Guatemala Driving Guide
Guatemala is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit
Guatemala is a place that you can look forward to visiting. The country flaunts its admirable beauty and serene landscapes. Volcanoes sprout in different places and have a well-established culture of an ancient civilization dating back years ago. Straight south, you’ll be astonished by its deep and bracing oceans that will quench your active soul.
This tropical country offers you diverse major destinations on both land and sea. Travelers get excited about the things they can explore and the value they get from the people, history, and nature, all combined into a 7-day trip in one of Central America’s priced jewels. All you need to do is the time to plot those dates and arrange your schedule because you’re on to an equatorial journey you shouldn’t miss.
How Will This Guide Help You?
A lot can happen once you arrive in Guatemala. Keep this guide as it contains useful information about the country, driving etiquette, road rules, and the most visited places only found in Guatemala. You can also refer to this guide if you plan to rent a motor vehicle once you get there. Viajes Seguros!
Guatemala is situated in the northernmost part of the regions of Central America. It is known for its abounding volcanoes and surreal beaches. The country has an adequate land area from the north’s unspoiled jungles and the south’s Pacific Ocean’s whooping waves and the Caribbean Sea. Having it said, Guatemala is an ideal place that renders an exotic journey every traveler should experience.
The country holds a centuries-old culture that is still being practiced up to this day. With different ethnic groups that sum up over 18 million inhabitants, they opt to share their resources and live in peace and harmony. Its neighboring nations are Mexico on the north and west, while El Salvador, Belize, and Honduras on the east.
Along with its bordering countries, you can characterize Guatemala as a region mostly made of mountainscapes and big trees. You can locate Guatemala on the map using its latitude and longitude 15° 30' N and 90° 15' W. Its lowest point is the Pacific Ocean at 0 m while the Vulcan Tajumulco is the highest point at 4,211 m (13,845 ft).
93% of Guatemala’s population speaks Spanish, as this is the language that is widely used presently. Spanish culture has also influenced how Guatemalans are today. There are 25 languages spoken in the country; twenty-two (22) are Mayan, and two are indigenous languages, namely Garifuna and Xinca.
Guatemala stretches to 42,043 sq. mi (108,890 square kilometers). It is slightly smaller than Tennessee’s state, with 30 recorded volcanoes known to be active up to this date. Two mountain chains divide the region into three different places. The upland district is situated in the southern part of the country.
The second part is where you’ll meet the Pacific coast just south of the mountains. Known as the La Costa Sur, it goes about 300 km of black sand and unsafe undertow. The third and final part of the division is located in the north of the mountains called El Petén. It is made up of thick trees and bushes that take up one-third of the national territory.
If you’re a fan of watching documentaries about ancient civilizations, then Guatemala has an essential history to tell. Back in 1,800-2,000 B.C. to 250 A.D., the Mayan culture took over the place wherein well-known infrastructures such as pyramids and massive temples are built. Around 250 to 950 A.D. was where the civilization was at its peak, known as the Classic Period.
In 1524, the Spanish colonizers defeated the Mayans and took over the land. In 1554, a civil war that lasted for 36 years took place until peace agreements were signed in 1996. It opened a new beginning for the country, which later paved the way for Guatemalans to thrive on their own feet, slowly improving into a modern society. Today, the government is implementing all possible measures concerning better education and tourism initiatives to boost its economy.
Guatemala is a constitutional democratic country. Citizens get to vote and elect their president and vice-president that will serve for four long years. Like other democratic states, it has an executive, legislative, and judicial branch that works hand in hand to lift the economy to an upward projection. Once you’re elected as a president, you cannot run for a second term, but the vice-president can run for the presidency after s/he already served the four year
Guatemala has favorable weather, which attracts tourists who are into hiking and trekking as it has diverse mountainscapes to accommodate these activities. Not to mention their vibrant culture that dated back centuries ago, it also offers capacious beaches perfect for unwinding and water sports with its large wave
The country alone generated $1.55 billion in the tourism sector in 2018. A 13% growth in the same year has been recorded by Jorge Mario Chajón, director of the Guatemalan Institute of Tourism, and expects to grow at the same pace in the succeeding years. Guatemala is ranked 143rd in the world and 7th in Central America.
International Driver’s Permit FAQs
Though Guatemala is a small country, there are so many places to visit and activities that you will want to take part in it. You have the freedom to experience the area through their local modes of transportation. But if you prefer a reliable road trip, driving in Guatemala means you have to obtain an international driver’s permit, which some travelers take as a viable option. Here are some pieces of information you need to know about an international driver’s permit in Guatemala.
Is a Local Driver’s License Valid in Guatemala?
Your driver’s license issued by the country of your origin is only valid for 30 days at the date of your arrival. Hence, it should be accompanied by your international driver’s permit or IDP. An IDP is a translation of your local license, which means it will not be recognized unless your IDP is present to support your local driver’s license.
