I finally made it to Antigua. After making it to the airport shortly after 2 am, I scrunched up on a bench and tried to sleep since the Spirit ticket counter didn’t open until 4. Go figure, half an hour later, a girl in her twenties thought it would be fun to sit across from me and blast her music – even though every other seat in the airport was empty. Sleep was clearly not an option, so I got up and sat in the dark line lane in front of the ticket counter. At 4, employees started turning on computers and lights; at 4:11 I was the first customer called up. Exhausted, I gave the lady my passport and the print-out of my journey. Spirit is a budget airline. That means you pay through the nose for anything “extra.” Need something other than a personal item? No problem, but there’s a charge. Get thirsty on the plane? No problem, but you’ll have to pay. Forget to print out your boarding pass? No problem, but there’s a charge for that, too. Since it was my first international flight with Spirit, I had to go to the ticket counter to verify my details (or so I was told when I called the previous day). Since I had the paper Spirit had sent me, no charge, but one heck of a wait. Guatemala is one of those countries that wants to see proof of exit… meaning before you fly you have to prove that you’re not going to stay forever. However, depending on the airport agent and who you ask, this is incorrect and no proof is actually needed. According to the lady behind the counter at Spirit, I indeed needed to provide proof of onward travel. Since I had purchased only a one-way ticket, this was quite a problem. So there I was, at 4:20 in the morning, trying to show this lady (literally, show the printed ticket) that I had purchased a bus ticket to Honduras. She kept trying to make me buy an actual flight out of Guatemala. This simply would not do, since I planned to travel around Central America, not just Guatemala. Finally, she called a supervisor and agreed that my Honduran ticket would suffice. Phew. I made it through security and to the gate just in time to watch the sun rise over LaGuardia.
An hour later I boarded the plane bound for Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Generally with a domestic flight followed by an international flight, you have to change terminals. You can imagine this is a big problem when you only have an hour and a half layover and your domestic flight takes off late. But in Fort Lauderdale, Spirit flies into the same terminal. I got off the plane in Florida at gate G, right next to gate H headed to Guatemala City. I waited fifteen minutes in line for the bathroom (you’d think they would have more than six stalls for women!) and headed to gate H. Except gate H was now headed to Bogota, Colombia. Last minute -terminal- change. Awesome. So I run to the exit and run to the next terminal. Thank goodness it wasn’t like Heathrow or JFK where you can’t walk (or run, in my case). I had twenty minutes to get inside the terminal, through security and to the gate. I was immediately taken to the front of the security line, but my backpack had been painstakingly packed and was already about to pop. I had to pull out my laptop and all my liquids, take of my tennis shoes, and do the normal security procedure. I got through with no problems and start to put on my shoes when I looked at the time. Five minutes. Shit. With no time to repack my bag, I’m sprinting through the airport with my bag half-open behind me, Ziploc bags full of bottles in my hands, laptop shoved under my arm, passport clamped between my teeth, and one shoe on and one shoe off. I made it to the gate with just about ten people in front of me – just enough time to put on my other shoe and shove my stuff in my bag. After a long, long day of traveling, I finally touched down in Guatemala City just after 11 am local time (1 pm EST). I overheard someone talking about how they didn’t know any Spanish, but were going to be traveling around Guatemala. Interesting. While waiting to get off the plane, I struck up a conversation. That’s how I met Trent, the eighteen-year-old from North Carolina who was on his first trip abroad and was headed to the same destination as me: Antigua. We got through immigration and customs without any issues, although I did get some interesting looks when I was trying to speak Portuguese to explain what I was doing instead of Spanish. Oops. Since Trent and I both flew Spirit, neither one of us had any checked luggage, so we went directly to the exit. We got on the shuttle (more like an old mini-van, but comfortable enough) to Antigua for ten bucks a person (and yes, they actually take USD). We waited about ten minutes for any other travelers looking for a ride to Antigua; after one more girl got on, we were on our way to Antigua, which was 45 or so minutes away. We arrived just before 1 (local time). The view stepping out of the shuttle was beautiful.
After meeting up with Audrey, the three of us headed to Hostel Holistico, where Trent had made a reservation for the duration of his trip in Antigua. It looked quaint and for 90 Quetzales per night (around $11.50) that included breakfast, Audrey and I decided to crash there as well. And so begins the journey of my Central American trip.