GUATEMALA THE COUNTRY
Do you have any material to help me learn more about Guatemala?
We highly recommend two documentaries: La Camioneta (Amazon Prime) and Lost Treasures of the Mayan Snake Kings (Nat Geo).
What is the culture like in Guatemala?
The culture of Guatemala reflects strong Mayan and Spanish influences and continues to be defined as a contrast between poor Mayan villagers in the rural highlands, and the urbanized and relatively wealthy population of mixed or non-indigenous heritage known as mestizos. However, there is a portion of Guatemala that has a culture of its own, completely separate from the rest of Guatemala. These people are known as the Garifuna and they live along the Caribbean side of Guatemala. They are descendants of African slaves and Arawak Indians from the West Indies brought to Central America by the British in the 18th century. From the indigenous Mayan to the Spanish, the Garafina, and the mestizos, Guatemala has become quite a colorful nation. Although there are dozens of Mayan languages still spoken in the country, Spanish is Guatemala’s official language. Guatemalan cuisine has flavors of the country’s Mayan and Spanish, African and Caribbean cultures and you can even find other great international options available throughout the country as well. One of the things you will find is that Guatemala has no shortage in rich culture that you will learn from and greatly enjoy!
Do you have any tips for interacting with the Guatemalan people?
Gardner Tours is committed to traveling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It’s important to remember that what may be acceptable behavior, dress, and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep the following in mind while on your tour:
- Be considerate of Guatemala’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.
- Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigar and cigarette butts.
- Learn some local language and don’t be afraid to use it – simple greetings will help break the ice.
- Don’t be afraid to greet Guatemalans with a hug and a kiss, especially after your have already met them.
- Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
- Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
- When in the community, please refrain from giving gifts or tips without speaking to your guide first.
Can I build my own Custom Guatemala Tour?
Absolutely! Simply navigate to our Custom Guatemala Tour Request page and begin building your tour.
Will a Gardner Tours representative accompany me from my home country to Guatemala and back?
No, it’s not necessary to be accompanied by a Gardner Tours representative if you have proper documents in possession. The way Gardner Tours operates is that you book with us and we will serve you while you are in Guatemala. In some cases, detailed on each tour page, you may be picked up at the airport (multi-day tours) or you may be met by your guide at a predetermined location (day tours, etc).
Do I really need a guide while traveling in Guatemala?
Not necessarily, but it is highly recommended as a tour guide can be very resourceful. A tour guide can provide cultural insight and help you navigate the land, as well as assist you with any changes, needs, or last minute issues that you may encounter while in Guatemala. Our guided tours are also amazing because our guides are trusted and ensure that you are well taken care of in numerous ways such as refusing to let you be taken advantage of by locals when you are purchasing souvenirs, arranging transportation (on all excursions or tours with Gardner Tours, you will never have to worry about bartering for transportation because all of our prices are pre-set with our trusted partners), etc.
Nonetheless, we understand that you may choose to travel Guatemala without a guide. If you choose to do so, please use wisdom in your travels, do your research, and be sure to browse any excursions and day tours that we may offer, because we guarantee that we can increase your travel satisfaction and safety by serving you.
How will I find my tour guide?
You will find the location to meet your guide under “Beginning Location” on each tour page and also in your tour documents that you receive via email after booking. Also, you will be informed of your guide’s name, information, and you may also view their photo on our About page so you know who to look for.
VISAS & REQUIREMENTS
What documents do I need to travel to Guatemala?
You will need a valid Passport with at least six months before expiration and a Guatemalan Customs Form, which you will receive and fill out on your flight. There will be no entry or exit tax. Most countries are not required to have a visa to enter Guatemala, but to confirm, please check iVisa.com.
How do I apply for a passport?
If you are a US citizen, please find our blog on how to apply for a passport. If you are a citizen of another country, please consult the process of your home country.
Is there an entry or exit tax for traveling to Guatemala?
There is no entry or exit tax for Guatemala.
How long can I stay in Guatemala as a tourist?
You may stay in Guatemala as a tourist up to a length of 90 days.
What is included and not included in the cost of a tour?
Some of our tours include and exclude different amenities, so please refer to the details found on each tour page.
Do I get a better price per person if I'm booking for more than one person?
