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Guatemala

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Barcelo Guatemala City
Barcelo Guatemala City - dream vacation

7 Avenida 15-45 Zona 9, Guatemala City

Radisson Hotel Guatemala City
Radisson Hotel Guatemala City - dream vacation

la. Avenida 12-46, Zona 10, Guatemala City

Holiday Inn Guatemala City
Holiday Inn Guatemala City - dream vacation

Primera Avenida 13-22 Zona 10, Guatemala City

Grand Tikal Futura Hotel
Grand Tikal Futura Hotel - dream vacation

Calzada Roosevelt 22 43 Zona 11, Guatemala City

Casa Santo Domingo
Casa Santo Domingo - dream vacation

3ra Calle Oriente No. 28 A, Antigua Guatemala

Porta Hotel Antigua
Porta Hotel Antigua - dream vacation

8A Calle Poniente, Antigua Guatemala

Crowne Plaza Guatemala
Crowne Plaza Guatemala - dream vacation

Avenida Las Americas 9-08 Zn13, Guatemala City

Guatemala is a country in the Central America region of North America. It has borders to Mexico in the north/northwest, to Belize in the northeast, to Honduras in the southeast, to El Salvador in the south. It has a Pacific coastline to the southwest, and a tiny piece of Caribbean coastline to the east. Guatemala is very tough land. You can experience volcanic activity, seismic activity (earthquakes, mudslides), and hurricanes.

Regions

Cities

  • Guatemala City — Capital and largest city with many amenities
  • Antigua Guatemala — Colonial Spanish capital of Central America, a World Heritage site, and the most popular among tourists
  • Flores — Island city capital of Petén, good starting point to access Mayan ruins of Tikal.
  • Melchor de Mencos — Border city which is the main crossing point to Belize
  • Panajachel — Gateway to Lake Atitlán, a beautiful and busy tourist area
  • Puerto Barrios — Caribbean seaport with speedboats to and from Belize
  • Puerto San José — Pacific seaport
  • Quetzaltenango — Second largest city, in the western highlands. Commonly called "Xela".
  • Sayaxché — River gateway in Petén

Other destinations

  • Lake Atitlán — Beautiful lake region in the mountains surrounded by many picturesque villages and volcanoes, which is becoming more and more touristic
  • Monterrico — The beach closest to Guatemala City and Antigua, volcanic sand.
  • Rio Dulce — Known as "a ‘one of a kind’ ecological and cultural heritage for humanity", and home of one of the largest bridges in Central America, the area surrounding this emerald "Sweet River" has many sites to see and things to do. From jungle hikes to the Hot Springs Waterfalls (Rio Dulce is home to Finca Paraiso), visiting Castillo San Felipe de Lara, sailing & watersports, seeing the colorful, friendly surrounding villages & landscapes to taking a Lancha tour through the Majestic Canyon from Livingston. There are plenty of places to stay, including some sweet spots right on the water. Rio Dulce is also a huge hub of access to not only places within Guatemala, such as Antigua, Tikal, Cobán, Semuc Champey and more, but is equally a point of access to the surrounding countries of Belize, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador.

Maya ruins

  • El Mirador — massive early Maya site, perhaps the cradle of Maya civilization. Still being uncovered and studied; less developed for visitors than the other largest Maya sites.
  • Tikal — long considered the largest of Maya ruins (although the ongoing investigations of El Mirador may challenge this claim), this huge and impressive ancient Maya site is probably worth the trip to Guatemala by itself. Stay in the park or in nearby Flores the night before in order to organise an early morning trip to Tikal, to see the sun rise over the ruins. Tours are easily organised from the surrounding areas.
  • Aguateca — some of the best-preserved Mayan ruins in Guatemala where you are more likely to encounter archaeologists at work than tourists with cameras
  • El Peru (Waká) — a three day trek/boat trip from Flores and identified as the source of many looted Maya artifacts
  • Iximché — ruins in the Central Highlands, an easy day trip from Guatemala City or Antigua.
  • Nakúm — an impressive Classic Maya site
  • Yaxhá — ruins with more than 500 structures, between Flores and Melchor de Mencos

Understand

Guatemala has a rich and distinctive culture from the long mix of elements from Spain and the native Maya people. This diverse history and the natural beauty of the land have created a destination rich in interesting and scenic sites.

History

Pre-Columbian

See also: Indigenous cultures of North America

The first evidence of human settlers in Guatemala goes back to at least 12,000 BC. Sites dating back to 6500 BC have been found in Quiché in the Central Highlands and Sipacate, Escuintla on the central Pacific coast. Archaeologists divide the pre-Columbian history of Mesoamerica into the Pre-Classic period (2000 BC to 250 AD).

El Mirador was by far the most populated city in pre-Columbian America. The El Tigre and Monos pyramids each have a volume greater than 250,000 cubic meters. Mirador was the first politically organized state in America.

The Classic period of Mesoamerican civilization corresponds to the height of the Maya civilization, and is represented by countless sites throughout Guatemala, although the largest concentration is in Petén in the Northern Lowlands. This period is characterized by heavy city-building, the development of independent city-states, and contact with other Mesoamerican cultures. This lasted until around 900 AD, when the Classic Maya civilization collapsed. The Maya abandoned many of the cities of the central lowlands or were killed off by a drought-induced famine. The Post-Classic period is represented by regional kingdoms such as the Itza' and Ko'woj in the lakes area in Petén, and the Mam, K'iche', Kaqchikel, Tz'utujil, Poqomchi', Q'eqchi' and Ch'orti' in the Highlands. These cities preserved many aspects of Mayan culture, but would never equal the size or power of the Classic cities.

Colonial era

After arriving in what was named the New World, the Spanish mounted several expeditions to Guatemala, beginning in 1519. Before long, Spanish contact resulted in an epidemic that devastated native populations. During the colonial period, Guatemala was an Audiencia and a Captaincy General of Spain, and a part of New Spain (Mexico). It extended from the modern Mexican states of Tabasco and Chiapas to Costa Rica. This region was not as rich in minerals (gold and silver) as Mexico and Peru, and was therefore not considered to be as important. Its main products were sugarcane, cocoa, blue añil dye, red dye from cochineal insects, and precious woods used in artwork for churches and palaces in Spain.

