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Need-to-know Guatemala

Passports, Visas & Important Documents

A valid passport is required to enter Guatemala and to depart Guatemala for return to the home country. Even if dual nationals are permitted to enter Guatemala on a second nationality passport, U.S. citizens returning to the United States from Guatemala are not allowed to board their flights without a valid U.S. passport. Certificates of Naturalization, birth certificates, driver's licenses, and photocopies are not acceptable alternative travel documents. While in Guatemala, U.S. citizens should carry their passports, or a photocopy of their passports, with them at all times. For other travelers applies the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if departing from Guatemala to their home countries via U.S. Please check if your country participates in the VWP program. If a traveler cannot meet the requirements explained below, he/she cannot travel without a visa on VWP and must obtain a visa for entry into the United States.

All VWP travelers, regardless of age or type of passport used, must present machine-readable passports; previous one-time exemptions for first-time VWP travelers without MRPs ended June 26, 2005. In addition, depending on when VWP travelers' passports were issued, other passport requirements will apply:
Machine-readable passports issued before 26-Oct-05 - no further requirements
Machine-readable passports issued between 10/26/05 and 25-Oct-06 - requires digital photograph printed on the data page or integrated chip with information from the data page
Machine-readable passports issued on or after 26-Oct-06 - requires integrated chip with information from the data page (e-passport)
An exit tax must be paid when departing Guatemala. The exit tax (currently US$30) is generally included in an airline ticket price, but may be charged separately. There is an additional airport security fee (Q20, approximately US$2.50) that all travelers must pay at the airport.

Citizen of the USA, Canada, Japan, Israel, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Australia and New Zealand do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less (that period can be extended for an additional 180 days upon application to Guatemalan immigration). Recently, in an attempt to stay longer than 90 or 180 days, some foreign nationals have obtained false or fraudulent immigration stamps in their passports showing they left and re-entered Guatemala. Immigration officials have detained and fined several such individuals.

Some nationalities (NOT U.S. nor most European citizens) are required to obtain a visa prior to entry into Guatemala. If you are not citizens from one of the above mentioned countries, please check with the Guatemalan Embassy closest to you to find out whether you need to get a visa.
Travelers whose passport is lost or stolen in Guatemala must obtain a new passport at their embassies as soon as possible and present it, together with a police report of the loss or theft, to the Dirección de Migración (Guatemalan immigration agency), Sub-director for Migratory Control, to obtain permission to depart Guatemala. The agency is located at 4 Calle 4-37, Zone 9. Office hours are weekdays from 08:00am to 16:00pm.; telephone 2360-8578, 2360-8544, 2360-8580 or 2360-8540. No fee is charged by Guatemalan immigration for this service.
It is a good idea to bring photocopies of your passport and other essential documents, such as airline tickets and prescriptions, stored in a separate location.


110 volts - US standard


The predominant religion is Roman Catholicism, into which many indigenous Guatemalans have incorporated traditional forms of worship. Protestantism and traditional Mayan religions are practiced by an estimated 40% and 1% of the population, respectively.


More than half of Guatemalans are descendants of indigenous Mayan peoples. Westernized Mayans and mestizos (mixed European and indigenous ancestry) are known as Ladinos. Most of Guatemala's population is rural, though urbanization is accelerating. Though the official language is Spanish, it is not universally understood among the indigenous population. The peace accords signed in December 1996 provide for the translation of some official documents and voting materials into several indigenous languages. Guatemala has a population of 12.7 million (est. Sep-05). About 50% of the population over 25 have had no formal schooling (approx. 37% of men and 53% of women are illiterate).


A 10-15% tip is customary. Tips are not necessary in small restaurants or for taxis.

Money & Finances

We recommend to bring a combination of US dollars and US dollar-denominated travelers checks, Euros are still not accepted everywhere (but it is definitely getting there). The monetary unit in Guatemala is the Quetzal and you can easily exchange US dollars in banks. Don't expect to be able to cash personal checks. It is possible to obtain quetzals with Visa & Mastercard cards at designated banks throughout the country. Money can be withdrawn from ATMs hooked into the PLUS and CIRRUS systems (not always working or out of cash).


It is warmer in the lowlands and at the beaches. Dry season is from December to April, and rainy season May to November. During rainy season it usually rains late in the afternoon for an hour or two and sometimes late at night. The hottest months are March and April.

  • Antigua: Mild year-round, average temperature is 75, with chilly mornings & nights.
  • Quetzaltenango: Temperatures can get down to freezing at night. During the rainy season it can be cool during the day.
  • Caribbean coast and El Peten: Tropical areas - hot and humid.
  • Pacific coast: Hot and humid.

