Renting a car in Guatemala

DSCN1995.JPG

This is the ferry out of Monterrico on the way up to the museum in Estanzuela. Our little rental car, they put two hunks of wood where the tires go and you drive on, very low tech.  Renting a car in Guatemala is not a big deal. If you have a credit card for insurance for damage to the car and liability insurance for any damage done to anything else it is inexpensive as well. The catch is you must bring copies of the insurance declaration pages to prove your coverage.  You can call or email the credit card company and they will email you proof of coverage.  It is simple fast and free. Print up the page and bring it with a copy of the page showing liability insurance and the car should run between $10 and $15 per day, less by the week of course. We have rented cars in Guatemala from Payless, World and Alamo.  I think this car was $210 for 21 days, 3 weeks.

I have had great service from Alamo. I think Beatrice is the manager and when we first rented from them, she noted we had rented at Payless and World and said she would earn our repeat business, and she has. We have rented from them several times now 5-6? Once in Antigua someone broke our car window and stole the battery. We never leave anything in the car so there was nothing else to steal. We called Alamo and went to breakfast, when we got back to the car maybe 45 minutes to an hour later, someone from Alamo was waiting for us! We felt bad he was waiting on us, I never expected they would be so fast.

They had a new car for us, pulled our dead car onto a trailer and went with the dead car leaving us with a new car and maybe an hour of inconvenience.  Which since we were eating breakfast the only real inconvenience was walking to a local eatery instead of going to Valhalla for macadamia nut pancakes! My mom was there and when we went to her hotel to get her said, “I thought your car was silver”? It was now we have a gold one.  When we returned the car the bill for the new window, battery and towing was added onto the credit card. I think it ran about $300 (which is more than the car rental for 2 weeks) I submit pictures and the bill to the credit card company by email and received a check for the $300 (or what ever it was) in under 2 weeks. I must say it was pretty simple and painless.

One of many cars we have rented in Guatemala the one they broke the window to open the door and steal the battery.DSCN3859

I prefer a car with a trunk so when we are between hotels and have luggage or other things that scream TOURIST they can be unseen in the trunk as opposed to in the hatchback area with a window.  I also generally pay a tad more for an automatic transmission. Tony can drive anything (and anywhere!!!) but it is easier and more relaxing to not have to be shifting on hills. Guatemala is ALL hills. I never drive. I tease my driving makes Tony sick but he gets carsick when he is not driving.  We never drive at night in areas we do not know, we stop for breakfast, lunch, dinner or tweensies. We stop to look at any random thing that strikes our fancy or just to stretch Tony has a bad back and while vacationing the rule for the day is relax and have fun. This was a great trip and as always I would love to be there now!

Advertisements

Antigua Guatemala massages!

IMG_20171019_180206887Antigua is a nice place to vacation or live as en ex-pat. It’s called the “Land of Eternal Spring” and is generally in the 70s year round.  It is about twelve blocks square so walkable for many people and tuk tuks abound. For our non Guatemalan friends a tuk tuk is a small three wheeled “car” it has a seat next to the driver and three people can fit in the back seat, by my standards. That said you will see tuk tuks with a dozen people in them and cargo on top.  They cruise around most towns in Guatemala offering rides. It is generally 5Q for a local or 10Q for a tourist. As with all prices in Guatemala it’s negotiable.

Antigua is an International city with many fine restaurants, tripadvisor.com is a great resource. I have created pages for places, that are good, to enable people to find them.  You can sort by ranking and start at your hotel or airbnb.com place and see what is close.

DSCN3867

I like Antigua. Everything is there and handy. When we are in Guatemala I like to get a massage every week. Palacio Relax 7832- 3895 is a good spot for a massage Lakshmi Wellness Center massage 225Q, Call 5844 4103. Massages Antigua is a massage therapist that comes to your home or hotel 3134- 7752 $35 for 60 mins $45 for 90,  check on facebook or  MassagesAntigua@gmail.com. Prana Holistic Center 4980-9077 is having an October sale , El Reposo Spa 7832- 8106, Healing Hands Therapy Spa 7832-1648, Antigua Oasis Spa and Aroma 7832- 3045, looks like a good place as well, I will be testing more out, next week.

An hour massage is usually around $35 some places are more or less and for Oct 2017 Prana has your age as a discount up to 45= 45% off, which was the max. Awesome deal.  Palacio Chino Juli & Beti are great, the therapeutic massage is 180Q for 60 minutes which is about $25 at today’s exchange rate. The place across from the front of the big grocery store, I can not think of the name, is 150Q for an hour massage. One of the ladies was a great masseuse the other not so much, go for the taller woman with long hair.  She used what felt like a little rolling pin to get the knots out of my back.

