A woman sitting on the stairs in front of the theater in Quetzaltenango (Xela)

How to get from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango

Home » Guatemala » How to get from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango Cheap

Quetzaltenango (Xela) is a city often skipped by travelers to Guatemala. It is rough around the edges and not the perfect Instagrammy town that so many travelers seek. But it is a great place to learn Spanish and get off the beaten path.

For us, Quetzaltenango was worth a visit. In this post, we list all the best ways to get from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango and what to do once you get there.

Quetzaltenango Facts
1. Quetzaltenango is the second largest city in Guatemala with 180,000 people.
2. The average daily maximum temperature is 22C° or 72F with cool nights with an average of 6C° or 43F.
3. It is one of the cheapest places to learn Spanish and because English is not widely spoken you will need to practice.
4. The rainy season goes from late May to late October and the dry season from early November to early April.
5. The city is known as Xela by locals. This is because, before the arrival of the Spanish, the city was called Xelaju which means under 10 mountains.

1. Bus from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango (Xela)

💰 13 USD
🕑 4 hours
🚌 Book a Xela bus here

The best way to get from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango is by bus. It is one of Guatemala’s few routes with a proper bus line with scheduled departures.

Two companies operate the route from Guatemala City to Quetzltenango (Xela). They are Alamo and Linea Dorado.

Alamo has the most regular departures and tickets cost 13 USD. You can book tickets online here. The buses are a little old but leave on time and the drivers navigate much safer than chicken buses.

Read here: How to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan 🚌

Two colorful vendors selling products from carts at the main square of Quetzaltenango Guatemala

2. Shared Shuttle

💰 16-50 USD
🕑 6 hours
🚐 Book a Xela shuttle here

Another popular way to get from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango (Xela) is by shared shuttle. Traveling by shuttle is popular in Guatemala because there are often no buses.

Depending on the departure time, you can book shared shuttles on GuateGo from 16-50 USD. Adrenalina Tours also offers a shared shuttle for 45 USD per person.

But I do not think this is a good option because it will stop in Antigua on the way to Quetzaltenango and therefore take longer than the bus.

The shuttle will also not be more comfortable than the bus because you share the space with other travelers. So I recommend taking the bus and not taking a shuttle.

Read here: How to get from Antigua to Lake Atitlan 🚐

Quetzaltenango from the top with a mountain cross in the foreground

3. Private Driver

💰 214 USD
🕑 4 hours
🚙 Book a private driver here

If you would like your own transport to Quetzaltenango you can hire a private driver. It will not be cheap. But if you book a driver with Daytrips you have the option to include a stop in Antigua for 28 USD. So this could be an option if you are short on time and want to see as much as possible or are looking for the safest transport in Guatemala.

Read here: 16 Cheap Things to do in Antigua 🤠

Quetzaltenango colorful street with yellow and red houses

4. Flights from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango

💰 65 USD
1 hour
🚙 Book flights here

The fastest way to get from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango is by flying. There are daily flights from 65 USD and the flight takes under 1 hour.

If you do not mind spending a little more money taking a flight is a good option but less environmentally friendly. It will be a very short flight and you will avoid all the windy roads.

Search for cheap flights to Xela here 👇

Quetzaltenango main square with trees and locals selling fruits

5. Rental Car (Guatemala City to Xela driving)

💰 15 USD/day
4 hours
🚙 Rent a car here

Renting a car is also an option to get from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango. I would only recommend doing this if you are very comfortable driving in foreign countries.

The driving and roads in Guatemala can be quite wild. Some people drive like lunatics so you will have to be careful.

The cheapest place I found to book a car in Guatemala online was on Economybookings. You can rent a car for 15 USD per day and pick it up from Guatemala City Airport.

Book a rental car here or here 👇

Quetzaltenango theater from the side with blue sky

6. Chicken Bus from Guatemala City to Xela

The Chicken Bus is usually always the cheapest way to travel around Guatemala. However, I would not recommend taking the Chicken Bus from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango.

It will only work out slightly cheaper than the normal bus. Or it may be even more expensive if you get charged tourist prices!

The bus will be much more uncomfortable than the normal bus and the drivers are way crazier. So unless you are hell-bent on an adventure stick to the bus with Alamo.

Book: Flexible cheap travel health insurance with SafetyWing. Read about our experience plus other options here ✈️

Nomad Insurance by SafetyWing is one of the best travel insurances for Quetzaltenango Guatemala
Inside a Chicken bus from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango

Best Things to do in Quetzaltenango

Now that you know how to get from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango it’s time to look into what to do there once you arrive. There are many cool things to do in Xela and we have listed the top 6 not to miss for you below.

1. Take Spanish Lessons

One of the primary reasons most travelers go to Quetzaltenango is to learn Spanish. It is a great place to do so because it is cheap, there are not many tourists and many locals speak Spanish as a second language so they are easier to understand.

You can get a homestay with 3 meals a day and 20 hours of lessons a week for 200 USD. We chose to go with Miguel Cervantes Spanish School and were very happy with it.

The teachers were super nice and they organized cool activities for us to explore the area. Learning even the basics in Spanish will massively improve your experience in Latin America so I highly recommend taking lessons.

Looking for a FREE place to stay in Guatemala? Sign up to Trusted Housesitters for free + use code HAPPYHEALTHYNOMADS for a 25% discount on your annual membership! Read about our experiences here.

