You have decided to go to Guatemala but you still have many practical questions: when to go, how to pay and withdraw money, what to take in your luggage, what are the security measures, which means of transportation to use and what local customs should you follow? Here are our tips.
WHEN TO GO to Guatemala?
It is preferable to go to Guatemala from November to February during the dry season. We went there in early February and we had around 22 ° at the lake Atitlan and Antigua, and up to 30 ° on the Caribbean coast, Semuc Champey and Tikal.
TIME SCHEDULE in Guatemala
There is 7 hours shift between Guatemala and Paris time.
MONEY in Guatemala
You pay in Quetzales, it is very easy to calculate as 1 is about 10Q.
Withdrawing money in Guatemala is a big story, you must first find a secure distributor (often located inside a grocery or gas station). You can not remove more than 2000Q once a day, and some cards are not accepted in Guatemala (eg Mastercard Deutsche Bank). Make sure to check with your bank before leaving. And take Dollars in case. For any withdrawal it will cost between 4.5 and 8.
BEFORE going to guatemala
- Take an adapter because they have American plugs.
- Recommended vaccines: Hepathite A hepathite B, typhoid fever, and malaria.
- Take medication against the diarrhea because it is quite common to get sick, especially if you eat in cheap restaurants!
- Do not take products against mosquitoes, rather buy locally because they are adapted to local mosquitoes.
SAFETY in Guatemala
We had no security problems during our trip. However, it is recommended to take some precautions:
- avoid Guatemala City
- avoid going out at dusk (it gets dark around 18:30 in February)
- do not carry large sums of money on yourselves and always have small coins to give in case of theft
- do not wear signs of wealth such as jewelery
- inquire about hours of police escorts for some tourist spots
- avoid drinking tap water & ice cubes
- avoid walking with your passport. Hostels generally put it in a safe place when you arrive and give it you back at the check-out.
MEMORIES TO BRING from Guatemala
- colorful textiles, although you will not really want it to wear when you get home
- Ron Zacapa Centeniaro rum, the best rum in the world
- wooden painted masks
- silver jewelry with jade stones
- leather bags
Do not hesitate to negotiate firmly, you can lower the price by more than half. A technique that works well is to say that you bought the same thing elsewhere for half the price.
Move around in Guatemala
The distances between cities are not very large, but Guatemalans are slow. If the trip is expected to last 5 hours, count an additional 2 to 3 hours.
There are no trains in Guatemala. You have the choice between:
- taxis for short trips or if you drive at night (eg, between Guatemala City and Antigua).
- the shuttles, mini-bus that can carry a dozen passengers and linking the tourist towns. You can book it at a travel agency (prices are negotiable) or at your hostel/hotel. They pick you up at your home. They are much more comfortable and faster than local buses, but they are much more expensive. It takes between 10 and 20 depending on the length of the journey. You will be usually tossed in the shuttles during the trip, but if you’re lucky, we’ll get a very luxurious and comfortable bus with air conditioning. Attention to some travel agencies that try to sell you other routes, such as the agency “Jaguar” who tried to sell us a trip to the hostel 200Q while we could have it for 125Q. Some of them are also trying to take you to some places where they receive commission. It’s easier to book at your hostel but the agency has offered us more convenient times to leave Flores and get to the next destination: Lanquin.
- the chicken bus or local bus, former U.S. school buses that you will recognize very quickly by their colorful decoration. They are very cheap but not very comfortable and secure.
LOCAL HABITS in Guatemala
- Generally, you must pay a 10% tip. Sometimes it is already included.
- You must throw the toilet paper in the trash and not in the toilet.
- There is a specific technique for hot water, we have experienced in quite a few hostels: you have to turn the faucet base with a jerk, and then turn the other way slowly and cold water should become hot if you’re lucky!