Dental Tourism - Guatemala
When people think of Central America, for some reason, they still envision a tumultuous no-man’s land between where Mexico ends and South America begins. But the truth is, the turbulent days of the string of small countries that make up this tropical region have seen peace and prosperity for the past two decades. The governments are democratic, the people speak both English and Spanish, and the area is flourishing. This is especially true in the most populous yet least mentioned country comprising this continental chain link, Guatemala.
With two coastlines and a mix of moist, mountainous domains mingling with productive plains and arid deserts, this little republic packs in a plethora of traveler’s pleasures in one compact paradise. It’s a wanderer’s dream, offering a dalliance into ancient Mayan history while delving into Spanish and European colonial heritage. One could backpack or bum around Guatemala for months, or have a luxurious vacation lasting only days and still come away with equally enduring memories. Getting around is easy, and La Aurora International Airport (GUA), is the best way to get here.
Of all the countries that offer tourists the opportunity to get their teeth worked on while away on a short stay, Guatemala has taken dental care to a new level. Dental surgery is the pride and joy of the Guatemalan dental trade, with three Universities in Guatemala City that include Masters and post-graduate training in different odontological sub-specialties such as Pediatric Odontology, Maxillofacial surgery, Orthodoncy, Periodoncy, Oral Rehabilitation and Stomatology. Therefore, long-term visitors, or those who pass through Guatemala frequently may see it as a home-base for the long haul when putting together a dental treatment plan. Expats with children and spouses also see it as a serious way to save money on specialty dentistry overseas.
There are over 3,500 quality dentists in Guatemala; so getting routine, one-time, and short-term care such as crowns, implants, veneers, and root canals is no problem either in this dental tourism destination. The main thing that returning tourists comment on, in addition to the affordable dentistry throughout the country, is the friendliness of the dentists! This is not just lip service or a cliché: The Internet is full of bloggers raving about how special they were treated by their dentists in Guatemala, namely, not being sold a bill of goods or a treatment plan they didn’t need, but instead being given extra care such as teeth cleanings and filling adjustments for free! It is dental customer service at its best here.
Of course, the common core aspects that make dental tourism popular also hold true in Guatemala: Prices that pay for the trip, ethical and hygienic clinics, and a beautiful place to tour and enjoy while recuperating! Guatemala has it all. Once you have your cosmetic or restorative dentistry done in Guatemala, you can go out into the sunshine and see places such as colonial Antigua, Lake Panajachel, and Tikal where the Mayan temples tower. They say that it is truly amazing to go from a place where ancient stones take you back thousands of years, to a lake where you feel teleported to a plateau in the Swiss Alps. The shores of this loch are lined with terraced fields that give it the look and feel of a living, legendary lost land.
The geographical diversity is matched with the biodiversity that comes with rainforest covered canopy throughout the country. The jaguars depicted by the Mayan carvings come crawling out from caves occasionally still to startle the tourists. From the playa to the plains, Guatemala has something for every nature lover and outdoors person.
If city life is more your style, then go see the lights at night in Guatemala City, which they say never sleeps. Vibrant and alive, it offers culture, cuisine, and everything in between, even if dancing is more your scene. If you really want to get a taste of all the foodie fanfare with a Central American flair, head for Club Kalhua where you can mingle, munch, and listen to live music. The evenings here are magical, as the smoke rises into the moonlit night amid the aroma of all the delectable delights and dangerous drinks served at Agavero until sunrise. If the homesick mood hits you, head over to Hooters, where titillating conversation and traditional American food await you.
However you choose to spend your time here, rest assured that you will return rested with the best smile that less money can buy. Give it a try. You’ll wonder why you didn’t consider Guatemalan dentistry before.
Guatemala City has one big airport called La Aurora International Airport (GUA) in the south part of the city, with flights mainly to and from the Americas.
Where: 9 Av 14-75, Zona 13 Guatemala 01013 Call: +502 2260 6257
It is also possible to drive to Guatemala as Central American highways CA-1 and CA-9 run through Guatemala City. CA-1 is part of the Pan-American Highway and comes from the border with Mexico near Tapachula through the western highlands. Travelling by bus is another option, although it can be quite long and uncomfortable, the bus mainly travel to and from major cities in neighboring countries.
The common way to get around in Guatemala City is by bus or taxi. Hardly anyone walks. The three main types of buses are the Trans Metro – green buses that work on a fixed rout basis; Trans Urbano – blue and white buses similar to the Trans Metro although a rechargeable SIGA card is required as money is not accepted; Red City Buses –These buses will stop anywhere on request and are the cheapest but least safe option.
There are two kinds of taxis: the ones with a meter and the ones on which you have to agree on a price before the trip. Of the metered taxis, the best service is given by Taxis Amarillo (yellow cabs). It is not possible to hail them in the street so you have to call 1766. The other kind of taxis are white. With these taxis you have to negotiate a price, and as you are a foreigner, they will most likely try to get more money from you as you will be viewed as a ‘rich foreigner’.
Things to Do
Mapa en Relieve - Built in 1904, this relief map depicting Guatemala's precipitous topography is so immense you have to view it from an observation tower.
Where: Minerva Park, at end of Av. Simon Cañas, Guatemala Zona 2 Call: 2254-1114
Ixchel Museum of Traditional Costumes - A large collection of traditional costumes, information on weaving and dying techniques, the processing of the materials in use, the history and development of the traditional costumes and a collection of paintings by Carmen Pettersen.
Where: 6 Calle final, Zona 10, at the campus of Universidad Francisco Marroquín. Call: 331-3638/34.
Museum of Modern Art, This is directly across from the Archaeology and Ethnology Museum, this is where you find the famous Tikal mask, and the ticket from it should get people into both.
Where: 7 Avenida, Zona 13. Call: 212-708-9400
A popular place for live music in a wonderfully bohemian atmosphere is La Bodeguita del Centro they offer poetry readings, live folk, rock, and jazz music.
Where: 12 Calle 3-55 Zona 1 Call: 2230-2976
Where to Eat
For a bit of local flavour be sure to try Kacao, a lovely restaurant with waiters in traditional Mayan costumes, serves traditional Guatemalan food like Pepián, Jocón, Suban-lek (ceremonial dish from the Cakchiquel royalty of San Martín Jilotepeque), Lomito Chiltepe.
Where: 2 Avenida between 13 and 14 Calle, Zona 10.
For something a little more familiar try Hacienda Real, one of the best places for steak. Try the tortillas with guacamole, frijoles (beans) and chorizo for starters, and the steak pimienta as the main course.
Where: 5 Avenida 14 – 67 Esquina, Zona 10. Call: 2368-1168 or 2333-5408/9
Ways to Pay
The national currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal, named for the national bird.