Travel Guides ? Guatemala

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Guatemala

Guatemala is a small country, lush and mountainous, that is graced with beautiful scenery, a rich indigenous culture, colonial history and important archaeological ruins. The country lies at the heart of the Mayan culture in Central America with remarkable Mayan sites scattered throughout the land, none more so than the magnificent ruins of the ancient city of Tikal, set deep within the jungle.

The Mayan villages of the highlands are spread amid the breathtaking scenery of smoking volcanoes and spectacular lakes, where ancient customs and traditions persist despite five centuries of European domination. Their culture is expressed through vibrant weekly markets, bright traditional clothing, fabulous handicrafts, different languages and colourful religious festivals. Lake Atitln, a beautiful deep lake ringed by volcanoes and Mayan villages, is a remarkable place combining astounding scenery with traditional culture.

Guatemalan society is split between the traditional and the modern, each following their own path in a country sprinkled with remnants of a colonial past. Nowhere is the Spanish legacy more evident than in the charming city of Antigua with its cobbled streets, plazas and elegant fountains, and towering volcanoes as a backdrop. Interrelations between the Spanish and the native population produced a mixed population, the Ladinos, who have embraced their European heritage and are typically city folk.

A rough past provides a troublesome background to the country and its people. Inequalities between the Spanish-speaking Indians and indigenous cultures, and rich and poor, have been a source of tension and discord throughout the years. The violence caused by political differences has left thousands dead, while the devastation caused by earthquakes has left people homeless and in need of world aid. Despite this travellers are drawn to the intriguing mix of cultures and history set amid dramatic scenery, with extremely considerate people to show them the sights that Guatemalans are justifiably proud of.

Climate

Guatemala's climate is lovely year round and is generally hot throughout the county, making travel possible at any time. The rainy season is generally from May to November. Climate variations are due to altitude and the north has a hot, tropical climate with maximum rainfall between May and September. The coastal regions and north east are hot with a dry season running from November to April and rainy season, which is slightly cooler with temperatures averaging around 68F (20C) that runs from May to October. The highlands, including Guatemala City and Antigua, have a pleasant climate with less rainfall than the coast, and cold temperatures at night.

Money

The official currency is the Quetzal (GTQ) divided into 100 centavos. In 2001 the US Dollar became the second official currency alongside the Quetzal and both are accepted. Travellers cheques and major credit cards are accepted, though some more than others. It is recommended to take travellers cheques in US dollars. Cash exchange is easier, but more risky. Visitors are not advised to exchange money at the informal booths on the street. There are ATMs in the towns and cities, which accept American Express and Visa. MasterCard and Diners Club have a more limited acceptance.

Passport Visa

It is strongly recommended that all foreign passengers to Guatemala hold return or onward tickets, and the necessary travel documentation for their next destination. Note that the period of stay for visa-exempt nationals is 90 days; however, 90-day extensions can be organised through the Immigration Office. For nationals requiring a visa, the consulate issuing the visa will advise visitors about the amount of deposit to be paid at the port of entry in Guatemala, which will be refunded if the visitor leaves Guatemala within one year. NOTE: It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.

Entry Requirements

  • US citizens must have a passport or replacing document that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
  • British citizens must have a passport or replacing document that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days, for British passport holders endorsed British Citizen. British passport holders with other endorsements are required to hold a "visa Consultada".
  • Canadian citizens must have a passport or replacing document that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
  • Australian citizens must have a passport or replacing document that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
  • South African citizens must have a passport or replacing document that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
  • Irish citizens must have a passport or replacing document that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
  • New Zealand citizens must have a passport or replacing document that is valid for the period of intended stay in Guatemala. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.

Health

There are a number of health risks associated with travel to Guatemala and travellers are advised to take the latest medical advice at least three weeks prior to departure. Malaria is prevalent in the low-lying areas outside Guatemala City and dengue fever is endemic. Visitors should be careful what they eat and stick to bottled water. Guatemalan hospitals are unlikely to give medical treatment unless the patient has medical insurance or can pay up front. Good travel insurance is therefore essential. State-funded hospitals are best avoided. Travellers should only use private clinics where possible. A yellow fever certificate is required from travellers entering the country from infected areas.

Embassy Consulates

  • Guatemalan Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 745 4952.
  • Guatemalan Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 7351 3042.
  • Guatemalan Embassy, Tornoto, Canada: +1 416 994 3060.
  • Guatemalan Consulate-General, Sydney, Australia: +61 (0)2 9264 9130.
  • Guatemalan Honorary Consulate, Cape Town, South Africa: +27 (0)21 418 2020.

Foreign Embassies

  • United States Embassy, Guatemala City: +502 2326 4000.
  • British Embassy, Guatemala City: +502 2380 7300.
  • Canadian Embassy, Guatemala City (also responsible for Australia): +502 2363 4348.
  • Honorary South African Consul, Guatemala City: +502 2332 6953.
  • Irish Honorary Consul, Guatemala City: +502 2384 9446.
  • New Zealand Consulate, Guatemala City: +502 2431 1705.