Tips and travel advice for Guatemala

Guatemala is known as the "Land of Eternal Spring" due to its pleasant climate. It's home to over 30 volcanoes (some of which are still active), one of the most beautiful lakes in the world (Lake Atitlán), and impressive archaeological sites such as Tikal (one of the largest and most important Mayan cities). It no surprise that millions visit this Central American country. Ready to take your trip? Here's our round up of the best Guatemala travel advice, curated by our local travel experts. 

Travel advice and tips for visiting Guatemala

If you're ready to take a journey to Guatemala, there are quite a few factors to consider. Here we have condensed our best Guatemala travel advice. We'll cover how to get around, how much to budget, whether you need a visa, and even what to pack. 


Our Guatemala travel advice: don't miss Antigua  © Shutterstock

Is Guatemala safe?

Guatemala attracts about 1.8 million tourists annually, and the majority of them have a smooth, trouble-free experience. However, it's no secret that crime levels in the country are high, and visitors, unfortunately, aren't immune to the risks.

Crime isn't predictable, but some areas are riskier than others. To play it safe, avoid places like the San Marcos Department, Huehuetenango Department, Zone 18, and Villa Nueva.

Hiking is another popular activity, but don't go it alone. It's best to have a local guide with you to ensure your safety. Some of the well-trodden routes have been targeted by criminals, so it pays to have someone who knows the lay of the land.

Lake Atitlán is a must-see destination for hikers, but it's wise to stick with certified tourist providers and travel between villages on chartered boats.

Overall, plenty of folks visit Guatemala without any trouble. Just stick to the beaten path, use guides when you can, and keep your wits about you.

For more information, see the UK Government’s foreign travel advice page, or the US Department of State’s travel advisory.

Guatemala for women travellers

Solo female travellers flock to Guatemala every year by the thousands, and by and large, they rave about their experiences. 

One thing that works in your favour is Guatemala's well-established tourist route. Stick to this route, and you'll find yourself in good company.

Public transportation can be a bit dicey, so it's best to steer clear, especially after dark. Trust your gut instincts – if something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't.

For those keen on conquering volcanoes or exploring off-the-beaten-path locations, hire a local guide or join a tour. Not only will you get expert guidance, but it adds an extra layer of safety, especially if you're flying solo.

Experienced solo female travellers will likely find Guatemala a rewarding destination, but for those venturing into less-traveled areas, travelling in a group might offer more peace of mind.

Guatemala for LGBTQ+ travellers

If you're sticking to the tried-and-true tourist route, you're unlikely to run into much trouble. This well-trodden path is pretty welcoming to all types of travellers.

In urban centres like Guatemala City, you’ll find there are pockets of LGBTQ+ communities, bars, clubs, and events.

While Guatemala has legal protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, societal attitudes can vary, especially in rural or conservative areas. So, while it's important to be true to yourself, displaying affection in public might warrant some caution.

While progress has been made, there's still work to do for full equality and acceptance.


Semuc Champey, Guatemala  © Shutterstock

How to get to Guatemala

The most common way to reach Guatemala is by flying into one of its two international airports. The largest and busiest is La Aurora International Airport, conveniently located in the capital city, Guatemala City.  The other international airport in Guatemala is Mundo Maya International Airport, situated in Flores, a city in the northern region. It serves as a hub for those visiting Tikal and the Petén area.

For more information, see our guide to getting to Guatemala

How to get to Guatemala from the UK & Ireland

If you're flying in from the UK or Ireland, you'll find several airlines offering routes from major hubs like London Heathrow, London Gatwick, and Dublin to La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. However, there are no direct flights to Guatemala. You'll likely have a layover in spots like Miami, Atlanta, or Mexico City before touching down in Guatemala. Expect a total flight time of around 10 to 15 hours, including layovers.

How to get to Guatemala from the US & Canada

If you're jetting in from the US, you've got it even easier. Many major airlines fly directly from cities such as Miami, Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and New York straight to La Aurora International Airport. Depending on your departure point, flights can range from a quick 2-hour hop to a slightly longer 6-hour journey.

From Canada, there are unfortunately no direct connections to Guatemala. 


Mayan wooden masks  © Shutterstock

How to get around in Guatemala

Getting around Guatemala is quite straightforward, although there aren't any passenger trains to rely on. Buses are the primary mode of transportation here. You'll find comfortable coaches running along the main routes, while there are also shuttle buses available for those willing to pay a bit extra, particularly useful for traveling between tourist hubs. However, for a quintessential Guatemalan experience, you could consider hopping on a chicken bus. These brightly painted former school buses are not only a popular option for locals but also budget-friendly for traveling between towns and cities. 

If buses aren't your thing, taxis are abundant in major towns, and they're reasonably priced. Just remember to agree on the fare upfront. Alternatively, some tour companies and hostels offer private shuttle services between popular destinations.

Is Guatemala expensive?

Guatemala is one of the cheapest countries in the Americas for travellers, though there are plenty of opportunities for a modest (or serious) splurge if you feel like it. Things are more expensive in regions where the local economy is tourist-driven (Antigua in particular).

The extremely frugal may be able to get by on around £120 ($150 USD) a week in most parts of the country.

However, if you’re after a little more comfort —   staying in mid-range hotels, eating at inexpensive restaurants but occasionally splurging on nicer meals, using a mix of public transportation and taxis, and tours — you might budget around £30–60 ($40–80 USD) per person per day. If you prefer luxury accommodations, dining at upscale restaurants, private transportation options, and indulging in high-end tours, you could budget £60 ($80 USD) or more per person per day.

