After escaping from El Zonte on the Pacific coast and enjoying the cooler climate and great pupusas in Juayua, it was time to cross the Guatemalan border and bid El Salvador goodbye. Shuttle prices are exorbitant and therefore never came into question for us. The trip is easily doable in a day and there’s just something about crossing the border on your two feet and seeing the landscape and people change before your eyes. If the beautiful colonial city of Antigua is your destination in Guatemala then read on about the cheapest way to get there without having to change buses in dodgy Guatemala City.
El Salvador to Guatemala step by step
Juayua to Sonsonate on bus #249
0,5 USD | 45 min
Sonsonate to Hachadura on bus #259
0,9 USD | 2 hrs
free | 20mins
Hachadura to Esquintla
35 GTQ | 3 hrs
Esquintla to Antigua
8 GTQ | 45 min
TOTAL COST: 7,23 USD
The bus ride from Juayua to Antigua in detail
We started around 7am in Juayua at the Scotia Bank corner.
The bus terminal in Sonsonate is surprisingly organized. Boards with bus numbers and destinations hang on the ceiling.
Best to ask for “frontera” when you get off the Juayua bus.
The border crossing at la Hachadura is a 1km walk, but there are tuk-tuks available as well if you’re not up for it.
The paperwork was hassle free and we didn’t have to pay a dime. We’ve heard about scams where they charge you on the Guatemalan side if you don’t have a passport stamp from El Salvador. In case this should happen politely decline the payment because at the border of El Salvador you don’t get a stamp at all neither when you enter nor exit.
The price for the bus from the border to Esquintla is negotiable!
We took the chicken bus because it left earlier (the pullman was parked, but empty). Starting price was 45 GTQ and we managed to haggle it down. It’s still more than what the locals pay. This bus will make a short break in Chiquimulilla where you can use the toilet and get some food & drinks. They knew we were going to Antigua and dropped us off at a corner in Esquintla where the bus to Antigua passes. Probably best not to wander around in Esquintla – it’s not the safest place.
Finally in Antigua we were dropped off just behind the market.
In general we never had long waiting times between buses and ended up arriving in Antigua around 2pm.
Bits of advice
It’s a long ride so start early! The bus from the border left shortly before 10am and it’s best to aim and catch it.
As long as your backpack fits into the overhead storage you can bring it onto the bus with you.
We prefer it this way, cause then you don’t have to pay attention everytime they load and unload stuff from the roof.
You can exchange a bit of money at the border, but beware the rates will be bad. We paid everything in USD and had to haggle a bit as to get a fair rate once in Guatemala, so it’s best to have exact change if you plan to do it the same way.
You can do the trip in reverse and cross the border from Guatemala to El Salvador. If you’re heading straight to the beach then change to bus #287 in Sonsonate that will get you to El Tunco and El Zonte.
All in all it was a long but interesting ride. People of El Salvador and Guatemala were kind and friendly albeit slightly surprised to see us riding with them. Our highlights included the most innovative bus vendor who was making balloon dogs while selling something nobody needs and a couple of Guatemalan kids who switched seats so they could stare and smile at us throught the bus ride to Antigua.
Nedless to say, we got off to a great start and now the Guatemalan adventure can begin!