Resources

Entre Mundos (www.entremundos.org) Guatemalan social and political issues and NGO volunteer database.

Lonely Planet (www.lonelyplanet.com/guatemala) Destination information, hotel bookings, traveler forum and more.

Xela Pages (www.xelapages.com) Information on the highlands and coast, plus blog

Pacunam (www.pacunam.org) Guatemalan foundation focusing on Maya archaeology, conservation and sustainable tourism to provide context for your trip.

Top Tips

  • If possible, learn some Spanish before you arrive and some more when you get here – Guatemalans are extremely patient and will love you for just giving it a go.
  • Pack as lightly as possible. Anything that locals use on a day-to-day basis can be bought cheaply. Anything remotely luxurious (electronics, imported goods etc) will be cheaper at home.
  • Be aware of your surroundings (but not paranoid). If your gut tells you something is not right, it probably isn’t.
  • Be realistic in your planning. Sure you'd like to see everything, but it's better to focus on quality time in a few places rather than rushing from place to place and spending most of your time on a bus.

What to Take

  • International plug adapter (for non-US appliances)
  • Spanish phrasebook
  • Small medical kit
  • Flashlight (torch)
  • Money belt
  • Good walking shoes
  • Warm clothes if going to the highlands
  • Padlock (if staying in dorms)
  • Driver’s license (if driving)
  • Sunscreen and insect repellent
  • Sunglasses
  • Pocketknife
  • Antibacterial hand gel

What to Wear

Regardless of their economic status, Guatemalans do their best to look neat at all times, and you should do the same. This goes double when dealing with officialdom. The general look is neat-casual – pants and jeans are fine for both sexes, skirts should be (at least) below the knee. The only places you’re really going to want to dress up for are fancy restaurants or Guatemala City discotecas.

Shorts and sleeveless tops are OK for the beach and coastal towns. In the highlands people tend to cover up more – a sensible move, considering the climate.

Dress conservatively when entering churches and visiting rural communities.

Pre-departure Checklist

  • Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months past your arrival date
  • Check visa requirements
  • Arrange for appropriate travel insurance
  • Inform your debit-/credit-card company that you’ll be making foreign transactions
  • Organize necessary immunizations
  • Read up on your government’s Guatemala travel advisories