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Guatemala Travel Requirements: Tips for Planning a Guatemala Trip

Are you planning your Guatemala travel itinerary? I didn’t know much about the Guatemala travel requirements before my first Guatemala trip. I’d read some travel Guatemala blogs from fellow travelers who had passed through—all seemed to say good things about their travel to Guatemala.

However, everyone I spoke to was concerned and wondering, “Is Guatemala safe to travel to?” Truthfully, I didn’t know how safe Guatemala travel was, but I wanted to find out! To help you decide if you should plan a Guatemala trip, here are 11 things you should know about Guatemala travel requirements, the best time to travel to Guatemala, and more.

Did You Get Travel Insurance Yet?

The Insurance companies I recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single-trip cover, annual multi-trip cover, and long-term travel cover. Safety Wing is great value, with monthly coverage starting at $39. It’s super easy to use, and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here, where I go into detail about all companies. 

Guatemala Travel Itinerary: 11 Things to Know

1. Is It Safe to Travel to Guatemala As a Solo Female?

I lived in Guatemala for nine months, so trust me when I say I’ve felt more endangered in New York or London than there. There was one incident early in my trip when I got lost and attacked by two dogs, but that’s the only time I’ve had issues.

I have heard stories about muggings—sometimes bandits are on the roads. However, you get these issues everywhere! If you are worried to travel Guatemala alone, read my safety tips.

Also, check for a Guatemala travel advisory before booking your trip. Sometimes, they will issue alerts for natural disasters or national security concerns.

Confirm current Guatemala travel requirements with your local embassy before heading out on your Guatemala trip.

Guatemala Travel Requirements: Tips for Planning a Guatemala Trip

Quick Tip: Book accommodation, tours, and transport ahead of time online to save money and stress. 
Best Guatemala ToursClick here to check out the top Guatemala tours
Best Guatemala Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Guatemala
Best Guatemala Transport: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or train in Guatemala

2. They Love “Bombas” in Guatemala

That’s fireworks to most of us. I arrived in Guatemala during a religious festival, and they were going off all night. I thought it was some attack, as they don’t have the same screeching sound as ours in the UK. It wasn’t until a few days later that I found out the church had set them off! It’s pretty standard to hear them going off during the day and night.

3. Cafe and Tortillas Are Life

Guatemala Travel Requirements: Tips for Planning a Guatemala Trip

Guatemalans love coffee—if you travel to Guatemala, get ready to taste some of the best coffee of your life. I spoke to a Mayan family who told me they even give watered-down coffee to babies from six months old!

When I think of the noises of a place, the slapping sound of tortillas will forever remind me of Guatemala: that and the fireworks. One guarantee is you will be offered tortillas with every meal. I spent my first three weeks living with a Guatemalan family—as a vegetarian, my diet mainly consisted of carbs. After a week, I was so bloated that I had to limit my tortilla consumption seriously. They looked shocked and slightly offended when I declined the tortilla offer with my rice, potato, and veg.

4. Guatemala Is the Best Place in the World to Learn Spanish

If you want to learn Spanish, skip Spain and Colombia and head to Guatemala! There are so many reasons to study here, but the two main ones are: 

  1. It’s cheap.
  2. They speak slowly and have a neutral accent in Guatemala, making learning more straightforward.

If you visit Guatemala or any other Latin American country, prioritize at least a week of classes.

I have a whole post about learning Spanish in San Pedro if you want to know more. I also wrote about choosing where to study Spanish here.

5. Guatemalans Are Really Friendly

Guatemala Travel Requirements: Tips for Planning a Guatemala Trip

If you don’t enjoy saying “Buenos Dias” to everyone you pass on the street, skip Guatemala! Guatemalans are friendly and will greet you everywhere. This may take a little getting used to, especially if, like me, you travel to Guatemala from a big city like New York, where everyone ignores each other.

6. Salsa Is a Pretty Big Deal

No matter where your Guatemala travel itinerary takes you, a salsa class will be nearby. If you are in Antigua, there is a salsa school on every block! The best night for salsa dancing is Sunday, but you can get FREE introduction classes at most schools on Monday or Tuesday. Group classes are around 50Q, and private courses are around 100Q.

7. The Best Time to Travel to Guatemala is Spring or Winter

The spring and winter are the best time to travel to Guatemala for warm, mild weather. Guatemala’s wet season is during the summer, so avoid planning to travel to Guatemala unless you enjoy the rain.