Many of Guatemala's attractions, such as national parks, archaeological sites (like Tikal), and museums, have entrance fees. These fees can range from a few pounds to around £15 ($20 USD) per person, depending on the site.

If you plan to buy souvenirs such as textiles, handicrafts, or local artwork, prices vary — but having an extra £15–40 ($20–50 USD) per day for souvenirs and shopping can be a good estimate.


Guatemala travel trip: try the local fruits  © Shutterstock

Best time to visit Guatemala

Guatemala is known for a predominantly warm climate year-round. That said, altitude significantly influences the country's weather patterns. In popular destinations such as Antigua, Guatemala City, and Lago de Atitlán, you can expect moderate temperatures without the stifling humidity often associated with tropical regions.

The peak seasons, running from December to March and again from July to August, offer the most favourable weather conditions, as they are characterised by clear skies and comfortable temperatures. 

However, it's worth noting that these periods also coincide with higher accommodation rates and increased tourist activity. If you prefer to avoid crowds and potentially save on expenses, consider visiting during shoulder seasons, such as April to June or September to November.

For those seeking to minimise exposure to rainfall, it's advisable to plan your visit outside the rainy season, which typically spans from May to October

Here’s the full lowdown on the best time to travel to Guatemala.

How many days do you need in Guatemala?

If you're looking for a quick tour of Guatemala's highlights, or want to add the country to a longer trip, five days will give you a satisfying glimpse. This is enough time to wander through Antigua, soak in Lake Atitlán, and maybe even squeeze in a visit to some Mayan ruins.

For a more relaxed exploration, consider extending your trip to seven days. There extra days allow you to spend more time at each destination, perhaps adding a visit to Tikal or other nearby ruins to your itinerary.

But if you want to truly experience all that Guatemala has to offer, aim for at least 10 days. With this extended stay, you can dive deep into the country's sights and have a more comprehensive experience. With 10 days you can explore multiple regions, or uncover hidden gems off the beaten path.

For more inspiration, read our breakdown of how many days are best to spend in Guatemala and see our exisiting Guatemala itineraries.

Fortress Castillo de San Felipe de Lara looking over Izabal lake in Guatemala © Shutterstock

Fortress Castillo de San Felipe de Lara looking over Izabal lake in Guatemala © Shutterstock

Do you need a visa?

Citizens from most Western countries (including the US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and most, but not all, EU states) need only a valid passport to enter Guatemala for up to ninety days. Passport holders from other countries (including some Eastern European nations) qualify for a Guatemalan visa but have to get one from a Guatemalan embassy or consulate. Citizens from most developing world nations, including much of Asia and Africa, need to apply for a visa well in advance.

Travelling to Guatemala with kids

It can be exceptionally rewarding to travel with kids in Guatemala. Most locals, particularly in indigenous areas, have large families so your kids will always have some company. Hotels are usually extremely accommodating.

Obviously, you’ll have to take a few extra precautions with your children. Dealing with the sticky tropical heat of Petén is likely to be one of the biggest difficulties, but elsewhere humidity is much less of a problem.

As young children are rarely enthralled by either modern highland or ancient Maya culture, you may want to plan some excursions: the giant Xocomíl water park, the Parque Xetulul theme park and Auto Safari Chapín make great days out for kids. The Museo de los Niños and Aurora Zoo in Guatemala City are a lot of fun too. Take extra care if you head for the Pacific beaches, as they are known for having a strong undertow.

For babies, you’ll find baby milk and disposable nappies (diapers) are widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies; take an extra stock if you’re visiting really remote areas.

Sunset view of Fuego volcano & Acatenango volcano © Shutterstock

Sunset view of Fuego volcano & Acatenango Volcano © Shutterstock

What to pack for your trip to Guatemala

Guatemala's tropical climate calls for breathable fabrics like cotton and linen. Pack lightweight shirts, pants, and sundresses for daytime, especially if you're exploring lowland areas like the Petén region.

Tap water is not safe to drink, so you might want to invest in a filter water bottle or water purifying tablets. 

You might also want to bring a travel wallet or hidden pouch for your valuables. Wheeled suitcases will be more trouble than they are worth on the cobblestone streets, instead opt for a good backpack. 

Definitely leave any nice jewellery or watches at home, as they can bring you unwanted attention.  Electricity sockets  are the same as in the United States. For non-Americans, you’ll want an adapter or two.

And of course, don’t forget your swimsuit.

Travellers with reduced mobility

Guatemala, like many countries, is making strides towards accessibility for people with reduced mobility, but it may not be as advanced as some other destinations. While there are some efforts to accommodate, such as wheelchair ramps in certain places and accessible transportation options in some cities, the overall infrastructure may still pose challenges.

Wheelchair users will have to negotiate their way over cobbled streets, cracked (or nonexistent) pavements and potholed roads in cities, towns and villages. Getting around Guatemala by public transport can be exhausting for anyone, but trying to clamber aboard a packed chicken bus with a wheelchair or walking sticks, even with a friend to help, presents a whole set of other challenges. 

Plenty of people with reduced mobility do successfully make their way around the country though. Most of the main sites are connected by tourist shuttle minibuses, which pick you up from your hotel, and have a driver whose job it is to assist passengers with their luggage. Many Guatemalan hotels are one story (and larger, upmarket places often have lifts and ramps), so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find an accessible room.

For even more information, check out our guide on things to know before travelling to Guatemala.

Mayan Pyramid in the forests of Peten, Guatemala © Shutterstock

Mayan Pyramid in the forests of Peten, Guatemala © Shutterstock

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