Post-independence

On September 15, 1821, the Captaincy-general of Guatemala (formed by Chiapas, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras) proclaimed its independence from Spain and its incorporation into the Mexican Empire, which was dissolved two years later. The Guatemalan provinces formed the United Provinces of Central America. Guatemala's "Liberal Revolution" came in 1871 under the leadership of Justo Rufino Barrios, who worked to modernize the country, improve trade, and introduce new crops and manufacturing. During this era coffee became an important crop for Guatemala. Barrios had ambitions of reuniting Central America and took the country to war in an unsuccessful attempt to attain this, losing his life on the battlefield in 1885 against forces in El Salvador. From 1898 to 1920, Guatemala was ruled by the dictator Manuel Estrada Cabrera, whose access to the presidency was helped by the United Fruit Company.

On July 4, 1944, Dictator Jorge Ubico Castañeda was forced to resign his office in response to a wave of protests and a general strike, and from then until the end of a murderous civil war in 1996, Guatemala was subject to a series of coups with massive attendant civil rights abuses. State-sponsored murders of students, human rights activists and the ethnic Mayan peoples, gained Guatemala a terrible reputation around the world. In 1999, U.S. president Bill Clinton stated that the United States was wrong to have provided support to Guatemalan military forces that took part in the brutal civilian killings.

Since the peace accords in 1996, Guatemala has witnessed successive democratic elections, most recently in 2007 when The National Unity of Hope and its president candidate Álvaro Colom won the presidency as well as the majority of the seats in congress.

Climate

The climate of Guatemala is diverse. In most of Guatemala it is hot (low 80s [~27ºC]-mid 90s [~35ºC] depending on time of year and location), with post meridiem thunderstorms that generally notch down the heat a bit. In the Altos, or highland area the weather is generally a bit cooler, and ranges from the high 70s [~25ºC] to high 80s [~31ºC] depending on time of year.

Get in

The following nationalities do not need a visa to visit Guatemala: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Chile, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, San Marino, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States, United Kingdom, Vatican City, Venezuela.

Valid passports are required of everyone except citizens of the following Central American countries: Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador. There is a treaty of free movement not unlike Schengen between those countries.

Proof of onward travel is often required by airlines however rarely checked by officials to gain a visa when flying into Guatemala.

By plane

Guatemala's main airport, La Aurora International Airport (IATA: GUA), is in Guatemala City. International flights arrive mostly from the other Central American countries, United States, Mexico, Colombia and Spain. The airport recently underwent modernizing reconstruction. It is now a glass-and-concrete edifice with modern shops and duty-frees that you might expect in any large city. Food options may be somewhat still limited, however. American Airlines, Avianca, Copa, Delta, and United all offer service to Guatemala, albeit at high prices. Iberia also serves Guatemala City.

Guatemala's secondary airport is situated in Flores (IATA: FRS), Petén. This small airport receives flights from Guatemala City and neighboring Belize.

By car

From Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador access is via the Pan-American Highway. Road access is also possible with more difficulty from Belize.

By bus

  • From Belize. Multiple companies have express buses from Belize City to Flores (Guatemala), passing through San Ignacio and Xunantunich, with connections to Guatemala City. A cheaper alternative is a local Belizean bus to the border town of Benque Viejo, a taxi to the border and onward from Melchor de Mencos to Flores by colectivo, or taxi to Tikal.
  • From El Salvador. Buses are available from San Salvador and Santa Ana.
  • From Honduras. Services run from Copán Ruinas, San Pedro Sula, La Ceiba and Tegucigalpa.
  • Mexico. Buses are available from Tapachula, Palenque, Chetumal, Tulum, Cancún and Mexico City.

From further afield, it is possible to reach Guatemala from Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. The following are bus companies that provide international services (The addresses provided in the below links are their Guatemala City addresses):

Pullmantur, 1a Avenida 13-22 Zona 10 (Hotel Holiday Inn), ☎ +502 2495-7000. Operates buses between Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa and San Salvador. Trans Galgos Inter., 7a Avenida 19-44 Zona 1, ☎ +503 2232-3661, +503 2220-6018, +503 2230-5058. departs 1pm. International services to Tapachula from Guatemala City via Retalhuleau and Coatepeque on one route and twice daily to San Salvador on another. They also operate a third domestic route to Quetzaltenango from Guatemala City. US$17. Platinum Centroamerica (King Quality), 4 Ave 13-60 Zona 10, ☎ +502 2501-1000. Serves Guatemala City, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, San Pedro Sula and Managua. Comfort Lines, 4 Ave 13-60 Zona 10, ☎ +502 2501-1000. Operates mainly between the Guatemala city and San Salvador. Ticabus (Transportes Internationales Centromaericanos), Calzada Aguilar Batres, 22-55 Zona 12, ☎ +502 2473-3737. departs 6.00am and 2.00pm. Major Central bus company operating buses across the Central American isthmus between Panama City and Managua. From Managua one route goes to Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula in Honduras while another continues along the Pan American Hwy to San Salvador, Guatemala City and Tapachula in Mexico. They also have another north-south route connecting El Salvador to Honduras.. Transportes del Sol (Hotel Crowne Plaza), ☎ +502 2422 5000, +502 4147 3104. departs 3.00am and 4.00pm. =Serves Guatemala City, San Salvador, Tegucigalpa, and Managua. US$28 (one-way).

By boat

There are several ferries to and from Puerto Barrios and Livingston, and Punta Gorda, Belize.

Get around

By bus

It's hard to miss the colorfully-decorated buses that crowd the streets of major cities and highways of Guatemala. These are chicken buses, or camionetas in Spanish, and are a common form of travel for Guatemalans and a travel adventure for tourists. They are much cheaper than tourist vans or taxis and are usually very crowded, with three people squeezed into seats barely big enough for two children, and more people standing in the aisles.

The buses are often used North American school buses with the "Blue Bird" and "Ford" logos clearly visible. In addition to the driver there is usually a conductor standing in the door -many a times these people are very rude and can even be dangerous if you tell them something you don't like (for example to turn down the volume to their oftentimes nightclub subwoofers). The conductor collects fares, and from time to time jumps out to direct the bus through a blind intersection or around a tight turn. On the highways, the chicken bus drivers are aggressive, not hesitating to overtake in the face of oncoming traffic. Riding these buses on the steep highways of the Western Highlands is especially harrowing, but may be the most quintessential Guatemalan experience there is. It has to be mentioned that regularly there are many people killed in these harrowing quintessential experiences when these buses crash head on with other vehicles, go flying into a roadside ravine or tumble and spin alongside the highway, disassembling the bus in the process and working as a blender and squasher for the passengers inside.