Does an International Driver’s Permit Replace a Native Driver’s License?
An international driver’s permit does not replace your local driver’s license. It will act as a supporting document once you arrive in Guatemala should you have plans to hire a vehicle. But note that your IDP is not equivalent to your local driver’s license. You cannot use it for legal transactions like banking or any purchases requiring a valid ID. Nonetheless, it will be a requirement for car rental companies.
Who Can Apply for an International Driver’s Permit?
You can apply for an international driver’s permit before or during your stay in Guatemala. If you reached the country and decided to rent a car, accessing International Driver’s Associations’ website is at your fingertips. It only takes 20 minutes to process your IDP as IDA offers express shipping worldwide. Get yours now and secure a trouble-free road trip with the International Driver’s Association.
Your international driver’s permit is as necessary as securing a local driver’s license. Driving in Guatemala won’t be favorable if you don’t acquire an IDP. You may encounter checkpoints in one of its streets, and your international driver’s permit is a crucial requirement for them not to penalize you for illegal driving. Write this on your checklist or notepad so you won’t forget this information once you start processing your documents.
Who Needs an International Driver’s Permit?
International driver’s permits provide convenience, especially for travelers who plan to rent a private car once they land at the airport. Tourists driving to Guatemala should obtain an IDP considering if they came from bordering countries and save you from unfortunate cases such as being hailed by a traffic enforcer only to find out that you don’t have it with you.
You can apply for an international driver’s permit before or during your stay in Guatemala. If you reached the country and decided to rent private cars, accessing International Driver’s Associations’ website is at your fingertips. It only takes 20 minutes to process your IDP as IDA offers express shipping worldwide. Get yours now and secure a trouble-free road trip with the International Driver’s Association.
How Long Is an International Driver’s Permit Valid?
A standard international driver’s permit is valid for one year (12 months). But in case your local full valid driver's license will expire in 8 months while you’re in Guatemala, then you can only use your IDP for eight months and not beyond it as it will follow the validity of your local driver’s license. Keep in mind that you cannot use your IDP if your local license is already expired. It will be subject to castigation by the Guatemalan authorities, which will also result in huge fines.
Renting a Car in Guatemala
Guatemala might not be your typical affluent country but you might end up craving more of its culture and values along the way. You can give commuting a try to get the Guatemalan vibe in your system. But renting a private car saves you time from the hassle of multiple rides and chicken buses and tuk-tuks waiting to be filled in with passengers.
The country is an open book about its ancient roots and earliest settlers that once lived the land. And as your mind wanders off its archaic events. There’s so much to learn inside their temples.m and drive in their rural streets. You can travel faster with a private car to your advantage, so here are some valuable tips that you can ponder on renting vehicles in Guatemala.
Car Rental Companies
There are several good car rental companies in Guatemala if you wish to rent a car throughout your trip. Companies like Avis, Budget, National, Enterprise, and Alamo are just some of the region’s most hired firms. When driving in Guatemala, quotes can be asked to the rental company of your choice. Here are some additional information from the car rental companies and their corresponding average rate per day
- Avis: $24/day
- Budget: $20/day
- National: $13/day
- Enterprise: $12/day
- Alamo: $11/day
If you’re looking for a car rental company in most of the city’s locations, Guatemala Rent A Car is the best option. They have seven locations around the region and can be accessed by all tourists and travelers. But one of its disadvantages is it costs $81 in Guatemala City, far more expensive than other competitors found in the area.
Most of the car rental companies require an international driving license on Guatemala’s main and rural roads. Besides that, you need to bring your local driver’s license and passport should there be verifications made before you rent the car. They won’t let you hire one if you’re not at least 21 years old and a license holder for relatively a year.
When driving through Guatemala, you can use different types of vehicles, depending on your taste and how well you can move that specific car. You can choose from economy cars to passenger vans well-suited for group travelers. There are also pickup trucks, compact and standard SUVs for family trips, and get-together with your colleagues.
Car Rental Cost
It will be easier for you to book your preferred vehicle online. That way, you have time to choose what type of car you will use that fits your needs once you get in the area. The total cost will depend on the car rental company, added with the insurance and underage surcharge if you’re under 25 years old.
Laid out below are some of the vehicles you can rent in Guatemala and how much it costs per day basis:
Rate per day: $9
Rate per day: $10
- Full-size SUV
Rate per day: $36
- Passenger Van
Rate per day: $32
- Pickup Truck
Rate per day: $20
- Standard SUV
Rate per day: $28
The legal age for a Guatemalan resident to apply for a driver’s license is 18 years old. On the other hand, you should be at least 21 years old to rent a car with a valid local driver’s license and a year of driving experience for foreign travelers. There is an underage driving fee like in other countries, ranging from $10-15 depending on the car rental company you choose. Underage driving fees are added for drivers ages 25 years old and below.
