Country guides South & Central America
Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. A variety of plugs are in use including the flat two-pin (Type A).
The official language is Spanish, but English is understood in hotels and tourist destinations. In addition, there are many indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala as well.
The official currency is the Guatemalan quetzal (GTQ), which is divided into 100 centavos. Cash exchange is easy, but visitors are advised to exchange money in hotels, at banks or at foreign offices rather than the informal booths on the street. It's only possible to exchange US dollars in Guatemala.
There are ATMs in the towns and cities but they aren't always reliable. Credit and debit cards have been cloned after use at ATMs, so visitors should check ATMs for evidence of tampering. Compromised machines may not be easy to spot, though. Credit cards are widely accepted.
Generally a 10 percent tip is recommended for good service in Guatemala. It is customary to tip waiters if a service charge hasn't been added to the bill and tipping extra for excellent service is also customary. Taxi drivers are not usually tipped. Hotel staff and tour guides expect to be tipped for their services and can be more favourable in their service when receiving generous tips.
Travellers visiting Guatemala should take precautions against malaria, which occurs in the low-lying areas outside Guatemala City. They should also take insect-bite protection measures for dengue fever and Zika virus. A yellow fever certificate is required from travellers entering the country from infected areas; hepatitis A and B, and typhoid vaccinations are recommended, as is an MMR (Measles, mumps and rubella) update.
Visitors should stick to bottled water, or boil all water before drinking if bottled water is unavailable. Good travel insurance is necessary and visitors should use private clinics where possible. All medication should be accompanied with a signed and dated letter from a doctor explaining what the medication is and why it is needed.
Visitors should take sensible precautions after dark in Guatemala City, and should note that pickpocketing and petty theft are common in tourist areas and market places. They should also avoid cheaper buses when travelling on tourist routes from Guatemala City to Antigua, and from Antigua to Panajachel, as robberies have been known to take place.
The rainy season between April and November usually brings about heavy rain and flooding, mudslides, and hurricanes. Guatemala has active volcanoes, so it's important to keep track of any volcanic activity.
It is very common to greet most people, especially in the countryside. Clothing need not be too conservative. However, modesty is advised for female travellers in order to avoid unwanted attention.
Visitors should ask permission before taking photographs, particularly of children, as locals are suspicious of foreigners approaching kids for pictures due to incidences of kidnapping, particularly in remote areas where tourists have been attacked. A small tip might be required.
Military clothing is illegal, so travellers should avoid camouflage-patterned clothing. Public displays of affection between same sex couples should be avoided, particularly outside of Guatemala City.
Business etiquette in Guatemala is similar to the rest of Latin America. Due to the warm, humid climate, men often wear lightweight suits. Women usually wear a dress or a skirt with a blouse. Foreigners should always be punctual for meetings, as Guatemalan business people are very punctual.
Foreigners should use professional titles such as such as doctor, professor, ingeniero (engineer) or abogado (lawyer), or should otherwise address colleagues as assenor (Mr), senora (Mrs), and senorita (Miss), followed by their last names.
Speaking softly is considered polite. Business cards may be exchanged although there is no ritual around it. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with an hour taken over lunch; business lunches or breakfasts are preferred over business dinners.
Travellers to Guatemala over 18 do not have to pay duty on 80 cigarettes and two bottles of liquor or spirits.
The international access code for Guatemala is +502. The outgoing code depends on what network is used to dial out on, which is followed by the relevant country code (e.g. +44 for the United Kingdom). WiFi connections are available in the cities and main tourist areas, and many hotels, hostels and language schools will offer reasonable internet rates. Travellers can purchase local SIM cards for unlocked phones.
Passport & Visa
It is strongly recommended that all foreign passengers to Guatemala hold return or onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Travellers should note that the period of stay for visa-exempt nationals is 90 days; however, 90-day extensions can be organised through the Immigration Office. For nationals requiring a visa, the consulate issuing the visa will advise visitors about the amount of deposit to be paid at the port of entry in Guatemala, which will be refunded when the visitor leaves Guatemala. It is highly recommended that travellers' passport have at least six months' validity remaining after the intended date of departure from their travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
US citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
British citizens must have a passport that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days for British passport holders endorsed British Citizen. Those holding passports with other endorsements should confirm entry requirements before travel.
Canadian citizens must have a passport or replacing document that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
Australian citizens must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
South African citizens must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
Irish citizens must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
New Zealand citizens must have a passport valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
www.visitguatemala.com110 (Police), 122 (Fire Department), 123 (Medical emergencies), 1500 (PROATUR, the tourist assistance unit, provides 24-hour help).
Embassies / consulates in other countries
Guatemalan Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 745 4953 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Guatemalan Embassy, London, United Kingdom (responsible for Ireland): +44 207 2211 525, or email@example.com
Guatemalan Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 233 7188 or www.canada.minex.gob.gt
Embassy of Guatemala, Canberra, Australia: +61 26189 1311
Guatemalan Honorary Consulate, Cape Town, South Africa: +27 21 418 2020 (Johannesburg: +27 11 804 5080)
Embassies / consulates in Guatemala
United States Embassy, Guatemala City: +502 2326 4000.
British Embassy, Guatemala City: +502 2380 7300.
Canadian Embassy, Guatemala City: +502 2363 4348.
Australian Embassy, Guatemala City, Guatemala: +502 2328 0300
South African Consulate, Mexico City (responsible for Guatemala): + 521 55 1100 4970
Irish Consulate, Guatemala City, Guatemala: +502 535 35349
New Zealand Consulate, Mexico City (responsible for Guatemala): +52 55 5283 9460