Auston recently traveled to Mexico and to attend the annual North American Travel Blogging Conference TBEX in Canun as well as Isla Holbox, a small island near Cancun. During the trip, and while taking a much needed break for some sun and cocktails, he met Andres on the beach of the Moon Palace Resort, the host hotel of the conference. After chatting for sometime he learned that Andres was about to embark on a 4 month trip through Latin America and jokingly suggested that he should write about his travel experiences on Two Bad Tourists. Interested to learn that a travel blogging conference was happening in his home town, Andres discovered the world of travel blogging and quickly jumped at the opportunity to be a part.
After our time in Guatemala, we were supposed to head straight back to Mexico City to catch our next flight. But we had a few days to spare and figured why not go see Belize. It was a quick 3 day trip, but well worth it. We just went to the tiny island of Caye Caulker for some sun and snorkeling. It’s not an island with beautiful beaches or anything, but the water is clear and gorgeous!
I finally have some time and a decent internet connection to tell you about our time last week at Casa Guatemala. It’s an orphanage to about 120 kids as well as a school to about an additional 130 kids from the local community. They range in age from about 3 to 14 years old and the school is preschool to 6th grade.
We stayed at Hotel Backpackers whose profits go toward helping Casa Guatemala, the orphanage. We took a 20 minute boat ride every morning at 7:30am to the orphanage and returned in the afternoon around 4:30pm. However, our first three days there we were terribly sick. Worse than in Mexico City. Auston didn’t go to the orphanage at all the first day and I had to leave early. It lasted quite a while, but we managed to feel better midweek.
While at Casa Guatemala, we were in charge of the biblioteca (library) for the week. Truly, we had no idea what we were doing. By the end of the first day, the kids had destroyed the place. Desks knocked over. Books strewn about. They climbed the shelves, tables, and I think some of them may have had spiderman like abilities to climb the ceiling. It was chaos. And we had zero control.
We spent an unforgettable weekend at an amazing natural site in Guatemala. Semuc Champey is known for beautiful turquoise pools as well as for being difficult to get to. But it’s definitely well worth the trip. Here’s a video we shot while hiking and swimming there. Pictures here!
Getting from Mexico City to Antigua is only a 28 hour endeavor on 3 buses. It’s about as luxurious and entertaining as it sounds. The first leg of the trip was a 22 hour bus ride from Mexico City to Tapachula, Mexico which is right by the Guatemalan border. If you’ve never heard of Tapachula, it’s because there’s nothing to talk about. It’s literally just a pit stop on everyone’s way to somewhere else.
But after a night there, we woke up early for our next 5 hour bus ride into Guatemala City. We were warned that this place would be nothing special. They were right. Granted we only spent 3 hours there. But we were anxious to get to Antigua. A quick one hour bus ride outside of Guatemala city.
Antigua is really nothing like I expected. In a good way. It’s a small city surrounded by a gorgeous terrain. It’s really a gem in the mountains. Actually, I believe most of the “mountains” we’re seeing are volcanoes. Not a fact I was pleased to hear. Especially since one or more of them is active. I don’t know much about volcanoes, but I know I don’t care for lava spewing down a mountainside.
Nonetheless, we certainly enjoyed hiking up one of them. We just couldn’t miss an opportunity like that. But most of our week here has been spent once again in spanish classes. Monday-Friday. 9am-12pm. One on one classes. Antigua is known for the many spanish schools here. So we should hopefully be learning a lot this week!
If you’re a broke traveler trying to get to Guatemala City from Mexico City, then you have the great fortune of crossing the boarder by land rather flying directly into the country. You’re going to want this tip because we certainly could’ve used it.
So if you’re taking a bus, it will stop upon crossing into the Guatemalan boarder from Mexico. Obviously you’ll get off and present your passport for that infamous stamp. But before you do that, you have to speak with the Mexican officials. They will want to see that form you filled out when you arrived into Mexico. That form that I unfortunately left in my bag on the bus. So don’t forget to bring it with you!
Afterwards, you’ll have to leave that building to present your passport to the Guatemalan officials at another window. It costs Q50 (Guatemala Quetzales) to get in. I would recommend doing a currency exchange in Mexico before you even head to Guatemala so you don’t have to worry about it when you get there.
But if you’re last minute like we were, you’ll have to exchange your pesos for quetzales on the spot. And you won’t like the exchange rate. Anyway, expect to be bombarded by people trying to exchange your money for you. I suggest you exchange with the Mexican officials who are wearing badges. They’re probably least likely to screw you.
Then when you go to present your passport to the Guatemalan officials, walk up to the window on your own. You will have 5+ different Guatemalans insisting that you need help. They’ll block the way to the window and take your passport to get stamped for you. But they’ll up-charge you. This totally caught us off guard and we didn’t even realize they weren’t Guatemalan officials. So we got screwed out of Q20. Which isn’t much, but still. They took some of our pride with it.
Then we saw everyone else declining their help and walking up to the window themselves. So just be sure you do the same. And just tell all the other people offering to help that you don’t need it.
So one day Auston and I were taking the train in Mexico City and we saw that it was coming so we quickly ran toward it. Auston barely made it into the train in time and the doors closed on his foot. I was right behind him but didn’t make it in. We both just stared at each other through the window and quickly gestured that we would meet at the next stop.
So I waited for the next train, found him at the next stop and we continued on our way. However, this scenario prompted us to come up with a plan should it happen again. We decided that if one person makes it on the train, he should get off at the next stop and that’s where we’ll meet since it worked out fine that first time.
And wouldn’t you know it, the same thing happened again last week while Auston’s brother Robert was visiting. All three of us tried to cram ourselves into a packed bus and once again I didn’t make it on. My backpack was getting caught in the doors and I had to step out. Luckily I found Robert and Auston waiting for me at the next bus stop!
So meeting spots aren’t just for when you’re in a crowded tourist spot. It’s also a great idea when taking public transit in a big city!
We’ve added a new page to the blog for photos! I think this will make it easier (and faster) for us to share them with everyone. The layout is still a work in progress, but you’ll be able to check out all our photos as we add them by clicking the Photos link at the top of the page.
Anyway, the first set of photos are from our trip to view some amazing Aztec ruins about an hour outside of Mexico City last Sunday with Auston’s brother Rob. He was visiting us for 9 days and taking Spanish classes with us at Frida Spanish School. Here are the pics: Teotihuacan Photos. Here you can read a little more about the ruins: Teotihuacán. Incredibly interesting place!