Car Insurance Cost
Most car rental companies in Guatemala offer Loss/Damage Waiver (LDW) or Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) that costs around $20 per day. It typically covers the full value of the value; however, much liability coverage varies from one company to another. Moreso, you can purchase additional coverage if you have the budget and secure yourself as well.
There are pros and cons of hiring a vehicle and riding the majority of public means of transportation but whatever suits your style and budget, go for it. Renting a car saves you time and gives you the freedom to go to places you want to be, whereas riding public transport will make you t it’s like a Guatemalan citizen and what a typical commute is like in its streets and narrow alleyways
Car Insurance Policy
Car rental companies always issue car insurance for every client they accommodate. You have to thoroughly check the agreement before signing it and check what other car rental companies offer, then weigh your options. Most car insurance has Personal Accident Insurance (PAI) along with damage and theft inclusions. You can add other options if you feel that it’s necessary, but if not, you can always negotiate with the company.
If you get lost because you’re unfamiliar with the roads you venture, it is encouraged to bring with you an information brochure or a good map of Guatemala City. Be always alert of your surroundings and read the road signage if you see them as they will educate you on what to expect and what to do while you’re on the road.
Road Rules in Guatemala
Whether you’re a seasoned driver of any passenger vehicle or still learning from experience, driving in Guatemala is something that you can look forward to as it has the warm tropical breeze that brushes your cheeks when you roll down your car’s windows. If you just focus on the experience you will get from this country; then, you can surely keep pleasant memories with you as you go back home.
Road rules in Guatemala are pretty much similar to the complete rules of the road you currently abide by in the country of your origin. You wouldn't want to make any kind of mistake while in a foreign country. Follow these rules, and you’re guaranteed a trouble-free driving experience. But if you break them, there will be corrective actions that you will undoubtedly face from the Guatemalan authorities.
The Guatemalan government has set the maximum blood alcohol level to 80 mg per 100mL of blood (0.08%). They strictly prohibit drunk driving and drug use while you roam the streets using your car. If you ever encounter police involvement, police officers have the right to handle tests to ensure the public’s safety while you’re driving the streets of Guatemala. If you’re caught, you will be given remedial actions, pay a considerable sum of money, and get jailed for this inexcusable action.
The use of mobile phones
You should not use your mobile phones while driving. Drivers must keep unfazed attention to the road at all times. Locals may not actualize their traffic rules, but you should cooperate with what is being implemented by the authorities.
Drugs and driving
Driving while under the influence of illegal drugs is not allowed in Guatemala. The police could conduct tests, and if proven, you will be arrested for breaking the law from another country and jailed because of it.
Requirements for Driving in Guatemala
For foreigners, always bring your local driver’s license, international driver’s permit, passport, rental, and insurance documents and secure them in a place where they can be accessed if traffic enforcers ask to see your requirements. The Pan-American Highway goes through Guatemala. A toll pay is required when going from Palin to Antigua.
These are just some of the Guatemalan “practices” that may shock some travelers and excite those who are thrilled with new experiences. You may not observe these in the country of your origin, but at the end of the day, it’s up to you if commuting works best or hiring a private vehicle gives you comfort.
Parking along the side of the streets is allowed in the parking regulations of Guatemala. Most of the locals there take advantage of the free parking. If you are looking for more formal parking, its big cities have plenty of parking spaces that are metered and attended parking garage to secure your vehicle. You can also ask a local kid to look after your car and pay that kid for the car park service.
Aside from the driving range in Guatemala, seatbelt laws are mandatory in front seats and hired cars. It doesn’t say anything about the rear seats, but it is encouraged that if you see seatbelts fitted in back chairs, you’re supposed to wear them. Furthermore, they have no specific child safety restraints in place, so it will be the parents’ responsibility to take care of the child/children while inside the vehicle and make sure they don’t disrupt the person driving the car.
General Standards of Driving
If you’ve done your research about Guatemala’s way of life, then you should have read there that some locals tend to bend their traffic by ignoring stop signs, for instance. You may encounter drivers overspeeding, not to mention public transport like chicken buses and tuk-tuks, where foreign commuters who are not used to riding these vehicles hold tight on their seats and hold their breaths.
Driving laws in Guatemala are inconstantly observed as some drivers and motorists disregard the rules, especially if fewer vehicles are using the roads. So before you start your trip, make sure that your car is equipped enough for the long drive. Here’s a list of Guatemala’s road rules that you need to familiarize yourself with.
Even though local motorists casually ignore some of their road rules, the government has imposed speed limits on the road you’re using. The urban speed limit is 50 kph, while the rural limit is 80 kph. Freeways or highway speed limit is 110 kph. Speed cameras are not installed in Guatemala’s streets as they’re too expensive to maintain. But the police have mobile speed cameras and traps set in place for hardheaded drivers.
You will need a map to guide you as you head on to your first destination from the airport. There are times when Google Maps or other related applications don’t work well when you type in a tourist spot, so it’s best to get yourself an updated map. Roads in major cities are in good condition but dramatically change once you approach the routes past these cities. Be careful if you see roundabouts and intersections and give way to cars moving at the right side of the road.