Bus conductors may sometimes charge out of country tourists more than the going rate. If you look to see what other travelers are paying you can usually avoid this problem, however, they often charge you the same as everyone else. Sending a message to the Guatemala tourism department, Inguat [1] , will let them know of this problem.

You can board a chicken bus almost anywhere along its route. If you put out your arm, it will stop. You board and find a space to sit or stand. The conductor will come back to you after the bus is underway, and collect your fare. You need to recognize where your stop is, and move to the door in time. You ask the bus to stop, more or less wherever you want to get off.

Also, robberies of the buses is frequent in the highway in the countryside and in the capital itself. Usually several people, one or more in the front, middle and back of the bus get up, take out their guns and announce a robbery or simply a group of people -or even children- surround you and demand your possessions from you. Sometimes this is part of the regular routine of the bus drivers, sometimes even the drivers organize these robberies.

By plane

Regular domestic flights operate only between Guatemala City and Flores on Transportes Aereos Guatemaltecos and Avianca Guatemala (formerly Taca Regional).

By trolley

Guatemala City has a local trolley service aimed at tourists.

By train

There is a rail network, but aside from the occasional steam charter aimed at tourist groups, no trains, freight or passenger, have run since 2007.

Talk

Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, and the most commonly spoken. Over twenty indigenous languages are still spoken throughout, but many of the Maya people have at least a working knowledge of basic Spanish as well, except in the more remote areas. For the Garifuna people in Livingston, Garifuna and English are the main languages (but Spanish is spoken as well).

The most familiar form of Spanish spoken among good friends is the "tú" and "vos" form, but varies between regions. It is considered rude and very informal if used with someone that you do not know. As a tourist, it is safer to stick with the "usted" form. However, don't be surprised if some homestay families and some language teachers jump right into using the "tú" or "vos" form. If they do, you may respond in kind.

See

Maya ruins are the key attractions in the country and the most notable are El Mirador, perhaps the cradle of Maya civilisation, and Tikal.

Volcanoes

Guatemala has a lot of volcanoes, many of them over 3,000 metres high.

  • Volcán de Pacaya (2500m) - this is an active volcano about 30 minutes outside of Antigua. Some days it will not be accessible as the volcano may be too active to observe safely. Bring a jacket since it will be windy and cold at the top (although the ground will feel warm) and wear long pants as the volcanic rock can easily give you a nice cut. Tour guides can be organised from Antigua. Up until its most recent significant eruption in late May 2010, you were able to walk right up to see real lava and even roast hot dogs and marshmellows over it. Although trips are still common and travel agencies still boast this possibility with pictures of tourist doing so in the past, this is no longer possible.

If you decide to travel to Pacaya alone the prices are quite reasonable. Approximately Q25 (US$3) entrance to the park. At the entrance to Pacaya National Park you will be required to have a local guide, licensed by the park to take you to the top of the volcano. There are two separate entrances to the park, the first locatred in the town of El Cedro and the second in the town of San Francisco. The El Cedro route is an easier climb, around 2 hours up & 1 hour down the volcano. The San Fracisco entrance is a few miles further past El Cedro. It's a bit of a steeper climb. The entire park is patrolled by local police and soldiers - it is quite safe. Locals also offer horses to bring you for around Q125 (US$15) which if you're not into hiking is a great alternative. These are offered to you when you begin your ascent. There are washrooms, snacks and drinks available for sale at both entrances as well. Secure parking is available for those traveling without a tour group.

Do

Guatemala is rich in natural beauty and travel opportunities, it's a country that offers so much to those willing to step off the beaten track for a little while.

Antigua Guatemala is often regarded as the travellers hub, a crumbling, picture-perfect Central American town ringed by volcanoes. From here you can take a hike up Volcano Pacaya, take a bus to the bustling market of Chichicastenango, or sip some coffee in a street-side cafe and watch the world go by.

Lake Atitlan (or Lago de Atitlán) is another frequent stop on any visitors itinerary. A volcano-rimmed lake with plenty of backpacker hostels and Mayan villages that dot the shores.

Flores in Guatemala's wild north is a tourist friendly island in the middle of Lake Petén Itzá. From here you can take a bus ride to one of best preserved Mayan ruins in the world, Tikal. Howler monkeys and dense jungle make walking around the ruins an adventure in itself.

  • Semuc Champey, Lanquin, near Coban, Alta Verapaz. Semuc Champey is a cascade of turquoise limestone pools created by the river plunging below ground for a stretch before rushing back out through a spectacular waterfall. Definitely worth making the trip to Lanquin for as well as the beautiful lodges that have sprung up from the captivating hilly landscape.

Rio Dulce The Rio Dulce is a majestic emerald river, sandwiched between Belize & Honduras, which sweeps out to the Caribbean. The Rio Dulce area consists of two towns on either side of one of the largest bridges in Central America, Fronteras & El Relleno. Rio Dulce is a haven for Sailors and Backpackers alike, with plenty to do and to see. Finca Paraiso is a hot springs waterfall which is like having a spa day in the jungle; Castillo San Felipe de Lara is a historical fort site and an inexpensive way to spend the afternoon touring the castle and swimming in Lake Izabal. The many species of Birds & Animals (including manatees) makes Rio Dulce a great spot for birdwatchers, animal lovers & fishing fans.

Buy

Money

The local currency is the quetzal (Q) which is named after the national bird, which has ancient and mythic connotations even today. US dollars are widely accepted and can be exchanged in most small towns. ATMs can be found in the major towns but do not expect to find them in every tourist spot. It is fairly easy to find your self in a town without an ATM or a place to change money.

Do not expect to be able to easily exchange travelers checks to Guatemala. You might find a few places willing to accept checks issued by American Express but all other types are universally turned down. Even major banks in Guatemala City do not accept VISA travelers checks.

It is common to use dollars in tourist areas. You will most likely have difficulties in changing other currencies than US dollars, but euros are becoming increasingly common.

Shopping

It is common to bargain for most purchases in the open air market. Though you may be able to bargain in other places, be aware that chain-owned shops have fixed prices (you are no more likely to bargain in a Guatemalan Radio Shack than an American one).