Yes, the more persons in your booking, the better price you get, to the point it doesn’t affect operating costs. However, you must book all of those persons under the same booking in order to receive our tier pricing discounts. On each tour page, you may select a booking package with varying costs per person, and if your group is larger than the options viewed, please contact us using the form just below the booking sidebar.
Do you offer large group booking prices?
We are happy to offer large group pricing for groups larger than 15 persons. We have smoothly served groups of up to 26 people in the past, so your group will not be too much for us to handle. Please contact us for special group pricing.
MONEY IN GUATEMALA
Where can I exchange money for my tour in Guatemala?
We recommend exchanging currency with your home bank before departure or at any airport, including upon your arrival at the airport in Guatemala. We suggest that you do not use Travelers Checks because they are not insured and may not be accepted. That being said, be aware of what is “Included” and “Not Included” in your excursion or tour and know that it is essential to travel with enough cash for your entire stay in Guatemala.
How much spending money should I bring to Guatemala?
How much money you bring depends entirely on your personal spending habits and financial situation. However, if possible, we recommend to budget at least $50 per day. Being that our tours include almost everything you need while in Guatemala, this amount of cash may cover lunches (about $6-$15 on average depending on your choices), alcoholic drinks (about $3-$5 on average), guide tips, souvenirs, or any other item/service you may want to purchase in your travels. You’ll probably want to budget more if you’re considering buying gifts such as textiles, jade, coffee, and rum. To help you formulate a budget, we provide a page with numerous examples of what items cost in Guatemala. This information will be shared with you in your booking confirmation email.
What is the currency in Guatemala?
Guatemala’s currency is called Quetzales. The abbreviation is GTQ.
Can I convert Guatemalan Quetzales back to my currency before returning home?
Yes, you may do so at the airport, but keep in mind that a conversion fee may apply.
Can I use my credit card or traveler’s checks in Guatemala?
Debit and credit cards are widely accepted in Guatemala, but we recommend you plan on preparing to use cash in most locations, as many local artisans and street vendors will only accept cash. If you plan for cash, spending money will be a breeze for you. Nonetheless, please budget according to your spending habits. Traveler’s Checks may also be difficult to cash while in Guatemala, so we do not recommend them.
What is ATM access like in Guatemala?
ATMs are accessible in large cities like Guatemala City, Antigua, Panajachel, or Flores, and even in smaller cities with a large amount of tourists, but they are rare/non-existent in other parts of Guatemala. Please note that you will only be able to withdraw 2,000 Quetzales (about $250 USD) per day, that’s why we recommend you exchanging at your home bank or bringing cash with you to exchange upon arrival. Again, please do not not arrive in Guatemala fully relying on your debit or credit cards, because you could leave quite disappointed.
Is tipping custom in Guatemala? / Is tipping included in my tour? / How much is proper custom to tip?
Considering that the average Guatemalan monthly salary is probably quite lower than your home country, tipping is appreciated. Outside of dinners, other tips are not included in the tour price and tipping is entirely at your discretion. The magic number for tipping in Guatemala is 10%. In this case, it is a great idea to carry coins or small bills with you each day for tips. If you are unsure if you should tip or how much you should tip, you may ask your tour guide and they will guide you in the right direction.
Tip Recommendations: Meals: 10%, Transportation: $1 to $2, Bellhops: $2 to $3, Restrooms: .50¢ to $1, Entertainment: $1 to $2
When will I receive my fully detailed itinerary?
You may view a daily itinerary by clicking on the “Itinerary” tab on each tour page, but you will receive a fully detailed itinerary (including suggested times to help with structure) directly after booking.
What will my tour look like?
Gardner Tours heightens the traveler’s experience of each culture and country by intimately inviting them into the stories and lives of its people and history via our trusted partnerships. We best connect our travelers to the country’s past, present, and future via storytelling and exercise each of their senses to give each traveler the best possible experience of a country while allowing them to dip their toes in relaxation and comfort all at the same time.
Please view the “Itinerary” tab on each tour page to get more details for your chosen tour. If you do desire, you are free to adjust your itinerary at any time, but before you get too carried away, see the “Included” and “Not Included” sections and the “Itinerary” tab on each tour page for more understanding on exactly what your tour will look like. Remember, all itineraries are flexible and modifiable. This is your holiday and Gardner Tours is here to serve you and deliver the best experience for you and your travel companions.
