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Scammed at Panajachel boat dock

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Napa, California
Level Contributor
3 posts
6 reviews
Scammed at Panajachel boat dock

In mid-June 2013 my son and I arrived in Panajachel from Antigua on a shuttle van and were driven down close to the boat launch for lanchas to San Pedro, San Juan, Jaibalito, etc. I've done a fair bit of traveling in Central America- Belize, Honduras, Panama, and am usually pretty good about recognizing when something isn't right but not this time. There were six of us going to stay at La Casa del Mundo hotel near Jaibalito. We all got off the shuttle together and were getting our bags when a man approached the shuttle asking us where we were going. He followed us down to the boat dock and there were two boats tied up and loading passengers. We told him numerous times that we wanted to go to Jaibalito, which is one of the closest docks to Pana. He showed us to the boat of the left and four of us got on that boat but for some reason the other couple got on the other boat. Should have been red flag #1. He kept hanging around and then told us it was 25Q per person to Jaibalito. I didn't even think that the procedure was to pay when exiting the boat so I handed him 50Q for two people and the other couple did the same. About then the boat started and he jumped off the boat and we started going and going and going. A lady on the boat pointed out to us that we had already passed the Jaibalito dock but the boat was crowded and there was no way to talk to the driver/captain. Eventually we ended up at the San Pedro dock. Most of the people got off the boat and the four of us were sitting there. A man on the dock asked what we were doing and we said waiting to go to Jaibalito. He told us that this boat doesn't go to Jaibalito and that we would have to get on another boat and each pay 20Q more to get to Jaibalito. By now the driver/captain had jumped off the boat and was on the dock. My Spanish is OK but the lady from the other couple was fluent and she asked him what was going on. He claimed to not know the man on the dock in Pana who took our money and that he didn't work for that boat. She asked him why he had allowed this man on his boat if he didn't work for it. He mumbled something and took off up the dock and into town. So we ended up having to catch the last boat of the day from San Pedro to Jaibalito and paid 20Q each when we got to La Casa del Mundo. In the big picture we didn't lose much money but the fact that we were scammed was irritating. Also, I found that a map that I picked up at our hotel had the lancha prices printed in it. It said from Jaibalito to Pana was 10Q each but when we went to take this boat the man said it was 20Q each so I don't know if it was an old map or if the prices fluctuate depending upon who you are and how you look? My advice would be to ask a local at your hotel what the rate is for a visitor. As a visitor you will pay more than a local but at least you will have an idea of the going rate. Also, DO NOT give anyone your money until you get to your location and confirm the rate before you board the boat.

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
Level Contributor
8,093 posts
213 reviews
1. Re: Scammed at Panajachel boat dock

This is 1 of many scams - even the captains at the Pana dock will ease more out of you if they can. One that happens over and over is that they'll tell you the next public boat is hours away and you'll have to pay significantly more for a private boat if you don't want to wait hours. In truth, the boats leave when they're full enough to justify the trip.

Sorry this happened to you - rotten! Relieved to hear you were able to make it to your destination that afternoon - would have been worse if you'd missed the last boat. Happy trails!

Napa, California
Level Contributor
3 posts
6 reviews
2. Re: Scammed at Panajachel boat dock

Exactly- if we had missed the last boat we were told it would cost 400Q to get a private boat to our destination.

Durham, North...
Level Contributor
1 post
12 reviews
3. Re: Scammed at Panajachel boat dock

You simply do not pay until you are delivered anywhere in Latin America. Boat, taxi, tuk tuk, PERIOD.

The docks around Pana are full of grifters and cheapskate hustlers. The way in ANY tourist destination is leave your bags with your partner, walk to your embarcation point, and when approached tell them you are "just walking" or something like that. You have to fight thru a maze of these clowns in Panajachel to get to a boat. There you ask the CAPTAIN (he is in the back) if he is going to Jaibalito.. THEN go back and get your partners and bags. If he says yes to the destination, you can usually negotiate for 15Qs to Jaibalito. They will ask for 20, but be polite and firm and you can get 15. Different destinations vary. San Pedro is 20, usually. Pay him when you get off the boat (they won't let you leave if you forget).

Napa, California
Level Contributor
3 posts
6 reviews
4. Re: Scammed at Panajachel boat dock

Yes, the first tip off for me should have been how helpful this guy was to show us from our shuttle to the boat dock and then direct us to the "right" boat to get us to Jaibalito. I should have known better from previous travels to negociate first and not pay until we reached our destination. I posted this in hopes that it would save someone else the same grief. Luckily for us it was only about $6 that we lost. The worst place I ever experienced was the ferry dock in Coxen Hole on Roatan. When we stepped outside the ropes it was like a shark feeding frenzy of taxi and shuttle drivers. Crazy!

West Vancouver...
Level Contributor
48 posts
5 reviews
5. Re: Scammed at Panajachel boat dock

they are the worst of the worst. i have had many an argument with captains about their pricing system.

Level Contributor
166 posts
7 reviews
6. Re: Scammed at Panajachel boat dock

I'm so sorry to hear this too - I've lived on and off at the Lake for over 13 years and have had so many run ins with the boat drivers from San Pedro, you wouldn't believe. One threatened to throw my backpack into the water if I didn't pay up! As locals we try so hard to step in when we hear them trying their various scams. But yes, always the way to go before getting on any transport where there is no ticket or metre to ask various local people what the price is. This makes me so mad as it just gives the place a bad rap and is stupid on their behalf as they are cutting on their noses to spite their faces!!

If it is any consolation, you are not alone, in fact part and package of travel in this part of the world is to chat with fellow travellers swapping such stories!! One for the grandchildren!!

7. Re: Scammed at Panajachel boat dock

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