Guatemala was a country that we really fell in love with and ended up spending five weeks there travelling from Belize across the country to Lake Atitlan. It is definitely worth a visit.
Guatemala is an arrow shaped country. Although it sits in between Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and Mexico it benefits from two very different coast lines; one on the Pacific and one in the Caribbean. With 37 volcanoes (3 are active) it is a rugged country celebrated for its dense jungles, coffee groves and colonial history.
With a rich Mayan culture there are many historical archealogical sites to explore, not just Tikal which is obviously its most famous. The country is diverse in weather but not in hospitality which is genuine and authentically from the heart. The food is some of the best we’ve encountered in central America.
Top Ten Cities in Guatemala
- Guatemala City – 1.2m
- Mixco – 473,080
- Villa Nueva – 406, 830
- Petapa – 141, 455
- San Juan Sacatepéquez – 136,886
- Quetzaltenango – 132, 230
- Villa Canales – 122, 1294
- Escuintla – 103, 165
- Chinautla – 97,172
- Chimaltenango – 82, 370
What to Know about Guatemala
Guatemala’s sole official language is Spanish, spoken by 93 percent of the population as either a first or second language.
Twenty-one Mayan languages are also spoken as well as two non-Mayan languages: Xinca, which is indigenous to the country, and Garifuna, which is spoken on the Caribbean coast.
- Guatemala’s currency is the Quetzal, Q – which is also their national symbol. It’s actually a bird with long, blue tail feathers.
- ATM’s can be found in cities and larger towns. Guatemala is still mostly a cash country although some larger hotels will accept payment through bank cards. Get cash when you can.
- A return ticket is not required to enter Guatemala
- U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of up to 90 days, and it is possible to extend your stay for another 90 days at the immigration office in Guatemala City.
- British citizens don’t need a visa to visit Guatemala for up to 90 days. If you wish to extend your visa, you must submit an application to the Migration Directorate in Guatemala City. If you overstay your visa then you should expect to pay a fine before leaving the country. This fine can only be paid at the Migration Directorate in Guatemala City and not at the borders.
- EU, Canadian and Australian visitors do not require a visa. For further information please see your country’s governmental website
- A bed in a hostel costs around Q60 per night whereas private rooms in hostels might cost Q200 per night. Free WiFi is usually included in hostel stays and some include breakfast.
- Homestays are roughly the same price as a hostel and offer better deals for families.
- Airbnb (get $25 off your booking) is available in certain locations with prices generally between Q80 per night.
- Booking.com offers a comprehensive list of hotels, hostels, guest rooms and private villas/houses. Hotels start from Q250 per night depending on which type of hotel and how many rooms you have.
- Guatemalan food is tasty and also quite cheap. Expect to spend roughly Q20 on street food rising to Q150 for a restaurant meal with multiple courses.
- There are lots of fresh food markets where you can buy a bag of avocados for Q20! If you intend to cook, expect to pay roughly Q80 per person for fresh food.
- Supermarket prices are more.
- Car hire is not that common but can be done. We tend to use rentalcars.com as we can browse prices and accumulate points. Just keep an eye out on the T&C’s for deposit amount but prepare to pay about Q1500 per week.
- Tourist buses are common but definitely way more than local buses and range from Q10 to Q130 depending on the distance travelled.
- Chicken buses are old school buses from America and most are painted with really cool designs. We found them to be safe and roughly Q30-50 for an hour’s journey.
- Minibuses are much more common in rural areas. Just stand by the side of the road and wave. They frequently travel with the side door open and are full of locals all eager to know what you’re doing. Prices here start at about Q0.5 and work up.
Activities in Guatemala
Places of Interest
- Flores & San Miguel
- Antigua City
- Tikal ruins
- Yaxha, Nakum, Topoxté, and El Naranjo ruins
- The Children’s Museum
Areas of natural beauty
- Lake Atitlan
- Semuc Champney
- Rio Dulce