Before embarking on a journey to the Land of the Eternal Spring, it’s beneficial to consider a few Guatemala travel tips to know before you go. This will not only ensure a smooth trip, but you’ll spend more time climbing volcanos versus trying to fix a problem that may arise.

Visiting Guatemala is a journey into a land where ancient Mayan traditions, colonial history, and breathtaking natural beauty converge. The heart of Central America, Guatemala offers a diverse tapestry of experiences, from the bustling markets and indigenous cultures to the towering volcanoes and lush rainforests.

The colonial charm of cities like Antigua, with its cobblestone streets and well-preserved architecture, juxtaposes with the vibrant hues of traditional Mayan textiles. Guatemala is a treasure trove of archaeological wonders, with sites like Tikal showcasing the grandeur of the ancient Mayan civilization amid the jungle canopy.

In this article, I’ll go over 30 traveling to Guatemala tips that will aid you on your trip to this Central American country. And at the end of the post, I’ll also add some Guatemala travel guides for inspiration.

Things to Know before traveling to Guatemala

For full transparency, I have sprinkled some affiliate links in this post which gives me a small commission at no extra cost to you if you decided to make a purchase. As always, I would never recommend a product or service that I didn't truely believe in. If you find this post useful, you can also treat Jess to a cup coffee by clicking the icon on the bottom of the page. This will allow me to continue to create more content for you to enjoy ☕️. 

Before we get to the 30 travel tips for Guatemala, let’s cover a few of the burning questions I know you’re all thinking. Is Guatemala worth visiting?

Beyond the cultural and historical allure, Guatemala’s landscapes are a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking volcanos, watching active volcanos erupt, surfing in the Pacific and searching for ancient ruins is the name of the game.

Lake Atitlán, surrounded by volcanoes and indigenous villages such as San Pedro, invites tranquility and exploration, while the highland region offers opportunities for hiking, waterfall chasing and ruin hunting.

Guatemala’s authenticity shines through its cuisine, a delicious fusion of Mayan flavors and Spanish influences. From the bustling streets of Antigua to the serene shores of Rio Dulce, a visit to Guatemala unfolds as a multi-sensory adventure, where the warmth of the people and thrill of adventure leave an indelible mark on every traveler.

Hiking Acatenango Volcano
Charming streets of Antigua Guatemala

Useful Apps for Guatemala Travel

Before we get started with the 30 practical Guatemala travel tips to know before you go, let’s talk about some useful apps that will aid you in your travels across Guatemala. These apps work even better when you have an eSim.

Google Translate: Helps bridge language barriers, allowing you to communicate more effectively with locals and understand signs and menus in English.

Uber: Hola uber 👋. Uber works in most major cities in Guatemala like Antigua and Guatemala City.

Bolt: Another ride hailing app.

Waze: Traffic and navigation app that can be useful for getting around.

Maps.Me: Allows you to download maps offline and is an essential app for Guatemala. It shows every trail, displays hotels, campsites and anything you might need to know.

It even shows where all the collectivos (shared minivans) pick up & drop off stations are which is what you’ll be riding in when doing day trips from Guatemala City or day trips from Antigua on your own. And the best part is, its FREE!

Booking.com: My go to hotel booking site.

Airbnb: Easily find apartments for short or long term stays.

Guatego: For finding long distance transportation.

XE Currency:  Easily convert currency rates.

Trail Wallet: Helps you keep track of your expenses and make informed spending decisions if you are traveling Guatemala on a budget.

Whatsapp:  Talk/text to friends and family anytime you are connected to the internet for free.

Useful Guatemala Travel Tips

Guatemala Travel Tips

Language

Traveling to Guatemala travel tip number 1. Like many Central American and South American countries, English is not widely spoken, especially when you get into more remote areas.

Therefore, knowing at least your basics in Spanish goes a long way and this is a top tip for traveling Guatemala. Not only will this make things easier to navigate the country but it will also enhance your experience if you’re able to talk a little with the locals.

Here are a few key phrases that come in handy:

  • Hola = Hello
  • Vos  = a very informal way to say ‘you’
  • Porfa = Please (Guatemalan’s love abbreviating, this one is short for por favor
  • Gracias = Thank you
  • De nada = Your welcome
  • Lo siento = Sorry
  • Yo hablo un poco Espanol = I speak a little Spanish
  • Cuanto = How much
  • Buenos días = Good morning
  • Buenas tardes = Good afternoon
  • Buenas noches = Good night
  • ¿Dónde? = Where?
  • Mucho gusto = Nice to meet you
  • ¿Cómo estás? = How are you?
  • ¿Cómo se dice…? = How do you say…
  • Yo no comprendo = I do not understand
  • Por favor, habla más despacio = Please speak slower
  • Muy bueno = very good
  • La quinta = the check
chicken buses in Guatemala
chicken buses in Guatemala

Long Distance Transportation through Guatemala

Long distance ground transportation is definitely an experience no matter what mode you take. There are 4 main modes of transportation in Guatemala.

