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Guatemala

Welcome to the Ultimate Guatemala Travel Guide!

Guatemala is home to volcanoes, mountains, lakes, rolling hills, two coastlines, and was a hub of the Mayan civilization. So whether you’re hiking the highest peak in Central America (Volcán Tajumulco) or taking a traditional Mayan cooking class, Guatemala has something for everyone! And I have the best Guatemala travel guide for you!

The coffee beans grown in Guatemala are considered some of the best in Central America. So I recommend visiting a coffee plantation for a tasting. Guatemala is also considered the “Birthplace of Chocolate,” and Antigua has the best cacao museums and chocolate shops in the country.

Guatemala is also one of my Top Budget Destinations Around The World!
Ready to plan your trip? Then here’s your ultimate Guatemala travel guide!
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Top Places to Visit

Antigua
Lake Atitlán
Monterrico
Semuc Champey
Tikal National Park
Pacaya Volcano
Here’s My Guatemala Itinerary
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Typical Costs When Traveling

Exchange Rate

The currency in Guatemala is the Quetzal. Exchange rates have held relatively steady in the last few years: 1 Quetzal (Q) is equal to about £.10 British Pounds, $.15 U.S., €,12, and .9 Yuan.

Accommodation

A budget hotel is in the Q130–200 a night range (£13-20., $17-25, €15-23, 118-182 Yuan). A mid-range hotel can be anywhere from Q200–550 a night (£20-55, $25-71, €23-64, 182-500 Yuan), and more luxury accommodations will start at Q550 a night (£55, $71, €64, 500 Yuan). There are a limited number of Airbnb rentals in Antigua, Guatemala City, Lake Atitlán, and outside of Monterrico that range from Q93-2335 (£9-233, $12-300, €11-270, 84-2120 Yuan).

Food

Quick food in a comedor (cheap eatery) is relatively inexpensive around Q30–45 (£3-4.5, $4-6, €3-5, 27-40 Yuan). An à la carte meal in a local restaurant is Q100–130 (£10-13, $12-17, €11-15, 91-118 Yuan), and a meal in an elegant restaurant would start around Q150 (£15, $19, €17, 136 Yuan). You should NOT drink the tap water here, so plan on buying bottled water.

Transportation

A chicken bus ride is around Q20 (£2, $3, €2, 18 Yuan). A shuttle-bus is about Q150 (£15, $19, €17, 136 Yuan). Renting a car will cost around Q107 (£10, $14, €12,75, 98 Yuan), and hiring a car will start around Q650 per day (£65, $84, €75, 592 Yuan).

Uber is only available in Guatemala City, and Lyft doesn’t operate in Guatemala.

Other Expenses

I’d budget around Q200 a day (£20, $26, €23, 182 Yuan) for entrance to archaeological sites, tours, guides, snacks, tips, and souvenirs.

Banks exchange cash, but casas de cambio (currency-exchange offices) are usually quicker and offer better rates. ATMs are widely available, and credit cards are accepted in many hostels and most midrange and above hotels and restaurants.

Guatemala
Tipping

A 10% tip is expected in restaurants (often automatically added to your bill). In small comedores (basic, cheap eateries), tipping is optional, but I suggest following the local practice of leaving some spare change.

If you’re participating in a homestay, it’s better to buy a gift than give cash. At hotels, it’s Q10 per bag (£1, $1.25, €1,15, 9.05 Yuan). It’s not customary to tip for a taxi, and the standard tip for trekking guides is Q50 per person per day (£5, $6.50, €5,75, 45.50 Yuan).

Suggested Daily Costs

These budget estimates include eating and drinking out at least once a day and a couple of bus rides between cities.

Lower End: Q380-465 (£38-47, $49-60, €44-54, 346-423 Yuan). Midrange: Q650-1030 (£65, 103, $84-$133, €75-120, 592-937 Yuan). Higher End: Q1550 and up (£155, $200, €180, 1410 Yuan).