We had 5 massages during a thirteen day trip. My knots were about gone. El Conquistador hotel has massages available and a spa. In San Juan la Laguna we asked Xwuuan at Posada Maya Mana and he called a friend Francisco a physical therapist who came by after work. He turned out to be a great masseuse and taught my husband some new back exercises for his aching back. Xwuuan stoked a fire in the Tay Mezcal (Mayan Sauna) a great way to relax.   I am, as always, ready to go back.

 

 

Guatemala Pensinado Residency

I don’t know why exactly but I wanted another passport. I have researched quite a bit and decided Guatemala was for me. In order to qualify for Pensinado status in Guatemala you must have an income of $1000 per month for one person and an additional $200 for each additional dependent. You must have a clear criminal record and that is about it.  In order to apply for pensinado status the documents you bring to Guatemala to have translated to bring to the immigration office must be notarized and appostilled.  A copy of a statement from your local Police department, I ordered ours from the Oregon State Police for $10, A Social Security Benefit statement or a statement from any company that pays you whether rental or dividend income should suffice.

The most important detail is, the names must match exactly. Your passport has your full first, middle and last name so all of the other documents must as well. If not you, like I will have to pay a lawyer to create a document that states all of the aliases used are the same person and are used without nefarious intent. That was the most expensive paper I needed. When you request your police report and income statement put your name in full to match your passport on each one. Once you have those documents take them to be notarized, then take or mail them to the Secretary of State in your state for Apostille, in Oregon that was $10 per page.  Once they are Aposilled take or mail them to the Consulate of Guatemala for authentication. That was also $10 per page. Once the Consulate has applied their odd little metal rings deal, you now have valid International Documents.  Make copies of everything for your records. You will need to bring those documents to Guatemala. They will need to be in a purple folder you can buy one in the states or in Guatemala. You also need two black and white passport photos.

Once in Guatemala you will need to find a translator to translate all your International Documents. There are several in front of the immigration office in the morning. You can ask them what it will cost, usually not much. Your documents will need to go to the Office of Foreign Nationals for Pasos de Lay odd little stickers. Maria’s office next to the Immigration Office can get that done for you, if you get it to her early enough she will get it back the next day.  You can bring them in and drop them off yourself if you prefer. Maria can have translations done, she has purple folders and she can handle the entire process for you, if you prefer for about $500. You will need to go to the American Embassy and pay them $50 to authenticate your passport. Drop it off in the morning and it is done later that day. Once you have the papers all authenticated with pasos de lay and in a purple folder you are ready to bring it to the Immigration Office. You will need an address with either a rental agreement or a light or phone bill in your name.  Go early it will take a while. I would go grab a number and then go to Blanca and Alfi’s for breakfast, eat have coffee and your number will be called sooner or later.

Once your paperwork is accepted the five years until you can apply for citizenship and a passport begins counting. We flew back to pick up the paperwork and make an appointment for the interview and photograph. Then it is a few more papers to RENAP for registry. My husbands was done in the RENAP in Guatemala City. Mine in Antigua which has less of a line to wait in. According to my reading of the rules if you stay out of Guatemala for a full year without a good reason, you can lose your residency and have to do it over. We are there as often as we can be but the same two weeks every year would fulfill the letter of the law. Pensinado status is free, there is no fee to apply and a lawyer is not necessary. So it can be very inexpensive for a 2nd passport.  Guatemala allows dual citizenship. The USA has only done so since 1986, prior to 1986 if you received another citizenship your American citizenship was revoked automatically. People who were adopted as children by step parents out of the USA had their citizenship terminated by their parents.

I think we have about $200 into our residency paperwork not counting airfare and hotels. I am a mileage point addict so our airfare is generally very cheap. About $60 per round trip ticket per person. Guatemala is a gun friendly country and my favorite hotel has a gun range for target practice. It is a free country with far less restrictions on everything.  I love Guatemala and can not wait to be there long term.