Traffic Road Signs
You might be asking, “Is driving in Guatemala safe?” which is a common question for those first-time goers. Expect a few road signs installed along its streets. You can spot signages in the main cities, but as you venture to its rural roads, it will become lesser and lesser, but you can still see them where the local government puts them. To get you on track, here are some road signages that you need to be acquainted with before you start driving:
Warning signs warn drivers what is up ahead on the road they’re using. It include
- Approaching the road will become narrower.
- Approaching intersection with train tracks
- Approaching a high-foot traffic area
- The overpass will have a maximum height allowance.
Priority signs are installed to areas where crossroads and intersections are present to inform drivers which roads are given more priority. It includes:
- Give way signs
- Yield signs
- Stop signs
- The road is no longer a priority road.
- Priority road approaches the intersection.
Mandatory signs are meant to be followed as the enforcers of traffic laws mandate it. It includes:
- Approaching the pass by on the right
- No passing or overtaking of vehicles
- Only pedestrians and bicycles may use the route.
Information signs give drivers essential information on what to expect when they turn left or right or what is located beyond a particular block. It includes:
- The next exit will have access to restaurants.
- Parking is allowed on the sidewalk of the posted area.
- The next turn will have a gas station.
Right of Way
Note that vehicles that are going uphill always have the right of way. When driving through Guatemala, these cars have priority on the road as they need adequate room to pass and, therefore, should be given space and let them pass first. If you encounter this situation while driving, it’s best to give way as vehicles going down the hill have more control when backing up than the oncoming car.
Legal Driving Age
The legal driving age in Guatemala is 18 years old. By that time, you can enroll in a driving school near your location to get your driver’s license. However, car rental companies’ legal age to let you rent a car is 21 years old. An underage surcharge fee of $10-15 is added if you’re not 25 years old and above.
Laws on Overtaking
In Guatemala, local drivers tend to overtake vehicles in front of them or even if oncoming cars are approaching the other side of the road. Foreign tourists who’ve experienced commuting in the region have commented that public transport drivers sometimes don’t follow the country’s driving rules.
Two-lane paved roads can be seen in high-crowded places such as Guatemala City, and most of them have straight lines painted along the middle or dashed lines. Dashed lines indicate that you can freely pass both lanes, given that fewer vehicles are using the roads. But if you see a straight line, you can still drive on both roadways with caution, as it is one reason why collision accidents are rampant in Guatemala.
One of the driving laws in Guatemala states that you should always drive on the road’s right side. Though local drivers tend to overtake without using any direction indicators, it is not an excuse to follow what other drivers are doing. It is encouraged to stick with what the Guatemalan government has imposed, especially their traffic and road rules. Use the outermost lane if you’re driving at a slower pace and keep your head on the road ahead at all times.
Driving Etiquette in Guatemala
Once you arrive in a country that you’ve been itching to explore, you have to consider their way of life, especially on their capital roads. Driving in Guatemala means you have to learn their driving etiquette as most foreign travelers already knew the concept of driving. Some regulations may be familiar to you because you might have encountered them in the country of your origin, so laid out below are some common questions and countermeasures to ponder on.
It’s not an everyday issue if the vehicle you’re renting breaks down in the middle of the road as car rental companies examine it before handing it over to you. But it can happen to you or anyone else, and you don’t have to panic or do things that might further break the car. You should immediately call the rental company and inform them about what happened to help you fix the issue.
On your part, before you start hitting the road, it is essential to check the vehicle: if the headlights and brake lights are working, if the windows are functional, and car doors can be locked and unlocked using the button installed on the key. You will know what mechanical problem might arise, and you can notify the company beforehand.
The police in Guatemala can be found in heavily crowded places and tourist attractions for public security and oversee what should and should not be done in a specific location. If the police stop you at the checkpoint, they will just check your documents, including your local license, IDP, passport, rental documents, and shoot some questions like ask where you’re headed.
Police stops are common for travelers driving to Guatemala. The police can help you find your way and even give you tips on which road to take so you can get to your destination much faster. You can also approach them if you need directions to famous food stores and merchandise shops situated in the area.
Most likely, your chances of encountering a local who's a native Spanish speaker is high in Guatamela. That's because 93% of the total population in Guatemala speaks Spanish as their national language. When the Spaniards took over the land, Guatemala has been dramatically influenced by their culture, and the Spanish language is one of the influences they broadly adopted.
When driving in Guatemala, a map, whether a paper or pdf file, is your trusted friend if you’re traveling alone. You can join pre-packaged tours with other travelers so you won’t be walking alone, only if you’re comfortable with that setup. If you’re driving, you can ask the residents or the police if you find one. Guatemala has a current network service reaching most of the country’s cities and towns, and you can use Google for translations and direction tips.
