Guatemala Travel Information
Volcanic peaks to exotic beaches and a tropical Caribbean culture – Guatemala is a unique and awe-inspiring destination. Guatemala boasts a number of diverse regions that have amazed tourists for decades. But before you embark on an exhilarating adventure in this exquisite country, be sure to find out everything you need to know about the visa requirements, custom regulations and vaccinations required before you arrive.
Entry and Exit
Visitors from the United States of America do not require a visa for entry and are allowed to stay for up to 90 days. After which they can request an extended visa, failure to request an extended visa will result in a daily fine for each day that visitors have surpassed their permitted stay.
Tourists travelling from the following countries do not need a visa in order to gain entry to Guatemala for a period of up to 30 days:
- New Zealand
- South Africa
Tourists Visas cost: US$25 for a single entry.
All travellers will require a valid passport, proof of a return ticket, as well as proof of sufficient funds to sustain them for the duration of their stay. Health vaccination certificates may be requested upon arrival.
Like most countries around the world, there are a variety of custom rules and regulations that tourists need to be aware of before travelling to Guatemala.
- Travellers over the age of 18 are allowed to carry 80 cigarettes, 3,5 ounces of tobacco and 1,5 litres of liquor or spirits.
- Tourists can carry perfume without restriction as long as the perfume is for personal use.
- Arms and ammunition may be carried as long as a transportation permit is obtained by the DIGECAM prior to arrival.
- There are no restrictions for the importation of foreign currencies, but local currency is prohibited.
Airport Embarkation Tax
There is an airport security tax of US$3, usually included in the price of the air ticket, but may be payable at the airport of departure at the end of their stay.
Tourists are advised to obtain a variety of vaccinations prior to their departure from their departing airport. It is also strongly recommended that tourists visit a medical practitioner for a full medical check 4-6 weeks prior to their trip abroad.
The following vaccinations are recommended:
- Hepatitis A
- Yellow Fever – if travelling from an infected area
Tap water or ice made from tap water is not safe to drink. It is also strongly advised for tourists to avoid milk that has not been boiled, as most milk is unpasteurised and considered unsafe to drink. Powdered or tinned milk is advised. Only eat meat, poultry and fish portions that are well-cooked, under prepared meats should be avoided as well as raw and unpeeled fruits and vegetables.
Travel Facts for Guatemala
Guatemala boasts a wonderfully comfortable climate throughout the year. The weather is never too hot or too cold, and maintains an average temperature of about 22◦C all year round. Coastal regions tend to get a bit hotter and can sometimes reach a maximum temperature of up to 37◦C. The Guatemalan climate can be divided into a wet and dry season.
The dry season extends from November to April. The wet season begins in May and carries on until October – this season is quite pleasant if staying in a more developed area, as the skies tend to be clear and warm with rainfall and cooler temperatures in the late afternoon and evenings. Underdeveloped areas suffer during rainfall season, as the roads are not very well maintained, resulting in unstable driving and transport conditions.
Guatemala’s central time zone is UTC/GMT-06:00, and the country does not make use of daylight savings time.
Guatemala’s official currency is the Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ) – named after the national bird the Resplendent Quetzal, due to the bird’s historic importance as currency in the Mayan culture. The bird’s feathers were used as currency and when modern money was introduced, it seemed fitting to name it after the beautiful national bird. In modern times, the US dollar is also accepted in some regions as well as most bank issued credit cards and travellers cheques. ATM's can be found in larger tourist regions.
Guatemala’s country code is +502, with the international prefix 00 preceding phone calls made to Guatemala from international countries. Most hotels, resorts and payphones will have country codes listed, to make for easier international contact. When dialling a number in Guatemala from another country, the following format will be required: 00 (+502) area code and number. Guatemalan numbers are usually made up of 8 digits.
Internet is available widely throughout Guatemala in hotels and other internet cafes, bars and restaurants. The largest internet provider is TIGO and while internet speed might not be what you are used to in first world countries, it is manageable and very affordable (less than US$1 per hour).
The electricity in Guatemala uses a 120 Volt current, alternating at 60 second intervals. Voltage transformers will be required for devices that do not accept a 120V current. Plug adaptors will also be required if a device does make use of a flat blade plug (2 prongs), two parallel flat pin with ground pin plug or a v-shaped flat prong plug.