My husbands father was born in Mexico so my husband was a Mexican citizen at birth but if we had it recognized his American citizenship would have been revoked.  After the law was changed and the USA allowed dual citizenship we began the process to get his Mexican citizenship recognized. I followed many of the above steps Appostille etc and we were not successful. We tried at consulates and in Mexico City at the main registrars office. The BIG problem was my husbands fathers name was “Herman” spelled in Spanish by his Mexican parents on his birth certificate German, as is proper. My husbands American mom spelled it Herman on my husbands birth certificate as is proper in English.  By the time we got that far both my husbands mom and dad were deceased.  A statement from them to correct things would have done it. Fast forward to this year (2017) and when visiting a friend in Mexico he put us in contact with a lawyer/ Judge who was able to get things done somehow.  His is done, one daughters is as well and mine is next, so Guatemalan should be my third citizenship!

Feel free to ask any questions, if nothing else I can get you in touch with Maria!

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Lago Atitlan is said to be one of if not the most beautiful lake on the planet. It is very pretty. My banner is a photo I shot from a chicken bus with my phone on the way to a zip line. In the bottom right of the photo you can see San Pedro. A small town on the lake our hotel or bungalow the ChiYa is right there down on the waters edge, somewhere I can’t find it. www.hotelchi-ya.com  $30 discounts are available for longer stays.  This place is absolutely gorgeous it is a must see and a great place to learn Spanish.IMG_20131220_065002

ChiYa has nice bungalows with a kitchen, a Guatemalan shower head water heater and a deck overlooking the lake. We had private Spanish lessons and our teacher, Elmer,  was great. You can contact him via facebook he now works at Casa Rosario. He is multilingual #1 Tzutuhil  #2 Spanish https://www.facebook.com/elmermanuelc?fref=ts  He speaks English quite well which I think is important for someone who speaks no Spanish www.casarosario.com Elmer acted as our guide for doing the zip line and shopping around town. Sadly most of our photos from our first trip to Guatemala including Tikal seem to have been lost in a computer melt down. Only the ones I took with my phone were saved.

San Pedro is a great location for tourists looking to relax and learn Spanish.  Information is available online at www.tzununya.com  and  www.atitlan.com  It dropped below 75 when we were there and people were freezing. The lake has many small towns around it all with their own different flavor. I would love to have the time to stay awhile at each one.  I look forward to returning and staying a long while. Lake Atitlan Map

Our first visit we flew into Guatemala City took a chicken bus to Monterico about 5 hours. I enjoyed it practiced my Spanish and an 80 year old man slept on my shoulder for a part of the trip. We loved staying at El Delfin for 4 days then took a tourist shuttle 70Q about $10 per person to Antigua. It is easy to arrange a tourist shuttle from almost any hotel just ask at the desk. You have a reserved seat and the shuttle goes door to door, they deal with your luggage.  Tourist shuttles are great. We took first class buses to Puerto Barrios and from Rio Dulce to Flores to visit Tikal. Our next trips we rented a car, that was much nicer especially for exploring. We like to visit new areas and find places to practice Spanish. If there are people who speak English handy we lapse into it. It is too easy to speak English.

We purchased a couple of maps of Guatemala and a GPS with Guatemalan map program for it. But the best thing out there is a free phone ap. Maps.me it works great so far and once you download the maps for the area it can be used when you do not have internet or cellular on your phone.

We have stayed in Panajachel which is the gateway to everywhere on the lake by boat. Very well set for tourists. It has good places to eat and places to stay.  Plenty of info on tripadviser.com or booking.com.

I have fallen in love with San Juan la Laguna. San Juan is a darling little town, very clean with nice people. The coffee is amazing Cafe San Juan, owned by Juan Abraham is the best coffee I have ever tasted. Almas de colores has great food and serves as a training location and employment for disabled people.  Eat well and support a good cause, what could be better. We last stayed at Posada Maya Mana we found it on airbnb.com. Xuuwan was a great host, the place was very convenient and the kitchen well stocked.  Only issue was there was no shower curtain and the shower head is VERY high. The bathroom floor gets wet and stayed that way the entire time we were there.

The road in to Santa Clara is good, beyond there it gets very bad. Santa Clara is supposed to be tops for baskets. I have bought a few nice ones for my garden produce at really great prices. I was underwhelmed with the basket selection at Santa Clara la Laguna but maybe because I have not made it on market day? I bought my favorite basket in a little mercado on the dirt road south of Rabbinal. An older looking woman was making them and I think I paid 30Q for it. I wish I bought 10! Getting things home is the hardest part. There is a great basket place in the market area past the vegetable section in Antigua. It is a good idea to bring your suitcase with you to see if it will fit when you buy it. They look smaller in the store. I was able to return the big one that would not fit in my suitcase and get 2 that stacked I could get home.

