Image Alt


Guatemala - Planning your trip

Guatemala is a Central American country that stands out due to its extraordinary landscapes, vivid culture, intriguing history and fascinating nature. Volcanoes, natural lakes, turquoise waters, a lush jungle and colorful indigenous markets combine in one place! The dizzying pyramids of Tikal, the Maya villages in the highlands, neat plazas and crumbling ruins in Antigua, the beauty Lago de Atitlán are a few places you cannot miss in this beautiful country. Are you excited to plan your next trip? Check it out everything you must learn before visiting Guatemala.

Tikal in Guatemala

What you need to know before you go

Transportation - Guatemala’s public transport system is extensive and inexpensive, but it isn't always particularly efficient and safe for tourists. Most hotels have their own travel agencies, which is the best option to book a tour or book a day trip if you are a visitor.

The popular “chicken buses” are popular between locals. They look like revamped US school buses super colorful and fun to take pictures, but rides are not recommended for tourists. You may arrange a van or taxi to get around the city or visit popular towns with your hotel. Travel agencies offer regular service between Guatemala City to major destinations, including Flores (for Tikal) and Panajachel (for Lago de Atitlán). You can also buy first-class buses with travel agencies to visit international border crossings to Honduras, Mexico, El Salvador and Belize. First-class buses are about double the price, but they’re also much faster, safer and comfortable. No matter where do you decided to go, be prepared for bumpy roads and long travel days. And remember: It's highly recommend to buy the tours with a trust travel agency to get around Guatemala.

If you like the freedom of traveling according to your own schedule, driving is always an option. Travelers can use a valid driver’s license from their home country for the first 30 days. Car rental is easy to arrange at airports and in major cities if you're at least 25 years old.

Most people get to Guatemala by plane, arriving in the capital, Guatemala City.

Accommodation - Guatemala was conquered by the Spanish in the 16th century, leaving behind a legacy of many colonial cities. From lakeside to hillside, you find great places to stay where you can relax in a luxury boutique hotel or learn the mysticism of this ancient indigenous culture staying in the jungle.

Food - What Guatemalans call comida típica, has evolved from Maya, Latin American and Western traditions. The “three-card trick” comes with eggs, beans and tortillas in almost every meal (including the breakfast). In general, the food is simple and inexpensive (a full meal is about $5, in local eateries). If you prefer, a tourist-orientated place, Antigua and Lago de Atitlán is where you can find a wide selection of global dishes. Lunch is the main meal of the day and Maize is an essential ingredient. In Maya legend, humankind was originally formed from maize and, so eat maize is important to nourish the spiritually as it is physically. It appears most commonly as a corn tortilla, it is traditionally ground by hand and shaped by clapping it between two hands, a method still in widespread use. Gallo is the most popular beer in Guatemala.

Weather - While temperatures generally vary according to altitude rather than by time of year, Guatemala has two distinct seasons that can have a big effect on your travel experience. The year can be roughly divided into the rainy season and dry season. The winter (November–March) is the best time for dry weather and festivals. Sunny days are pretty much guaranteed. The summer June–August is the best time for outdoor adventures. June is still firmly in the rainy season, but it's usually hot and sunny in the morning and the rain usually arrives in the late afternoon.

Suggestion to feel safe in Guatemala

Personal safety is a serious issue in Guatemala. While the vast majority of tourists experience no problems at all, general crime levels are high, and it’s not unknown for criminals to target visitors, including tourist shuttle buses.

Buses stop frequently to pick up and drop off passengers, and shopkeepers in smaller towns often use chicken buses to transport goods, meaning there isn’t much space in the aisles and safety is always an important topic between foreigns. Opportunistic theft is common on the buses, so be alert and keep an eye on your valuables. Make sure to let the driver know where you want to go, so they can tell you when you’ve reached your destination.

Large backpacks will be put on the roof, so it’s best to travel with a small daypack, rather than exposing your belongings. If someone starts a conversation with you be aware that while most interactions are genuine, robbers sometimes start a conversation to distract you so be careful with your wallet, phone or camera.

Most travel agencies offer day trips in small vans or minibuses. These tours are more expensive, but they’re also offer a guide, more legroom and have air-conditioning. Much more comfortable and less risky.

You will find Uber in Guatemala City and Antigua.The rideshares are handy in the big cities because the price is fixed and if you don’t speak Spanish, you can leave everything to the app. However, in smaller towns and around Lago de Atitlán, Uber and even metered taxis are almost non-existent.


