Guatemala travel tips

Guatemala travel tips


advice from our friends in Guatemala

Shopping advice


Vicky Rodford from our supplier, Intrepid Travel: “Head to Chichicastenango market and haggle hard! There are some great local handicrafts on offer and it’s a perfect chance to immerse yourself in local life for a few hours.”
Nancy Ableser from our supplier, Tucan Travel: “Guatemala is the best place for shopping in Central America. Even when you go to Belize, Honduras and Costa Rica, you'll see Guatemalan textiles, bags, etc, with the word “Belize”, “Honduras” or “Costa Rica” embroidered on them! Most of the other Central American countries don't have much in the way of their own textiles, so they try to make it look like Guatemalan textiles are theirs.”

Foodie tips


Nancy Ableser from our supplier, Tucan Travel, shares her tips on Guatemalan food: “It's tasty, but it's pretty heavy. There is a lot of rice, beans, meat and plantains, and not many vegetables, or seasonings. But don’t miss the tapado in Livingston. It's the traditional Garifuna coconut seafood soup.”

Overland travel tips


Rosanna Neophytou, also from Tucan Travel, advises those considering a Central America overland holiday: “Travelling overland through Central America is a fantastic experience – you will get a taste of just how the locals live as you travel through various towns, city and countryside, each offering very different views. Going on a colourful chicken bus in Guatemala is always an experience to remember, as it drives past spectacular volcanoes. There will always be something to see out the windows! Be open minded; there are often long travel days between the stops. Prepare for this but also keep your eyes open if you can – you will often be rewarded with fantastic views. For any lengthy journeys bring a mixture of clothing. Bring a jumper especially on overnight buses – it gets surprisingly cool especially in the mountainous areas.”

Tips on when to go


Nancy Ableser from our supplier, Tucan Travel, recommends the Day of the Dead: “The kite festival in Santiago Sacatepéquez, not far from Antigua, on Day of the Dead, November 1st. It's a huge party in a cemetery! Music, ice cream, picnics on graves and crypts, kite flying. There is an annual contest for the art work on the 22-metre diameter kites; these ones don't fly, but they are incredibly intricate in the art and design.”

Health & safety in Guatemala


TRAVEL SAFELY IN GUATEMALA

Health


Visit your GP or travel clinic 6-8 weeks before departure to ensure you are up to date with all necessary vaccinations.

Take out comprehensive travel insurance that includes any activities you are planning to particupate in, as well as medical evacuation and repatriation. Hospitals are not great in Guatemala, so you may need to be treated elsewhere.

Carry your travel insurance documents with you at all times, as hospitals may request proof of cover before treating you.

Zika virus is present in Guatemala. Although this is not a particularly dangerous disease for most travellers, women who are pregnant or hoping to get pregnant should seek advice before planning a trip to Guatemala.

Although malaria is not present in Guatemala, other mosquito-borne diseases, such as dengue fever, are – so cover up and wear insect repellent.

Altitude sickness can occur anywhere above around 2,400m. Many of Guatemala’s volcanic peaks are well above 3,000 or even 4,000m, so you will need to take precautions if you are trekking at this elevation. Take time to acclimatise before heading up, climb slowly, drink plenty of water and descend as soon as possible if you begin to feel ill; even a few hundred metres can make a big difference.

Tap water is not safe to drink in Guatemala. Try and reduce your consumption of plastic by purchasing large bottles and refilling a reusable water bottle. Or invest in a LifeStraw which safely filters water.

Safety


While thousands of travellers come to Guatemala every year without incident, you should be aware that the country has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America although much of this takes place within local gangs. Follow the advice of your holiday company or tour leader, avoid walking around at night and carrying valuables, and only take taxis pre-booked by your hotel or holiday company. Be especially careful if spending time in Guatemala City.

There is little you can do about the attacks and express kidnappings that happen to those travelling on the roads between cities and tourist attractions. If you do encounter trouble, the safest thing to do is to hand over any cash or valuables without protest. Travelling as part of an organised tour will, however, minimise the risk of attack.

This may be a tropical country, but if you are hiking in the mountains, weather conditions can be extreme – and in some cases, when trekkers are unprepared, deadly. Do pack very warm layers and waterproof clothing if attempting to summit a volcano (temperatures can drop below freezing at night), only trek with a qualified guide, wear suitable footwear and be prepared to turn back if conditions change suddenly.

Guatemala has three active volcanoes: Pacaya, Fuego and Santa Maria. Keep an eye on updates if you are travelling near to any of these.

We always ask our travellers not to take photographs of local people without permission – and not to photograph children. This is a responsible tourism issue (and one of simple politeness!), but in Guatemala it is also a safety issue – as a spate of child kidnappings has meant that photographers can be dealt with aggressively. Additionally, children and adults may ask for money if you photograph them – this is also not something we’d encourage. Some memories are best just c captured in your head, no matter how much you may want to immortalise them on camera.

There are regular protests and demonstrations in Guatemala. Although these do not specifically target tourists, they can become violent, so steer clear of any large gatherings that you come across. In addition, political activity by foreigners is against the law.

Take note of the emergency numbers: 120 (police), and 122/123 (fire brigade and ambulance) .

Homesexuality is legal in Guatemala, but same sex couples are advised to act discretely – especially outside of the more tolerant Guatemala City. Being a conservative country, however, we do recommend keeping public displays of affection to a minimum for all travellers – regardless of sexual orientation.

It is recommended to carry an authorised copy of your passport on you at all times.

Keep up to date with the latest travel advice from the FCO.
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If you'd like to chat about Guatemala or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.
Rosy & team.
01273 823 700

Guatemala travel advice


advice from our holiday reviews

At Responsible Travel, we think the best people to advise our travellers are often... other travellers. They always return from our tours with packing tips, weather reports, ideas about what to do - and opinions about what not to.

We have selected some of the most useful Guatemala travel advice that our guests have provided over the years to help you make the very most of your holiday – and the space inside your suitcase.
“Practice walking uphill before embarking on the volcano hike! Take a Spanish phrasebook for Guatemala if your Spanish is as bad as ours. Lots of bug repellent. Many memory cards for photos, I think my son took 950 photos. Take a waterproof, the rains when they come are phenomenal. Wifi is around but don't rely on it -use the phone as a camera, leave your email behind. Have faith in your guides, they are brilliant and know their stuff.” – Alex Holmes
“The morning spent at Tikal in Guatemala was excellent. This activity is definitely best done in the early morning light as it gets very warm and less pleasant to walk in the jungle after 10am.” – Diana Urbina
“Be prepared that some hotels do not seem to have hot water – weather was warm – not a big issue.” – Fran McQuail on a Belize & Guatemala adventure holiday
Photo credits: [Shopping advice : Gabridelca] [Foodie tips: Luisfi] [When to go : gringologue] [Helpdesk: David Amsler] [Review 1: 4Neus] [Review 2: Colin Meusel]
Written by Vicki Brown
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