Bicycle Touring Experiences from Guatemala


On this page we attempt to make available the experience of individual bicycle tourists who travel to Guatemala (you can share your experiences here).

KLM, Birmingham, Guatemala City, Chile, Santiago, Buenos Aires

KLM(1). I flew Gatwick-Buenos Aires via Amsterdam (1997). They told me I would have to box it and a box could be purchased at Gatwick. However at the airport they accepted the bike in a plastic bag. The airline informed me in writing I would be surcharged £33/kg if I exceeded 20kg. So with 10kg excess I tried the Excess Baggage Company (see next entry). Buenos Aires Internatioal Airport (known as Ezeiza but officially called Ministro Pistarini) is about 35km from town centre. If you are changing to a domestic flight, you have to go to the Aeroparque (officially called Jorge Newbery airport) which is in the town centre. You cannot ride on the motorway (prohibido a poder de sangre - blood-power prohibited - it poetically says), which goes all but the last few km to the airport. There are other ways, but they are indirect, not signposted and go through some very dodgy suburbs (BsAs cycling club carries a gun on training rides). You can negotiate something with a taxi or minibus service, though these things are not cheap in BsAs.

Excess Baggage Company (London Gatwick). My experience of sending my excess from Gatwick to Santiago with the Excess Baggage Company was not happy (1997). The basic charge per kg sounds cheap, but they have a minimum charge based on 25kg. Then there are the extras. The company quoted 6-10 days, but the first opportunity to retrieve my package was actually day 13. They assured me they would give me the telephone number of the local agent in Santiago who would handle the paperwork, but actually gave me (without explanation) a phone number in the USA. It took several costly international calls (a) to work out what this telephone number meant (b) to get the actual local number. Handling the paperwork comprised no more than receiving it and handing it to me, for which they charged an extortionate amount. I then had to go to the airport freight terminal to negotiate everything and pay a freight handling fee and a custom clearance fee - it added up to about £40 in extras plus the phone calls and bus trips. It would have been cheaper and much quicker to send it door to door with DHL. And even cheaper to post it to Poste Restante in Santiago - though that is not a something to try in every country.

KLM(2). I flew return trip Birmingham-Guatemala City via Amsterdam (2000) with two friends. This time KLM volunteered that we could check in the bikes uncovered if we signed a release form. On return, Guatemala City Airport was not used to checking in bikes. First they tried to prevent us entering the terminal with the bikes, because there was A Rule - we had to explain that they were baggage. Then they insisted on plastic bags, but did not have any bags of suitable size available. So it was scissors and tape job. Good thing we arrived very early. Guatemala City airport is only 6km from downtown, though you should not go into Zones 1 or 4 on a bike or on foot after dark - book some accom near the airport.

Ivan Viehoff, August 01, 2000

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