45 Things To Know Before Visiting Guatemala – Guatemala Travel Tips For First Timers
This post will be your go-to guide to get to things to know before visiting Guatemala and what awaits you from amazing landscapes and Natural Parks, Festivals to delicious food to try in Guatemala.
The Mayan culture is great to learn because they are part of Guatemala’s past, present and future. I recommend you to spend at least 3-4 weeks in Guatemala since the country is big and transportation takes time when moving around.
Read here what to wear in Guatemala, Guatemalan breakfast, vegetarian food in Guatemala, drinks in Guatemala, Instagrammable places in Guatemala, food in Guatemala and Backpacking Guatemala travel guide.
GUATEMALA TRAVEL TIPS AND THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING GUATEMALA
1. IS IT SAFE TO TRAVEL IN GUATEMALA?
You can never tell about the safety that may goes in the country. Guatemala is known a country where violence erupt frequently this is because of gang wars and narco trafficking. In my experience as I’ve backpacked in Guatemala for almost a month. I’ve met some people who had experience with armed robberies but I didn’t have any problem myself.
My advice to you would have to ask local’s for guide so you’ll be confident about the places you would want to visit. So yes, it is safe to travel in Guatemala you just have to be careful with your environment!
2. CASH IN KING IN GUATEMALA
Cash is king in Guatemala and you will use in most of places. Guatemala has a currency called the Guatemalan Quetzal. A $1=7.49 GTQ. There are lots of ATMs and exchange currency in many parts of the country. You don’t have to worry about changing your money there are many places around and USD is well accepted too.
3. VISA IN GUATEMALA
Things to know before visiting Guatemala great news for everyone visa is easy in Guatemala. 90 countries can enter the country visa free for 90 days.
There are some countries that have to apply visa before entering the county and upon arrival. A single entry tourist visa can cost you $25 USD and for a multiple-entry tourist visa cost $50 USD.
4. BEST TIME TO VISIT IN GUATEMALA
The weather in Guatemala would change from place to places. There are 2 seasons in the country this is the dry and wet season. Rainy season starts in May. Things to know before visiting Guatemala the best time to visit Guatemala is from the months of November to April because it is the months of dry season.
However, lots of tourists prefer to travel from January to March. But you should be responsible enough to research more about the weather in the country. Click here to know more about the weather in Guatemala
5. HEALTH TRAVEL INSURANCE
Things to know before visiting Guatemala we recommend always to bring a travel insurance when traveling abroad just in case you have any problems. You can always have food Poisson, fever or any other kind of disease. Just make sure you are ready since it can be really expensive if you get a big surgery or problem in Guatemala.
You can read Heymondo Vs Safetwing cheapest travel Insurance. You can get for $135 USD your Heymondo Travel Insurance with Heymondo discount code valid for 90 days. Read our full Heymondo Travel Insurance Review
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FACTS ABOUT GUATEMALA
6. LEARNING SPANISH OR SPEAKING ENGLISH IN GUATEMALA
Things to know before visiting Guatemala another learning opportunity in Guatemala is to learn Spanish. There are a lot of Spanish classes in Guatemala offering packages with different services and affordable prices. Even most of the tourist areas Guatemalan people almost don’t speaking English but it will be really useful to learn some basics in Spanish language.
7. GUATEMALA IS SO CHEAP
Things to know before visiting Guatemala and facts about Guatemala if you are thinking Central America and South America is cheap for traveling you are right. Guatemala is as cheap as Bolivia and Ecuador but for sure cheaper than Costa Rica.
You will have to pay an entrance fee for Natural Parks, around $3-4 USD for a dish in a local restaurant. We will tell you below accommodation, food budget and general entrance fees and tour prices in Guatemala.
8. ACCOMMODATION BUDGET TRAVEL IN GUATEMALA
A total of $10-20 USD would be the range of your budget for accommodation in Guatemala. There are a lot hostels and hotels offering cheap accommodation. Guatemala City, has the highest prices for hostels. This price may go drop to $6-10 USD on other place in the country in a dorm.
9. FOOD BUDGET TRAVEL IN GUATEMALA
Your daily budget could be a total of $10 USD for food if you eat in local places. If you are in a budget you can go to the streets of Guatemala and find many available street food all around the country. You can buy one of the famous street food Pupusa which is corn tortillas suffed with beans, cheese, cocked food only costs you $1.50 USD.
In a local restaurant you can get a full menu with rice, beans, vegetables and corn tortillas for $2-3 USD eating in local markets and restaurants. There are snacks like empanadas for less than $1 USD in Guatemala.