What will my accommodations be like on my tour?
We utilize hand-picked accommodations in central locations of interest with our trusted partners to ensure that we deliver you the most comfortable and accommodating experience of Guatemala. Your accommodations will be at authorized Guatemalan BnBs or hotels that are equipped with air-conditioners (unless accommodated in certain hotels like the Jungle Lodge in Tikal where power is limited and adequate fans are provided) as well as private bathrooms. Each of our accommodation partners provide private rooms and can occupy up to two persons per room with the occasional exception. If you desire to share a room with your travel companion(s), or desire three or more persons per room, please specify in the details of your booking. If you would like to upgrade your housing, please contact us.
Can I upgrade the accommodations for my tour?
Yes. If you desire to upgrade the accommodations for your tour, please contact us in advance and we will make the necessary adjustments for you after additional payments have been received. Our accommodation upgrades are a minimum addition of $100 per room per night unless otherwise communicated by a Gardner Tours representative.
I am traveling with my family. Can we all stay in one room?
If you desire your family to sleep in one room during your travels, please note that in the comments section of your booking, as we are glad to accommodate your request and know that if you make this request, we will do everything we can to accommodate it to your expectations.
Can I book additional nights of accommodations before or after my tour?
Yes, in most cases we can arrange additional accommodations at the beginning or ending location of your tour. Please contact us directly to arrange an extended stay. Please note that extra accommodations must be booked 30 days prior to your departure.
How do I get to Guatemala?
You may get to Guatemala either on an international flight or by land from a neighboring country. The international airport in Guatemala City is as easily navigable as any other international terminal around the world.
How far is it from the airport to my accommodations?
It depends on the location of your accommodations. Typically from the La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City to Antigua, it’s approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour via car.
What is the average pricing of taxis and transfers in Guatemala?
The good news is that all Gardner Tours excursions and tours include pre-reserved transportation and you will never have to barter for or arrange any transportation unless you choose to venture out on your own. If you choose to do so, depending on where you go, pricing varies. A typical one-way trip within a city may range between $3 and $5.
Can I use Global Entry in Guatemala?
Global Entry is not yet accepted in Guatemala, but you may use it at airports on all other connecting flights.
Is the food in Guatemala safe to eat?
Of course, and not only is it safe to eat but it is delicious! Gardner Tours only partners with restaurants that are known for great hygiene in the way they prepare their foods, but also unique touches to ensure their food and service is above and beyond that of other restaurants. We guarantee that you will greatly enjoy each one of our restaurant selections!
Is it safe to eat food from street vendors in Guatemala?
It is not recommended to eat food from the street vendors due to hygiene reasons, but if you choose to do so, you are at your own risk. However, your tour guide can recommend on site accordingly.
What are some common foods found in Guatemala?
Most traditional foods in Guatemalan cuisine are based on Maya cuisine, with Spanish influence, and prominently feature corn, chilies and beans as key ingredients. Of course, their main dishes include the normal varieties of chicken, fish, pork, beef, and seafood. In general, Guatemala has a great and tasty variety in their cuisine with most restaurants offering international cuisine as well.
Is the water safe to drink in Guatemala?
It is best to drink bottled water while in Guatemala. You will find that both still and sparkling water are available for your purchase at almost any location. Water is purified in the hotels and restaurants, and it is ok to drink beverages with ice wherever we take you on the tour. It is not necessary to use bottled water to brush your teeth, but if you prefer, it is always best to be safe rather than sorry. Salads and fruits are also acceptable to eat at all included or recommended restaurants.
I am vegan/vegetarian/allergy-prone and have special dietary needs. What is the best way to ensure I will not ingest something I shouldn’t?
We recommend to advise Gardner Tours in advance so that all parties involved (your guide, restaurants, accommodations, etc) are conveniently informed on your dietary needs or restrictions. Also, we recommend that you always remind your tour guide to advise each restaurant on this issue. We will do our best to ensure that your dietary needs or restrictions are taken care of, yet please remember that in some destinations, not all menu items are available at all times and Gardner Tours can not be responsible for these inconsistencies.
GUATEMALAN CUSTOMS & GOODS
Do I need to declare how much personal money I am bringing into Guatemala?
Travelers must declare how much cash they are carrying to customs if it exceeds $10,000 USD per person.
Can I bring goods back from Guatemala to my home country?
