There are many ways to travel from Guatemala City Airport to Antigua. You can take Uber, hire a private car, take a taxi, rent a car, or hop on a local bus (which you might sometimes hear people refer to as “chicken buses”). I wouldn’t recommend any of these.
In this post, I’ll talk about a few of the options you have to get to Antigua. At the end, I’ll share with you what I think is a new best way to get from La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City to Antigua that saves you money and allows you to ride in comfort.
Distance from Guatemala City to Antigua
Antigua is about 40 km from Guatemala City. So you’d think that it would take less than an hour to get there. That’s not always the case.
Traffic on the route from Guatemala City to Antigua varies widely. You should plan on at least 1 hour in good traffic and as many as 3 hours during a bad rush hour. When I made the trip recently, it took 3 solid hours to get to Antigua because of weekend traffic.
And the mode of transport you choose really makes no difference. So you have to ask yourself a few questions:
Do you want to be stuck in a car for up to three hours with a driver who probably doesn’t speak anything other than Spanish (assuming you don’t speak Spanish, of course)? Will you enjoy spending up to three hours stuck in traffic? Are you prepared to spend this much time in a crowded shuttle or a public bus that is almost certainly not air-conditioned?
Personally, none of that appeals to me. You should also consider how much you are prepared to pay and the level of comfort you want.
7 ways get from Guatemala City to Antigua
- Private driver
- Public Bus
- Rent a car
- Shared Shuttle
- El C.A. Express
Here’s how each stacks up.
1. Uber from Guatemala City Airport to Antigua
An Uber will set you back at least 175 GTQ (about $23 USD). And that’s for a normal trip in good traffic. I’ve seen it go a bit cheaper, but it’s honestly way out of the norm.
While Uber works well in Guatemala, I’d only recommend this option if you know the traffic is going to be good.
If traffic is awful, expect the price to be much, much higher than this.
Note: You’ll need cellular data to book an Uber, obviously, so consider that if this is how you want to go. If you have an unlocked phone, you can buy a SIM card from a kiosk at Guatemala City Airport.
2. Taxi to Antigua from Guatemala City
A taxi from Guatemala City to Antigua will be around $35. That’s a lot of money – especially if you are on a tight budget.
And, you’ll very likely ride in a small car with a driver who cannot communicate with you unless you know Spanish. You might not have air conditioning, either.
Like Uber, I’d only recommend a taxi if you know the traffic isn’t going to be bad. And trust me, in Guatemala, you can’t know this.
That’s the downside. It used to be that you’d have to go outside the airport and haggle out a price with a taxi driver and hope you don’t get screwed.
Not anymore. Now, you pay in advance for the destination you want to go to. Just go to the taxi stand inside the airport. You’ll pay and they’ll hand you a slip. Give that slip to your driver and you’re on your way.
It seems much safer than the alternative.
3. Private driver
Much like an Uber or taxi, you’ll likely be in a small car all the way. You can usually find drivers in Facebook groups and such. But you may not know exactly what you’re getting until the person shows up.
It’s still not the way I’d go because I don’t think it’s safe, but it’s much better than this:
4. Public bus or “chicken bus”
More adventurous people, like budget backpackers, may consider taking the so-called “chicken bus” from Guatemala City to Antigua because it’s so cheap.
Local buses are usually colorful, modified American school buses that transport people between various towns in Central America.
Why are they called “Chicken buses”? From Wikipedia:
The word “chicken” may refer to the fact that the buses are often crammed with passengers not unlike a truck load of chickens, or to the fact that Central Americans occasionally transport live animals on such buses – a practice that visitors from other countries often find remarkable.Wikipedia – Chicken Bus
While they are quite common in Guatemala, I don’t recommend the chicken bus to Antigua at all. I don’t want to tarnish anyone based on third-hand stories, but I’ve heard a lot of these third-hand stories about petty crime on chicken buses, and even major crimes, to strongly recommend against using them.
Plus, they are crowded and hot. Even without the crime, they are not really that appealing. Even though they are super cheap, they’re simply not worth the risk to me. If you do decide to risk it and take a chicken bus in Guatemala, be sure that at the very least:
- You speak Spanish well.
- You are already very familiar with the buses, customs, and people.
5. Rent a car and drive to Antigua
Renting a car for a week in Guatemala is actually kind of cheap. I’ve seen weekly deals as low as $50 with unlimited usage. And that’s great if you are used to driving in Guatemala or other places in Latin America. But if you’re not, avoid renting a car to get from Guatemala City to Antigua.
First, it takes a lot of experience to drive around all the craziness you’ll encounter here. Second, gas is not cheap. It’s about $3.60/gallon (yes, they use gallons here). Third, you may not even use the car once you get to Antigua because most excursions include transportation.
6. Shared Shuttle to Antigua
Most people who travel from the airport to Antigua book a shared shuttle. It’s a small bus or van that meets you at the airport. They cost about $10-15 each and are a good way to make the trip.
You can book one on GuateGo.
Keep in mind that a crowded shuttle is still going to be a bit uncomfortable if your 1-hour ride turns into three.
