Big Trouble in Little Flores

This is where I wrote the blog the day

After settling in at our new hotel, we walked around for a bit. The city is really beautiful and they make an effort not to modernize it. We decided that we were gonna use the free time we had to find a travel agency to get tickets to Tikal and to Sayaxché just to the south. We found a little store that had a few items that we like plus an ATM machine. However, that particular bank has not accepted my debit card for some reason, so it was pretty much useless to us. I asked the lady at the counter if there was another ATM around Flores that we could use, and she said that that was the only one in town. We looked in our guide book and found out that there were a whole bunch of ATMs just over the causeway in Santa Elena. It would be a little bit of a walk but not much. We decided to head back to our place to drop the things we purchased and begin our walk.

Pictures from around town

However, before we entered our hotel, a man named Enrique (who was the owner of a travel agency right across the street and had been outside our hotel setting people up with tickets in the morning), asked us if we needed tickets to Tikal at 1pm. It was already 2pm.  I said no, but we did need tickets for the next day around 8 in the morning. He said we should come in his office and set it up. I told him that first we were gonna walk to Santa Elena to find an ATM and be right back. He offered to have one of his employees give us a ride to which we declined. Again he insisted and again we declined. He said he would give us a ride as a friend and we should just take it because it’s a really long walk. We took the ride and were driven into Santa Elena where we found an ATM and were promptly taken back to the agency.

Once we were there, we went into his office where there were four or five of his employees seated in various place in the square room doing nothing. He told us that we should go at 3 am to see the sun rise, and we responded that we had no interest in going that early because it would be really expensive. Then he asked when we would go back to Guatemala city. I told him that we were going to continue to Sayaxché and continue on to Cobán. He then pointed to some ruins that were in Sayaxché and asked if we wanted to go there. I said yes. First of all, the guy was sweating profusely and looked like he was intoxicated. He kept fumbling around with the calculator, dropping things on the floor and slurring his words. He was a mess. He punched some number into the calculator and showed us Q1100 for the entire trip. I told him I thought it was a little expense , and he said that it included everything: the boat ride to Ceibal (ruins), entrance fee, and bus fare. He also said that buses to Sayaxché only leave twice a week and the day we wanted to leave would be one of the two days. I thought it was a fair price, so I said ok. After I said yes, he doubled the price to Q2200. I said no! Then he started getting more aggressive and punching different numbers in the the calculator and came up with prices higher than the estimated price. I asked if I could see a breakdown of all the prices so I can get an idea of the cost to which he responded by showing me a map of Guatemala (This conversation took place in English, so there wasn’t a miscommunication between us). He said it would be the best price in the city and that we should shop around but in 20 minutes his price would go up. That was just the excuse we needed to get out of his office. As we left, he changed his mind to 10 minutes. Not that it mattered to us.

The super nice lady.

A few blocks down the road, we found another office with a lady that was super nice (and not drunk). We bought our tickets to Tikal from her and asked how often the shuttle leaves for Sayaxché. She said that they leave daily. It was at this point that we found out that this guy was just lying to us. We decided to book the next part of our journey with her and it only set us back Q400 for both of us.

Picking fruit for our trip
This is his business taken from
the entrance of our hotel

Afterwards, we started down toward our hotel and Enrique and his goons were waiting outside. We just ignored him and walked in. He followed us into the hotel. I told him we didn’t need his help anymore. He demanded to know how much we paid and where we went. I told him it wasn’t any of his business. We started up near the terrace and he continued to follow us to the second floor. Then he said, “I want money for my taxi. Q50”. I said that we didn’t want his ride in the first place and that he insisted so we were not gonna pay. He said that the ride was only free if we would do business with him. We did not want to show this guy where our room was so we waited in the hall a long time hoping he would leave, but he wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t know what to do. In the US I would just tell him to take a hike or call the police. However, the police aren’t trusted here and I don’t know anyone or where I was for that matter. We decided to just pay him the Q50 and be done with him. I took out Q50 and then he doubled the price. We walked down the stairs and talked to one of the employees of the hotel. She didn’t know what to tell us and he kept insisting that we agreed to pay the money if we didn’t do businesss with him. Eventually, after arguing for a long time. I told the employee that we would pay him, but we were gonna change hotels and we wanted our money back for the second day. After taking our Q100, the man responded “you have nothing to worry about, this is a safe hotel.” Call me pessimistic, but I didn’t believe him. We packed up our things and moved on. The employee was really upset that we were leaving and ensured us that he wouldn’t return, however this guy entered private property and intimidated us. We moved on.

new hotel

We found a hotel just down the road that has air conditioning (it´s really hot here by the way) called Posada de la Jungla. However, this hotel is almost double the price that the last at Q280. We decided at this point that we didn’t care. We just wanted to be far away from that guy and his crew. It turns out that this guy is known throughout the city for being really rude and aggressive to customers. We were just unfortunate to have our hotel just across the street from his business.

We went to a really cute bistro that night a treated ourselves to the fruit a vegetable smoothies and probably the closest meal we’ve had that reminded us of home.

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