Travel Tips: Antigua, Guatemala
September 11, 2017
Guatemala: a land known for its blend of cultural heritage, unique ecosystems, diverse landscapes, great food, colorful textiles, and kind people. It is no wonder that year after year over half a milllion tourists visit this wonderful country. If you are thinking of heading out there, we have some tips for you, and that is because Casey, founder of It's Cactus, is an expert Guatemalan traveler. Traveling to Guatemala is nothing new to Casey and her family. Casey and her mom, Gigi have been going on buying trips since the 1990’s, Casey and her husband, Brian got married there in 2001, and daughter Georgie took her first trip at the tender age of 3 months. I think you could call them seasoned! But every trip is an opportunity for discovery and this one in 2017 was no exception. In addition to buying handcrafted folk art items for the online shop, they attended the wedding of a friend, and set about building upon the Spanish language skills of now teen-aged Georgie and her cousin, Quinn. The discoveries came in the form of finding an outstanding driver/guide to Antigua named Carlos, and an equally outstanding language/cultural instructor, Ruth.
Carlos Mijangos is a enterprising Guatemalan man, proud of and passionate about his country. As he describes himself, he is 100% Chapin (Guatemalan). He speaks exceptional English, and his warm smile and self-assured whistle convey confidence to any traveler. Previous to starting his own company, he worked as a bi-lingual guide for a large company for several years, but with the encouragement of his father, struck out on his own at the age of 40.
Carlos offers custom tours for individuals and groups in his large, comfortable van. When asked how many the van could hold, Casey replied, “Well it held me, my mother, the girls, and lots and LOTS of boxes of wood carvings and textiles. And we all fit!” Based in Antigua, Carlos provides transfers to and from the airport, tours around Antigua and vicinity, as well as excursions further afield. His knowledge base is as impressive as his fluency in English. Additionally, he is “as trustworthy as the day is long.” Every time Casey and her family make a trip out to Guatemala, they are sure to call Carlos. When people find a good tour guide, which is not easy, they want to keep them to themselves, but not Casey! She recommends him to anyone and everyone she knows is headed in that direction. If you are planning on visiting Guatemala, make sure to check out his website: http://guatemalanguide.com/ . And an additional tip: it would be wise to book well in advance. The word is out: This guy is good!
As for language instruction, Ruth Acabal Reyes has no match. With ten years of experience teaching Spanish to learners of every stripe, she has her methods down. Not only does she offer personalized instruction in Guatemala, she also offers lessons via Skype. While both methods are effective, says Casey, “You can’t beat learning Spanish on the street. Ruth came to the hotel every day and took the girls out to practice. She got them to learn the language by using it in real-life situations. Shopping, eating, asking directions – when you have to speak in another language, you find a way.” Ruth, too has her own website loaded with information. If you have the slightest interest in Spanish language acquisition, Ruth is just the instructor you need to get you on your way. So if you'd like the full immersive experience, make sure to check out her website as well http://ruht.weebly.com/ .