As backpackers, we’re mostly prepared for the harmless little lies we are told by tour operators,travel agents, and hoteliers that we book with. “Yes, the shuttle will take you directly to the ferry terminal”, when you have to take a taxi, or, “You should arrive by 2pm”, when you know you’d have to break the sound barrier to achieve this, and “Yes, we have hot showers”, when the water is tepid at best. We brace ourselves, smile, and reason that especially in developing countries, it’s an accepted part of the experience of being sold to.
On my journey to Rio Dulce this past Tuesday, however, the lying went a little too far for my liking.
I was debating taking a public bus to Guatemala City and then getting to the right “Zona” in order to catch a Pullman bus all the way to Rio Dulce, which was supposed to be a 4-5 hour journey. Here’s what I was told vs. what actually happened.
What I was told: “The shuttle service will take you directly from Antigua to Rio Dulce in about 5-6 hours.”
What actually happened: The shuttle contained people only being dropped off in Guatemala City, both at the airport and at various bus stations throughout the city. I was going to be dropped off at the bus station with a pre-paid ticket on the Pullman.
What I was told: “If you take public transportation you’ll need to catch a taxi from where the Antigua bus arrives, to the bus station for Rio Dulce.”
What actually happened: I was taken to the bus terminal for Rio Dulce and given an onward bus ticket.
What I was told: After encountering road works on the way to Guatemala city, I expressed concern that after leaving the airport, I only had 30 minutes left to catch my 11:30 bus. “No Te Preocupes” I was told repeatedly.
What actually happened: The more I was told not to “preoccupe” the more worried I got.
What I was told: Since the other girl who was catching a bus to El Salvador didn’t need to leave for another hour and a half, I asked the driver if he could take me to my bus station first. After another “No Te Preocupes”, he explained that we had plenty of time and would make it to my 11:30 bus for sure.
What actually happened: This was the driver’s way of ensuring the fastest return for him to Antigua…I had heard him making arrangements to go out with friends on the phone, telling them when he’d be back in time.
What I was told: On arriving at my bus station, flustered and stressed, at exactly 11:30, the bus driver explained that buses here never left on time, and kindly (I thought) ran into the station to make sure the bus didn’t leave without me. “No problem, senorita, bus is here, and you need to just go inside the office and present your ticket”. Great!
What actually happened: After frantically thanking the driver for his help and running to the station, I couldn’t see any bus in any of the departure spots marked for Rio Dulce. After hurriedly enquiring where I should go, I was informed, quite plainly, that the bus for Rio Dulce had already left five minutes ago.
I was livid. Not necessarily that I’d missed the bus because of the time. What I hated was the fact that he knew the bus had gone, and that he just lied blatantly to my face.
I had to wait another two hours for the next bus and pay an extra 10 quetzals for the change. This meant that I wouldn’t arrive in Rio Dulce until after dark.
I know that it’s all part of the experience, but there are times like this when lying to tourists crosses the line.
Have you ever been lied to while traveling in a way that ruined your plans or created false expectations?
Where: Shuttle from Antigua to Guate, then Pullman Bus to Rio Dulce
When: March 22
How: With Difficulty