Guatemala City to Antigua is $1.4 (Q10).
If you’re like us, this is the option you want to take. Taking a chicken bus to get from Guatemala City airport to Antigua is by far the cheapest mode of transport. It is also a true cultural experience and a great way to get started in Guatemala.

Is it safe to take a chicken bus from Guatemala City to Antigua? 

Truth is, it depends. If you’re going from Antigua to Guatemala City downtown, totally. If going from La Aurora airport to Antigua, we advise doing it only during broad daylight. Pickpockets are likely your biggest enemies but be acutely aware of your surroundings and don’t linger too much.

Once you reach the chicken bus, you can consider the driver and his ayudante (attendant) to be on your side. Just be sure they’re who they claim to be before you hand off your luggage to put on the roof! If your bag is small enough, you may also put it on your lap during transport but expect to pay extra if three passengers cannot fit on the small seat.

Be sure to read our article on chicken bus safety in Guatemala, it can go ways in keeping you safe.

Where do I take a chicken bus from Guatemala City to Antigua?

To take a chicken bus from La Aurora International Airport to Antigua, you must first understand that they do not depart from the airport but from a nearby area called El Trebol. It’s a junction of major highways and the blue chicken buses that go to Antigua are on a side street.

How to get to El Trebol

To get to El Trebol, you need to exit the airport, head out either straight on a bridge or left out of the parking lot and reach this road. Once you reach it, head out to your right and there will be a small bus stop. Wait there, old red buses #84 come every 15 minutes. On board, the cost is 1Q and be sure to sit in the back if you can, for your safety. We strongly suggest downloading offline maps of the region via an app like Google Maps or Maps.me. If nothing else a least have a paper map. Most people are familiar with Google Maps, so we used this app to make our maps for this article.

Airport to El Trebol
Head out of the airport and take the red bus #84 to El Trebol.

Stay on the bus until it reaches near this area where everybody normally gets off.

When you get off, head straight for a couple blocks towards El Trebol. You will need to take a few bridges that cross over the highways to get towards the chicken bus heading to Antigua. This shouldn’t take more than 5-10 minutes. Zip your pockets and don’t linger! If needed, ask city officials in uniform for directions, they have always been very friendly to us.

When you get closer to the line of buses, look for the blue one. The ayudante will be yelling “Antigua!” and if not, ask around and you’ll be pointed to the right bus. As with the red bus, sit near the back. The cost will be Q10 and will be collected after the bus has left Guatemala City. Use exact change if you want to be sure to have a fair price.

El Trebol Map
Walk from bus #84 to the blue buses that go to Antigua.

Don’t forget…

Be sure to keep in mind that El Trebol is considered a risky area for everyone, particularly tourists. Not everyone is a crook, but don’t be too trusting of anyone who tries to talk with you. Walk purposefully and quickly, like you know where you’re going. Don’t stop near public phones or secluded streets. There are usually a lot of policemen around, especially near the Antigua chicken bus stop.

The nice thing about catching the bus in Guatemala is that this is where the bus starts, so you’re almost guaranteed a seat and space to put your bag in the rack above the seat if it’s not too big. If you didn’t pack light, expect your bag to be attached to the roof, ironically one of the safer if terrifying places for it to be.

It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to drive to Antigua, depending on traffic. It is in the driver’s best interest to collect as many people possible, so there will be frequent quick stops to pick up people until you get out of the city.

Welcome to Antigua

You’ve arrived, the bus has stopped, and the passengers are dispersing. Antigua bus terminal can be a bit chaotic, so this is another time to pull out your phone map. Luckily, the bus terminal shows up on all offline map apps we know. From the terminal walk east to the main street called Alameda de Santa Lucia. Whew! You made it! From here simply head to your hostel, which is probably within walking distance. If not, hail a tuk tuk, you’ll see one within seconds. Prices for tuk tuk should never be more than Q10 and Q5 is totally possible if you know to bargain. Agree on price before hopping on.

Map of Antigua bus terminal
From the bus terminal it’s easy to walk almost anywhere in Antigua, but the tourist hub is around Parque Central.

A note on lodging in Antigua…

In general, the farther from Parque Central you are, the better deal you’ll get on a hostel. Thankfully, there are many to choose from! Check out our tried and true guide to finding cheap lodging to easily score great prices. Expect to pay $6-10.5 (Q45-80) for a basic dorm with separate bathroom. For most of Guatemala any dorm above Q60 is way too much, but Antigua is in one of the most expensive Guatemalan cities. Hostel World and Booking are good places to start looking for the best prices. There are way too many hotels in town and bargaining is within reach.

Woohoo! You made it from Guatemala City airport to Antigua!

See? It wasn’t so bad, even for us thrifty travelers. Have any of you readers taken a chicken bus from the airport to Antigua? Have you gotten better deals on the other transport modes we listed? Let us know in the comments below! We are constantly updating to give you the most accurate information possible.

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