Located at an altitude of 1500 meters, it has a comfortable temperature. Recent effors on the part of the government, particularly in re-development of the central core, is turning it into a first class city.
Wikipedia offers more information on the city. The city has a sophisticated web site in Spanish.
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Like many cities, lots of businesses have moved to suburbia letting the core of the city decay. Guatemala is no exception. For example, the up-scale business section is in Zona (zone) 10.
At this time, the government is putting a lot of effort into rejuvination of the core areas (Zona 1 and 4). These two areas seem like where opportunities lie.
One navigation method is to use Google Maps. For example, my cell phone can load maps using a 3G connection and coordinate with the built-in GPS. But, this can be expensive with the data charges.
I just found an interesting alternative for an Android phone. Unfortunately, it is not available for download where I am but I figured it was worth mentioning. This particular one is a Guatemala City Street Map that you buy and download. It's cheap and looks like a win.
Public transport in Guatemala City is pretty decent. There are lots of taxis which are relatively cheap. Typical trips then to be in the 30 to 70 Quetazal range (currently there are about eight Quetzales to the US dollar). The most expensive taxi ride going is to have a cab pre-requested to pick you up at the airport and take you to your hotel. That fee is $15.
The real bargin are the buses. They come in three kinds easily identified by their three colors
- Green buses are the one you are going to care about. They have limited stations with special raised platforms and run fixed routes. The design is all about safety but the other benefit is they are the cheapest option. Q1 per trip, exact change put into a "machine" instead of the hand of a human. See the Transmetro site for a route map.
- Red buses are the old, broken down buses that cost more Q1.25 and are considered the best way to get robbed. Everyone says to avoid them.
- Blue buses which are card activated. That is, you buy a pass (somewhere) and enter it into the turnstyle on the bus to gain access.
The good news is that there are lots of places to eat in Guatemala City that are locally owned and generally interesting. For example, Bambú on the pedestrian mall (6th Avenue), while buried among McD's and BKs, has real Chinese food. Clearly family run and that family speaks Chinese. But, what if you are in the suburbs?
While this is not an extensive survey, I have found Wendy's to be the best alternative. While the bigger chains try to offer typical American fast food Wendy's, at least for breakfast, offers a local typical option. That's eggs, sausage, beans, fried platanos, cheese, sour cream and coffee. When I said "hold the dead animals" I was asked if I wanted extra beans or extra platanos. It was not bad other than you get a biscut instead of tortillas but free internet was a bonus to make up for that.
For anything other than breakfast, expect most things to be chicken plus something, most anywhere. If you are vegetarian, the one place with an option is Taco Bell.