Wondering what to wear in Guatemala? Creating a packing list for Guatemala can be tricky, especially if you are traveling during the rainy season or plan on hiking Acatenango or doing any other adventurous things that you might need specific gear for.
In this Guatemala packing list, I’ve covered everything that you will need for your Guatemala backpacking adventure. I’ve even included some ‘what to wear in Guatemala’ tips for the different places you might be visiting.
Click here to download the full packing list for Guatemala.
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What to wear in Guatemala
I’m not one of those travel bloggers who is going to tell you how you should and shouldn’t dress in any country. All I want to do is offer you some first-hand advice and knowledge of what to wear in Guatemala if you want to avoid extra attention.
As a non-Guatemalan backpacking in Guatemala, you are going to get local people starring at you a bit. Get used to it. Especially if you are tall and blonde with blue eyes haha.
Most of the time it’s hot in Guatemala during the day. In the mornings and evenings when the sun goes down it can get chilly, so I often found my self putting on a jumper or a coat at night and needing and extra blanket for bed.
Then there is Guatemala rainy season. The rainy season in Guatemala starts in May and continues until September or October normally. December it gets a little chilly and by January it’s back to normal.
I wrote a whole to help you pack for the rainy season in Central America you can read here. But all you really need to know is, it’s still hot, and there are more mosquitos. So bring waterproof things and extra mosquito repellent!
When deciding what to pack for Guatemala it’s important to know that you are going to want to stay cool, as it can get hot, but probably without showing too much flesh. Guatemala is a very conservative mostly catholic country.
The local Mayan women will normally wear traditional dress (long skirts and blouses), other Guatemalans tend to just wear jeans or light trousers. In spite of the heat, you won’t often see Guatemalans wearing denim hotpants.
When I first moved to Guatemala I wasn’t used to the heat and found it more comfortable to wear short shorts and vest tops. But I couldn’t deal with the stairs I got. it made me feel so uncomfortable. So I chose to adapt the way I dressed to try and blend in a bit more.
I bought some denim shorts that weren’t so revealing and stocked up on knee-length dresses and wide-leg trousers. That was I was still cool, but I didn’t look quite so much like a backpacker. But most importantly I didn’t feel like everyone was starring at me every time I left the house.
The only place I personally felt comfortable being less covered up was El Paradon as it’s a beach town, and also Semuc Champe as you are in and out of the water a lot.
That said at the end of the day, dress how YOU feel comfortable, just because I choose not to wear hotpants and a crop top in Guatemala doesn’t mean you shouldn’t if you are comfortable doing so.
What to Pack for Hiking Acatenango
I wanted to add in a little extra info for you if you are planning to hike Acatenango while in Guatemala.
The one thing I would urge you to pack if you know you want to do this hike is some good hiking boots or quick-dry shoes like these. I have a friend who did the hike in hiking sandals, true story, but I really wouldn’t advise this! Both times I’ve hiked Acatenango I’ve lost my big toenails (sob), so do make sure your boots fit.
The issue with wearing sneakers rather than proper hiking boots is that all of the volcanic ash will get inside. If you are wearing boots you can avoid this more than sneakers. Also, don’t plan on buying hiking boots in Guatemala. They will be hard to find and expensive. Hard to find as the average foot size of a Guatemalan woman is a lot smaller than in the US or Europe.
Other things I would advise packing for Acatenango are:
- Hiking backpack – make sure it has a waistband and a place to hold your water bottle for easy access
- Synthetic clothing – You are going to sweat, cotton takes a lot longer to dry and will make you cold with the winds up there. I wore shorts and a top to go up, I put on long leggings for Fuego and then long hiking trousers the following morning.
- Warm clothes – fleece top and bottoms/ thermals/ a down jacket/ jogging bottoms are all good choices. Also, make sure you have extra socks!
- A cap, woolly hat, gloves and a head wrap/ mask/ neck warmer will keep you warm and also keep you from inhaling all of the dust
- Walking poles – only if you have them. Otherwise, you can borrow a wooden stick for a small fee.
- Electrolyte powder – I’m so glad I brought these, and they taste really good!
- Baby wipes and tissues
- A bin bag – I always wrap my stuff in a bin bag to waterproof. Then you can use the bag to collect rubbish on the way back down.
- Blister pads– just in case
- Headlamp – trust me you will need this so much in Guatemala!
What to Pack for Other Guatemalan Adventures
Some other cool things to do in Guatemala include Surfing, scuba diving in Lake Atitlan, ziplining, and yoga. So if you know you want to do some adventurous activities in Guatemala then be sure to pack accordingly.
Guatemala Travel essentials
First things first, you are going to need some solid insurance. If you don’t believe me then read this. I personally use SafetyWing Digital Nomads Insurance which is an ongoing policy that just renews each month. But before that, I used World Nomads who are the company I would highly recommend if you are backpacking. Both also cover COVID 19 now which is great news for safe travel during the pandemic!