  • A shared Tourist Shuttle or Collectivo
  • A Private Driver
  • Uber
  • Chicken Bus

Tourist shuttles are ample and go to all the main tourist hot spots in the country. This is by far the easiest and less stressful way to travel longer distances.

Hiring a private driver is definitely the most comfortable and convenient option but that means it’s also the most expensive.

Uber is very affordable and easy to use in cities like Guatemala City and Antigua. They will charge an extra service fee if traveling outside of districts.

Chicken buses are by far the cheapest option, but not the most convenient as it makes many, many stops.

My friends at Guatego are one of the better transportation companies to go with. This is based on factors like safety, dependability and comfort. It costs about the same price if you were to book online compared to in person.

Plan your Transportation through Guatemala →

🛺 Guatemala Transportation Guides:

How to Get to Antigua from Guatemala City

The long, sweaty, bumpy journey to Semuc Champey

How to Get to Tikal

How to Get to Lake Atitlan

Border Crossing Flores to Caye Caulker, Belize

Tikal National Park
Temples in Tikal

Fly to Tikal

Since we’re on the subject of long distance travel in Guatemala, it’s possible to fly from Guatemala City to Flores, the unofficial gateway to Tikal. Flights to Flores from Guatemala City take an hour and cost $45-120 USD’s.

If you are short on time and visiting Tikal ruins is a must-do on your Guatemala Itinerary, then this Guatemala travel tip will save you a few days of travel.

Fuego Volcano Erupting at Night

Best Time to Go to Guatemala

When deciding when to visit Guatemala, the best time to visit Guatemala largely depends on your preferences and the type of activities you plan to engage in.

Generally, the dry season, which runs late November to early April, is considered the best time for travel in Guatemala. During this period, the weather is typically dry and pleasant, making it ideal for hiking in Guatemala and exploring archaeological sites & natural wonders.

The peak of dry season (December to February) also coincides with the busy season. This means more crowds. I traveled to Guatemala during the months of December and January and I had amazing weather.

If you’re trying to avoid the crowds, consider traveling to Guatemala during the shoulder seasons of late April to early June & September to early November. There may be some rain here and there but weather is still comfortable to partake in outdoor activities, prices are cheaper, and there’s fewer tourists.

🇬🇹 Read Next: Ultimate Guide to Guatemala (coming soon)

I'm Jess Traveling in Lake Atitlan

Credit Cards

Let’s talk credit cards. I was pleasantly surprised that many establishments in Guatemala take credit cards. Only Visa or Mastercard, it was very rare to encounter a restaurant or hotel that took American Express.

Even though places will accept credit cards, there will be a credit card fee – usually 3-10% of the total transaction. If you don’t want to have an additional fee, pay with everything with cash. If you’re like me and what to rack up some credit card points, obviously use a card.

Santa Catalina arch the most popular thing to see in antigua

eSIM’s

The next Guatemala travel tip has to do with staying connected with an eSIM. An eSIM, is a digital SIM card embedded directly into a device, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card. The eSIM starting coming out since the latest phones don’t have SIM cards anymore.

This makes staying connected with a local high-speed data network while you travel even easier. This is so beneficial for travelers, as they can easily subscribe to local plans or change carriers in different countries without having to swap out SIM cards.

With an eSIM, you can stay connected, access maps, communicate with locals, order Ubers, etc without hassle. This will only make your overall travel experience in Guatemala better, especially if you are not fluent in Spanish.

Buy an eSIM →

Get your Carry-On-Packing Guide Checklist

    Send me the guide
    We respect your privacy. Unsubscribe at anytime.

    What to Pack for Guatemala

    I travel full time with a Carry-on Roller Suitcase and Backpack/Camera Bag that holds all my electronics and gear. Needless to say, I pack light.

    Guatemala’s climate can vary significantly depending on the region and altitude. While the lowlands tend to be warm, the highlands can get chilly, especially in the evenings. Packing layers, including a light jacket or sweater, is advisable.

    Below I’ll list some Guatemala packing essentials you shouldn’t leave home without. Then I’ll list the things you can buy once you’re in Guatemala.