Most visitors enjoy Guatemala without experiencing any health problems. However, it’s always easier to become ill in a country with a different climate, food and germs. Diarrhoea is the medical problem you’re most likely to encounter. Its main cause is simply the change of diet: the food in the region contains a whole new set of bacteria, and perhaps rather more of them than you’re used to. Make sure to be careful to choose good places to eat, bring some medicine and drink lots of bottled water.

TIps for first visit

1. Freedom to go wherever you want – An alternative to visit Guatemala according to your own schedule is to rent a private car with a driver. This is easy to arrange via travel agencies in most tourist destinations. While the main roads are generally in good condition, a particular driver takes the stress out of driving on unfamiliar roads where you don’t speak the language very well and armed robberies are a real risk.

2. Use tuk-tuks in smaller towns – Cheap and quick, the mototaxis, more commonly known as tuk-tuks are probably the most useful form of public transport and can be found in just about every small town in Guatemala. Tuk-tuks travel to nearby towns and villages and alternatively, you must transfer to another tuk-tuk to get to the next town. Tuk-tuks are commonly replaced by pickup trucks (or picop, as locals call them), in some rural areas. Pickup trucks functioning like local buses in less touristy areas because they’re better suited to navigating rough dirt roads. If you buy a tour in a local travel agency expect to travel in tuk-tuks and pickup trucks to have the real local experience getting around Guatemala.

3. Take the boat to Lake Atitlán  – A few places in Guatemala are only accessible (or more easily accessible) by boat. If you staying in a beautiful hotel around Lake Atitlán, the boat from Panajachel to San Pedro La Laguna takes about half an hour by the public motorboat, compared to two hours by road. Livingston on the Caribbean coast and Jaibalito on the shores of Lago de Atitlán are the common places where the boat is the best option. Your hotel can arrange this trip including options in private boats.


4. Learn some Spanish – Knowing some basic Spanish is very helpful in countries like Guatemala, with exception of hotels and restaurants, most people don’t speak English.

Essential Information

Passaport and Visa – Citizens from most countries need only a valid passport to enter Guatemala for up to ninety days. Citizens from Asia and Africa, need to apply for a visa well in advance. Yellow fever vaccination is mandatory if you’re arriving from a “high-risk” area, such as South America and Equatorial Africa. A comprehensive travel insurance policy is essential for visitors to Guatemala.

Currency – Guatemala’s currency, the quetzal (Q). The rate is about Q7.80 to $1, but due to the fluctuation, most agencies quoted all prices in US dollars. Debit and credit cards are very useful for withdrawing currency from bank ATMs but are not widely accepted elsewhere. Beware of expensive surcharges (ten percent is sometimes added) if you do want to pay by a card in many stores.

Language – Spanish is  the official language, spoken by 93% of the population. But there are also 22 Mayan languages around the country.

Eletricity – Power is 110–120 volts depending on the region and plug connections two flat prongs are the same as North America. Anything else needs a transformer and a plug adapter. Cuts in the supply and fluctuations in the current are fairly common in the country.

Tipping – In restaurants a ten percent tip is appropriate, but in most places, especially the cheaper ones, tipping is the exception rather than the rule.

Population – There are approximately 17 million people living in Guatemala.

Hours – In general most shops and museums are open between 8am – 6pm, with many staying open until 7pm from Monday to Friday, but closing at 1pm on Saturdays.

Economy – Guatemala is a considered a developing economy, highly dependent on agriculture, particularly on traditional crops such as coffee, sugar, and bananas. Guatemala remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, having highly unequal incomes and chronically malnourished children. The country is beset by political insecurity, and lacks skilled workers and infrastructure.

Curiosity – Guatemala is the least Catholic Latin American country. Mos people continue to practice ancient Maya religious customs in the indigenous villages. There has been a resurgence of interest in Maya spiritualism among young, educated Guatemalans since the end of the civil war, and attending “shamanic colleges” has become fashionable.

Useful Links – Guatemala Travel Guide

Best Places to stay in Guatemala – Touropia –Concentrates on the Atitlán region, with interesting features plus some hotel and restaurant listings. – List of professional schools and plenty of tips to study Spanish and volunteering in Guatemala.

Smartraveller – Guatemala Travel Advice & Safety

Great articles about what to do in Guatemala by My adventures across the world

Post a Comment

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit sed.

Follow us on