Mysterious and often challenging, Central America’s most diverse country offers landscapes and experiences that have been captivating travelers for centuries.
U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less. That period can be extended for an additional 90 days upon application to Guatemalan immigration.
Voltage in Guatemala is 110V and the power outlets are American type (= two parallel metal plates one being slightly bigger than the other). Make sure your electrical devices are compatible.
While on the trip remember to carry some bottled water with you to avoid dehydration. You should also carry some sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, mosquito repellent and the business card of the hotel you are staying at. A small calculator might be also useful, as well as a small dictionary
Local calls to line or mobile numbers from a foreign mobile phone while in Guatemala must precede the code for international long distance (00) + country code (502) + 8-digit Guatemalan phone number.
Calls to your country of origin or any other country besides Guatemala must precede the code for international long distance (00) + country code + the number to be reached.
Text messages to a mobile phone in Guatemala must precede the code for international long distance (00) + country code (502) + 8-digit number in Guatemala.
Always check the weather report before your departure. If you will be traveling at altitudes higher than 1,200 meters (such as Antigua, Panajachel and Guatemala City), you will probably need a light jacket or sweater for the evenings. In altitudes above 2,000 meters (Chichicastenango, Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango), it can become chilly after sunset so a jacket is recommended.
During the daytime, it is likely to be warm in all regions of Guatemala. However, during the months of December and January in the highlands, it can sometimes be cold, even during the day. It is advisable therefore to dress in layers. In the hotter, more humid lowland regions you will be more comfortable in light cotton clothing.
Guatemalans tend to dress modestly and conservatively. It’s best to avoid wearing clothing that might make you stand out, such as revealing clothing – for example very short skirts or shorts for women, or open shirts for men. Likewise, neutral colors are preferable, especially whilst on nature trails. Moreover, when visiting Mayan temples, you will find that the staircases leading to the top are rather steep, and therefore modest shorts or light trousers are the more practical option.
Comfortable walking shoes or tennis shoes are suitable for most regions and towns. Sandals with a strap around the ankle to prevent you from slipping are especially good for the warmer regions, beaches, and places where you might get wet. However, for health reasons, closed shoes are more suitable for areas such as markets where the ground may be dirty. High heels aren’t very practical anywhere in Guatemala. Slippers are useful for hotel rooms to avoid walking directly on carpets or on cold tiled floors.
Bring only what you will need for the first couple of days and take advantage of banks at the airport to obtain local currencies, especially if you are arriving during the weekend. The very first bank you will see after leaving the plane in the Guatemala City Airport does not the best exchange rate, you’ll find more banks with better exchange rates down the hall and ATMs that deliver local currency after the security check-point. Never trade currencies with street vendors.
Don’t bring high denomination bills such as US $100, or bills dating from 2001 or earlier, or any torn bills as they won’t be accepted. Due to the fact that Guatemalan banks offer poor exchange rates for Euros or Mexican Pesos, and hardly accept other currencies, it is advisable to carry US dollars. During your trip, limit money exchanges to banks and hotel front desks. If your trip includes a visit to Copan in Honduras, you will find that most shops accept Guatemalan Quetzales or dollars – and so it’s unnecessary to obtain Honduran currency.
Tipping for particular services is customary in Guatemala as in other countries. There are no hard and fast rules regarding how much to tip a person. It will depend on a number of factors, such as the quality of service given, or the effort involved in delivering the service. Ultimately it is up to you to decide how much to tip, but you may find these guidelines for group travelers helpful.
In bars, cafes, and restaurants it is usual to tip 10%. This may or may not already be included in your bill so check it before paying.
Local guides that take you through a museum or natural park usually get US$ 2-3 per person, the same counts for boat drivers. Drivers and guides that accompany you for longer trips usually get more, perhaps US$ 3-5 per day for the driver and US$ 5-10 per person, per day, for the guide. Remember however that these are just guidelines. It is up to you if, and how much you want to tip.
Use the same common sense traveling in Guatemala that you would at home. Be especially cautious in areas such as crowded markets, bus stations, elevators, crowded tourist sites, festivals and the outskirts of cities.
It is advisable that you purchase travel insurance that includes medical assistance. Make sure that you know the names of the hospitals in Guatemala City that your insurance will cover, and carry always your insurance ID and phone number so that the company may be contacted in emergencies.
Make a note of the emergency phone numbers of your bank, credit card company, embassy, and consulate, and bring them with you. Also, note down the name and contact details of a relative or friend that could be contacted in case of an emergency.
Don’t bring expensive jewelry and watches and don’t keep cameras and mobile phones visible. Try not to bring anything that you feel would be irreplaceable.
Try to reach your hotel or final destination before sunset and don’t walk at night on the streets.
If you are taking medication, ensure you bring more than enough, as it is likely that you will be unable to find the exact same type locally, especially in rural areas. Keep them in their original prescription bottles and always in your carry-on luggage. While the medicine that you consume might be available and simply sold under a different brand name in Guatemala; you will probably feel more comfortable using your own medicine.
If you are prone to upper respiratory problems or allergies please note that crop burning is practiced in Guatemala towards the end of the dry season (this runs from February and ends in May), and so the air can get smoky in certain areas.person
Contaminated food and water are the leading cause of illness in travelers. Protect yourself by drinking only bottled water, or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles. Carry Iodine tablets with you to purify water if bottled water is not available. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially before eating. It is also advisable to bring alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel or antibacterial hand wipes (with at least 60% alcohol) to use if soap and water are not available. It is also a good idea to bring anti diarrheic medicine, such as Pepto Bismol or Imodium. Be careful what you eat. It is best to avoid buying from street vendors and ensure your food is fully cooked. Also avoid dairy products, unless you know they have been pasteurized.
Malaria risk areas in Guatemala are only at altitudes below 1,500 m (4,921 ft). There is, therefore, no risk in Guatemala City, Antigua or Lake Atitlán. It is wise to take anti-malaria drugs if you are traveling to coastal areas such as the southern or Caribbean coast of Guatemala, or to the lowlands of the north. Take medicines prescribed by your doctor only. Diseases such as dengue and malaria are spread through insect bites. One of the best ways to protect yourself is to prevent insect bites in the first place by using insect repellent (bug spray) with 30%-50% DEET. Picaridin, available in 7% and 15% concentrations, needs more frequent application. A brand sold in Guatemala under the name OFF is very effective. Try to remain indoors in a screened or air-conditioned area during the peak biting period for mosquitoes (dusk and dawn). Bring flying-insect spray to help clear rooms of mosquitoes. The product should contain a pyrethroid insecticide; these insecticides quickly kill flying insects, including mosquitoes.
Use sun block and sunglasses for protection against the harmful effects of UV sun rays even if you consider yourself to have resistant or dark skin. Use a hat.
Although yellow fever is not a disease risk in Guatemala, the government requires travelers arriving from countries where yellow fever is present to give proof of yellow fever vaccination.