7. Take the El C.A. Express bus
Speaking of shared shuttles, I’d like to suggest one in particular that I used on a recent trip to Guatemala…
If you prefer something a bit more spacious, fairly inexpensive, with experienced drivers who’ll get you from Guatemala Airport to Antigua safely, this is your best bet.
It’s called El C.A. Express. The company started at the beginning of 2019 with the vision of providing a comfortable trip that would allow customers to have a great, environmentally-friendly experience on their way to Antigua from Guatemala City.
I booked my trip with El C.A. Express in May of 2019 – just 14 weeks after they started operating. It was about $15 each way.
Why you should use El C.A. Express?
There are a few good reasons why you should use El C.A. Express to get you from Guatemala City Airport to Antigua and back.
1. El C.A. Express is reliable
El C.A. Express guarantees pick-up times from Guatemala City and Antigua. They’re easy to find in both places. At the airport, you’ll find them behind the Toucan Coffee shop. In Antigua, they drop off and pick up at a parking station 200m (600ft) from the entrance of Antigua right in front of the Shell gas station.
Unfortunately, no one can guarantee drop off times, so you should never have solid plans in either Antigua or Guatemala City within 3 hours of any trip – no matter what type of transportation you take.
2. The C.A. Express Bus is comfortable
My ride from Guatemala City to Antigua took place in awful traffic. What should have been a 1-1.5 hour trip turned into 3 because of several traffic incidents along the route.
The bus has comfortable seats, with seat belts, and is quite spacious. My seat even had a table where I could plug my laptop in, connect to the onboard WiFi, and get some work done. This made the 3-hour journey a lot more pleasant than it might otherwise have been
Can you imagine being stuck in a taxi, squeezed into a shuttle, or driving by yourself for three hours?
3. The bus is cashless
On the ride from Guatemala City to Antigua, I didn’t notice anything that looked particularly dangerous. Still, El C.A. Express operates a cashless business, partly for safety reasons.
If there’s no cash on board, there’s nothing to steal, right? Credit and debit cards only.
4. El C.A. Express has great amenities
This is where El C.A. Express really shines, in my opinion. Not only are you getting a ride to the airport on a comfortable bus that is not overcrowded, but you’re also getting extras that you simply won’t get anywhere else.
Here are some of the amenities aboard El C.A. Express:
The WiFi was easy to connect to and, although not super fast, it was faster than I expected it to be.
Every seat has a couple of plugs (U.S./Canada style). So your laptop or phone won’t run out of juice no matter how long the trip takes.
Oh, and that plug is partly-powered by solar panels on the roof of the bus!
Drinks and snacks
Want a beer or two or three? How about a snack? El C.A. Express has a pretty good selection of drinks and snacks at the “bar” on board.
No outside food though: They also have a rule that you may not consume outside snacks or drinks (except water) on board.
Since El C.A. Express makes part of its money from the sale of snacks and drinks, I understand the policy. There is a $10 fee if you bring your own food and drinks on board.
Work tables on El C.A. Express
My intention was to work the entire time on my Guatemala City to Antigua trip. But I found I was enjoying the scenery and the hustle and bustle of the traffic so much that I didn’t do a thing.
But if you want to work, they’ve got you covered.
Several seats on the bus include a table where you can easily set up your laptop. Combined with the free WiFi and the handy power outlets, it’s easy to get work done on this bus.
Downsides to El C.A. Express
Yes, even the best things sometimes have a couple of downsides.
Obviously, I recommend El C.A. Express bus for your trip from Guatemala City to Antigua and vice versa. I thought it was comfortable and the staff was very friendly.
If I could make one change, it would be the drop-off point in Antigua. You’ll be a little outside the city center and will have to either walk for 25 minutes or take an Uber or taxi – adding to your cost.
If the bus stopped in the main square in Antigua, it would make a world of difference – especially since most people won’t be familiar with the drop-off area. Central Plaza in Antigua is also the place that most people will be looking for and navigating from, day-to-day.
The bus doesn’t have a toilet either. And that wouldn’t be a problem, normally, because the trip usually isn’t too long. However, we were caught in horrible traffic. After spending three hours on the bus and having a couple of beers, a toilet (or a stop) would have been nice.
Otherwise, I heartily recommend this bus for your trip from Antigua to Guatemala City or vice versa.
Very soon, El C.A. Express will offer service to:
- Lake Atitlan
- El Paredon
- Chichicastenango Market
Keep an eye on the El C.A. Express Web site for these routes.
A new bus
Admittedly, I’ve not taken this one. But they now have a smaller bus and it looks perfect for those trips where there are not a lot of people!
This is not a sponsored post. I paid for the ticket and was not compensated for this review. The photos of the El C.A. Express buses used here were provided by the company. Unfortunately, I was going to take photos on the way back, but circumstances prevented me from making the return trip. All photos used with permission and the company retains copyright.
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Michael is originally from Canada but now resides in Atlanta, GA with his husband, Halef, who also writes here. He is a Couchsurfing expert. Michael has traveled to over 50 countries learning how to experience more for less as he travels.