Essentials A-Z

Electricity

Generally 110 volts AC, 60 cycles, US-style plug. Electricity is usually reliable in the towns but can be a problem in more remote areas like Petén.

Internet

Internet cafés are found in all tourist destinations, ask around in the cities for the best rates. Rates are US$0.50-1.50 per hr.

Language

The official language is Spanish and Guatemala is one of the biggest centres for learning Spanish in Latin America. Outside the main tourist spots few people speak English. There are over 20 Mayan languages.

Regarding pronunciation in Guatemala, 'X' is pronounced 'sh', as in Xela (shay-la).

Media

The main newspaper is
Prensa Libre
(www.prensalibre.com). The
Guatemala Post
is published in English online, www.guatemalapost.com.
Siglo Veintiuno
is a good newspaper, www.sigloxxi.com. Mega popular is
Nuestro Diario
, a tabloid with more gory pics than copy. The
Revue
, www.revuemag.com, produced monthly in Antigua, carries articles, advertisements, lodgings, tours and excursions, covering Antigua, Panajachel, Quetzaltenango, Río Dulce, Monterrico, Cobán, Flores and Guatemala City.

Money

The unit is the quetzal, divided into 100 centavos. There are coins of 1 quetzal, 50 centavos, 25 centavos, 10 centavos, 5 centavos and 1 centavo. Paper currency is in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 quetzales.

There is often a shortage of small change; ask for small notes when you first change money to pay hotel bills, transport, etc.

There are numerous banks in Guatemala and in cities and towns most have ATMs (
cajeros automáticos
). All will change US dollars cash into quetzales, the majority will change traveller's cheques and accept Visa to obtain cash. MasterCard is less commonly accepted. Banco Industrial in Guatemala City and at the international airport will change sterling, Canadian dollars and yen. Banco Uno will change euros and Mexican pesos.

Banks usually charge up to 2% per transaction to advance quetzales on a credit card. Citicorp and Visa traveller's cheques are easier to change outside the main cities than Amex. Your passport is required and in some cases the purchase receipt as well, especially in the capital.

Guatemala is one of the cheapest Central America countries, and those travelling on a tight budget should be able to get by on US$25 a day or less. With shorter distances, especially compared with Mexico to the north, travel becomes much less of a demand on your budget with the exception of the trip north to Tikal.

Prohibition

Take care with gambling in public places and do not take photos of military installations.

Safety

In some parts of the country you may be subject to military or police checks. Local people can be reluctant to discuss politics with strangers. Do not necessarily be alarmed by 'gunfire', which is much more likely to be fireworks and bangers, a national pastime, especially early in the morning.

Robberies and serious assaults on tourists are becoming more common. While you can do nothing to counter the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, sensible precautions can minimize risks. Single women should be especially careful. Tourist groups are not immune and some excursion companies take precautions. Do not travel at night if at all possible and take care on roads that are more prone to vehicle hijacks - the road between Flores and the Belizean border, the highway between Antigua and Panajachel and the principal highway between the capital and El Salvadorian border. Assaults and robberies on the public (former US) buses have increased. There have been a high number of attacks on private vehicles leaving the airport.

Tax

There is a 17% ticket tax on all international tickets sold in Guatemala. There is also an international departure tax.

Telephone

All phone numbers in the country are on an 8-figure basis. There are 2 main service providers -
Telgua
and
Telefónica
. Telefónica sells cards with access codes, which can be used from any private or public Telefónica phone. Telgua phone booths are ubiquitous and use cards sold in values of 20 and 50 quetzales

Mobile phone sim cards are affordable. Comcel and PCS offer mobile-phone services.

Time

- 6 hrs GMT.

Tipping

Tip hotel and restaurant staff 10% in the better places (often added to the bill). Tip airport porters US$0.25 per bag.

Visas and immigration

Only a valid passport is required for citizens of all Western European countries; USA, Canada, Mexico, all Central American countries, Australia, Israel, Japan and New Zealand. The majority of visitors get 90 days on arrival.

Visa renewal must be done in Guatemala City after 90 days, or on expiry. Passport stamp renewal on expiry for those citizens only requiring a valid passport to enter Guatemala must also be done at the immigration office at
Dirección General de Migración
. This office extends visas and passport stamps only once for a further period of time, depending on the original time awarded (maximum 90 days). Since 2006, when Guatemala signed a Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement with El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua you will have to visit a country outside of these 3 to re-enter and gain 90 days. These rules have been introduced to stop people leaving the country for 72 hrs (which is the legal requirement) every 6 months and returning, effectively making them permanent residents.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
Products in this Region

Central America Handbook

The Central America isthmus is home to exuberant swathes of rainforest and a tapestry of cultures....

Belize, Guatemala & Southern Mexico Handbook

Blessed with a tropical climate, abundant wildlife and a varied landscape, it's easy to understand...

Guatemala Handbook

Discover black sand beaches on the Pacific coast, a lake crowned by volcanoes and an ancient...
PDF Downloads

  No PDFs currently available

Digital Products

Available NOW!
Read more...