    What to Bring to Guatemala

    If you plan on doing some trekking, make sure you bring:

    Guatemala has beautiful Pacific and Caribbean coast lines and in the Northern Peten region you’ll have summer weather year round.

    • Swim Suit – My latest obsession. It was built for women, by women :). Not the best suit for surfing but perfect for lounging by the pool.
    • Sunglasses – These are polarized, extremely affordable and come in many colors. I’ve been rocking them for a while now and love them.
    • Shorts
    • Sandals/Slippers
    • Sunscreen – This is my go to sunscreen I use daily.
    • GoPro 
    • GoPro Waterproof Case
    • Joby Tripod

      What to Buy in Guatemala

      • Bug Spray
      • Hat
      Del la cruz in Antigua Guatemala
      Hiking Pacaya Volcano

      Altitude Sickness

      There are a few places in Guatemala that you could experience altitude sickness. For example if you plan on hiking to the top Volcán Tajumulco, Central America’s tallest peak, then you will have to give yourself time to adjust to elevation before setting off on any sort of hike or trek.

      Altitude can occur when ascending to high elevations too quickly, symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty breathing may occur. This is one of my top Guatemala travel tips.

      The first day that you arrive in elevation, should be nothing more than acclimatization. You should be drinking lots of water, resting and taking it easy the first couple days at your destination in the mountains.

      Guatemala has Uber

      I personally love when countries have Uber because it makes the process of getting from the airport to your hotel easier, safer and more seamless. Most people traveling to Guatemala first arrive in Guatemala City.

      As soon as you walk out of the airport from baggage claim, you will be bombarded by people wanting to give you rides and get your business. Being able to request an uber on your phone from inside the airport takes the pressure off of haggling and finding a proper/honest cab.

      Also getting around Antigua or Guatemala City is very easy with uber. I used uber a lot during my Guatemala travels. I appreciate the transparency in pricing, ease of payment through the app, and the added safety features, such as sharing trip details with friends and family.

      ✈️ Travel Hack:  If you own the American Express Platinum Card, you get up to $15 dollars of cash credited towards your account each month when you use Uber.

      This gets you a long ways in Guatemala and is one of my favorite travel tips for Guatemala.

      Electrical Outlets

      In Guatemala, the electrical outlets commonly used are of Type A and Type B. The standard voltage is 120V, and the frequency is 60Hz. Generally if you are coming from the United States, your American devices will be compatible in the electrical outlets in Guatemala.

      However, it is always advisable to check your electronic devices to ensure they are dual-voltage (usually indicated as 110-240V) to prevent any potential damage. If you are traveling to Guatemala from Europe you will need to pack an Electrical Adapter.

      Colorful Flores Guatemala

      Is Guatemala Safe?

      The main question I got as I was planning on traveling Guatemala was is it safe? Traveling around Guatemala does require a degree of awareness and precaution, but with sensible planning, it can be a safe and rewarding experience.

      I can personally say, that I never felt uneasy or unsafe during the 7 weeks that I traveled Guatemala. I do want to be clear and say, I did not travel solo, but I spoke to many solo female travelers and they felt the same way I did.

      Like many countries, certain areas (like parts of Guatemala City) have higher crime rates, so its important to stay vigilant and extra cautious if you find yourself in those areas.

      Popular tourist destinations, like Antigua and Lake Atitlán, are generally considered safe. Transportation safety can vary, so it’s wise to use reputable services and secure your belongings. That’s why I recommend GuateGo for transportation within Guatemala. They are insured and have a good reputation.

      Boat Tour around Lake Peten Itza

      Tap Water is Not Safe to Drink

      Here’s a Guatemala travel tip that you won’t want to forget. The tap water in Guatemala is not safe to drink.  This is the case for most of the countries in Central America. You must treat or boil your water before consuming it.

      Having to buy bottled water on a daily basis can add up and isn’t the most cost effective route especially if you are traveling on a budget. An easy solution is to bring a water purifying water bottle such as the life straw or use water purification tablets.

      This makes it very convenient to always have drinkable water on hand and will be a life saver if you plan on doing some long treks. I would like to add that I brushed my teeth the entire 7 weeks in Guatemala with the tap water and never had a problem.

      Get a LifeStraw Bottle Today →

      A man reading the newspaper at the Chichicastenango Market
      A man carrying a basket of chickens in the Chichi Market

      Guatemala Travel Tip #15 | Be Ready to Haggle

      Haggling is a weird thing. I know it makes lots of people feel a bit uncomfortable at first, I know it did with me. But the reality is, you’ll get ripped off if you don’t haggle and prices are marked as such for haggling to occur.

