Volcán de Fuego, Guatemala
Volcán de Fuego, Guatemala

Volcán de Fuego

Eruption over Volcan de Fuego at sunrise seen from Acatenango
Photo by Alain Bonnardeaux

GUATEMALA

Central America

Guatemala Travel Information

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Key facts

Capital:

Guatemala City

Location:

Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico, and bordering the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) between Honduras and Belize

Currency:

quetzales (GTQ)

Area:

108,889 sq km

Population:

17,422,821 (July 2021 est.)

Languages:

Spanish (official) 69.9%, Maya languages 29.7% (Q'eqchi' 8.3%, K'iche 7.8%, Mam 4.4%, Kaqchikel 3%, Q'anjob'al 1.2%, Poqomchi' 1%, other 4%), other 0.4% (includes Xinca and Garifuna); note - the 2003 Law of National Languages officially recognized 23 indigenous languages, including 21 Maya languages, Xinca, and Garifuna (2018 est.)

Religion:

Roman Catholic 41.7%, Evangelical 38.8%, other 2.7%, atheist 0.1%, none 13.8%, unspecified 2.9% (2018 est.)

TimeZone:

UTC-6

Tel Code:

+502

Weather

Climate

Guatemala has a tropical climate, with temperatures averaging around 25-30 degrees Celsius (77-86 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the year. However, temperatures can vary greatly depending on the altitude and location. Coastal regions are typically hot and humid, while the highlands are cooler and more temperate. The rainy season, known as the "green season," typically runs from May to October, with the heaviest rainfall occurring in September and October.

Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit Guatemala depends on your travel plans and preferences. If you're looking to avoid the rain and enjoy warm weather, the dry season from November to April is the best time to visit. This is also the peak tourist season, so expect crowds and higher prices. If you don't mind some rain and are looking for fewer crowds and lower prices, the green season from May to October can also be a good time to visit. The highlands are also a great destination during this season, as the cooler temperatures and lush greenery make for a pleasant visit.

Transportation

Public Transportation

Guatemala has a variety of public transportation options, including buses and minibuses. These are the most affordable option for getting around, but can be crowded and uncomfortable. The public transportation system is not well-organized, so it's best to ask locals for directions and advice.

Taxis

Taxis are also widely available in Guatemala, and can be a convenient option for getting around larger cities like Guatemala City and Antigua. Be sure to negotiate the fare before getting in, as prices are often negotiable.

Rental Cars

Rental cars are also an option in Guatemala, but it is important to keep in mind that driving conditions can be challenging. The road infrastructure is not well-developed, and driving can be dangerous in rural areas.

Private Transportation

Another option is to hire a private driver or tour company, which can be a convenient and safe way to get around the country, particularly if you plan to visit multiple destinations. This option can be relatively expensive but can also be more comfortable and reliable.

Air Travel

For traveling between different regions of the country, air travel is also an option, but the options are limited and prices can be relatively high. However, it can save a lot of time, especially if you plan to travel to remote places that are not easily accessible by land.

Accommodation

Hotels

Guatemala has a wide range of hotels to choose from, including budget-friendly options and luxury resorts. In major cities such as Guatemala City and Antigua, you'll find a variety of international hotel chains as well as locally-owned properties. In more rural areas, you may have to rely on smaller, more basic hotels or guesthouses.

Hostels

Guatemala also has a growing number of hostels, which are a budget-friendly accommodation option. They often have shared dorm rooms as well as private rooms and offer a more social atmosphere than traditional hotels. Hostels are popular among backpackers and other budget-conscious travelers.

Vacation Rentals

Another option for accommodation in Guatemala is vacation rentals, such as apartments or villas. This can be a good option for groups or families traveling together, as it allows for more space and privacy than a hotel room. Vacation rentals can also be a more budget-friendly option, as the cost can be split among multiple people.

Camping and Eco-Lodges

For those who want to be closer to nature, camping and eco-lodges are also options. These can be found in national parks and other protected areas and offer a unique way to experience Guatemala's natural beauty.

Money

Money Tips for Travel

  • Research the currency and exchange rates of your destination before you depart.
  • Notify your bank and credit card companies of your travel plans to avoid any potential issues with international transactions.
  • Bring a mix of cash, credit, and debit cards--and possibly a travel money card.
  • Be aware of the fees associated with withdrawing money from ATMs and using credit cards abroad.
  • Make sure to have a backup option for accessing money in case your primary method doesn't work.
  • Consider using a card with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Be aware of the local customs and etiquette when it comes to paying.
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rate throughout your trip and try to make large purchases or withdraw large sums of money when the rate is favorable.
  • NEVER accept currency conversion at ATMs! Always get your home bank to convert at much better rates.
  • Think about getting a Wise or other travel debit card; these can provide much better rates and some free ATM withdrawals.