I generally never check a bag. I have the perfect 22 x 14 x 9 carry on. It was part of a set we bought for one daughter when she turned 18. She was flying to Korea for modeling jobs. This suitcase had been around the World with our daughter for over a decade. Her boyfriend (now ex) got her a very cute suitcase, but not as tough. This suitcase has been with me to Guatemala at least 8 times and Mexico at least 3. I can’t count all the domestic trips this thing has stood up to for me over the last seven years. You read that right this old suitcase is seventeen almost eighteen years old and still going strong. I bought the set for $99 at Office Depot in Eugene OR.  “Signature Collection” is all it says. It fits exactly in the overhead bin of the little planes that fly out of Eugene OR. Unless I forget to move my cream container and liquids out of the little outside pocket where I put it to get through the Toothpaste Stealing Authority. TSA what a waste of money. I really dislike them. I have had my drivers license disappeared by them and while traveling with a wheelchair and crutches set off the bomb detection, twice.

Looking forward to returning to San Juan soon.

 

 

Guatemala Trip List

I always seem to forget things when I pack for Guatemala. I am trying to get a “kit” together so I don’t forget things. This time the two important things we forgot were #1 Sunscreen. How can I forget sun tan lotion when one of the reasons I want to go to Guatemala is to get some sun? I have to wonder at it but I have not ever (yet) remembered to bring sun tan lotion with me.  #2 The AC inverter plug for our car ice chest. It was thrown in our big plug in ice chest we use for grocery shopping, which is where it lives. I really missed it on this trip and with this list I hope to never forget these items again. It seems life is so hectic I end up throwing stuff into a suitcase the night before we fly out at dawn. We seldom check a bag, I have a 22 x 14 x 9″ carry on which is as big as you can get for a carry on and my collapsing cane fits in perfectly. I have a Republican back pack Greg ordered for the delegates when I was a delegate for Ron Paul at the RNC in Tampa in 2012. I use it all the time Thank you Greg!

If you are going into mosquito areas you will need to bring DEET and four washers and four safety pins. The DEET is obvious there are enough mosquitoes I think they could carry off an average sized person. The washers, well you see the mosquito net covered beds and if the very light weight netting touches you they will eat you right through it. A washer pinned onto each of the four sides holds it off you. I did not have anything like that when we went to Yaxchillan and ended up with maybe forty bites in a four inch area of one shoulder. I normally don’t get attacked by mosquitoes Tony is a great trap crop. They usually eat him and leave me be.  If you are going to rent a car you will need to print up the rental car benefits pages from your credit card and if you have an umbrella liability policy I’d print it up too.

Wrecking the Rental car in Guatemala

Our first trip to Guatemala we took buses. I am old and spoiled and it was not as easy as having a car. I was told no one rents a car in Guatemala, it was a bad idea. Well being too dumb to take others advice and having been told the same thing about Mexico where we have rented cars and driven over much of the country, we took our chances. Our first rental car was from Payless. It was fine but they would not allow us not to pay for the liability insurance that is required to rent a car. They said if we had a copy of our personal liability umbrella policy, we could have. I did not bring that. In order to avoid the collision damage insurance you will need to bring a copy of the credit card benefits page showing the rental car damage coverage.  The second car we rented was from World Rental Car. We were going to the airport to get a car from Antiqua Rental Car and a World employee approached us in the parking lot offering to meet the price and give us a better car. We went for it, it turned out fine. The last car was from Alamo and has been the best so far.

The liability portion of the insurance is required to rent a car. It is not covered by your credit card and most places charge $11 per day for it. Alamo charges $8 per day, which adds up over a two week rental.  I reserved the car online and for the first time ever (in a foreign country) the car was what I reserved at the price I reserved it for! Beatrice lived in Portland and has family there so she speaks English well. The problem is the phone number online and in the phone book for Alamo is wrong 502-2362-3000 is the correct number. They had a man waiting at the airport for us to fly in all morning while I was trying to contact them. Alamo online sent me the wrong number, the same one that is in the phone book. We took a hotel shuttle to the airport and found the man who had been waiting for us to get off a plane. I did not include a flight number because we were not flying in! They would have come to our hotel to pick us up, if we had the above phone number. Enterprise owns National and Alamo so they all have the same number. Payless was the one that said with the copy of our umbrella policy we could avoid the liability insurance charge. I tried it with Alamo and they did not let us skip it, it is always worth a try!

