Not all travel agencies in Antigua are the same. They hang the same signs outside advertising great prices to all destinations Guatemalan, but be forewarned: shop around.
Shalom Travel Center (1a Calle Poniente No. 24 A) sold us a "shuttle" ticket to Coban for US$13 each. This was one of the lower prices advertised in Antigua. Victor, behind the front desk, was friendly and efficient, and our ticket for the next morning was bought with ease. But that was all very misleading. Getting to Coban was a long and tiring experience. Cheap as it was, our money was ill spent.
The next morning, we were ready to go at 8:30am, but the shuttle didn't arrive for another 40 minutes. And we were the first passengers to be picked up! So the shuttle bumped along Antigua's maze of cobblestone streets for another 50 minutes, gathering up another two passengers. We had to stop at various tour agencies and compare our tickets to theirs for reasons unknown. In morning traffic, it took us almost an hour to reach the capital, and that's when we learned that our other passengers weren't going to Coban, but to the airport. So much for servicio directo.
My father and I were then dropped, to our surprise, at the local Monja Blanca bus station in downtown Guatemala City, where our shuttle driver bought us seats for Q40 and left us there to wait. Abandoned in the bus station, we waited another hour for the next Monja Blanca public bus to leave for Coban. So much for a shuttle at all.
We climbed into seats nos. 3 and 4, right up front, and stowed our bags safely underneath. The bus was one step up from a chicken bus, that is, until a lady climbed on with her chicken. The driver was just as crazy as the others, passing on ridiculous blind curves and pealing into the lanes for oncoming traffic. The bus stopped for every person who flagged us down and at every group of buildings that resembled a town. Our progress was slow. But truthfully, the part of the journey that was least satisfying was the scenery. During the dry season, the hills look barren and almost scorched. It's only when the road begins to climb towards Coban that the greenery returns and the countryside becomes quite beautiful. There are evergreen trees and ferns along the roadside, along with streams and unique plant life. With only one break at a very clean bus stop at the Atlantic Highway turnoff from the capital to Coban, the trip was another 5 hours. A very long day...