      A good place to practice the art of haggling is in the Chichi Market in Chichicastenango. Here are some Guatemala tips to help you with your haggling skills.

      Before you start haggling, it helps to have a general understanding of the reasonable prices for the items you’re interested in. Observing the prices at multiple stalls can give you a sense of the market value.

      Start with a greeting and be polite and respectful. Next, start with your counter-offer. You should always be willing to walk way. And just remember to enjoy the process. The goal is not just to secure a good deal but also to engage with the local culture and support the artisans and vendors.

      Japenese food in Antigua Guatemala
      Fresh Salad at Coaba Farms in Antigua Guatemala

      Tipping in Guatemala

      Speaking of Guatemala travel tips, do you tip in Guatemala? Tips or propina in Spanish is normally 10% in restaurants. Propinas are usually added onto the bill which I love because it just makes things so much easier. 

      If a tip is not included on the bill and you would like to add one, you must tell the cashier/waiter before they run your card to add a tip or simply leave some quetzals on the table.

      Drone Laws

      These next few Guatemala travel tips may not apply to all who read this. In this section I want to talk about the drone laws in Guatemala. Keep in mind that these regulations can change at anytime so I recommend double checking the laws on an official site before flying your drone.

      There is no specific requirement for drone registration in Guatemala for recreational use. Commercial drone use is a different story. Of course typical operational rules apply, maintain a safe distance from people, buildings, and vehicles.

      Flying over crowds, near airports, or in restricted areas is generally prohibited. We tried to fly our drone in Flores but couldn’t get it up in the air because of its close proximity to the airport.

      Feminine Products

      I wanted to include this section in this Guatemala travel tips post because if you are a female, this is one of the top things to know before traveling to Guatemala. Unlike a lot of other places such as Peru, it was very easy to find tampons in Guatemala. I found them at grocery stores and in all the pharmacies.

      This makes things much more convenient if you’re someone like me and travel for months on end. A great eco-friendly and cheaper substitute is a menstrual cup.  A Menstrual Cup is a reusable feminine hygiene product that provides an eco-friendly and convenient alternative to traditional pads or tampons.

      One of the main advantages of using a menstrual cup is its long-lasting nature, as it can be reused for several years with proper care and cleaning.  Plus it’s cost-effective, which helps save hundreds of dollars a year.

      Buy One Today →

      Pepian a traditional dish in Guatemala

      Guatemalan Cuisine

      Let’s talk about the food, it’s a crucial component on any destination. I personally loved the food in Guatemala. Guatemalan cuisine is very similar to other cuisines in Central America like Mexico and Costa Rica.

      Corn is a staple in traditional dishes, such as tamales, garnachas, and tortillas. Black beans are often served alongside rice and meat. Avocado is also a familiar companion found on the plate.

      Some traditional Guatemala dishes to try include Pepián and Jocón stews. What’s awesome is that Antigua is a serious foodie destination. I spent about 3 weeks total in Antigua and every meal I had was out of this world.

      Im Jess Traveling in the ocean in El Paredon
      Church in Antigua Guatemala

      Guatemala Travel Cost

      One of the best things to know before going to Guatemala is to have an idea of how much it’s going to cost to travel Guatemala. Travel costs in Guatemala can vary based on factors such as your travel style, the season you travel in, and the duration of your stay.

      Here’s a general breakdown of potential expenses:

      Accommodations:

      • Hostel style accommodations can cost anywhere from $10 – $30 per night.
      • Mid-range hotels typically range from $30 – $100 per night.
      • Luxury hotels and resorts will cost $100 and up.

      Meals:

      • Street food and local eateries are budget-friendly, with meal costing around $3 – $10.
      • Fine dining can cost $30 or more per person (which is a great deal).
      • Coffee to go about $2.
      • Craft beer $3.
      • Dinner for two from the grocery store – less than $10.

      Transportation:

      • Intercity chicken buses will cost a few dollars.
      • Uber within Antigua or Guatemala City is very affordable and convenient.
      • Tourist shuttles $20 – $40 depending on the destination.
      • Private shuttles $75 one way.
      • Flight from Guatemala City to Flores $30 – $80 one way.