Money Saving Tips

1
Opt for the menu of the day El menu del dia is often a few Quetzales cheaper than other items on the menu and offers the chance to have a relatively inexpensive two-course meal.
2
Take chicken buses These are a cheap way to get around Guatemala, but at times tourists can get overcharged, so check what the locals are paying and offer the same amount to the caller (the person who collects fares).
3
Bring snacks While eating out is relatively cheap in Guatemala, avoid spending money on snacks at tourist cafes when sightseeing. Instead, buy food from local markets to snack on throughout the day.
4
Take a free walking tour in Antigua This is a great budget way to explore the city while learning about its history, architecture, and people.

My Must-Have Guide Books

How to Prepare for Guatemala

Vaccinations

No vaccinations are required to enter Guatemala. However, it’s smart to be up-to-date on yellow fever, typhoid, tetanus, rabies, and measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) shots. A hepatitis vaccine is also a good idea. Although malaria medication is not required, if you’re visiting Guatemala’s rural lowlands, it might be a smart choice. If you’re going to take malaria medication, you need to begin taking it a few weeks before traveling to Guatemala.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has current information on vaccinations and disease in Guatemala, and I recommend visiting their website for the most up-to-date travel requirements.

Visas

Citizens of the EU, U.S., Canada, Australia, and Great Britain need a valid passport, but they DO NOT need a return ticket or a visa. If you’re a citizen of another country, you’ll need to check your country’s requirements for visiting Guatemala. The World Travel Guide has more information on Guatemala’s visa and passport requirements.

iVisa is an incredibly helpful resource for obtaining visas. iVisa makes the usually complicated and confusing process of getting a visa easy by taking care of everything for you. You fill out a simple online application, and then iVisa takes care of everything else.

Etiquette

Most Maya women avoid contact with foreign men. So male travelers in need of assistance or information should ask other men.

When meeting someone personally, men shake hands with men and women air-kiss women. Men and women car air-kiss or shake hands, but let the local choose which one to initiate.

Mayans can be very sensitive about being photographed. So always ask for locals’ permission before taking pictures.

When To Go

Guatemala has a wet and dry season. The best time to visit is during the dry season from November through April. There will be more tourists and hotel prices will be higher, but the better weather you’ll have is worth the trade-off.

The rainy season in Guatemala, from May to October, usually has daily afternoon downpours, a high risk of landslides, and flooding on roads makes hikes more precarious and makes access to some ruins more difficult.

WHAT TO PACK

Guatemala is a tropical country with a generally pleasant climate that’s earned it the name “land of eternal spring”. But temperatures vary widely depending on elevation.

The coastal areas tend to be warmer throughout the year, while the mountainous highlands can get very cold at night and in the early mornings, even during the summer months.

So, if you’re visiting during the rainy season, bring warm clothes and layers for everywhere you go, even for the mornings and evenings on the coasts. If you’re visiting during the dry season, still bring a couple of layers for the evenings and mornings for the higher-elevations.

If you’re doing any treks or hikes in either season, make sure you have any specialized clothing or equipment you might need.

What To Wear

More casual and conservative clothing is the practical and respectful choice when traveling here. Guatemalan women usually wear long skirts or dress pants, and men wear long trousers. Capri pants, jeans and skirts below the knee are common choices for travelers.

You should NOT wear anything sleeveless. Showing your shoulders would be disrespectful, and many of the churches and sites wouldn’t let you enter. It’s okay for children to wear shorts, but adults should only wear shorts on the beach.

No matter what time of year you visit, bring your most comfortable shoes! Almost every street in every city and town is cobblestone, and you’ll want sturdy shoes for any hikes you do. If you’re visiting in the rainy season, bring at least two pairs of shoes! One pair will be soaking wet by the end of the day, so you’ll want a new pair the next day while the other dries.

Have you been to Guatemala? Comment below with anything you’d add to this travel guide!
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This Guatemala travel guide is not a sponsored post, and, as always, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are entirely my own. Some of the links in this Guatemala travel guide are affiliate links, and, at no cost to you, I may earn a small commission.

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Comments:

  • March 24, 2020

    I’ve never been to Guatemala but I have a friend who’s been several times and I’d love to go someday! *-* “Land of eternal spring” sounds magical! <3 Thanks for putting together this guide!

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