Quetzaltenango Journals

Studying in Xela

A July 2005 trip to Quetzaltenango by turf2

Quote: Wander cobbled streets, sample Guatemalan and Asian food, and take advantage of some of the cheapest Spanish schools in the country, all in this colonial town nestled among the green mountains of Western Guatemala's highlands. Hot springs, volcanoes, lakes, and indigenous markets nearby make for excellent day trips out of the city.

Studying in Xela

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Overview

Quote:
Quetzaltenango, or Xela (Shay-la), as it's known by nearly everyone, including buses, is Guatemala's second-biggest city and home to over 100,000 people. Less "gringo-fied" than Antigua and safer and more managable than Guatemala City, it is many travelers' favorite spot. Though it has all the conveniences (and inconveniences) of a major city, Xela feels more like a big town - the kind of town where locals complain that their mothers always hear through the grapevine about their latest bar exploits. Xela doesn't have any great museums or famous monuments. Rather than a check-box on a tourist's list, Xela is a liveable place, despite the traffic and smog. Its excellent hotels and tour companies mak...Read More

Casa Argentina

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Hotel

Quote:
About a ten-minute walk from Parque Central, Casa Argentina is an excellent budget choice popular with backpackers and language school students. ATMOSPHERE:Casa Argentina is packed with backpackers and language students, and thus is a lively and social place. It is run by a friendly family whose rambunctious kids and their friends will gladly let you join in their soccer games. The house parrot is sure to greet you with "Hola" or "Tonto" as you pass the kitchen. ROOMS:Rooms are clean and spacious, and many have TVs. Most have two beds, and if not, the staff will gladly roll in an extra if you need it. We enjoyed clean sheets and plenty of blankets for chilly nights. Rooms on...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 6, 2005

Casa Argentina
Diagonal 12 8-37
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
761-2470

Quote:
This small hostel is quieter than Casa Argentina and a bit pricier. ROOMS: Clean rooms are centered around a sunny courtyard with a large eating area. The dorms feature single beds instead of bunks, but are a bit cramped. Private rooms are more spacious, and all have comfortable beds piled with plenty of blankets for chilly nights. BATHROOMS: There are only three shared bathrooms for the hostel, so we sometimes had to wait to use them. All were clean and had hot water. AMENITIES:Rates include breakfast and 30 minutes of Internet next door OR use of a small but well-equipped kitchen. You can use the washing machine for 10Q. Just talk to Olimpia. As well as keeping...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 6, 2005

Hostal Don Diego
6st 15 - 12 Zone 1
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
7761-6497

Quote:
Blue Angel Video Cafe is across the street from Hostal Don Diego. Popular with language students, the cafe offers cheap vegetarian food, tons of teas, and beer and cocktails. Expect crowds of gringos studying and pretending to do so at night. They show a movie in the comfortable back room each night - a schedule is posted outside. If you show up with some friends in the afternoon, they will probably let you watch whatever you want.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 6, 2005

Blue Angel Video Cafe
7a Calle
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Utz Hua

Restaurant

Quote:
Delicious Guatemalan and indigenous food in a quiet, comfortable atmosphere. The indoor thatched roof was interesting, as was the racy movie on TV and the dog that kept wandering in from the street.

The menu includes huge, cheap breakfasts, salads made with ingredients from the owners' garden, and soups that can be a meal in themselves (try the potato leek or tomato). If you want a slight variation on the menu's offerings, they'll be happy to oblige. This place is strictly a restaurant, not a bar. They have a three-beer-per-person maximum.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 6, 2005

Utz Hua
12a Ave and 3a Calle
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Comida Taiwanese

Restaurant

Quote:
This little street stall run by a friendly Taiwanese couple makes the best empanadas I've ever had. For vegetarians weary of meat-heavy menus, travelers needing a quick bite, and locals alike, the restaurant, known as "that empanada place," is an excellent choice. Relax on a plastic stool and watch your TVP (that's soy protein) filled empanadas fried right before your eyes. The homemade soy milk is excellent, as are the granizadas, icy, fruity concoctions. Everything is 2Q (about $0.25) each. Yum!

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 13, 2005

Comida Taiwanese
Corner of Calle 8 and Ave 9
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Volunteering in and around Xela

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Volunteering is a great way to step off the gringo trail, really get to really know the places you visit, and contribute a bit more than your tourist dollar. Xela and the surrounding area offer countless ways to get involved, whether your interests lie with education, kids, addiction recovery, farming, micro-business, hiking... the list goes on and on. HOW TO FIND OPPORTUNITIES: The opportunities posted on message boards at hostels and restaurants are only a small sampling of ways to volunteer. For more extensive information, pick up Entremundos, a free newsletter available at many hostels, language schools, and bookstores. EntreMundos is a networking organization started by volunte...Read More

Language School

Story/Tip

Quote:
Sure, you don't NEED to know Spanish to travel in Latin America. Charades and a few words will get you by. Like a drunk tourist told me on the beach, "you don't need grammar. They get it. Dos cervezas. Two." His wife countered that learned grammar had to do with self-respect - you feel better about yourself when you can communicate effectively. For me, though, learning Spanish was a matter of respect for the countries and people I visited. If I hoped to step into someone else's world and be welcomed, I should make an effort to be able to speak their language. Ethics and responsibility aside, you will have a richer and more fulfilling trip if you can speak some Spanish. It will also be infinitely easie...Read More

Volunteering in San Macos

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Story/Tip

Quote:
I have been volunteering during my trip through Latin America in order to experience daily life in the places I visit and to give something back to the communities that welcome me and other travelers. I share my experience here as an example of how interesting and fulfilling volunteering during travel can be. My time in San Marcos has been not just a window into real life, but a chance to participate. While the project I came to help with still hasn't started, I've learned so much and continue to be amazed by how happy people are to teach me about their lives and share their homes. Eager to learn more about sustainable agriculture and local culture, I arranged a 2-week volunteer opportuni...Read More