To simplify it for you, here are some commonly asked questions by the tourists and the corresponding translation:
- Could you tell me where the bus station is?
Translation: Me podría decir dónde está la estación de buses?
- How do I get to the main road?
Translation: ¿Cómo llegó a la calle principal
- Could you help us locate where we are on the map?
Translation: Nos podrías ayudar a ubicarnos en el mapa?
- What is the quickest way to…
Translation: Cuál es la forma más rápida de llegar a…
- Could you tell me the way to go to...
Translation: Podría decirme cuál es la mejor manera de llegar a…
Checkpoints can be spotted in the border crossings of Guatemala and some of the cities within it. Usually, if you see a checkpoint ahead, you should slow down and roll down your window a bit to communicate well with the police. They will ask for your documents, and they should be prepared and placed somewhere in the vehicle that you can quickly grab. If you’re good to go, they will hand you back the documents and let you on your way inside the region
Travelers may encounter this issue notably during long hours of travel, such as driving to Guatemala from the U.S. or the United States. Check the vehicle’s condition, or you can ask the rental company if the car is suitable for long hours of drive. An excellent rental car should withstand the usual road conditions, and it should be considered when picking a vehicle.
The essential etiquettes mentioned above serve as your guide as you drive on Guatemala’s streets and rural routes. Car breakdowns are rare cases, but checkpoints and police stops happen, so you must prepare the documents and keep them properly. Besides, unwanted accidents can happen to anyone, so here’s what to do to keep you informed.
What if I Get Involved in an Accident?
Accidents happen in the least expected moments. Foreign drivers should be more careful as some local drivers casually ignore the road rules, and you don’t want to be involved in trouble because it will affect your travel plans.
If you get involved in an accident, do not attempt to drive away from the incident. It is advisable to wait for the police or insurance company representative to arrive and investigate. Some accidents may result in injuries or even death. If that happens, people involved in the accident will be taken into custody until the authorities determine who is at fault. Guatemala’s local emergencies are 110 and 120 for further assistance.
Driving Conditions in Guatemala
Guatemala is a diverse country full of various people living and thriving to the fullest of their capabilities. Every tourist and traveler should bring their driving license in Guatemala and know the region’s situations and conditions not for travel purposes but know Guatemala behind those beautiful volcanoes and turquoise beaches.
In 2020, Guatemala ranked 130th in terms of the best countries to live in. The government relies on the tourism sector because they have archaeological sites and clean water bodies located in its southern part. One of their goals is to reduce ecological footprints and support local businesses to boost the economy. Though Guatemala falls under third-world countries, they try their best to make each traveler’s experience a worthwhile one.
The World Health Organization (WHO) published its latest data in 2018 about Guatemala’s road traffic accidents. It is stated that it accumulated 2,663 or 3.77% of the total deaths where the country ranked #83 due to the death rate WHO recorded. And it’s only common for prospective travelers to ask, “Is driving in Guatemala safe?”
Vehicle collision incidents are rampant in Guatemala. Local drivers and motorists inconstantly neglect the road rules’ importance and relevance as they keep the road users from unwanted accidents. Guatemala may have lapses in regulating its standard practices. Still, they remind drivers never to drink and drive and not use illegal drugs as it will influence their behavior when navigating the city streets.
You can spot different car types when you venture into the roads while driving in Guatemala. Safety is one reason why some tourists prefer to hire a car than ride public transports. Japanese car models are by far the most common vehicles used in the region. Here are some car models that Guatemalans use on the roads:
- Honda Fit
- Nissan Skyline GT-R
- Toyota Hiace Wagon
These cars are popular in cities like Villa Nueva, Mixco, Quetzaltenango, Guatemala City, Petapa, Villa Canales, and San Juan Sacatepéquez. Car rental companies offer different vehicles, such as pickup trucks, SUVs, and passenger vans. You can check their websites for more additional information and smart finds.
Toll roads are built to regain the cost of constructing new roads for drivers to use. In Guatemala, there is a toll road from Escuintla to Palin wherein you have to pay GTQ 15.25 or roughly $2 to pass the highway. Before, you have to prepare cash, but presently, they accept credit card for those drivers who forget to have spare money in their wallets.
If you’re wondering how driving in Guatemala is, roads in most cities are paved and well-lit at night. As you get deeper into its towns and municipalities, secondary and rural roads are mostly dirt roads. You can also notice speed bumps and potholes, so you have to be extra mindful while you’re traveling at a faster pace.
The rainy season starts in April and usually ends in October. Travelers hiring economy vehicles may find it hard to navigate some rural roads because they are not cemented, mostly dirt and gravel. Here, a pro-tip is to rent a 4WD as it is more durable and has bigger tires, perfect for road situations like this. Driving ranges may be inconsistent on these roads; you have to prepare and better plan ahead.
If you have browsed the internet about Guatemala, you must have read there that you can commute at your own risk. What does this mean? Guatemalan drivers tend to drive faster, regardless of the road type and how bad the traffic is. Some tourists who tried commuting held their breaths while riding chicken buses.