Yes. But before returning home with a mass amount of goods, we advise contacting your home country’s customs officials to ensure you’re able to import certain items into your home country, as each country may differ.
What are typical souvenirs to purchase in Guatemala?
Guatemala is known for its shopping and high-quality souvenirs and textiles, so look closely and you’ll find lots of unique souvenirs to take home as a reminder of your holiday. The most popular souvenir items are: coffee, rum, jade, textiles, wood carvings, etc.
Before returning home with a mass amount of goods, we advise contacting your home country’s customs officials to ensure you’re able to import certain items into your home country, as each country may differ.
What will it cost for a…?
To help you budget the proper amount of spending cash for the items not included in your tour, we have compiled a list of items and services and how much each generally cost. This information will be shared with you in your booking confirmation email.
ELECTRONICS & INTERNET
Is internet access available in Guatemala?
Yes, Wi-Fi is available throughout most of Guatemala.
Will my cell phone work in Guatemala?
Yes, most cell phone companies offer service in Guatemala. To ensure you receive the access you desire, we recommend contacting your service provider before your arrival in Guatemala. Calls and texts can be very expensive and we want to ensure that you are up-to-date on what your company provides and of their rates before your travels. Even if you don’t plan to use your phone while on your tour, and you are a map-lover, we recommend downloading the Maps.me application and the Guatemala map on your smartphone before departure. Maps.me is an offline map system that works wonderfully in Guatemala!
What is the electric current and outlet used in Guatemala?
Electric Current: Guatemala uses the same electric standards as in the United States: 110V, though it is common to find both 110V and 220V in accommodations (they are usually labeled). It is advisable to bring a converter, if your electronics are not travel-ready (105-240V).
Outlet: Type A (North American/Japanese 2-pin) & Type B (American 3-pin) outlets are used.
SAFETY & EMERGENCIES
Is Guatemala safe?
Though Guatemala is generally a very safe place to travel (much safer than other parts of the world), it is always wise to watch your belongings and beware of pick-pocketers. We recommend leaving your valuables, including your passport and visa, locked in your room at your accommodations and only carry what you need for each day. Having a TSA-approved lock for your luggage is alway recommended for international travel. You may encounter a few children or older adults begging on the streets, sometimes asking for items. Though these people can make travelers uncomfortable, these people are usually not considered to be dangerous. Note: You do not need to carry your passport everywhere with you; a copy of the passport should suffice for ID purposes. You will, however, need your passport for the exchanging of currency.
For more information on how Gardner Tours helps ensure your safety, visit our Safety Guidelines page.
Do I need to purchase travel insurance prior to arriving in Guatemala?
All passengers traveling with Gardner Tours are required to purchase travel insurance before the beginning of your tour. Ensure that you have travel insurance that includes coverage for all activities featured as part of your tour. If you have an existing travel insurance policy, please take a few moments to ensure it is up to date, and cover is adequate for your chosen destination and activity. Due to the varying nature, availability, and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.
For more information and/or to purchase your travel insurance, please visit Allianz. Should you chose not to purchase travel insurance, know that Gardner Tours is in no way responsible for your decision.
What vaccinations do I need for traveling to Guatemala?
We are not doctors and have little medical training, so we are not qualified from a medical perspective to say that you should or should not get certain shots. We suggest that you determine which shots you may need by visiting the CDC website or consulting your local travel health specialist and reviewing their recommendations based on your chosen location. It is simply your choice on whether or not to receive all the recommended immunizations.
Who do I contact in case of an emergency in Guatemala?
Safety is our utmost concern for all of our travelers, therefore each Gardner Tours guide will be equipped with the proper safety information (phone numbers, addresses, etc) as they serve you during your tour, should an issue arise. Your guide will have embassy information, emergency information, and are currently advised on proper procedures.
If you have an emergency and you are a US Citizen or resident, you may contact the US Embassy. Otherwise, please contact your corresponding embassy or consulate. If you need to call the police or for any emergency, you will dial 110 or 120 from a local telephone. Otherwise, as in the USA, you can also dial 911 for any emergency. Note: You may not find an English-speaking person that answers, so, if possible, we suggest speaking with your tour guide or host before making any calls. Also, your hosts are usually well connected in their areas and might be able to assist before emergency lines.
