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Practical Information

With its extraordinary tangle of indigenous traditions, Spanish culture and Mayan history, Guatemala is one of our favourite countries in Central America.

 As well as an in-depth knowledge of the main highlights of Antigua, Tikal and Lake Atitlán, we have also researched equally rewarding areas off the beaten track such as Cobán and Livingston.

Getting around

Travelling around is relatively straightforward though the roads can be unpredictable, and we know some are tough, long and winding so we use comfortable 4x4s where necessary.

Combining Guatemala with other destinations

We have found wonderful guides and skilled drivers and can also recommend land routes across to Mexico, Belize and Honduras for those wanting to explore further, or seeking a beach on which to relax and reflect.

Language

The official language is Spanish although there are still 23 widely spoken indigenous languages found in various areas of the country. English is spoken only in the main tourist areas.

Food and drink

Food is not one of the main reasons to visit Guatemala. It can be simple but it is tasty. The local people survive generally on a diet of rice, beans, and tortilla, although you can get delicious fresh seafood on the Caribbean coast, usually cooked in coconut milk as a soup. There are plenty of lovely restaurants however in the larger cities such as Guatemala City and Antigua. The coffee in Guatemala is very good, especially that grown around Antigua in the highlands. Beer is often drunk at mealtimes and for those preferring spirits, rum is fairly commonplace.

Money

The local currency is the quetzal, named after Guatemala's National bird. Dollars are accepted and changed in all banks. Major credit cards are accepted in some hotels and shops although sometimes carry up to a 7% surcharge. Many ATMs will give cash on Visa, Mastercard, Plus or Cirrus. Always try to get small bills or change as in many smaller towns and local markets people often don't have change.

Tipping

Tipping as a general culture in Guatemala isn't that common, but always highly appreciated. In restaurants, a 10% tip is usual where service is not already included in the bill.

Social etiquette

The traditional dress of the indigenous people in Guatemala is beautiful, however, please be sensitive and ask people if they do not mind having their picture taken. You should avoid approaching or taking pictures of Guatemalan children without permission from the child’s parent or guardian. When entering religious establishments, we recommend that you dress respectfully. Generally, the Guatemalan people are very humble so dressing on the conservative side will attract less unwanted attention for female travellers.

Travel Advice

Our country specialists can advise on any safety concerns you may have. For current information, please refer to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office website.

When to go to Guatemala

You’ll find temperature and rainfall information, together with a month-by-month guide on visiting, on our guide for when to go to Guatemala.

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