On the contrary, other tourists find it as part of their travel experience. Commuting is one way of immersing yourself in what regular citizens do and ride in the region. They say that your travel is not complete if you haven’t tried chicken buses and tuk-tuks, but it entirely depends on how you want this journey to happen. Either you hire a car or ride public transports, both are smart ways of navigating the entirety of Guatemala.
The driving conditions in Guatemala may be similar to other African countries. So if you have been to these places, it won’t be a shock to you. Now, driving at night may or may not be advisable, but here’s a tip if you plan to get behind the wheels during nighttime.
Is Driving at Night Safe?
Tourists and travelers are advised not to drive at night. City streets are well-lit at night, but the country’s rural roads have little to no illumination at all. Do not leave valuable things inside the car, such as your bag, camera, and wallet. As much as possible, do not wander off the streets at night. Even if you have a company with you, you should be vigilant.
The government doesn’t encourage you to stop for hitch-hikers. There are cases of fraud incidents in some of its most visited areas, and you don’t have to feel obliged and give them a ride. In cases like these, national and local authorities do their best to eradicate this issue as most of the targets are foreign travelers.
Things to Do in Guatemala
Guatemala has only two seasons; that is why the country is abundant with volcanoes here and there and blessed with pristine oceans. If you end up driving to Guatemala from the United States, then it will be worth the travel once you arrive within the country’s borders.
The archaeological contribution of Guatemala has made them known worldwide. A portion of tourists ends up settling there because of their vibrant history and rich natural resources. Have you thought of moving to Guatemala? Processing a lot of documents might scare you, but the idea sparked something in you, right?
Drive as a Tourist
You cannot drive on the streets of Guatemala if you haven’t secured an international driver’s permit. Along with it, your local driver’s license and insurance documents should be present as well inside the vehicle. Comply with these credentials, and you’re off to an effortless driving experience alone or with your family and friends.
On the other hand, the Guatemalan government will only issue driver’s licenses only to those people who are residents of Guatemala. For tourists who will stay in the country for less than 30 days, you can use your native driver’s license accompanied by your valid international driver’s license.
Work as a Driver
Driving jobs in Guatemala are intended for locals. You will not be permitted to operate public transport if you still have a local driver’s license. Even if you present your international driver’s permit, it will not be accepted by the government unless you become a resident of Guatemala. If you’re planning to apply for a Guatemalan driver’s license, here are the requirements that you need to submit:
- Six (6) cedula-sized photos
- A document if an applicant is allergic to penicillin
- Applicant’s blood type
- Photocopy of the applicant’s cedula or passport
- Applicant’s valid native driver’s license
You need to comply with the requirements mentioned above if you don’t want to take the written road awareness test once you apply for the license. The government will also conduct and ask for the applicant’s vision exam for an additional document. Should you need a driving job in Guatemala, this is your ticket to getting one.
Work as a Travel Guide
Working as a travel or tourist guide may not be a viable option as the country has fewer job openings for those interested in being a travel guide. Though the region is rich with centuries-old culture, you might find yourself a different job inside the offices or government work. You can browse opportunities on their official website and what job waits for you there.
Apply for Residency
Obtaining your residency in Guatemala may be difficult for foreigners. The government is open for applications, but it will take time - one to even four years is common. During this period, you will be required for departure and reentry so you can reestablish your temporary status. Rest assured that the government is fair to all applicants and making its best effort to speed up the process they are currently following.
Other Things to Do
Alongside exploring and discovering the genuine charm of Guatemala, there are major destinations and spots to consume your time and fill your mind with newfound knowledge. And what way to fill your stomach? Food. Compiled below are some of the Guatemalan dishes that you should try and taste.
What Are the Delicacies in Guatemala?
You can’t leave Guatemala without trying their local food. One of the perks when traveling is you get to taste traditional food from different places you visit. And Guatemala has the tastiest food among the bordering countries in Central America. Who doesn’t get excited when the food is a mix of Mayan and Spanish twist? It’s worth the money, so here are some of Guatemala’s local food that you need to try before leavin
Pupusas is a traditional food that is served anywhere in the country. If you’re on a tight budget, then this food will save you from all the hassle. It consists of corn tortillas stuffed with different fillings; it can be refried beans, pork, or cheese. It will be fried again until the outside is crisp enough while the inside is soft to eat. You can add salsa and cabbage to pair with pupusas.
Chicken pepián is one of the oldest traditional food in Guatemala. It is a spicy stew mixed with fruits and vegetables like squash, corn, pear, potato, and carrot. Chicken is typically added as a main ingredient, but locals also use pork or beef to go along with it, giving off a whole new taste on the stew. Guatemala doesn’t have a national food, but chicken pepián is probably the closest thing to it as every resident in the country knows its taste.
