Frequently asked questions about Guatemala

  1. What about my passport?
  2. What are other activities and sports could I do?
  3. What are the best festivals and when do they take place?
  4. What is the accommodation like?
  5. What is the best time to see wildlife?
  6. What is the best time to travel?
  7. What is the electricity situation?
  8. What is the recommended currency for Guatemala?
  9. What is the time difference?
  10. What kind of clothing and other stuff is practical to take?
  11. What kind of luggage should I take?
  12. What kind of transportation is used?
  13. What local customs do I need to keep in mind?
  14. Which travel guides and maps?
  15. Are there opportunities to swim?
  16. Can I pre-book transfers and extra nights?
  17. Do I need a sleeping mat or sleeping bag?
  18. Do I need a visa?
  19. Do I need to take a mosquito net?
  20. Do I need vaccinations or malaria tablets?
  21. Do they cater for vegetarians in Guatemala?
  22. How are communications in Guatemala?
  23. How is accommodation arranged if I book alone?
  24. Is Guatemala dangerous?
  25. Are there guidelines for interactions with tribes?

1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.

4. 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.

5. What is the best time to see wildlife?
You can find a great variety of animals and plants in Guatemala throughout the year.
6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.
9. 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.

10. 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,
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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
14. Which travel guides and maps?

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

15. Are there opportunities to swim?
There will be opportunities to swim so don’t forget your swiiming costume!
16. 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.

17. Do I need a sleeping mat or sleeping bag?
You do not need a sleeping bag or sleeping mat for this trip.
18. 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 www.travcour.com.

19. Do I need to take a mosquito net?
You do not need a mosquito net for Guatemala.
20. 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.
21. 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).
22. 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

23. 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.

24. 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.


25. Are there guidelines for interactions with tribes?
Many tribes live in remote areas and have little contact with Western travellers. If you are going to visit such an "exotic" region, prepare yourself well. This will be beneficial both for yourself and for the people you will meet. Here are some do's & don'ts that you can use as a guideline.

• Read up beforehand about the traditions and customs of the tribe(s) you will visit. Then you know what to expect when you are there. Your tour leader can often provide you with information as well.
• First make contact with the chief of the tribe and do not instantly begin photographing. You are dealing with people, not with objects.
• Always ask permission first if you want to take a picture of someone. Put yourself in the position of the person you want to photograph. How would you feel if a person unknown to you suddenly started taking photos of you? In some cases, the tour leader or local guide will ask for permission for you.
• Involve the local people in what you are doing. Make time for a conversation (with hands and feet) and show the photo that you have taken. You may like to bring a few photos from home, and then you can show how things are where you come from.
• Do not hand out things like candy (there are often few/no accessible dentists), balloons (plastic contaminates the area), money or Western trinkets. These types of donations can lead to disagreement, jealousy or quarrels between the various tribes-people.
• Do not purchase authentic, irreplaceable items (and do not accept them when given as a gift). Some examples include jewellery that belonged to ancestors, tools for work such as a sickle or hammer or weapons like a bow and arrow. The tribesmen often only realise afterwards, once the tourists are gone, that they have lost their irreplaceable object(s).