We dented the bumper on the car,  not really wrecked.DSCN3554

I was dreading what that would cost. You hear horror stories of huge bills for tiny dings.  I asked a local body shop in El Tejar what they would charge to repair it 300Q about $40. They would need to have it by 3 pm so it would have time to dry. He would need to repaint the entire bumper so it would look right.  We didn’t want to not have the car so we decided to see how it went with Alamo. Alamo took a photograph of the dent and emailed it to a local shop where they said they would fix it for $263.33. That was added onto out $223.12 for the ten days of rental. When we got home I downloaded and printed up a claim form for our credit card with copies of everything from the car rental and the above photo and sent it in. So far the process was pretty painless if I get a check in the mail for $263.33 I would say it was great! This was our American Airlines Citibank Platinum Travel card for miles and no foreign transaction fees. We got it with a 50,000 mile bonus. Our last trip to Guatemala was 70,000 miles and $122.60 for both of us round trip. It includes up to $100,000 of insurance for damage to the car worldwide, 25% discount on in-flight food and priority boarding and a free checked bag. I need one as a Visa for our return to Chiquistepeque!

Chiquistepeque Beach

On the south west coast of Guatemala south of Matzantengo are several little beaches. We made it down to Chiquistepeque Hwy. 5 driving past El Idols and Bracitos. Our GPS kept trying to get us to go get on a road. According to the GPS we were not on a road. Just on the other side of the river was the road from Matzatenengo to Tulate. We passed the turn where we would have come in from if we had gone around Lake Atitlan and stopped in Retalelu on the way which was the original plan. We were “stuck” in Guatemala City for almost a week. Highway 5 looks about 30 miles from the cut off to the beach. It took us two hours to get there. Keep in mind we were in a tiny rental car not a vehicle with some clearance for rough roads. We topped out at probably 13 MPH. We were ready to quit twice once after about an hour with no idea how much further, then we saw a sign Hamacas y Pescados. That is the name of the hotel I found a picture of the name in the bottom of a pool on someone facebook post, and where we were heading. About 35 or 40 minutes later when the road was worse we were considering turning back and a young man in a 4×4 truck pulled up asking if we were lost or needed help. He had a Hamacas y Pescado T-shirt on, he was on his way to work. We followed him the rest of the way and he gave us a tour.

DSCN3507
We made it.

This is Hamacas y Pescados they have a facebook page but that is all I have found. The VIP suite pictured above is 850 Q the photo above that shows the restaurant. It was taken from the balcony. They take Visa but not Mastercard and there is nothing resembling at ATM nearby.  As a heads up many spots in Guatemala IF they take credit cards only take Visa. They have three pools the waterslide, if you look close you can see water coming off the slide and there is water raining off the mushroom.

Our room. We would have splurged for the VIP suite and decided to do so. However, we forgot no one takes Mastercard and did not bring a Visa card. Still pouting. We spoke with the neighbors who came down on Hwy. 7, the road the GPS kept trying to get us to go to, they said it was not a good road either. It took them 2 1/2 hours from the road by Matzatenengo. Juan Carlos, the young man we followed in, lived in Matz. and he took Hwy. 5 which tells me it must be at least as fast as Hwy 7. On the way out I noticed they were building a gas station in on Hwy. 5. I think that means the road will be built sometime soon. I can’t wait to go back. Bad roads and no hot water are part of the adventure. I actually managed to shower in the not warm water, usually I spend enough time in the very warm ocean to consider myself clean enough. This time I had a bit too much sand stuck all over. I did not want in the bed and I was particularly burned. Why do I never remember sun screen? We did not find a store in “town”.

This is Chiquistepeque Tony was trying to get a picture of me in the ocean. The tiny black spot at the top center is me. The water is really warm absolutely wonderful. In the morning the water seemed to be moving from the west to east and if you look at the map you see the lake by Tulate. The water was not salty in the morning the water coming in from the river must have diluted it. In the afternoon the water was flowing in the other direction and it was salty. This is the best swimming beach I have found in Guatemala. I still have not found a hotel on a beach that has hot water. Even the hot water shower heads pet named “suicide showers” by tourists.  I think they are a great idea, why keep 50 gallons of water hot all the time and waste electricity?  I know I have a picture of one somewhere but can not find it now. It is a showerhead with two wires usually there are wire nuts above the showerhead. Sometimes there is a breaker above the shower the wires go into the box sometimes they disappear into the wall. They must be 110 as there are only 2 wires and I have never seen one with a ground wire. We will go back, someday.

DSCN3528

This was the only other place to stay we found in Chiquistepeque 350Q I didn’t see the rooms just the pools and restaurant not as nice as Hamacas but cheaper. Looked very nice and had several people there for the weekend.