10. TOUR/ENTRANCE FEES IN GUATEMALA
There are many things to do and many place’s to visit in Guatemala. It is a must to visit Tikal when you visit Guatemala. You may enjoy it with a total of $20 USD entrance fee. You should wonder Chichicastenango Market in Guatemala UNESCO World Heritage you would experience to talk with the locals and ask about their culture.
11. INTERNET IN GUATEMALA
Things to know before visiting Guatemala that internet in Guatemala works great in big cities like Guatemala City and Antigua. You can access free WiFi at hostels and hotels without additional rate. There are lots of restaurant that are offering free WiFi. We advise that you get a sim card in Guatemala if you need to catch up with some work online. Read here the best Guatemala eSim
You can get two different sim cards companies in Guatemala if you travel as a couple since the coverage can change depending on the company that you choose. It will be challenging to find Wi-Fi while traveling in a few small cities, mountains and will be hard to get great connection.
You can find the cheapest Guatemalan eSim with Airalo Guatemala eSim prepaid for $7 USD with 1 GB data valid for 7 days (USING DISCOUNT CODE GAMINTRAVELER 10%). And for $21 USD with 3 GB data valid for 30 days.
MTX Connect eSim Guatemala for €24 with 4 GB data valid for 14 days. Holafly Guatemala eSim for $42 USD if you use our code GAMINTRAVELER coming with 6 GB data valid for 15 days. GigSky Guatemala eSim for $40 USD with 5 GB data valid for 30 days.
12. ADAPTER IN GUATEMALA
In our Guatemala travel tips you should know they use the American adapter. A few places make it possible to fit your European adapter in the plug. If you are coming from European countries, we recommend you to bring an American adapter to be able to charge everywhere.
13. LOCAL TRANSPORTATION IN GUATEMALA
For local transportation in Guatemala chicken buses are so popular. You can buy a bus ticket ranging from $8-$10 USD depending on the and just to remind you that buses will only stop on the direct destination. There are Tuk tuks and you should expect to pay somewhere around $1-2 USD for short distances.
You can ride the taxi and also expect to pay around $3-4 USD for a ride in the city. For more comfort there are vans to move around touristic places and their price is higher than the bus. Hostels are usually organizing shuttle vans and prices are affordable.
14. Guatemala Border Crossings
Guatemala border crossings are easy. You can take a bus if you’re from Belize. From Belize City, ride a bus going to Benque Viejo del Carmen. And from Benque Viejo del Carmen, you could ride a taxi going to Guatemala border. I did this one coming from Belize.
Also, if you’re coming from Honduras, you can take a direct bus from La Ceiba, Teguciglapa and different places to Guatemala City. The bus available is best for tourists.
15. Salsa Lessons in Guatemala
Talking salsa lessons when traveling in Guatemala. It’s a well-known fact in Central America and South America love salsa. So what better way to understand the people than to get into salsa as well than learning?
In all the salsa-loving places in Guatemala Lake Atitlán and Antigua are the most popular ones. Prices for classes can go between $5-10 USD depending on the people joining and even could be free of charge.
16. ENJOYING THE NIGHTLIFE IN GUATEMALA
Guatemala nightlife is great especially in Lake Atitlán and Antigua. Parties start late in the evening and everyone just loves to drink and dance the night away. Plenty of locals go out to bars and foreigners always ask for salsa lessons. Prices for beers and drinks are affordable $3-4 USD.
17. FRIENDLY PEOPLE IN GUATEMALA
Are the Guatemalan people very friendly? Guatemalan people are very friendly people. Just a few of them will be able to communicate in English don’t forget their language is Spanish. It will be nice when interacting with Guatemalan trying to practice a few Spanish words, they will love to hear them.
18. HAGGLING LOCAL STREET MARKETS IN GUATEMALA
You can haggle in local street markets everywhere in Guatemala. You will not find almost supermarkets you will find in small towns and cities selling food and other things local markets. You can haggle the price in the street markets remember always to do it with a smile and polite.
FACTS ABOUT GUATEMALA WHAT TO EAT
19. CHICKEN PEPIAN
Chicken Pepian is one of the most popular traditional Guatemalan food chicken in a spicy pumpkin and sesame sauce. Chicken Pepian is considered by some as a Spanish Mayan curry. The dish is very rich in flavor with a slightly thick texture. The spices, nuts and seeds give the dish the thick texture that coats the meat pretty well.