8. Guatemala Is Like Four Countries in One

Guatemala Travel Requirements: Tips for Planning a Guatemala Trip
El Paredon
Guatemala Travel Requirements: Tips for Planning a Guatemala Trip
Lake Atitlan
Guatemala Travel Requirements: Tips for Planning a Guatemala Trip
Antigua

Read any guidebook—it will tell you the same thing about Guatemala travel! You have the coastline, the mountains, the jungle, and the cities. The weather also varies depending on where you are, so remember this when packing. Although it’s always warm here, if you are in Antigua or the Lake Atitlan areas, you will need a jumper and a coat for mornings and evenings when the temperature drops. If you plan on doing any volcano camping, bring your thermals—it gets cold at the summit!

9. You Can Hike Active Volcanos On Your Guatemala Trip

I wish I’d known you could hike volcanoes before coming here! Luckily, I brought my hiking boots but had no hiking gear besides those and my head torch. If you’re planning Guatemala travel, pack good, warm hiking clothes if this is something you want to do. A good tour operator like OX Expeditions will lend you warm clothes, a backpack, sleeping bags, and tents. The main volcanoes you can hike are Acatenango, Fuego, and Pacaya.

Guatemala Travel Requirements: Tips for Planning a Guatemala Trip
This one was taken from Volcan Acatenango. The flat bit you can see is the knife ridge, where I stood the night before while it was exploding!

I advise being fully prepared for the temperature drop if you consider camping on one of the volcanoes. The weekend I arrived in Guatemala, six people died on the volcano from hyperthermia. Don’t take the risk—book through a professional company. It’s worth the extra money!

If you want to know more about my experience hiking and camping on volcanoes, read my post about Camping on Pacaya.

10. Guatemalan Culture is Strong

Walking around places like San Pedro, you can’t escape the strong sense of Mayan Culture. For many people in Guatemala, Spanish is their second language, if they speak it at all. The grandmother of my family in San Pedro spoke no Spanish.

Being in Antigua for the months leading up to Easter, there’s a parade every Sunday that gets more elaborate and grand each week. Guatemala often feels like a clash of cultures, especially in Antigua, where a Mayan family might be sitting outside Wendy’s, selling traditional backstrap weaved cloth while wearing full traditional clothes. It’s one of the things I love most about this country.

Quick Tip: View my full Guatemala packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Guatemala Essentials shopping list here.

Guatemala Travel Requirements: Tips for Planning a Guatemala Trip

11. Once You Travel to Guatemala, You Won’t Want to Leave

I can’t tell you how many people I have spoken to since arriving in Antigua who were passing through…5 years ago! Over 30% of the population in Antigua is immigrants—mostly travelers who liked it so much they never left. I only planned to spend 2-3 weeks here and moved for nine months! I only left because I got a job in Colombia. 

Looking for Accommodations in Antigua?

I recommend several places for a hostel, including Selina and Yellow House Hostel. I recommend Hotel Mesón de María and Barbara’s Boutique Hostel for hotels. I’ve gathered all the best places to eat in Antigua if you need recommendations.

things to know before visiting Guatemala

Guatemala Travel Guide Planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Guatemala?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Guatemala which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Guatemala on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Guatemala?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Guatemala?

I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide. They have a lot of options!

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go-to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are Booking.comHotels.com, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack. 

Is It Safe to Travel to Guatemala? Final Thoughts

Still wondering, “Is Guatemala safe to travel to?” Read my article Don’t Judge a Country by Its Statistics before you decide.

The only company I recommend for booking transport and tours in Guatemala (other than the individuals and companies I have named) is GuateGo. They are a Guatemala-owned company that has painstakingly brought together all the transport and tour options in one easy-to-use website. You can book travel and Guatemalan tours with them here.

Lucy Dinsdale

Saturday 6th of October 2018

Hi Claire. I’ve been reading and using your blog whilst in Guatemala and have found it useful. Thank you. I do feel the need to comment on the use of Guatego as a transportation option. I used them to travel from Flores to Semuc Champey and thought they were pricey at $37(c. 285q) particularly when I saw prices in hostels starting at 80q. When I spoke to other people on the bus, I found that they had paid anything from 80q to 125q by booking through their hostel. I was pretty cross given that I had paid far far more than this. I will never use them again as clearly, I would get the same service, only for far less money by using a hostel booking service.

Lucy

Claire Summers

Saturday 6th of October 2018

Hi Lucy, wow! Really, I knew it would be more expensive to use them but I had no idea it would be that much more. That's a lot of money. Thank you for letting me know, really appreciate it. I think they are a great option to book from the airport as a transfer. But maybe not for other transport.