If you just need basic insurance for a shorter vacation then I’d recommend doing a search on Travel Insurance Master.
Does anyone actually leave home without sunglasses? I personally always travel with 2 pairs. One for day to day use that I normally just throw in my bag. Then a second pair that are a bit nicer which I wear when I want to take some nice pics for the gram. I always get my sunglasses from Blenders, Glassesshop, or Knockaround as they are good quality, have UV protection, and are really reasonably priced.
Reusable Water Bottle
Don’t always assume you can drink the water especially when somewhere off the beaten path like Guatemala. However, most places have big water filters that will filter the tap water so you can drink it. So having. a good reusable water bottle is essential. If you are still a little worried then get a water bottle with a filter like this for peace of mind. For a bottle with extra tech this one is self cleaning via UVC light, is USB rechargeable and turns any water into drinkable fresh water. It is also vacuum insulated to keep your water cold for up to 12 hours.
Let’s face it, 2020 changed the way we travel, and there is no going back. Hand sanitizer is something you can no longer travel without and I’m obsessed with this hand sanitizer holder my friend designed. You can buy them in a pack of 2 and the bottles come with it so you can top them up. Not only are they super practical so they clip on o your purse, or luggage but you can also clip your mask on there too, save throwing it into your backpack! It’s vegan leather and you can choose the cute florals (which I have) or a brown and black combo.
I suggest getting an eco-friendly one for your body and then getting something a little more aggressive like this to spray on your clothing. It’s not so bad in Antigua, but in Semuc Champe, Tikal, and Rio Dulce, I was eaten alive! Lake Atitlan can get pretty bad too.
You may need to prove you have had any specific vaccines and for some places you may need malaria pills. There are many vaccines that are strongly advised for travel depending on your location. So a few months before you travel to speak to a medical professional and make sure you were immunized with all of the suggested vaccines.
Please never take medical advice like this from a blogger! Go see a medical professional…
Luggage for Guatemala
The first time I traveled to Guatemala I just had a backpack and a day pack. The last time I was there I opted for a small hand luggage suitcase and a daypack. After dragging my poor suitcase around Guatemala for 4 weeks I can say with utter confidence, avoid taking a suitcase to Guatemala!
You will be traveling in mini-busses with your luggage on the roof of the bus, taking small boats across lakes, hiking up mountains to find your accommodation, etc. Seriously, I can’t even tell you how many times I regretted having a suitcase in Guatemala. Take a backpack!
I’ve added images and links for the luggage I have tried and tested in Guatemala below.
If security is a concern for you then I highly recommend getting in Pacsafe backpack for added security and peace of mind. I also wrote this blog post on the best digital nomad backpacks and this one about carry on luggage, just in case they are useful to you. The KnackPack is great for digital nomads with specific space for your tech and all your essentials.
You are also going to need some packing cubes to help keep all of your things organized (and squeeze in a few extra items of clothing). Plus a good laundry bag, toiletry bag, and of course a shopping bag. Alternatively, get a backpack with built-in packing sections like this one. It hangs like a mini wardrobe too which can be helpful instead of using hotel storage. It’s what I’m personally traveling with these days.
Other Useful Things to Pack for Guatemala
Over the years backpacking the world I’ve got packing down to a fine art and I have some essential items in my backpack that you might not think of. So here are some things you are going to need that you might not think of!
Laundry Soap and a Nail Brush – Unless you want to be doing laundry every few days, it’s best to just wash out your underwater in the shower each night. To do this I always travel with a bar of laundry soap and a nail brush. It also comes in handy to clean off marks and stains from clothes you are washing.
A Travel Washing Line – I love mine, it’s so handy and takes up no room at all.
A Sewing Kit – When you are traveling sometimes you need to make-do-and-mend.
Carabiner clips – So useful for attaching things to your backpack!
Head Torch – Equally as useful for camping as it is for reading in bed, or trying to find your way home in the dark. Get a waterproof one so you can use it on the cave tour in Semuc Champe.
Ear Plugs – If you are planning on staying in hostels you are going to need these!
A Whistle – I know many people worry about safety and want to protect themselves. I like to carry a whistle just in case I need to pull attention. It might not be as effective as pepper spray, but as that is illegal to fly with too many countries, this is a good alternative.
Silk Sleeping Bag Liner – Another thing that doesn’t take up so much room, but will give you a lot of peace of mind if you need it. Sometimes you might either find yourself chilly or just not wanting to sleep in the bedsheets. So hopping inside a sleeping bag liner helps you get a good night’s sleep, wherever you are…
A padlock – I recommend getting one of these locks so you don’t need to worry about keys. They are TSA approved so you can use them to lock your luggage when flying as well as using it to lock your locker at the hostel.
USD – I always keep an emergency $50 USD hidden somewhere, just in case. USD is the most widely accepted currency, but you will need to ensure the notes are clean and crisp. Many places won’t accept them if they are marked at all.