Empanadas are especially popular in Semana Santa (Holy Week). Guatemalan empanadas pack a sweet flavored creamy pastry. Empanadas are one the most popular street food in Guatemala stuffed with Manjar de Leche, a vanilla cinnamon flavored cream. The cream tastes really good along with the dough of the Empanada and the sweet scented flavor of Cinnamon is really delicious.
21. BLACK BEANS, RICE, AND CORN TORTILLAS
Lots of Guatemalan dishes are served with black beans, rice and Corn tortillas. It’s always given that they have at least one of these three sides. Rice serves as a partner for many dishes like Chicken Pepian, Pollo Guisado, Estofado and many more. While black beans and Corn tortillas break the taste patterns so you won’t feel easily sated and you can eat more.
22. HUEVOS RANCHEROS
Huevos Rancheros is a very popular breakfast for Guatemalans. Huevos rancheros is relatively super spicy but light for a meal. It is served with fried eggs, tomatoes and spices, and tortillas. The mixture of the tomatoes and lots of spices are the signature part of this food.
Guatemalan Tamales are so popular in Central and Latin America. Guatemalan Tamales has almost the same salsa as Huevos Rancheros but they differ on the way how the salsa is eaten. The salsa is enclosed with the dough and covered by banana leaves. These packed banana leaves are then steamed until it changes color. It is better if the salsa has meat on it.
24. GUACAMOLES IN GUATEMALA
Guacamoles are probably the easiest dish on this list to prepare. It is served with tortillas because the Guacamoles serve as a dip. It is a mixture of avocadoes, tomatoes, peppers and lime juice. Good for a snack.
Guatemalan Enchiladas are different from the normal Enchiladas because they serve this dish with vegetable mixture. Guatemalan Enchiladas are very rich in flavor because of the mixture of vegetables, tomato sauce, eggs, and spices. It is also served with corn tortillas.
Again with corn tortillas stuffing but this one has cheese in it. Pupusas is very tasty because of the meat, cheese, and tomato sauce filling in it. Pupusas are served on the street in Guatemala.
27. GUATEMALAN COFFEE
Guatemalan Coffee is famous because of its mild but balanced flavor. The coffee’s flavor in Guatemala varies from region to region because of the growing conditions. Most coffees will taste bittersweet but others could taste like fruits. The most popular coffee to try for tourists is the Guatemalan Antiguan Coffee. It tastes heavily sweet but fully flavored.
Chocolate is everywhere in Guatemala mostly in Antigua. Many chocolate shops in Antigua create their own blend of chocolates. It is believed that Mayans were the discoverers of Chocolate. They call chocolates as “food of the gods”.
29. FRUIT JUICES IN GUATEMALA
You must try fruit juices in Guatemala. You will find them everywhere as street food. Prices are around $1-2 USD for a small glass depending on the flavors. Orange juice is my favorite one. You can also try licuados which is milkshake. My favorite milkshake was banana and strawberry. If you buy in the street markets they will give your juice or milkshake in a plastic bag.
30. TRY GALLO BEER
Gallo Beer was my favorite drink in Guatemala. Gallo Beer has become a part of Guatemalan everyday lives. It is actually my favorite among all because I really love the balanced taste. The beer has sweet aroma with malty taste on it that I can’t get enough.
31. DIGITAL NOMADS IN GUATEMALA
There are many Digital Nomads in Guatemala. You will find plenty in Antigua and also in Guatemala City. Prices for renting an apartment can go from $300-500 USD if you are looking for budget options in these cities. There is only one hour distance between both cities in Guatemala.
32. YOGA IN GUATEMALA
If you like you can practice Yoga in Guatemala. Guatemala travel tips best places for yoga are Lake Atitlan and Antigua. You will find a few courses and places that will offer packages for tourists. Check it out if you are planning to stay a few days in one of these areas in Guatemala.
33. VOLUNTEER IN GUATEMALA
You will find a few opportunities for volunteering in Guatemala. Starting from hostels, schools and other places like birdwatching could be a perfect place to relax while learning Spanish. You will find short and long-term places for volunteering in Guatemala in the most tourist places.
MORE GUATEMALA TRAVEL TIPS AND THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE VISITING GUATEMALA
FESTIVALS IN GUATEMALA
34. SEMANA SANTA
The Semana Santa (Holy week) is the most anticipated festival in Guatemala. Antigua has grand vibrant processions, fancy floats and carefully planned alfombras (“carpets”) adored by hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. The whole celebration is joyful, solemn and heart touching. The holy week celebration starts on April 14-19th.
