Before you go to Guatemala make sure you are well prepared. See here my tips and inspirations that will help you to plan your holiday.
As a Dutch citizen we don’t need to request a Visa, we get one in our passport for 3 months when we arrive in the country. Please check your visa status when traveling to Guatemala.
Several websites show different recommendations for vaccinations. For Guatemala you are required to have these standard essential vaccinations: Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) vaccine, Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio vaccine and varicella (chickenpox) vaccine. I got an extra shot of Measles because I was not sure I got it in the past and to make sure I was covered I took a shot. Beside these vaccinations I have the recommended vaccinations: Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Optional vaccinations are Hepatitis B and Rabies.
I got a 3 days emergency package of Malaria pills with me. Have you been feverish or flu-like in the tropics for more than 24 hours? Keep in mind that it may be Malaria. Go to a hospital to have your blood tested for Malaria. Preferably consult with your travel insurance company about a good hospital on the spot. Does research show that you have Malaria; use the emergency package of Malaria pills (Malarone) as treatment; no need to take the pills during the whole trip.
All I heard when I told people I went traveling to Central and South America: “Is it safe?” “A women all by herself!” And all I can say, you have to be cautious and be prepared. I wrote a separate blog on Safety during my travels; Travel Tips to keep Safe. I haven’t felt unsafe for a minute in Guatemala!
I found it very easy to travel in Guatemala; tour operators everywhere and transport via shuttle and direct to the next destination in Guatemala or even Belize, El Salvador and Mexico. So no chicken busses needed here, direct with other tourist in a bus. The distances in Guatemala are not far in kilometers, but the roads are not the best. Some roads are not even paved, winding through the mountains and busy with trucks; it will take time and you have to be patient. Just enjoy the scenery passing by or catch up some sleep!
Compared to Mexico you can’t travel by night in Guatemala. I understood there is only one night bus between Antigua and Flores, but I did not take that bus. I ran into people that took a flight from Guatemala City to Floes. I suggest to take the time and make overnight stops in between the highlights.
In Guatemala the local currency is the Guatemalan Quetzal (Q). For 1 USD you get ±7.70Q (depending on the rate). At most of the ATM’s around Guatemala I could only get cash out of the machines with my Credit Card and not my Maestro Debit card. The charges are high 7-10USD per transaction; be aware of this. My American Express and VISA card were widely accepted in all the hotels and restaurants. Compared to Europe, Guatemala is cheap but more expensive than Mexico; the cost doubled when crossing the border. At the border you can change your money at rates that are acceptable, which I found really handy.
You can buy a SIM card for your phone, my SIM card from Movistar which I bought in Mexico, was still working now and then. But I only used the WIFI at the hotels and restaurants; it’s available everywhere, no need to buy extra data in my opinion.
Before I left to Central America and Guatemala I already downloaded the app; Maps.me. This is an off-line map provider. You download parts of a country in advance where you intent to go. This was very helpful by walking in the city streets where there was no reception and you still can find your way!
Have you already made a decision on your route yet? Check here for inspirations.