These are some characteristically Guatemalan things you might consider buying here:

  • Ron Zacapa Centenario — Guatemala's prize-winning rum
  • Fabrics and traditional textiles — Traditional Mayan blouses are known as huipiles (whi-peel) and skirts as cortes. Be aware that these are almost always entirely handmade and prices for a high-end huipil may be as high as Q1000.
  • Jade — there is large jade working factory in Antigua, but it is course a very stone.
  • Coffee — touted as one of the best-tasting varieties in the world
  • Cardamom — Guatemala is the largest exporter in the world and Coban is the main centre of this trade.

Eat

Typical food:

  • Kaq Ik
  • Pepián
  • Jocom
  • Quichom
  • Tortillas and tortillas de harina. Maize tortillas are served with most meals.
  • Frijoles negros - stewed black beans
  • Caldos - beef broths
  • Tamales — steam-cooked corn meal, with a variety of fillings, wrapped in banana leaves
  • Rice 'n beans (Garifunafood in Puerto Barrios)
  • Tapado, ceviche and other fishmeals
  • Churrascos

A typical breakfast is frijoles and rice with coffee of course.

The type of food really depends on how much you want to spend and what type of place you want to spend it at. You can get almost any type of food at the main tourist locations. In the aldeas (small towns) your choices are mostly limited to those items listed above. Guatemalan food differs from Mexican food in that it is a lot less spicy, and chillies are generally served in a separate dish from the main course to be added as desired, rather than included in the food.

Drink

Popular Guatemalan beers are Gallo (lager, by far the most popular with Guatemalans), Victoria, Brahva (a light pilsner style), Moza (dark bock), Cabro, Monte Carlo (premium), and Dorada. Don't be surprised if you get salt and lemon with your beer. It's a custom to put some salt on the toes of the bottle, and screw out the lemon in the beer. Sometimes it is mixed with V8 vegetable juice, and the concoction is called michelada.

Guatemala produces a number of rums, including the superb Ron Zacapa Centenario which is aged up to 30 years.

Tequila is a very popular drink in Guatemala.

Guatemalans usually dress down when they go out.

If you order a bottled drink, you will normally get a tissue to clean the bottle. Coca-Cola and Pepsi-type products are available, plus many from local soft drink manufacturers.

Sleep

You will likely find cheap hotels (US$5 a night) in every town or village in Guatemala. In the main tourist areas, there are also many high quality hotels (US$200 a night).

Learn

Guatemala is a great place to learn Spanish. The prices are low, and Guatemalan Spanish is considered pleasing. Antigua has the most Spanish schools and is also the most popular place for tourists. But if studying Spanish is your main concern, you might be better off elsewhere, because you can actually go around in Antigua for a whole day without hearing anything but English.

Because of this, many language students head towards Quetzaltenango in the Western Highlands, where a wide range of language schools also offer Spanish language courses (some quite inexpensive). Another alternative is San Pedro la Laguna, seated by Lake Atitlan.

Work

There are various volunteering opportunities around the country.

  • Asociacion La Alianza Guatemala welcomes enquiries from potential volunteers who want to help provide care and assistance to, and protect the human rights of, the children and adolescents who live on the streets of Latin America.
  • CARE is said to organise volunteer projects in Guatemala [2].
  • Casa Guatemala (in Rio Dulce) Houses, cares for and educates over 250 abused, orphaned or impoverished children from the Rio Dulce and surrounding villages. A low-cost volunteer program working with the Children's Village or helping at one of the local businesses which supports the Orphanage is available. Spanish Classes are also available. Please visit the website for an application.
  • En Mi Salsa is a Dutch Foundation that focuses on development of rural women and their children. They support women’s handicraft cooperative Ut'z Bat'z in Chichicastenango and offer scholarships to poor children. Volunteers are needed. They also arrange your Spanish language classes, home stay, volunteer work, local tours.
  • Entremundos is a registered non-profit organization that hosts a database of over 100 local opportunties, accessible for free on their website. They also offer various additional personalized volunteer services for a small donation which includes working with their volunteer coordinator to arrange possible opportunities for you. For more info email: volunteering@entremundos.org
  • Global Vision International (GVI), (PMG) [3] run a number of volunteering programs around Guatemala with indigenous communities. They include home stay, Spanish language classes, and other services.
  • Mayan Families Mayan Families is a small non-profit organization operating in the Highlands of Guatemala. Based in Panajachel, they operate a variety of programs to support and empower the Maya people of Lake Atitlan and the surrounding areas. The work of Mayan Families is supported completely through donations, which are tax deductible in the U.S.
  • PID (Partners In Development) is a non-profit organization that works to help the extreme poor of Guatemala. They build houses for families, provide small business loans, and offer sponsorship programs for children in need [4].
  • Proyecto Mosaico Guatemala, (PMG) [5] will, for a fee of US$270, set you up with an organisation in Guatemala which needs a volunteer. They also can arrange a home stay, Spanish language classes, and other services.
  • Safe Passage/Camino Seguro welcomes enquiries from potential volunteers who want to empower the poorest at risk children whose families make their living at Guatemala's garbage dump by creating opportunities for fostering dignity via the power of education.
  • Some schools organise social projects as well. See, for example, the Guate Spanish school's entry under Quetzaltenango.

Cope

If traveling from Mexico, be aware that Guatemala does not observe Daylight Savings Time. Because Guatemala is generally to the east of Mexico, this creates the quite unusual situation of turning the clock back instead of forward while traveling eastward. Both southern Mexico and Guatemala are on the same time when Daylight Savings is not in effect.

Newspapers and Magazines for tourists:

  • Qué Pasa. Bilingual (English & Spanish) monthly magazine based in La Antigua, with tourism and feature articles, interviews, and calendars of events, cinema, and live music. Print edition is available for free in many places in La Antigua and select locations in Ciudad de Guatemala. Online edition is available at Qué Pasa's website.
  • Revue Magazine, 6a calle poniente No. 2, La Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala, Central America. 8 to 5. Guatemala's English-language magazine
  • The Guatemala Times. English language newspaper
  • The EntreMundos. Bilingual magazine about development and human rights issues in Guatemala and Central America, published bimonthly and distributed throughout Quetzaltenango, and other areas.

Stay safe

Guatemala has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world. Travelers should take some extra precautions when in Guatemala. If you are mugged, carjacked, or approached by armed individuals, cooperate. Do not make any sudden movements, and give whatever belongings or money that are demanded. Tourists have been shot and killed for resisting muggers. Something you have to be made aware of is that sometimes these robberies are committed by off-duty policemen -incredible as it sounds but being a robber or kidnapper is a part-time job of many policemen.