ATM and Credit Cards

  • Research the availability of ATMs and credit card acceptance at your destination before you depart.
  • Keep your ATM card in a safe place and be mindful of your surroundings when using it.
  • Try to stick to using ATMs that are affiliated with major banks.
  • Keep your credit card information safe and secure, and be aware of potential scams.
  • Make sure your cards have the necessary security features, such as chip and pin.
  • Be aware of the fees associated with withdrawing money from ATMs and using credit cards abroad.

Exchange Rates

  • Research the currency and exchange rates of your destination before you depart.
  • Consider using a card with no foreign transaction fees.
  • Be aware of the local customs and etiquette when it comes to paying.
  • Keep an eye on the exchange rate throughout your trip and try to make large purchases or withdraw large sums of money when the rate is favorable.
  • Be careful of places that may offer to exchange money at rates that seem too good to be true.

Mobile

When traveling, getting mobile access is very important these days. If you are working remotely, wanting to update social media, or need to access your banks SMS authentication messages having a reliable service is a must. At WhereNext we recommend:

eSIM

Services such as those offered by our partner, Airalo, allow you to easily order and install an eSIM for different countries or regions that you are traveling in.

Dual SIM phone

If you have a phone that supports dual SIM's then you can get a SIM on arrival for each country, this is probably better done at a telco store rather than at the airport.

Extend your home plan

Depending on where you live and your mobile service provider you may be able to extend your plan to cover mobile roaming at reasonable rates.

Keep your primary SIM

With the amount of accounts we all have that require two factor authentication via SMS, keeping a constant number for these accounts is a must.

Community

There are several online communities and platforms that you can use to meet people while traveling, both for making new friends or for networking professionally. Some popular options include:

Facebook groups

There are many Facebook groups dedicated to connecting people while traveling, from expat groups and travel communities to groups specific to certain cities or regions of the country. You can search for groups based on your interests or location and connect with others who share similar interests.

Meetup

Meetup is a platform that allows you to find groups of people that share your interests in your local area. There are Meetup groups all around the world, and they cover a wide range of topics, such as language exchange, sports, and cultural activities.

Internations

Internations is a social network for people who live or work abroad. It has a large community of expats and organizes regular events, activities and gatherings that allow members to connect and socialize.

Couchsurfing

Couchsurfing is a platform that connects travelers with local hosts, who offer free accommodation and a chance to experience the local culture. It's a great way to meet locals and make friends!

Reddit

Reddit has a large community, and there are several subreddits dedicated to connecting expats and travelers. You can use it to ask questions, get advice, and connect with others who are also living or traveling in the country.

Linkedin

LinkedIn is primarily a professional network, but you can also use it to connect with people who work in the same industry or have similar backgrounds. It can be useful to connect with people before you arrive and establish a few professional contacts to help you get started.

At WhereNext, we use Nomad List as a global community and then research more local ones for our destination. These are just a few examples of online communities you can use to meet people; please suggest any others that you think are appropriate for this destination.

Insurance

Travel insurance can provide financial protection and peace of mind for travellers in the event of unexpected situations or emergencies. It covers a wide range of needs--even some you might not expect!

Medical Coverage

Travel insurance can provide coverage for medical expenses if you become ill or injured while traveling. This can include coverage for doctor visits, hospital stays, and emergency medical transportation. It's also a good idea to ensure that your travel insurance covers COVID-19 related illness and delays!

Trip Cancellation and Interruption

Travel insurance can provide coverage if you need to cancel or interrupt your trip due to unexpected events such as illness, weather, or travel bans. It can also provide coverage if your trip is delayed or if your travel provider goes out of business.

Lost or Stolen Luggage

Travel insurance can provide coverage for lost or stolen luggage, as well as personal items such as passports and electronic devices.

Emergency Assistance and Evacuation

Many travel insurance plans offer emergency assistance services, such as providing information on local hospitals and doctors, assistance with replacing lost or stolen documents, and help with arranging transportation in the event of an emergency. At WhereNext we have partnered with Global Rescue for evacuation services, which are highly recommended if you are undertaking dangerous activities or are travelling to dangerous parts of the world.

