There are direct flights from the USA with a variety of airlines, including Avianca (www.avianca.com). AeroMexico (www.aeromexico.com) and Interjet (www.interjet.com.mx), flying direct from Mexico City. Avianca and Alternative Airlines (http://taca.alternativeairlines.com) have flights from most Central American capitals. If you are coming from elsewhere, you will almost certainly be changing planes in the US, Mexico or elsewhere in Central America.
Airports & Airlines
Guatemala City's Aeropuerto La Aurora (GUA) is the country's major international airport. The only other airport with international flights (from Belize City) is Flores (FRS). The Guatemalan national airline, Avianca, is a subsidiary of the Colombian company of the same name.
Guatemala levies a departure tax of US$30 on outbound air passengers, which is nearly always included in your ticket price. If it's not, it has to be paid in cash US dollars or quetzals at the airline check-in desk.
It's advisable to get through all borders as early in the day as possible. Onward transportation tends to wind down in the afternoon and border areas are not always the safest places to hang around late. There is no departure tax when you leave Guatemala by land, although many border officials will ask for Q10. If you're willing to argue and wait around, this may be dropped, but most travelers take the path of least resistance and simply pay up.
Guatemala has official border crossings with all of its neighboring countries. Check visa requirements before arrival.
- Melchor de Mencos (GUA) – Benque Viejo del Carmen (BZE)
- Ciudad Pedro de Alvarado (GUA) – La Hachadura (ES)
- Valle Nuevo (GUA) – Las Chinamas (ES)
- San Cristóbal Frontera (GUA) – San Cristóbal (ES)
- Anguiatú (GUA) – Anguiatú (ES)
- Agua Caliente (GUA) – Agua Caliente (HND)
- El Florido (GUA) – Copán Ruinas (HND)
- Corinto (GUA) – Corinto (HND)
- Ciudad Tecún Umán (GUA) – Ciudad Hidalgo (MEX)
- El Carmen (GUA) – Talisman (MEX)
- La Mesilla (GUA) – Ciudad Cuauhtémoc (MEX)
Bus is the most common way to enter Guatemala by land. Most first-class international buses run nonstop from Guatemala City to their destinations. First-class buses for Belize also depart from Flores/Santa Elena. On first-class buses (particularly to Honduras and El Salvador) the driver may take your passport and complete border formalities for you. Going to Belize or Mexico, you will be required to do them yourself. Whatever border fees (official or otherwise) there are will not be included in the ticket price.
Second-class buses tend not to cross the border.
Car & Motorcycle
The mountain of paperwork and liability involved with driving into Guatemala deters most travelers. You will need the following documents, all clear and consistent, to enter Guatemala with a car:
- current and valid registration
- proof of ownership (if you don't own the car, you'll need a notarized letter of authorization from the owner that you are allowed to take it)
- your current and valid driver's license or an International Driving Permit (IDP), issued by the automobile association in your home country
- temporary import permit (available free at the border and good for a maximum 90 days).
Insurance from foreign countries is not recognized by Guatemala, forcing you to purchase a policy locally. Most border posts and nearby towns have offices selling liability policies. To deter foreigners from selling cars in Guatemala, the authorities make you exit the country with the vehicle you used to enter it. Do not be the designated driver when crossing borders if you don't own the car, because you and it will not be allowed to leave Guatemala without each other.
Gasoline is readily available in all but the tiniest of villages. If you see a young kid waving a funnel at you, it means he is selling cheap contraband Mexican gas – some people swear by it, others claim that its high sediment content ruins engines.
Mechanics are also everywhere. Authorized agencies can only be found in the larger cities. Generic parts are easy to come by, but if you're looking for originals, Toyota is by far the most popular make in the country, followed (distantly) by Mazda and Ford.
There are two possible crossings from Mexico's Chiapas State to El Petén – the most commonly used one crosses at the Mexican town of Frontera Corozal to either La Técnica or Bethel in Guatemala. Frontera Corozal has good transport connections to Palenque in Mexico and there are regular buses from La Técnica and Bethel to Flores/Santa Elena, Guatemala.
The other river route from Mexico into Guatemala's Petén department is up the Río de la Pasión from Benemérito de las Américas, south of Frontera Corozal, to Sayaxché, but there are no immigration facilities or reliable passenger services along this route.
Public boats connect Punta Gorda in Belize with Lívingston and Puerto Barrios in Guatemala. The Punta Gorda services connect with bus services to/from Belize City.
There is a Q80 departure tax when leaving Guatemala by sea.