Do not go to areas known to be hotbeds of drug trafficking activity (i.e., some parts of the Peten), and do not go to the most dangerous neighborhoods in Guatemala City (zones 3, 6, 12, 18, 19, and 21). Be careful in Zone 1 in Guatemala City, especially after dark, and do not stay in hotels there. Using the slightly more expensive hotels in Zone 10 or Zone 13 (near the airport) is a much better idea.

Women should be especially careful around men, even if the men present themselves as local hotel employees. Over the last year, several tourists have been the victims of brutal sexual assaults in the beach community of Monterrico and the town of Panajachel. In one case, a local man pretended to be a hotel employee before torturing, raping, and attempting to kill a young woman staying in the area.

Do not use buses in Guatemala City, as they are frequently robbed by gangs. Instead, radio-dispatched taxis (Taxi Amarillo) are a safer way to get around the city. Another note is that when travelling by chicken bus beware of anyone sitting next to you.

Although some say that travelers should always carry a bit of extra cash and be prepared to bribe a few police officers, most tourists will have no reason to give bribes to anyone. The most likely situations in which you might have to bribe police would be if you are driving a car or riding a motorcycle and are stopped for fictitious violations of traffic rules. Most European/North Americans find it immoral but it is much easier to spend Q50 and avoid the headaches than to be harassed by the police. Phrases such as "I'm sorry officer, is there any way we can solve this right now?" work well. Do not offer bribes directly to an officer because it is illegal and you could actually end up in more trouble.

Never take photos of children without permission. Some Guatemalans are extremely wary of this and will assume you are a kidnapper (even if the children are someone else's). Guatemala has had many problems with children being sold or kidnapped and put up for adoption on the black market. Of course, this doesn't include a few children mixed in with many adults at a distance. This occurs mainly on the more remote Guatemalan villages. In the major cities people are somewhat more open towards picture-taking, but still avoid it.

It is dangerous to travel between cities after dark. Doing so significantly increases your risk of being in a car accident or being the victim of an armed robbery.

Pickpocketing is common in markets, so never keep anything in your back pocket and take as little with you as possible.

One of the best things about Guatemala is the abundance of natural beauty and numerous treks. Some of these are notorious for robberies (Volcan de Agua, trails around Lago de Atitlán, Volcán de Pacaya). Always ask around about the situation before embarking blindly. Inguat, locals, and fellow travelers are safe bets for information. Traveling in groups during daylight sometimes decreases the risk, but not always.

Traffic can be dangerous. You will encounter many one-lane roads (one lane each way) and drivers are apt to swerve back and forth, avoiding potholes and bumps along the way. There are also various multiple lane highways. Traffic in Guatemala City and surrounding metropolitan areas during rush hour is very slow, but general driving everywhere is usually very fast (average speeds of up to 60 mph in some city roads).

Stay healthy

Drink only purified water (Agua Pura Salvavidas is recommended by most of hospitals and hotels).

CDC [6] states that malaria risk exists in rural areas at altitudes lower than 1,500 metres, with no risk in Antigua or Lake Atitlán. Preventative anti-malarial medication can and should be purchased ahead of visiting malaria-endemic areas.

Dengue fever is endemic throughout Guatemala.

Hepatitis A&B vaccinations are recommended.

Respect

Address people you don't know in a formal manner (Señor, Señora, Usted), and greet people in the following way:

  • day - "buenos dias" "feliz dia"
  • night- "feliz noche" "buenas noches"

You'll encounter this in more suburban, rural areas. Native Guatemalans are raised to greet strangers formally.

Connect

Phone

Guatemala's international calling code is 502. There are no area codes. Phone numbers all have eight digits. On September 18, 2004, the phone system switched from seven to eight digits, and there is a scheme for adding specific digits to the front of seven-digit numbers (WTNG.info description [7]).

The phone system isn't great, but it works. Tourists can call abroad from call centers, where you pay by the minute. It is also easy to purchase a calling card to use at public pay phones. The phones there do not accept money, so to use a public phone on the street you must purchase a telephone card. Typically, the cost is around Q8 for a 10 min call to North America. Cell phones are quite cheap and calling to the US through one can get as low as US$0.08 a min. If you are planning to stay for a while and plan to use the phone, you should consider buying a cheap prepaid phone. Wireless nation-wide internet access for laptops is also available as a service from some companies. Telefónica has good coverage with their PCMCIA EV-DO cards.

Post

The postal system is traditionally not reliable, but your post cards usually get through. A stamp for Europe is Q5. There are; however, many other alternative companies to the federal mail system that are reliable, though frequently somewhat pricey.

Internet

Internet access is widely available. Even most of the more remote areas have some type of internet access available. Many larger areas also have WiFi. All of the Camperos chicken/pizza restaurants (which are numerous) offer free WiFi, as well as many other restaurants and cafes. Some hotels may also offer computer banks with internet access. Just ask and you eventually will find some sort of free access.

Mobile (3G/GPRS) internet access

If you have an internet capable mobile phone such as iPhone, Google Android, Nokia N95 etc. or USB dongle for your laptop, you just need a local SIM card (roughly Q25) and can start enjoying the prepaid access plans, which generally come in lots of an hour, a day, or a week.

With a program such as PDANet you can create a mini Wifi network that follows you around as you travel. I asked around and apparently the normal way to activate the internet after putting in the right configuration settings I was supposed to send the SMS message "WAP" to the shortcode 805, but I didn't need to do this. The APN (access point name) was internet.tigo.gt

Here is a table for the settings and activation options for various providers, including approximate costs.

Lonely Planet Guatemala (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

#1 best-selling guide to Guatemala*

Lonely Planet Guatemala is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Visit Tika's monumental restored temples, learn to speak Spanish while admiring picture-postcard vistas in Antigua or hike Lago de Atitlan's lakeshore trails; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Guatemala and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet Guatemala Travel Guide:

Color maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - ancient Maya heritage, history, religion, education, sport, wildlife, literature, painting, music, architecture, handicrafts, environmental issues, cuisine, coffee Over 45 maps Covers Guatemala City, Antigua, Lago de Atitlan, Quiche, Baja Verapaz, Alta Verapaz, Copan (Honduras), El Peten, Tikal, El Mirador,  ChichicastenangoQuetzaltenango, Nebaj and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Guatemala, our most comprehensive guide to the country, is perfect for both exploring top sights and taking roads less traveled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet Central America on a Shoestring.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet.