35. DIA DE LOS MUERTOS
On Dia de los Muertos also known as Day of the Death. Guatemalans remember their deceased loved ones. They clean and decorate the tombs of their loved ones and sometimes, offer foods and drinks to them. In Santiago and Sumpango (both in Sacatepequez region), locals honor their dead by flying colorful giant kites. Locals design these giant kites intricately to win the crowd. Sometimes, the kite makers also voice their social concerns on the kites.
WHERE TO GO IN GUATEMALA
36. GUATEMALA CITY
Guatemala City is worth it to visit 2-3 days. You’d be impressed with their beautiful and colorful architecture. There also museums that will tell you a lot about Guatemala like the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. Guatemala City is a perfect place to kick start your Mayan culture appreciation.
Maybe tourists aren´t so interested in Guatemala City but there are a few plans to do, walking around the neighborhoods and visiting the local market was my favorite. Guatemala City is very busy during peak hours to move around as one of ours Guatemala travel tips.
Antigua is the most popular place in Guatemala for tourists. The architecture surrounding the city is superb was also declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1979. Besides visiting colonial churches, there are restaurants and bars. Looking to have fun in weekend?
It was a great nightlife in Antigua bars are closing around 2 am. Antigua is lovely to walk around during the day and it´s a perfect place to stay a few days or even weeks if you have time. Explore this colonial city, parks, churches and meet locals- it was my favorite. For local food, I loved the local market in Antigua. You can get a meal for $2-3 USD.
38. LAKE ATITLAN
Lake Atitlan was formed because of a massive volcanic crater. Lake Atitlan is surrounded by hills and triangular volcanoes. My favorite place to stay at was San Pedro. It has a really great nightlife. Panajachel is also a great are to stay in Lake Atitlan.
San Pedro La Laguna is considered as a party center of the lake. There are lots of hostels and bars around. You can rent a kayak during the day, walk around and even lie down in your hammock reading a book. This place is so beautiful and magical!
39. SEMUC CHAMPEY
Have you ever tried swimming in natural pools? Semuc Champey has lots of natural pools that you could dive or swim into. The water temperature and movement are very relaxing to miss. Also, the view from the top is splendid. Surely, one of Guatemala’s natural wonders.
Semuc Champey is an amazing place to spend a couple of days in the middle of the jungle. The views are amazing and it is so relaxing staying around the natural pools. The entrance fee is around $7 USD in Semuc Champey. If you are coming from Flores you will spend the whole day in a minivan to reach this magical place.
Tikal is in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by strong and bright greenery, sits the Mayan civilization remains. You definitely could feel like you’ve time traveled back from 6th century. Tikal is one of our list of Guatemala travel tips that is a must to visit.
It takes a long time to reach Tikal if you are sleeping in Flores. Tikal is huge and you have to go there first thing in the morning to have enough time to visit around. The entrance fee for Tikal is around $20 USD.
41. QUETZALTENANGO (XELA)
Quetzaltenango is a great place in Guatemala for hiking. The views from the top of these volcanoes is worth the hike. But the city has also been progressing so the city can cater the needs of the tourists.
One of the volcanoes you could hike is Santa Maria, a large active volcano. If you want to skip hiking you could just visit Parque Centro America, surrounded by bars, restaurants, cafes, and beautiful architecture.
Chichiscatenango is known for its large open market offering textiles, handicrafts, jewelries and more. Chichiscatenango is the biggest market in Central America. You can find everything for affordable prices. Guatemala travel tips that you can bargain being polite and with a smile.
43. RIO DULCE
Rio Dulce is perfect place for relaxing while visiting Guatemala. You could do kayak, jungle tour and swimming in rivers but the best things in Rio Dulce is that it’s a great place to just relax. There lots of lodges located in the middle of the jungle that you could stay reading a book, having a coffee or just meeting people.
44. VOLCANO PACAYA
Volcano Pacaya is very popular among tourists because it is easily accessible. You will have an amazing day in nature and it can take around 6 hours round trip to hike Volcano Pacaya! You can even rent a horse to hike the volcano. There is an entrance fee of $27 USD which includes you to enter and have the local guide.
45. MONTERRICO BEACH
Monterrico Beach is known for its black sand. You could do lots of things in Monterrico Beach like swimming, helping baby turtles swim or just sleeping in a hammock for a good day rest. The people around this area are very friendly too. You can see hatcheries always beautiful and interesting for the enviroment.
Hope you liked our Guatemala travel tips. Let us know if we missed things to know before visiting Guatemala and the facts about Guatemala in the comments below.
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