Hospedajes, Hostels, and Cheap Hotels
Guatemala is a major stop along the Central American backpacking circuit, so it’s no surprise that there are a plethora of low-budget hotels to choose from. Many of these are hospedajes or pensiones with very basic rooms run by local families. The rooms at the most basic places may all be on a shared-bath (baño compartido) basis. This is particularly the case in some of the very remote mountain villages in the Western Highlands region. The next-highest level in comfort consists of rooms with private bath (baño privado). A recent trend in areas with heavy tourist presence is the establishment of excellent hostales (hostels), where several travelers share dormitory-type bedrooms and bathrooms. Antigua, Copán Ruinas, Guatemala City, Flores, and Cobán, to name a few, have some excellent hostels.
The key thing to look for when scoping out hotels with bargain-basement prices is cleanliness. All of the hotels recommended in this guidebook pass the cleanliness standard, as there are some budget hotels that are truly filthy. I’m all about making my dollar go as far as possible, but I draw the line here. If you do end up staying in a hotel room of questionable cleanliness, break out the sleeping bag. It’s always a good idea to pack one along if you’re traveling on a budget. Rooms in the highlands tend to suffer from mold problems, so keep this in mind if you’re susceptible to this. For rooms in tropical areas, make sure there is a fan, preferably a ceiling fan, as this will make for a much more restful night’s sleep.
Another consideration in budget hotels is the quality of the mattresses. Definitely check this out, as the quality of beds varies widely. In some tropical areas beds might consist of a thin mattress atop a concrete block. This peculiar arrangement has been called to attention in hotel descriptions where applicable.
The cheapest of the cheap hotels may not offer hot water or may not have it on during the whole day. Always inquire about this. In many budget hotels, the hot water comes from an electric hot-water heater attached to the showerhead. These can often look scary, with wires jutting out all over the place. It’s a good idea to check out your water-heater situation before taking a room. Be very careful not to touch the showerhead while in the shower, unless, of course, you enjoy being mildly electrocuted. As a final note, bring flip-flops or some other type of shower shoe to avoid catching a nasty fungus in shared bathrooms.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com