About Lonely Planet: Since 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel media company with guidebooks to every destination, an award-winning website, mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet covers must-see spots but also enables curious travelers to get off beaten paths to understand more of the culture of the places in which they find themselves.

*Best-selling guide to Guatemala. Source: Nielsen BookScan. Australia, UK and USA.

The Rough Guide to Guatemala

Rough Guides

The Rough Guide to Guatemala is the definitive guide to this fascinating Central American country. Its detailed accounts of attractions and full-color maps show you everything Guatemala has to offer, from ancient Mayan cities to beautiful rainforest scenery and stunning lakes.

Newly updated, this guide is packed with insider tips about off-the-beaten-track destinations, hiking trails, surf spots, kayak and rafting trips, and jungle walks, as well as all the best hotels, cafes, restaurants and bars for every budget. Whether you're taking in the grand Mayan site of Tikal, the colonial architecture of Antigua, a traditional market, or an adventurous jungle trek, The Rough Guide to Guatemala will help you experience the best.

Make the most of your time with The Rough Guide to Guatemala.

The Guatemala Reader: History, Culture, Politics (The Latin America Readers)

Greg Grandin, Deborah T. Levenson, Elizabeth Oglesby

This reader brings together more than 200 texts and images in a broad introduction to Guatemala's history, culture, and politics. In choosing the selections, the editors sought to avoid representing the country only in terms of its long experience of conflict, racism, and violence. And so, while offering many perspectives on that violence, this anthology portrays Guatemala as a real place where people experience joys and sorrows that cannot be reduced to the contretemps of resistance and repression. It includes not only the opinions of politicians, activists, and scholars, but also poems, songs, plays, jokes, novels, short stories, recipes, art, and photographs that capture the diversity of everyday life in Guatemala. The editors introduce all of the selections, from the first piece, an excerpt from the Popol Vuh, a mid-sixteenth-century text believed to be the single most important source documenting pre-Hispanic Maya culture, through the final selections, which explore contemporary Guatemala in relation to neoliberalism, multiculturalism, and the dynamics of migration to the United States and of immigrant life. Many pieces were originally published in Spanish, and most of those appear in English for the first time.

Guatemala - Culture Smart!: The Essential Guide to Customs & Culture

Lisa Vaughn

Culture Smart! provides essential information on attitudes, beliefs and behavior in different countries, ensuring that you arrive at your destination aware of basic manners, common courtesies, and sensitive issues. These concise guides tell you what to expect, how to behave, and how to establish a rapport with your hosts. This inside knowledge will enable you to steer clear of embarrassing gaffes and mistakes, feel confident in unfamiliar situations, and develop trust, friendships, and successful business relationships. Culture Smart! offers illuminating insights into the culture and society of a particular country. It will help you to turn your visit-whether on business or for pleasure-into a memorable and enriching experience. Contents include * customs, values, and traditions * historical, religious, and political background * life at home * leisure, social, and cultural life * eating and drinking * do's, don'ts, and taboos * business practices * communication, spoken and unspoken

Lonely Planet Guatemala (Travel Guide)

Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet: The world's leading travel guide publisher

Lonely Planet Guatemala is your passport to all the most relevant and up-to-date advice on what to see, what to skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Explore the street markets of Chichicastenango, climb the radiant Maya ruins of Tikal or dip your toes in the ethereal Lago de Atitlan; all with your trusted travel companion. Get to the heart of Guatemala and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Guatemala Travel Guide:

Color maps and images throughout Highlights and itineraries show you the simplest way to tailor your trip to your own personal needs and interests Insider tips save you time and money, and help you get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots Essential info at your fingertips - including hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, and prices Honest reviews for all budgets - including eating, sleeping, sight-seeing, going out, shopping, and hidden gems that most guidebooks miss Cultural insights give you a richer and more rewarding travel experience - including history, art, literature, Maya heritage, politics, landscapes, wildlife, and etiquette Over 46 maps Useful features - including Maya Ruins Planning Feature, Off the Beaten Track Itinerary and Illustrated Map of Tikal Coverage of Antigua, Chichicastenango and other highland towns, Lago de Atitlan, Grutas de Lanquin, Semuc Champey, Tikal and other Maya ruins of El Peten, Pacific beaches, Guatemala City and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet Guatemala, our most comprehensive guide to Guatemala, is perfect for those planning to both explore the top sights and take the road less traveled.

Looking for more extensive coverage? Check out Lonely Planet's Central America on a Shoestring guide.

Authors: Written and researched by Lonely Planet, Lucas Vidgen and Daniel C Schechter.

About Lonely Planet: Started in 1973, Lonely Planet has become the world's leading travel guide publisher with guidebooks to every destination on the planet, as well as an award-winning website, a suite of mobile and digital travel products, and a dedicated traveler community. Lonely Planet's mission is to enable curious travelers to experience the world and to truly get to the heart of the places they find themselves in.

TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012 and 2013 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category

'Lonely Planet guides are, quite simply, like no other.' - New York Times

'Lonely Planet. It's on everyone's bookshelves; it's in every traveller's hands. It's on mobile phones. It's on the Internet. It's everywhere, and it's telling entire generations of people how to travel the world.' - Fairfax Media (Australia)

Moon Guatemala (Moon Handbooks)

Al Argueta

This full-color guide includes vibrant photos and detailed maps to help with trip planning.Part-time Guatemala resident Al Argueta provides travelers with an insider's view of Guatemala's best, from idyllic surf spots to popular volcanoes. Argueta offers in-depth coverage of Lake Atitlan and La Antigua, as well as Guatemala City's diverse selection of museums. With expert advice on where to eat, sleep, relax, and explore, Moon Guatemala gives travelers the tools they need to create a more personal and memorable experience.

Guatemala (National Geographic Adventure Map)

National Geographic Maps - Adventure

• Waterproof • Tear-Resistant • Travel Map

National Geographic's Guatemala Adventure Map is the most comprehensive map available for travelers exploring the country's rich cultural heritage and diverse natural beauty. Combining a clearly marked road network, a user-friendly index of cities and towns, topographic information and points of interest, this expertly researched map is the perfect companion to any guide book. The mapped road network, shown with distances, includes major highways and secondary roads along with high clearance roads and tracks, for those seeking to explore off the beaten path. Additional travel information includes airports, airstrips, ferry routes, railroads and border crossings. Among the hundreds of pinpointed cultural, ecological, historical and adventure destinations are national parks and other protected areas, archeological sites, caves, beaches, shipwrecks, coral reefs, UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The front side covers northern Guatemala and its northern border regions with Mexico and Belize. Included are the Mayan areas of El Mirador and Tikal National Park along with the island town of Flores on Lake Peten Itza. The reverse side covers the country south of the Yucatan Peninsula, bordering areas of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize, the Pacific Ocean shoreline and part of the Gulf of Honduras. In this area you'll find the World Heritage site of Antigua, Lakes Atitlan and Izabel, Pacaya Volcano and the capital, Guatemala City.