U.S. Embassy contact information:
Address: Avenida Reforma 7-01, Zona 10, Guatemala City, Guatemala
Phone: (502) 2326-4000
Hours: Monday through Thursday 8:00AM–5:00PM & Friday 8:00AM–12:30PM (closed on U.S. and Guatemalan Holidays)
Emergencies/After Hours: Call (502) 2331-2354 If you get into trouble in Guatemala (financial, medical etc.) and are in dire need, then we suggest you contact Asistur (Assistance to Tourists) at (502) 2421-2810 & (502) 5578-9836. Office locations, phone numbers, and fees for this company can be found on their website.
We suggest printing the above info as well as a list of emergency numbers and addresses to have in case of an emergency.
WHEN TO GO & WEATHER
When is the best time to visit Guatemala?
High-season is during the dry season (November to April) and it is the best time to visit Guatemala. However, if you are okay with a little more humidity and the occasional short shower, other times of the year are great as well. We tend to book quickly in the high-season, so we advise to book well in advance.
What is the weather like in Guatemala?
Guatemala offers a warm and sunny tropical climate with two distinct seasons, dry season and wet season. The dry season runs from November to May. The wet season begins in May and runs until November. Keep in mind, it may rain at any time, so it’s always wise to have rain gear with you. Though Guatemala offers a general warm climate, the weather is largely determined by altitude. Temperatures in Guatemala can range from the 50’s during the dry season to the 80’s during the wet season. It’s common to have air conditioning in restaurants, accommodations, and other indoor facilities in Guatemala, but it’s not guaranteed in a few areas that we travel with restricted electricity (Tikal National Park, etc). Bring insect repellent, as tropical weather means mosquitos at dusk and at dawn, especially during the rainy season.
When is coffee harvest in Guatemala?
Coffee harvest is from October to March.
What public holidays are celebrated in Guatemala?
- 1 January – New Year Holiday
- Second Thursday in April – Maundy Thursday
- Second Friday in April – Good Friday
- Second Saturday in April – Holy Saturday
- 1 May – Labor Day
- 15 September – Independence Day
- 20 October – Revolution Day
- 1 November – All Saints’ Day
- 24 December – Christmas Eve
- 25 December – Christmas Day
- 31 December – New Year’s Eve
What time zone is Guatemala in?
Central Standard Time is CST or UTC/GMT -6
WHAT TO PACK
What is the most appropriate type of luggage to bring?
We strongly recommend bringing a backpack or a medium carry-on size bag, as large suitcases can be cumbersome and difficult to store in buses or under seats, etc. Keep in mind that you may have to carry your luggage up and down staircases. Suitcases with wheels may not work well on dirt or cobblestone roads.
What should I pack for my Guatemala Tour?
Depending on the length of your stay and the weather, we may recommend a few different variations of items. However, after you book your tour with Gardner Tours, you will be provided a detailed, seasonal packing list with our best suggestions on size of luggage, the proper clothing to bring, what additional items are important to pack, and also items not to pack.
Nonetheless, considering the more than often warm weather as well as the cobblestone streets and hills, we recommend comfortable and lightweight clothing and shoes. The style in Guatemala for both men and women is colorful clothing, often displaying a confident and bold appearance. In the cooler months, we recommend, especially if you are cold-natured, to bring a light sweater or jacket. During the rainy season, a light waterproof jacket is recommended. More formal clothing is required for theaters, concert halls, nightclubs and formal venues.
Can I bring materials to give away to people I meet on my tour?
Small amounts of items are acceptable to bring in while visiting Guatemala. Bring limited quantities of small items because too many of one-single item may cause delays upon entry. If you bring gifts, out of honor for those people you may meet, please inform your tour guide and they will be able to advise you as to whom/where and when you can distribute them most conveniently.
You are free to bring what you please (please use wisdom), but if you desire, we recommend utilizing the ongoing relationships that our guides and Gardner Tours already has to distribute any gifts. We have other non-business partners in Guatemala that we work with such as churches and language schools that are always in need of certain items. These partners would greatly appreciate your gifts if you decide to take part. With any questions or concerns, please contact us.
I have more questions. Can I contact you to discuss a few things?
Absolutely! Please contact us! We are happy to help!
Also, don’t forget to look at the FAQs specific to your chosen destination. Those pages have more specific information tailored to each destination and they may answer your questions.