Frequently asked questions about Guatemala

What is the best time to travel?

The climate in Guatemala is pleasant throughout the year. However, generally the best time of year to visit is during the height of the dry season, between December and February. April and May are the hottest months and July - September tend to be the wettest.

What is the best time to see wildlife?

You can find a great variety of animals and plants in Guatemala throughout the year.

What are the best festivals and when do they take place?

The Semana Santa (Holy week preceding Easter) is Guatemala's largest festival, with beautiful processions and celebrations throughout the country. Antigua’s Semana Santa is the most exuberant of them all. Each indigenous group has its own religious customs and folklore. Independence Day is  celebrated on 15th September. All Saints’ is also a major celebration here on 1st November. Every town here celebrates the day of its own patron saint. The inhabitants of Chichicastenango, for example, honour Santo Tomás from 13th to 21st December.

Can I pre-book transfers and extra nights?

Yes, you have the option to pre-book airport transfers and secondly the option to pre-book pre and post tour nights.These extra services should be added to your booking.

What about my passport?

You need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months from the date of departure. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel.

Do I need a visa?

UK citizens do not need a visa for Guatemala, but these things can change. So please click here and check out the current situation. You can also check on that website if a visa is required for any other nationality. Make sure you find out if you need a visa at least a month before departure so you do not run out of time.
If you need a visa, please contact your nearest embassy unless you choose to use a visa service. Shoestring does not organize your visa. You are responsible for having a valid passport and visa when you travel. You can also obtain the visa through a specialised visa agency like

Do I need vaccinations or malaria tablets?

Please click here for questions regarding vaccinations and malaria tablet requirements for this country and then contact your GP or a specialized health clinic and make an appointment to get your injections and pills. Please make sure that you arrange this at least six weeks before your tour starts. Two weeks should suffice for people who have already had a few injections. You are responsible for having the right protection when going on tour.

What is the recommended currency for Guatemala?

The official currency is the Quetzal (GTQ) divided into 100 centavos. In 2001 the US Dollar became the second official currency alongside the Quetzal and both are now accepted. Travellers cheques and major credit cards are now accepted too, though some more than others. Exchanging cash is easier but more risky. Visitors are not advised to exchange money at the informal booths on the street. There are ATMs in the towns and cities, which accept Visa and MasterCard.

What kind of clothing and other stuff is practical to take?

Bring along thin, cotton clothes. For the evening, a closed neck long-sleeved T-shirt or a thin cotton roll neck sweater is recommended to protect against mosquitoes. Also bring a jersey or sweater and a waterproof jacket. Do not forget an umbrella to protect against both the rain and the sun. A pair of good-quality, worn-in walking shoes with a good tread and flip-flops or sandals are needed. You will also need to bring: sunglasses, sunscreen, toiletries, a travellers’ health kit, a hat/scarf, a camera, spare batteries, pocket knife, a lighter, a small stock of non-perishable snacks and sweets, an alarm clock, writing materials, books, passport, sufficient money, photocopies of passport and travel insurance, your flight ticket(s), travel insurance details including emergency number, important addresses and a good travel guide. Additionally, you may wish to bring: toilet paper, a towel and a portable mini reading lamp. If you bring along electrical equipment,

What kind of luggage should I take?

Please pack everything in a soft weekend bag or backpack, rather than a solid suitcase which would be difficult to transport and takes up too much space. A small backpack or shoulder bag is useful for hand luggage and everyday use. Valuable papers are best kept in a thin cotton money belt, carried underneath your clothes. Keep a spare set of clean clothes in your hand luggage, so that you can do without your main luggage if there is a delay. Make sure, for instance, that you put any medication and a toothbrush in your hand luggage and that it is not too heavy.

What is the electricity situation?

Please click here to check what voltage and plugs are used in Guatemala. You could also consider taking a universal electric adaptor.

Which travel guides and maps?

If you want to take a travel guide or map, we suggest you click on Lonely Planet.

What is the accommodation like?

We sleep in mid-range hotels in twin rooms with private facilities. There will also be one night in Rio Dulce in cabañas (lodges) without private facilities.

How is accommodation arranged if I book alone?

If you book alone you will share your room with a fellow traveller (same sex when possible) unless you have booked a single room.

Do I need a sleeping mat or sleeping bag?

You do not need a sleeping bag or sleeping mat for this trip.

Do I need to take a mosquito net?

You do not need a mosquito net for Guatemala.

Do they cater for vegetarians in Guatemala?

Almost every dish has some meat or fish on it but always with plenty of vegetables. The only thing you have to do is say ‘sin carne, por favor’ (no meat, please).

What kind of transportation is used?

In Guatemala we use 1st class public buses with reserved seats or private minibuses and boat transfers to Rio Dulce.

Is Guatemala dangerous?

Pickpockets operate in the big cities, especially in markets and bus stations. To prevent them from succeeding: keep money and valuables beneath your clothing in a non-visible position. Keep some cash to hand so you do not have to search through all your money in the middle of the street. If your day backpack contains valuables, carry it on your front. Also, carry your camera round your neck or tie it to a solid belt. Few robberies occur and when this does happen, it is normally in isolated or empty places which you should try and avoid anyway. There is no need to be worried, but there is good reason to exercise caution. Bandits occasionally hold up buses in the countryside. The odds are less than 1 in 1000, but when this happens it is well organized. You will be requested to hand over all your valuables and would be wise to do so. Luggage is reasonably safe in hotel rooms but do not leave money or valuables lying around. Put them in a locked bag, hand over to the staff of the hotel or keep inside a safe.

What local customs do I need to keep in mind?

Politeness is important throughout Central America. When addressing somebody in a shop, on the bus or in the street, say hello first. A simple 'Buenos días' or 'Buenas tardes', accompanied by a smile, works miracles. A pleasant greeting will always be returned. When entering a restaurant or waiting room, it is polite to greet everybody present.
Make sure you look well dressed and clean. This is important to the people of Central America. Even the poorest people make an effort to look well turned out. In their eyes, if you have enough money to travel all the way from Europe, you must be very rich. You will gain respect if you dress properly. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to wear an Armani suit when wandering the streets. Leave valuable jewellery (fake is OK) at home. Do not wear revealing clothes, as this is not always appreciated. Shorts are allowed, for men and women but only on beaches and in coastal resorts. Bathing suits are only allowed in

Are there opportunities to swim?

There will be opportunities to swim so don’t forget your swiiming costume!

What are other activities and sports could I do?

You can go for a climb to an active volcano or take a walk in the jungle.

How are communications in Guatemala?

The international access code for Guatemala is +502. The outgoing code depends on what network is used to dial out on (e.g. 13000 for Telefonica or 14700 for Telgua), which is followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 1300044 for the United Kingdom). City codes are not required. There are generally surcharges on calls made from hotels and it is cheaper to use calling cards. Rates are generally cheaper after 7pm. Mobile phones work in the major towns and cities on a GSM network but check that your network operator has a roaming agreement covering Guatemala. Internet cafes are available in the main tourist areas

What is the time difference?

Please check the world clock in order to find out the exact time difference between Guatemala and your home country.

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