Empanada is a pastry stuffed with meat (and sliced boiled egg sometimes) then fried until the outside becomes golden brown and crispy. The entirety of Central America knows this dish, and it’s best eaten when it’s freshly taken out of the stove. Others stuff it with vegetables, especially those who don’t prefer meat. Topped with onions, tomatoes, or guacamole, it’s a perfect dish for lunch and snacks in the afternoon.
Noodle Tostadas is popular street food in Guatemala. It has a taco at the bottom then topped with a lump of noodles, onions, radish, or guacamole, and tomato salsa to finish the dish. Some tourists find it an unusual local food as they haven’t tried that kind of procedure when preparing a dish. But it’s a total guarantee that you’ll love its taste and the mixed texture of guacamole and tomato salsa in your mouth.
Guatemala is considered the country that conceived the idea of chocolates. The history of the cacao bean and the early settlers has a long history to tell. The Mayan civilization regards it as “the food of the Gods” as the cacao was part of their centuries-old culture. The chocolates made in Guatemala are unprecedented, where it was formerly presented as a drink and not as a reliable food that we commonly eat and bite. Try it for yourself, and you’ll know.
The Guatemalan people have always been devoted to serving quality food. It is not just for the locals but also for tourists and travelers to revel in and enjoy. They want to impart their culture and way of life into their dishes as food is one way to win a traveler’s heart, right?
Top Destinations in Guatemala
Guatemala has both resources on land and water; that is why travelers come back and revisit these attractions. You don’t need to drive to Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador when you can experience that once you reach Guatemala.
Foreign travelers must not forget their international driver’s permit when navigating the Guatemalan roads. If you haven’t applied yet, you can do it online at the International Driver’s Association’s website. Always check your delivery address and zip code before IDA can process your application. For more driving updates, you can browse online to help you plan. Here are some of the most visited places in Guatemala you should go to right here and now.
Mayan Ruins of Tikal
The Mayan Ruins are one of the archaeological sites found in Central America. It was occupied from 600 AD to 900 AD and exhibits more than 3,000 structures. Temples, pyramids, and old plazas can be seen in the area. Tikal National Park can be explored, where you will see arachnids and monkeys. But if you don’t, you will hear their noise echoing in the lush forest.
- Continue to Boulevard Liberación/Pan-American Highway/CA-1.
- Take 7A Avenida, 27 Calle, Calzada la Paz and CA-9 to 12 Calle. Take the exit toward San Rafael/Fuentes del Valle Norte/Los Olivos/Col. San Rafael from CA-9.
- Continue on 12 Calle. Take Calle 6A to Carr. Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán/CA-9.
- Continue on Carr. Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán/CA-9. Drive from Puente Gracias A to Aldea Ixlu.
- Drive to your destination in Tikal.
Things to Do
If you’re the type of traveler that seeks historical sites in every place you visit, then the Mayan Ruins of Tikal is a great spot to start. With its expanse, you’ll gawk in awe as you gaze upon the ancient ruins that still stood today. You can visit:
1. See the Temples of Tikal
The temples are the highlights when visiting Tikal. Some of the famous temples found the Great Jaguar, Mask, Double-headed Snake, and the Inscriptions. If you’re not familiar with the place, you can sign yourself up for a guided tour.
2. Climb the Temples
There are temples that you can climb, but you cannot access some of them. You can climb Temple IV, Acropolis, and Temple II, wherein it'll give you a great view of the jungle once you’re at the top. Take valuable photos to document the experience.
3. Visit Tikal National Park
Once you’re done trekking the temples, you can reconnect with nature and visit the Tikal National Park. You will get to see different wildlife animals in their habitat and hear various species of birds echoing.
Pacaya Volcano, Antigua
Pacaya Volcano has been one of the active volcanoes resting in Guatemala. With more than 2,500 meters, its appearance has changed due to lava explosions emitted by the volcano. If you wish to visit Pacaya Volcano, there are scheduled tour guides that you can sign up or if this is already part of your itinerary, much better. You can roast some marshmallows in one of the hot spots in the area. And if you’re too lazy to walk, you can ride a horse to get to the top.
- Continue to Boulevar Liberación/Pan-American Highway/CA-1.
- Drive from CA-9 to Palín.
- Then you can drive to your destination.
Things To do
Pacaya Volcano has captivated tourists, especially those who are into outdoor activities such as trekking and hiking. The area has beautiful spots where you can see the overview of specific locations. Things to do there include:
1. Hike the volcano
Pacaya is one of the most accessible volcanoes found in Guatemala. You can get a guided tour so you can share the experience with other climbers. You can bring Grahams and chocolate should you wish to make your marshmallow a s’more!
Sunset hikes are the best in Pacaya Volcano. You get to see different colors in the sky and other natural backgrounds that go along with it. So take this time to snap some photos from your smartphone or DSLR to capture the scene.
3. Take some snaps
The volcano has a nice view, so take this opportunity to bring your smartphone or DSLR and take some quality shots of the vicinity. Also, don’t forget to bring water as you might get thirsty trekking the upward route.