Emergency Number and Ambulance: 911
Fire Stations: 122 or 1123
USA Embassy: (502) 2326 4674
Avenida Reforma 7-01, Zone 10
Hotels and resorts will have a medical practitioner on call in case of emergencies – it is always advisable for travellers to get the medical contact details and keep it on hand at all times.
People and Landscape
There are approximately 15.8 million people living in Guatemala as of 2014, with a variety of ethnic groups making it a diverse and friendly nation. 59% of the population is made of the Mestizo community, with Mayans and other indigenous ethnic groups making up the rest of the Guatemalan population. The Mayans played a vital role in the country’s history, with traditions, cultural beliefs and even the national currency being shaped by this remarkable community.
Spanish is the official language in Guatemala. But as in most Central American countries, English has continued to grow at a surprising rate, confirming the adage that English is becoming a truly global language.
Culture and Religion
Guatemala’s culture has been strongly influenced by the Mayan culture as well as the Spanish culture. Both cultures have almost united to create a delightful and colourful Guatemalan culture which is famous for its vibrant festivals and lively traditions. Cuisine, music, colour and clothing are all fundamental aspects of Guatemalan culture. Brightly woven capes, shirts, skirts, blouses and dresses are all worn with pride with each village displaying its own distinctive pattern. Some of the most famous festivals include Semana Santa, Day of the Dead, the Burning of the Devil and the Saint Thomas festival. Each of these festivals holds their own significance and can be celebrated for hours, and sometimes days on end.
Guatemala’s rich diversity has made religion quite a complex part of the country’s identity. Mayan spirituality is still very prominent in a lot of the regions in Guatemala with Roman Catholicism and Evangelical Christianity having been introduced during the introduction of the Spanish migrants. All three of these religions are practised through most of Guatemala while some communities have even formed religions which are comprised of elements of all three of these predominant religions.
Guatemala is a tropical country, with a landscape that is as diverse as the people that make up this remarkable nation. The country lies on the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Caribbean Sea and borders on Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize. From volcanic peaks, a mountainous landscape, to coastal plains and humid rainforests – Guatemala offers a natural beauty unlike any other.
There are four active volcanoes in Guatemala, a number of rivers which flow into the Pacific, as well as the Caribbean and a beautiful lake. Lake Atitlán is ringed by volcanoes and is located in a basin just west of the capital. Guatemala is also famous for its coffee and banana plantations, rainforests and wild hardwood forests.
Food and Beverage
Tradition plays a big role in Guatemalan cuisine. It has evolved with the times, while keeping hold of its rich heritage. Mayan cuisine has influenced many of the traditional meals of Guatemala, with most meals being made up of corn, chillies and beans. Tamales are firm favourites, and the hundreds of varieties found throughout the country have all been guaranteed to tantalise every taste bud. These varied tamales are made from different dough – namely potatoes, corn and rice, and contain different meat, fruit and nut fillings.
Another renowned aspect of Guatemala, and Antigua in particular, is the famous Antiguan candy. Local fruits, nuts and seeds are coupled with honey, condensed milk and other traditional sweeteners to create mouth-watering candies that have tourists queuing in order to experience these unique and scrumptious flavours.
Please Note: Tap water and fresh milk should be avoided as they are not safe to consume – bottled water, tin and powdered milk are recommended.
Travel and Security Information
There are a few guidelines that every traveller should follow in order to have the best vacation possible.
- Tourists are required to have a valid passport. This passport must be valid until after the last day of your trip. Visas are also required for some nationalities.
- Medical and travel insurance are strongly recommended for all tourists.
- Tourists are advised to travel in groups and should never walk alone after dark.
- Obvious shows of affluence can sometimes welcome unwanted attention from criminals. Tourists are advised to keep valuable belongings safely stowed in their hotel safes if possible. It's never a good idea to keep large amounts of cash or expensive jewellery where they are clearly visible and it's important to remember to never leave valuable items in unattended vehicles or any other public spaces, including on public transportation and luggage holds.
- It's essential that tourists keep emergency details on hand at all times. These include the numbers and addresses of nearby hospitals, ambulances, consulates, and contact details of their next of kin.
Exclusion of Liability
Those who choose to travel do so entirely at their own risk. SC Travel Adventures endeavours to inform tourists of the risks involved with travelling but cannot be held liable for any events which occur outside of their direct control. Tourists are advised to avoid areas considered unsafe, remain vigilant and cautious at all times throughout their stay, and heed the advice of local authorities.