TrustedHousesitters - Unique travel for pet-loving explorers

2. Hike Volcano Santa Maria

Many people head to Antigua to go hiking in Guatemala. But Quetzaltenango is a bit of a hidden gem for hiking. There are some awesome hikes that far fewer tourists know about.

One of the best hikes in Quetzaltenango is Volcan Santa Maria. It is one of the many perfectly conical volcanoes that dot Guatemala’s landscape.

The hike to the top takes about 8 hours and it is possible to do it by yourself. You can follow the directions on All Trails here. It is a tough hike so I would only recommend going by yourself if you are in good shape.

From the top, you may also get the chance to see Santaguito erupt. Santaguito is a small volcano that sticks out from the Santa Maria base and erupts fairly regularly.

Read here: This is Lake Atitlan’s most colorful town 🤩

Two volcanoes in the distance shrouded in clouds viewed through a gap in thick forest cover - a great reason to travel from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango

3. See Volcan Chicabal’s sacred Crater Lake

We visited Volcan Chicabal on a day trip with our Spanish School. The crater lake is a sacred spot for locals and is a peaceful place to visit on the weekend.

Locals like to take tents there and stay the night. The crater lake is beautiful and you can see local Maya carrying out ceremonies there which is quite cool.

We arrived by Chicken Bus but it wasn’t very easy. So unless you are very confident with your Spanish or go with your Spanish school as we did it may be easier to go on a tour.

Book a Volcan Chicabal Tour here 🌋

A couple standing with their arms around each other in front of Lago Chicabal one of the top reasons to go from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango (Xela)
A group of people walking the shores of a lake with tents and flowers next to them

4. Hike Cerro de Quemado

Cerro de Quemado was one of my favorite short hikes in Guatemala. The summit is close to the city center but you will feel like you have been transported to another planet.

The top is covered in a jagged lava flow that looks like it is from Mars. It is a spiritually significant place for locals to give offerings to the gods.

If you go on Sunday there will be lots of locals climbing to the top with bundles of flowers. It is an awesome experience and something you have to do in Quetzaltenango.

The best way to get to the top is by following the stream of people climbing up. Some neighborhoods on the way up to Cerro de Quemado can have some aggressive dogs so it may be better to take an Uber or local transport to the start of the walk.

Read here: This is Antigua’s best View 🤩

A group of people at the top of Cerro de Quemado one of the best reasons to travel from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango

6. Try Cafes with Locally Grown Beans

Guatemala is not known on the international stage for its coffee compared to countries like Colombia. But they grow some high-quality coffee and Quetzaltenango is a great place to try some with a surprising number of good cafes.

☕️ Jeisha – was our favorite cafe to work at. The coffee is good and the wifi is fast.

☕️ Habitual Coffee Brew Bar – this is where you need to go if you are serious about your coffee. You can see the origins of all the beans and the baristas do an amazing job.

☕️ 5MS Coffee House – is another cafe where you can see the origins of all the beans and they have many preparation methods to choose from.

☕️ Rustic – is a cafe that sells delicious croissants and they have great coffee. Although it is a bit pricey it is great for a treat.

Read here: 14 Best Cafes in Antigua (+ Wifi) ☕️
Do you like our tips? Say thanks with a Coffee! 💛

Where to Stay in Quetzaltenango

Xela is cheap! Finding budget places for short- or long-term stays will be easy.

Quetzaltenango Hotels

Hotel del Ferrocarril – is a super budget hotel with double rooms for 10 USD per night.
Hotel Casolia – is a centrally located hotel with superb reviews. Rooms start from 20 USD.

Search for more hotels here 👇

Quetzaltenango Hostels

Casa Seibel – is one of the best-rated hostels in Quetzaltenango. Private rooms start at 15 USD per night and dorms cost 7 USD per night.

Kasa Kiwi Hostel – is another highly rated hostel. Private rooms start at 18 USD per night and dorms cost 8 USD per night.

Search for more hostels here 👇

Here are some websites and services we use and recommend for planning a trip to Guatemala. For all tips check out our Travel Resources.

✈️ Find cheap flights to Guatemala on Kiwi.com
🚐 Book shared shuttles on GuateGo.com
🏠 Get free housing on Trusted Housesitters
🤩 Find the best hotel deals on Booking.com
🤠 Book tours and guides on GetYourGuide
🚗 Find rental cars on Economybookings.com
📲 Get an eSim for instant connectivity on Airlo
✅ Book easy travel insurance with SafetyWing

Now you know how to get from Guatemala City to Xela and what to do there, enjoy!

Quetzaltenango is a city that you will either love or hate. We liked it there and enjoyed the local flair and amazing hikes. But I can understand when people do not connect with it. It is a chaotic, dusty place full of culture and surrounded by natural beauty.

I hope you enjoy your time in Quetzaltenango and make sure to check out our other articles about Guatemala below too 👇


Hey there! Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means that if you choose to make a purchase we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. These commissions help us to generate income and keep creating content for you. So we greatly appreciate your support! Thanks!

Hi, I am Allan, a travel, health and fitness fanatic from New Zealand. I'm a former lawyer who turned into a full-time nomad in 2020. For the last 4+ years I've been traveling the world. I'm always on a hunt for good food, activities on a budget and workouts on the go. I hope you find my tips helpful and get inspired to travel more!

Helpful? Share it!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top