Livingston, Caribbean Coast
Livingston can only be accessed by lancha from Rio Dulce or Puerto Barrios, only if you’re coming from Guatemala City. The place is a little corner in Guatemala and was first populated by the escaped slaves, mostly from Garifuna. Their white beaches captivate travelers where you can go fishing and snorkeling in its pristine waters.
- Continue to Boulevar Liberación/Pan-American Highway/CA-1
- Drive from Carr. Jacobo Árbenz Guzmán/CA-9, Puente Rio Dulce, Puente Cienaga and Puente Gracias A to Chacte
- Continue to Toledo District, Belize
- Continue onto Southern Hwy
- Take the ferry to Lívingston.
Things to Do
Livingstone is a hidden gem for most tourists and travelers. But if you research ahead of time, then you’ll know how and where to find it. Some of the water activities you can enjoy in the area include:
1. Boat tour
You can ride a boat tour to or from Rio Dulce Town. A one-way ride is around $17, while a same-day return would cost you $27. It will take 90 minutes to complete a tour where you get to see the pelicans’ nesting and pass the garden of water lilies.
2. Fishing tour
Most of the Guatemalans earn their living on the sea. So while you’re in Livingstone, take this chance to go fishing in their abundant waters and catch Snapper, Tuna, Grouper, and more.
3. Unwind and relax
Due to its immense beauty, Livingstone is perfect for relaxation and even meditation. Tourists and travelers can bring their mats here and do yoga sessions if you don’t want to take a dip in its waters.
Grutas de Lanquín (Lanquín Caves)
Lanquin Cave is located in the northeast of Coban. Inside, there is an underground river, lagoons, and peculiar rock formations. You will need a light source like a flashlight so you can see the walkway and the surrounding. Lanquin Cave is also home to more than a thousand bats, wherein they feed on the nearby forest. There is a religious shrine inside which is sacred to the indigenous people living nearby.
- Continue to Boulevar Liberación/Pan-American Highway/CA-1.
- Drive along 11 Avenida and 5A Calle/CA-9. Take the exit toward Colonia Lomas del Norte/Canalitos from 5A Calle/CA-9.
- Take Camino Canalitos, Los Ocotes a Canalitos and RUTA Instituto TEORICO PRACTICO DE AGRICULTURA to CA-9.
- Drive from CA-14 to Cobán.
- Take RN-5 to your destination in Lanqúin.
Things to Do
Cave enthusiasts will love the raw beauty of Grutas de Lanquin. There are things worth visiting inside such as the creatures living there, rock formations, and other exciting stops and turns as you venture deeper into the cave.
1. Visit the Laquin caves
The cave is by far the most sought-out spit in Laquin. Tourists and travelers go there at dusk, where you will witness hundreds and thousands of bats flying out of the cave to get food from the forest.
2. Opt for guided tours
It is recommended to acquire guided tours, so you can fully navigate the cave without getting lost. You can check out online for more deals and packages, especially in peak seasons. If you’re driving in Guatemala, a pdf file of your IDP can be downloaded for your convenience.
3. Go to Semuc Champey
Semuc Champey is a popular swimming attraction where visitors are drawn to the turquoise waters of the river. It is a hidden gem in Guatemala, and it’s better to get a guide so you’ll be oriented once you get there.
Antigua Guatemala, also known as Antigua, is the former capital of Guatemala and is one of Central America’s most beautiful cities. If you’re planning to rest for a bit, then this is the perfect place for you. The town offers accommodations at justifiable rates, where they also have excellent food and spots to visit. If you stroll along, you can find old convents and museums open for tourists and travelers.
- Take 8a Avenida, 5 Calle and 8 Calle to Calz. Aguilar Batres/CA-9.
- Drive from Bulevar Principal de Ciudad San Cristóbal, Pan-American Highway/CA-1 and RN-10 to Antigua Guatemala.
- Take Calle de Los Carros to your destination.
Things to Do
There are a lot of things to do once you arrive in Antigua. It has a rich culture and exudes a friendly atmosphere to all tourists and travelers. The place is teeming with visitors from bordering countries and locals, so you can easily adapt to the vibe.
1. Take a photo of the Arch
The Arco de Santa Catalina is a famous sight in the city. If you visit Antigua, you shouldn’t miss taking a picture of yourself while posing under the Arch. Go there during Holy Week and you’ll see colorful decorations around.
2. Tour the Coffee farm
If you’re one of the folks who can’t function well without drinking a cup of coffee, then this coffee farm will take your breath away. Regions that surround Antigua are the makers and exporters of high-quality coffee beans used worldwide - so you better take a stroll while you can!
3. Check the La Antigua Galería de Arte
Art enthusiasts will love this place as it displays paintings and artworks of 70 local artists portraying Guatemala’s rich culture. It is inside a colonial mansion, which adds drama as you enter the house.
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