Liability coverage

Travel insurance can also provide liability coverage in case you cause an accident or harm someone while you are traveling.

Travel insurance can provide financial protection and peace of mind for travellers in the event of unexpected situations or emergencies. It can help cover the costs of medical expenses, trip cancellations, lost or stolen luggage, and more. It's always a good idea to review the coverage and compare the different options available before making a decision. At WhereNext we both use and have partnered with Safety Wing for general travel insurance.

Entry Requirements

Here are some general travel tips regarding entry requirements that apply across all countries:

Passport

Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months from the date of your arrival in the country you are visiting. Some countries will not allow you to enter if your passport is set to expire within a certain period of time.

Visa

Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting to see if you need a visa. Some countries require a visa for entry, while others do not. Make sure to apply for a visa well in advance of your trip as the process can take several weeks. Check the latest Visa requirements and if necessary get an online Visa with our partner iVisa.

Health Requirements and COVID-19 Rules

Check with the embassy or consulate of the country you are visiting to see if there are any health requirements for entry. Some countries require vaccinations or proof of medical insurance. Check the latest health requirements and if necessary get an online Visa with our partner iVisa.

Travel Insurance

Consider purchasing travel insurance, especially if you are traveling internationally. Travel insurance can cover you in the event of trip cancellation, medical emergencies, and other unexpected events. Our travel insurance partner is SafetyWing. For dangerous activities and/or countries consider a rescue service like those offered by our partner, Global Rescue.

Customs

Be familiar with the customs and laws of the country you are visiting. Some countries have strict laws regarding drug possession, alcohol consumption, and dress codes.

Currency

Check the currency exchange rate and make sure you have enough local currency for your trip. Some countries may not accept credit cards or travelers cheques, so it is always good to have some cash on hand. At WhereNext we recommend use a Wise debit card, which provides low cost currency conversions and ATM withdrawals.

Research the country

Research about the culture, customs and laws of the country you are visiting. It will help you to understand the place more and also prepare you better for the trip.

Contact Information

Make a copy of your passport and keep it in a separate place from your passport. Also, leave a copy of your itinerary and contact information with a friend or family member at home.

COVID Status

I am vaccinated 
Guatemala Open
Test
Not required
Quarantine
Not required

Check Visa Requirements

      Things to Do

      Guatemala is a beautiful country with a rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural landscapes. From the ancient Mayan ruins to the vibrant local markets, there is something for everyone to discover. Here are the top 10 things to do when traveling to Guatemala:

      1. Explore the Ancient Mayan Ruins

      Guatemala is home to some of the most impressive Mayan ruins in the world, such as Tikal, Uaxactun, and Yaxha. These ancient cities offer a glimpse into the sophisticated culture and advanced architectural skills of the Mayans.

      2. Visit Antigua

      Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and it's considered one of the most well-preserved colonial cities in the Americas. It's famous for its stunning architecture, charming cobblestone streets, and delicious local cuisine.

      3. Discover the colorful markets

      Guatemala is famous for its markets, and they are a great place to find textiles, ceramics, and other handicrafts made by local artisans. Some of the most famous markets include Chichicastenango and Sololá.

      4. Take a hike in the volcanic region

      Guatemala is home to several active volcanoes, and hiking to the top of one of them can be a thrilling experience. Some popular volcanoes to hike include Pacaya and Acatenango.

      5. Explore the natural beauty of Lake Atitlán

      Lake Atitlán is a stunning crater lake surrounded by volcanoes, and it's considered one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Visitors can take boat tours, go fishing or explore the traditional Mayan villages that surround the lake.

      6. Visit the Iximché

      Iximché is an ancient Mayan city that was once an important religious and political center. The ruins are well preserved and offer a unique insight into the Mayan civilization.

      7. Visit the Mirador de Flores

      Mirador de Flores is a small town located on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful Lake Petén Itzá. The town is famous for its colonial architecture and the beautiful sunset views from the mirador.

      8. Visit the Monterrico Beach

      Monterrico is a small coastal town located in the Pacific coast of Guatemala. It's known for its black-sand beaches and great surf, as well as turtle nesting sites.

      9. Explore the Río Dulce

      Río Dulce is a river that flows through the lush rainforest of eastern Guatemala. It's a great spot for kayaking, fishing, and swimming, and there are also several waterfalls to visit.

      10. Visit the Quiriguá

      Quiriguá is an ancient Mayan city that is home to some of the best-preserved Mayan stelae, or stone monuments, in the world. The site is relatively small, making it easy to explore in a short amount of time.

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