Things to Bring

Dress is informal. You can find almost everything in Guatemala City but some imported items are more expensive. We recommend that you bring the following.

  • Lightweight layerable clothing
  • Jacket or sweater (for mornings, evenings, and for Quetzaltenango)
  • Bath towel & wash cloths (not supplied by host family)
  • Comfortable walking shoes, sandals and tennis
  • Umbrella and/or rain jacket (during rainy season)
  • Small backpack to take on weekend excursions
  • Toiletries (including personal hygiene items and soap)
  • Contraceptives (if necessary)
  • Roll of toilet paper (for emergencies)
  • Camera and extra film (less expensive outside Guatemala)
  • Money Belt
  • Swimsuit
  • Insect repellent with DEET (if you will be traveling to either coast or Tikal)
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses
  • Flashlight and/or portable reading light (most reading lights are dim)
  • Small alarm clock
  • Walkman/Discman (if you like music)
  • Vitamins, medical supplies (antiseptic, aspirin, Imodium, antacid)

National Holidays

January 1

New Year's Day

Thurs, Fri & Sat in March/April

Easter Week

May 1

Labor Day

June 25

Teachers Day

June 30

Army Day

July 25

Antigua Holiday

August 15

(Guatemala City only)

September 15

Independence Day

October 20

Day of the Revolution

November 1

All Saints Day

December 24 ? half day

Christmas Eve

December 25

Christmas Day

December 31 ? half day

New Year's Eve

Eat & Drink

You should not drink tap water (including ice) unless it is boiled or bottled. Be careful around dairy products, especially milk (unless pasteurized). Make sure uncooked vegetables are cleaned with purified water or peeled. Use extreme caution with seafood and avoid under-cooked meat. Remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry. Please do not eat from the various street vendors around the central park. Hygiene is an issue - and your stomach is simply not used to the bacteria here.
In general, beans, rice and tortillas are important staples in the Guatemalan diet.

Typical dishes include:

chiles rellenos

Chiles stuffed with meat and vegetables


Meat stew with vegetables

frijoles con arroz

Beans and rice


Steamed corn dough rolls stuffed with meat or vegetables


Mashed avocado, with onions, lemon juice and spices


Beef marinated in lemon and orange


Sauce of tomato, onion and mint


The local beers are Gallo, Moza, Monte Carlo, Cabra (Gallo is the most popular). Good coffee can be found in some establishments, especially in Antigua (we recommend Café Condesa, Café Opera and Café Fernando´s). If you want decaf, please specifically ask for it!! Licuados (fruit blended with milk or water) are delicious!!! A big selection of Chilean wine is available in supermarkets and delicatessen stores.

Airport Pick-up from Guatemala City to Antigua

You should pick up your bags, proceed through customs and exit the airport. If problems occur, like lost or damaged luggage, please make sure to inform the person waiting for you. We will always wait for you, how long it might take, but we need to know that you have arrived. Immediately outside the exit to the airport, you will be met by someone holding a sign with your name on it. You will be escorted directly to your homestay or hotel in Antigua. Travel time between Guatemala City and Antigua is about an hour, depending on traffic.

Hotels near Guatemala City Airport

  • Aeropuerto Guest House, 15 Calle A 7-32, Zona 13,
    Tel. ++502-332-3086
  • Dos Lunas Guest House, 21 Calle 10-92, Zona 13, Aurora II,
    Tel. ++502-334-5264
  • Hincapie Guest House, Ave. Hincapie 18-77, Zona 13,
    Tel. ++502-332-7771, Fax. ++502-360-1022
  • Posada Los Volcanes, 16 Calle 8-00, Zona 13, Aurora I,
    Tel. ++502-2360-3232, Fax. ++502-2332-6873

These hotels often offer a free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel (not after 22:00pm). Call the hotel when you arrive at the airport, or take a taxi.

NOTE: Airport pick-up is provided 24 hours. Due to a delay or other reason, it might be necessary to stay at one of the hotels listed above. Please note that the hotel cost is payable on arrival. Have the taxi wait until you find out about space! Please call our emergency phone number and let us know where you are. You will be picked up the next morning to be taken to Antigua, at 09:30am during weekends, and at 06:30am during school days.

NOTE: You must inform us if you have a flight delay! If you don't, we cannot guarantee that somebody will be waiting for you upon arrival, or you may get charged extra. No collect calls in these cases!

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