Every Adventure Map is printed on durable synthetic paper, making them waterproof, tear-resistant and tough — capable of withstanding the rigors of international travel.

Map Scale = 1:500,000Sheet Size = 37.75" x 25.5"Folded Size = 4.25" x 9.25"

GUATEMALA Country Studies: A brief, comprehensive study of Guatemala

CIA

A brief yet detailed report on the country of Guatemala with updated information on the map, flag, history, people, economics, political conditions in government, foreign affairs, and U.S. relations.

Exercise a high degree of caution

The decision to travel is your responsibility. You are also responsible for your personal safety abroad. The purpose of this Travel Advice is to provide up-to-date information to enable you to make well-informed decisions.

Crime

In south-eastern districts close to the borders with El Salvador and Honduras, and in northern districts along the border with Mexico, drug-related violence has led to a number of armed attacks. Violence related to drug trafficking has also been reported in the capital, Guatemala City, as well as in other major cities in the country. Foreigners and tourists are not usually targeted but you should nonetheless always remain vigilant.

Military and police forces, deployed along the border with Mexico to combat organized crime and improve security conditions, are conducting random vehicle searches.

Guatemala has one of the highest rates of violent crime in Latin America, but a very low arrest and detention rate. Most incidents are drug- and gang-related and occur in and around Guatemala City and in rural areas. The border with Mexico also presents risks due to drug smuggling and illegal immigration. Handguns and other small arms are very common. Criminals often operate in groups. Foreigners are often targets of robbery, carjacking, armed assault, sexual assault and rape. Crime levels tend to increase during the holiday seasons.

Always be aware of your surroundings. Do not display signs of affluence, especially in airports. Avoid travelling alone (especially late at night) and avoid low-cost hotels with poor security. Ensure that your personal belongings, passports and other travel documents are secure at all times. Carry only a copy of the identification page of your passport and sufficient funds for the day. Exercise extreme caution when using automated banking machines (ABMs). If you are threatened by robbers, stay calm and do not resist. Injuries or death have occurred when victims have resisted.

Be vigilant, especially in large cities. Avoid walking after dark. Never display laptop computers, mobile phones or other electronic devices.

Vigilante justice has increased in rural areas, resulting in lynchings of suspected child kidnappers and other delinquents. Avoid large crowds and gatherings because of the potential for violence. Maintain a high level of personal security awareness at all times.

Demonstrations

Demonstrations occur and have the potential to suddenly turn violent. They can lead to significant disruptions to traffic and public transportation. Avoid all demonstrations and large gatherings, follow the advice of local authorities and monitor local media.

Road travel

Only undertake intercity travel by car during daylight hours, preferably in a convoy of two or more vehicles.

Secondary streets and rural roads are poorly lit. Local motorists rarely obey traffic laws. Steep, winding mountain roads and lack of road signs present additional dangers.

The Inter-American (or Pan-American) Highway (CA-1) and the road from Guatemala City to the Atlantic Ocean are dangerous because of heavy traffic. Off-road travel in the remote highlands should be undertaken only after seeking advice from the Embassy of Canada in Guatemala City.

Avoid travelling on the isolated small dirt roads near Lake Atitlán. The safest route to Lake Atitlán is via the Inter-American Highway and Sololá, although this is where most disturbances occur. Avoid travelling on the road from Godinez to Panajachel as it is dangerous and rarely patrolled by police. Armed robberies against vehicles with foreign licence plates have occurred on the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-2) and the Atlantic Highway (CA-9).

Roadblocks, which can cause major traffic disruptions, have been reported along roads leading to and from airports. Do not attempt to pass through a roadblock, even if it appears unattended. Stay alert to new developments through local media reports and amend your travel arrangements accordingly.

Roadblocks erected by armed gangs are common, particularly in the northern and western departments of San Marcos, Huehuetenango, Quiché, Alta Verapaz, Petén and Escuintla. Criminals have been known to pose as police officers. Comply and do not resist if attacked. Always drive with car windows closed and doors locked.

Allow enough time for border formalities so that you can arrive in a major town before dark. Many border posts close for lunch and at dusk. Avoid exchanging money at border crossings unless absolutely necessary as doing so has sometimes resulted in armed robbery.

Public transportation

Local and intercity public buses are not safe. Problems include mechanical unreliability, the use of unlicensed drivers, frequent major road accidents and crime on board. Pickpocketing and armed robbery are daily occurrences.

Public buses are frequently targeted by gangs who hurl grenades or fire shots as a way of ensuring compliance to extortion demands or to settle accounts. Drivers have been the targets of violence, including murder. Passengers have been subject to armed robbery, sometimes by fellow passengers.

Do not travel on local public buses (“chicken buses”). Tourist shuttles travelling between popular destinations have been targeted by hijackers in the past.

Only travel on intercity buses during daylight hours and with reliable tour companies, as fraud has occurred.

Ensure that transportation and tour providers are reputable and reliable before booking. The government tourist assistance service PROATUR or hotel staff can provide you with advice on the safest companies. In Guatemala City, only use official taxis and make detailed arrangements for the return trip. Advice on reliable taxi companies may be obtained by inquiring with PROATUR or hotel staff.

Consult our Transportation Safety page in order to verify if national airlines meet safety standards.

General security information

Tourists may obtain up-to-date security information through INGUAT (service available in English), the Guatemalan Tourism Institute. INGUAT’s telephone numbers for tourist assistance (ASISTUR) are (502) 2421-2810 and (502) 5578-9836. You may also dial 1500 within Guatemala. Tourist groups may also request security escorts and obtain emergency assistance through INGUAT.

When visiting volcanoes and other tourist sites, you should travel in groups and with a reputable tour company. Sexual assaults and robberies can occur, especially when security personnel normally deployed on these sites are absent. Travellers should stay informed of security conditions in the areas they plan to visit.