      Activities and Entrance Fees:

      Miscellaneous:

      • Laundry Service – $6
      • Day pass for the Hotel Santa Domingo & Spa – $55
      • 1 Hour Massage – $50
      • eSim – Less than $20

      Overall, a budget traveler will spend around $30 – $50 per day, while mid-range travelers will spend $50 – $150 per day. Luxury travelers can expect to spend $150 or more a day, which is a fraction of the price of what you’d pay in the United States or Western Europe.

      Acatenango Volcano Guide

      Travel Insurance | Guatemala Travel Tips

      I know you probably hear travel bloggers preaching about getting travel insurance before you go travel, but there’s a reason. Travel insurance is an important part of planning any trip.

      It is an essential way to protect your finances and provide peace of mind while you are away from home. Travel insurance can provide coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellation, lost or stolen luggage and even airfare to get you back home in case of an emergency.

      I had a friend who unfortunately broke her back snowboarding in Australia. Fortunately for travel insurance, she was able to have her medical bills taken care of and flown back home to the United States with only having to pay the deductible out of pocket.

      I use SafetyWing Insurance. It includes medical and trip coverage even for my brief visits back home to Hawaii for up to 30 days. You will be hiking volcanos and doing awesome (sometimes dangerous) things in Guatemala after all.

      It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind when traveling in foreign territory. Not only is this a top travel tip in Guatemala, but it’s a top travel tip in general. Check them out and see if there’s a plan for you.

      Get Travel Insurance →

      the colorful chichi cemetery

      How Long to Travel Guatemala

      How long to travel Guatemala?  The average American only gets about 2 weeks of vacation time, but if you have the gift of time, spending a longer period of time traveling Guatemala will only increase your experience.

      10 – 14 days in Guatemala allows you to hit all the highlights and have one grand adventure like hiking the the Overnight Acatenango Trek or staying the night inside Tikal National Park. I spent almost 2 months traveling around Guatemala and still didn’t see all that I wanted.

      📍 Read Next: 1 – 3 Week Guatemala Itinerary

      Top Things to do in Guatemala

      There are so many awesome things to do in Guatemala and cool places to visit. Check out the posts for your daily dose of severe wanderlust.

      1. Exploring the Charming Colonial City of Antigua
      2. Watch Fuego Volcano Erupt through the Night
      3. The Natural Wonders of Semuc Champey
      4. Hiking Indian Nose for Epic Views over Lake Atitlan
      5. Standing atop Central America’s Tallest Peak

      ☕️ Read Full Articles:

      22 Epic Things to do in Guatemala (coming soon)

      15 Cool Places to Visit in Guatemala 

      Guatemala Travel Vlogs

      Would you rather see what it’s like to travel around Guatemala? Joe and I vlogged our entire 7 week journey – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

      Check them out after you read this post and please subscribe or give us a thumbs up. It doesn’t cost you anything and really helps us be able to continue creating free content for you to enjoy 🙂.

      Tikal National Park Travel Guide

      Tours in Guatemala

      Rather have someone else plan the logistics for you? Exploring a country on a tour is a great way to see a lot of highlights in a short period of time, great to meet fellow like minded travelers and takes all the planning out of the equation so all you have to do is show up and have a good time.

      📌  Here are a few great Guatemala Tours to check out:

      Where to stay in Chichicastenango

      Accommodations in Guatemala

      A bed in a dorm will cost anywhere from 10-20 USD’s per person during high season. You can get comfortable accommodations for $30-40 a night for 2 people. A higher budget allows you luxury that’s worth the cost.

      Guatemala is a great place to travel on a budget and ball out in luxury. Below are city specific Guatemala Accommodation Guides for to help plan your trip.

      Final Thoughts | Guatemala Travel Tips

      That about covers all the top Guatemala travel tips. Guatemala is still a hidden gem and if you’re looking for relaxation, adventure, natural wonders, tasty cuisine, and culture, I highly suggest you put Guatemala on that list.

      If you found this article useful, let your fellow travelers know in the comments below 👇.

       Guatemala Travel Guides ↓

      Best Things to do on Lake Atitlan

      El Paredon | Surfing, Mangroves & Beach Time

      San Marcos Travel Guide | What to Do, Eat & Sleep

      31 Awesome Things to do in Antigua

      Enjoy this Post?!?! Pin in for Later ↓

      Hiking Acatenango Volcano
      Things to Know before traveling to Guatemala
      Guatemala Travel Tips
      Guatemala Travel Tips | 30 Practical Things to Know Before you GoGuatemala Travel Tips | 30 Practical Things to Know Before you GoGuatemala Travel Tips | 30 Practical Things to Know Before you Go
      0 Shares
      Share
      WhatsApp
      Share
      Pin