A sarong – I never travel anywhere without at lease 2 sarongs. I use them to replace my towel, hang over my bed in a hostel for privacy. Wrap around my hair when it’s wet, sunbathe on… I could go on and on. I even make a dress out of mine when I’m at the beach.
Spice Bag – If you are planning to do some cooking then I recommend making a spice bag so you don’t end up wasting lots of money or herbs and spices, or eating bland food for the whole of your trip. I put my spices into ziplock bags and then keep them in one of these clear bags.
Ziplock Bags – I know, I know, more plastic. But they do come in really handy when traveling and you can wash and reuse them so you aren’t throwing them away.
Coffee Flask – Great for keeping hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold. It also saves you having to use disposable cups when you buy a takeaway coffee.
Clothing to Pack for Guatemala
You can see my full Guatemala packing list here on Amazon, and you can also download my free Guatemala packing list here. So I’m going to try and keep this section brief.
For Lake Atitlan, you will need cool clothes during the day and warm layers for the evenings. As there is a lot of hiking and other activities you will need clothing suitable for hiking like these leggings and this t-shirt. Hiking boots are great but I got by with these travel shoes (which I’m obsessed with). You will need a coat here, something like this one as the temperature drops at night.
For the hotter areas – When you come down from the mountains Guatemala is HOT and humid, so you will need to pack accordingly. Longer shorts, lightweight dresses, sandals, etc. Oh and don’t forget your swimwear!
For the Acatenango Hike – I included a packing list in this post so you know exactly what to pack.
The minimum you will need is some good hiking boots. If you do the hike with OX Expeditions (the only company I recommend hiking with) then they will be able to lend you warm clothing and all of the gear you will need for the hike.
However, if you prefer to bring your own then you are going to need quick-drying clothing that you can layer. You will need gloves and a hat, as it does get cold at night. A camelback is also a good investment and you will 100% need a headtorch with spare batteries.
If you are planning on doing some scuba diving then check out this essential diving gear to pack list.
If you plan on surfing then check out this packing list.
For salsa dancing in Guatemala, I recommend these shoes as they are lightweight, go with everything, and they look cute,
Toiletries to Pack for Guatemala
You can very all of the travel toiletries I recommend here on this Amazon list. Many things you can actually buy in Guatemala easily, so I wouldn’t stress too much about buying a lot of toiletries to travel with.
But there are some things that are harder to get hold of and more expensive in Guatemala that they would be at home. If you prefer to use natural products there is an amazing natural health shop in San Pedro Lake Atitlan. They sell everything you could ever need!
Also, be sure to grab one of the vegan peanut butter chocolate things out of the fridge… OMG heaven!
Technology to take to Guatemala
If you are stressing about taking your smartphone to Guatemala, don’t. Most Guatemalans also have smartphones, so you aren’t going to stand out having one too. You will need to be careful about flashing your expensive digital gear around Guatemala though and take extra care to lock things away in hostels and never leave thing out of sight on buses.
Here are some digital things I’d recommend packing for Guatemala.
Smart Phone – If you don’t want to take your fancy iPhone traveling, then this is a great phone with a very good camera for under $300. It’s what I personally have and shoot a lot of my vlogs on.
Camera and Tripod – I travel with this DSLR but I also have this mirrorless camera which I often take if I want to use something more discreet. I also love this tripod as I can use it with all of my cameras (even my phone), plus it’s small and light enough to fit in my daypack.
What to Read in Guatemala
I couldn’t not include this Lonely Planet Guide to Guatemala in the reading list.
I’m not always a fan of these kind of travel guides as they are oftern out of date. I learned this more than once the hard way! But they do serve a purpose and it’s always nice to have one actual book that you can use to plan before your trip as well as having something to read when the battery dies on your kindle!
Although you can also get most of these Lonely Planet Guidebooks free as part of a kindle unlimited subscription.
Rigoberta Menchú is quite possibly the most internationally well known Guatemalan. She is a indigenous feminist and human rights activist who won a Nobel Peace Prize.
Her book I, Rigoberta Menchú is now a global bestseller and she has dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of the Indigenous people in Guatemala both during and after the civil war.
This book is a reflection on her personal experiences during the civil war in Guatemala when her mother, father, and brother were murdered by the Guatemalan military.
If you have an interest in the history of Guatemala then read this book. It’s both heartbreaking and inspiring in equal measures.
I was given this book to read while I was dog sitting in Lake Atitlan and I can’t even tell you how much I loved it. I knew the Lake well by then so reading this book really brought those places to life for me.
The book is based on the life of the author Martin Prechtel who somehow found himself on an incredible journey from New Mexico in the USA to a small Mayan Village in Guatemala where he became a shaman.
Read this book. You won’t regret it!
Ok so maybe A Short History of Guatemala isn’t the most riveting read. But it really is interesting, especially for all of you history buffs out there.
It’s easy to read and gives you a good overview on the good, the bad, and the ugly of Guatemalas history.
The book mostly focuses on the ninetieth and twentieth centuries. It is a little dates now, but it still does the job!