Do not approach or photograph children and women, since many people in Guatemala fear that children are being kidnapped for adoption or for theft of vital organs. Violent incidents involving foreigners have occurred.

Cruise-ship passengers who book a tour or make other travel arrangements should ensure that the company is recognized by the cruise line. Confirm your itinerary with the ship and port authority as well as with INGUAT, the Guatemalan Tourism Institute, and PROATUR.

Exercise caution when swimming off the Pacific coast, and seek information about water conditions such as strong currents, riptides and undertow. Avoid deserted and unpatrolled beaches after dark.

Emergency services

Dial 110 or 120 for police, 122 or 123 for the fire department and ambulance services. It may be difficult to obtain police assistance. Police forces lack resources and are often corrupt. National police officers do not speak English. PROATUR officers are able to provide assistance in English.

Health

Related Travel Health Notices
Consult a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic preferably six weeks before you travel.
Vaccines

Routine Vaccines

Be sure that your routine vaccines are up-to-date regardless of your travel destination.

Vaccines to Consider

You may be at risk for these vaccine-preventable diseases while travelling in this country. Talk to your travel health provider about which ones are right for you.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a disease of the liver spread by contaminated food or water. All those travelling to regions with a risk of hepatitis A infection should get vaccinated.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a disease of the liver spread through blood or other bodily fluids. Travellers who may be exposed (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment or occupational exposure) should get vaccinated.

Influenza

Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or through personal contact with unwashed hands. Get the flu shot.

Measles

Measles occurs worldwide but is a common disease in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa and Asia. Measles is a highly contagious disease. Be sure your vaccination against measles is up-to-date regardless of the travel destination.
 

Rabies

Rabies is a disease that attacks the central nervous system spread to humans through a bite, scratch or lick from a rabid animal. Vaccination should be considered for travellers going to areas where rabies exists and who have a high risk of exposure (i.e., close contact with animals, occupational risk, and children).

Typhoid

Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among travellers going to rural areas, visiting friends and relatives, or with weakened immune systems. Travellers visiting regions with typhoid risk, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation should consider getting vaccinated.

Yellow Fever Vaccination

Yellow fever is a disease caused by the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Risk
  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
  • Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs.
Recommendation
  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
Food/Water

Food and Water-borne Diseases

Travellers to any destination in the world can develop travellers' diarrhea from consuming contaminated water or food.

In some areas in Central America and Mexico, food and water can also carry diseases like cholera, hepatitis A and typhoid. Practise safe food and water precautions while travelling in Central America and Mexico. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!

Travellers' diarrhea
  • Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
  • Risk of developing travellers’ diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
  • The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Insects

Insects and Illness

In some areas in Central America and Mexico, certain insects carry and spread diseases like American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease), dengue fever, leishmaniasis, malaria, onchocerciasis (river blindness), and West Nile virus.

Travellers are advised to take precautions against bites.

Dengue fever
  • Dengue fever occurs in this country. Dengue fever is a viral disease that can cause severe flu-like symptoms. In some cases it leads to dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.  
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue bite during the daytime. They breed in standing water and are often found in urban areas.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine available for dengue fever.

Malaria

Malaria

  • There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this country.
  • Malaria is a serious and occasionally fatal disease that is spread by mosquitoes. There is no vaccine against malaria.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites. This includes covering up, using insect repellent and staying in well-screened, air-conditioned accommodations. You may also consider sleeping under an insecticide-treated bed net or pre-treating travel gear with insecticides.
  • Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. See a health care provider or visit a travel health clinic, preferably six weeks before you travel to discuss your options.

Animals

Animals and Illness

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats. Some infections found in Central America and Mexico, like rabies, can be shared between humans and animals.


Person-to-Person

Person-to-Person Infections

Crowded conditions can increase your risk of certain illnesses. Remember to wash your hands often and practice proper cough and sneeze etiquette to avoid colds, the flu and other illnesses.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV are spread through blood and bodily fluids; practise safer sex.


Medical services and facilities

Medical services and facilities

Private hospitals and clinics in urban areas offer equivalent care to those in Canada and are much better staffed and equipped than public or rural facilities.

Physicians and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical care.

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You are subject to local laws. Consult our Arrest and Detention page for more information.

Illegal drugs

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are strict. Convicted offenders can expect extended jail sentences.

Laws

Importation into or export from Guatemala of items such as antiquities and artefacts may be subject to strict regulations. Contact the Embassy of Guatemala in Canada for information and advice.

People found driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are subject to arrest and detention.

If you are travelling with a vehicle, you must comply with the deadline for leaving the country indicated on the temporary importation form provided by Guatemalan customs at the port of entry. If you fail to leave Guatemala with your vehicle by the expiry date, you will have to pay taxes.

If you are involved in a driving accident that results in injury or death, you may be taken into custody until responsibility for the accident is determined.

An International Driving Permit is recommended.

Money

The currency is the Guatemalan quetzal (GTQ). It is not possible to exchange Canadian dollars (cash or traveller’s cheques) in Guatemala. U.S. currency and traveller’s cheques are readily convertible to local funds at most major banks. Do not accept torn notes as they can be difficult to exchange. Credit cards are widely accepted. Do not exchange large amounts of currency with informal money changers. Some automated banking machines (ABMs) will accept Canadian debit cards with a four-digit personal identification number.

Climate

Forest Fires

Forest fires often occur from November to June. Even though they can happen anywhere, they usually affect the department of Peten. In the event of a major fire, you should follow the instructions of local emergency services, particularly with regard to evacuation procedures. Monitor local media for updated information.

Hurricane and rainy seasons

The hurricane season extends from June to the end of November. The National Hurricane Center provides additional information on weather conditions. Stay informed of regional weather forecasts, and follow the advice and instructions of local authorities.

The rainy season extends from mid-May to mid-November. Flash floods and mudslides are common occurrences, causing temporary road closures. You should keep informed of regional weather forecasts and plan accordingly.

Seismic activity

Guatemala is located in an active seismic zone. Familiarize yourself with earthquake security measures in hotels and public and private buildings, and follow the advice of local authorities in the event of an earthquake.

Volcanoes

The Fuego, Pacaya and Santiaguito volcanoes present consistently moderate activity which is considered to be within normal parameters. Monitor levels of volcanic activity through the local media and amend travel arrangements accordingly. Hiking on volcanoes should be done only with a reputable tour company that tracks volcanic activity. Follow the advice of local authorities in the event of an explosion or eruption.