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Ultimate Guatemala Backpacking Travel Guide 2020

A culturally highlighted country in Central America, Guatemala offers a blend of travel options for adventurers, beach lovers, culture enthusiasts, and travelers looking for leisure. You can find a wide range of attractions from paved streets to majestic architecture. You can find serenity in the small towns of Guatemala, in the highlands, and on the shores of mesmerizingly beautiful lakes. A unique enlightening experience can be found in mountain lakes, coral reefs, tropical jungles, cloud forests, active volcanoes, and beaches.

This Guatemala backpacking travel guide for is meant to help you plan! 

Guatemala at a Glace

Language

Spanish

Currency

Guatemalan quetzal

Best Money Exchange

Thomas Cook office

Local Dishes

Chicken pepián

Drones Allowed

Yes

Is water safe to drink

No

Vaccinations

Check CDC

Power Plug Type

A, B

Car Sharing Options

Taxi Amarillo Express

Peak Season

December - March

Backpacker Friendly

Yes

Hitch hiker Friendly

Yes

Credit Cards Accepted

Yes

Preffered Payment Method

Cash

Low Season

May-October

tijax

Our Stay in Rio Dulce ( Tijax), Guatemala

We stayed in Tijax while in Rio Dulce, where we stayed in really cool cabins, and went canoeing. Oh and we got rescued by the Guatemalan Navy! Yup, it was an interesting chain of events there. Getting to Tijax We honestly didn’t know how to get

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tikal

Tikal Guide: Be prepared and don’t get scammed

Firstly, there won’t be a shortage of people trying to sell you tour packages, from your taxi driver, to your hostel or hotel. There is one sure fire way to know you are being SCAMMED. If they claim that their package includes transport and your entrance

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6 Things to do in Flores, Guatemala

1. Visit the Tikal Ruins Most people come to Flores to check out these ruins, so make sure not to miss out! You will experience stunning views of ruins,  hear the howling of monkeys, and take a good photo or two. Makes sure you are ready

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Top 5 Things to See and Do in Guatemala

1. Flores

A beautiful island town full of copper-colored rooftops, bright-colored buildings, and cobbled streets is a hotspot for tourists. The renowned Tikal National Park is the main attraction here.

2. Antigua

This is a designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO and showcases the best streets cape in the world and dramatic volcanoes.

3. Tikal

The ancient ruins of Tikal are one of the popular tourist destinations of Guatemala.

4. Guatemala City

The authenticity of the Guatemala City appeals the most where you can experience the political and social reality like no other place.

5. Quetzaltenango

Hiking is the main tourist attraction with sites like Parque Centro America and Volcan Tajumulco.

Other Things to See and Do in Guatemala

1. Chichicastenango

It is surrounded by mountainous valleys and has narrow cobblestone streets with red-tiled roofs. It is magical heaven for photographers as it bursts with energy, color, and mesmerizing mist. Do not miss the markets on Thursdays and Sundays.

2. Monterrico

Monterrico is beach heaven located near the Pacific Coast of Guatemala. The dramatic black sand beaches can knock your socks off with stunning views and wildlife is also worth seeing. You can find all sorts of animals from iguanas, caiman, and armadillos in the mangrove canals.

3. Livingston

It is relatively a small town laid on the Caribbean Coast that presents a whole other side of Guatemala. The majority of the Garifuna population of the country resides here and they have a unique culture with colorful events. You can find excellent music and exquisite food in this coastal town. It is the departure point for fishing and snorkeling boat rides.

4. Rio Dulce

This cruise ship destination is located in eastern Guatemala. The scenic river trip between Rio Dulce and Livingston is a popular tourist attraction.

5. Coban

The city is located in north-central Guatemala and situated in the Chama Mountains on the Cahabon River. Semuc Champey is a series of natural limestone pools of 300 meters connected by the Cahabon River with a jungle in its surroundings. The views are breathtakingly beautiful and make it a must-visit place for tourists. The water color is unique with green and turquoise shades.

6. Panajachel

This is a mesmerizing town located in the Highlands of Guatemala in the west of Guatemala City. Lake Atitlan is the most popular tourist attraction in Guatemala. You can enjoy at cafes, bars, and stalls that sell textiles and handicrafts or visit the majestic San Francisco Church in the old town to witness the stone facade.

7. San Pedro

This beautiful town of Guatemala is also located on the southwest shore of the famous Lake Atitlan. San Pedro La Laguna has become one of the famous tourist destinations in Guatemala. You can find a lot of Spanish language schools, nightlife, volcanoes, and the activities at Lake Atitlan.

Typical Costs

WPCS 2.1.4

How much does it cost to travel around Guatemala? This section details the suggested daily budget in Guatemala 2020:

Transportation

Old school buses of North America which are known as chicken buses are the most inexpensive way of traveling in Guatemala. For a 1-2 hour journey, you are expected to pay around $1.00$4.00 . Short journeys cost as little as $0.25 . Intercity traveling can accost around $15.00$20.00 In large cities, taxis are quite common and cost around $8.00 for a 10-minute ride. Car renting is an expensive option that can cost around $156.00 per week.

Accommodation

Budget hotels can cost around $32.00 per night for a double bed however cheaper options are also available. Hostels are quite popular and have dorm beds costing $7.00 per night and you can get private single and double rooms in a hostel for about $24.00$32.00 In larger cities, Airbnb options are available with shared accommodation at around $10.00 per night.  Couchsurfing is also available but hosts are quite a few. If you are hoping to find a couch, mare sure you request early.

Food

Dining is quite inexpensive in Guatemala. Cheap eateries known as comedors can serve a two-course meal for just $4.00 . A meal in a tourist restaurant can cost around $11.00. Pre-made food plates are usually sold on the buses with beef or chicken, tortillas, and rice in just$2.00$4.00 . Beers of national brand can cost around $1.50 per bottle and $3.00 per liter in stores. You can eat cheaply if you stay away from top-notch fancy restaurants.

Activities

The majority of the attractions in Guatemala are natural and historical. The typical cost for attractions in the country is around $7.80 . A private tour to Semuc Champey can cost around $39.00 and entrance is $6.50 . The entrance to the National Museum of Archeology and Ethnology can cost $7.80 The entrance fee of Tikal is $19.50 per person.

Suggested Budget

How much does it cost to travel around Guatemala? This section details the suggested daily budget in Guatemala 2020:

Travel Style Accommodation (per night) Food (3 Meals) Transportation Activities (Per activity) Daily Cost
Backpacker
$4.82 - $9.64
$4.00
$1.00 - $6.00
$2.20 - $7.82
$20.00
Mid - Range
$12.00 - $24.00
$10.00
$4.69 - $16.00
$5.72 - $19.00
$36.00
High - End
$30.00- $61.00
$25.00
$12.00 - $42.00
$16.00- $45.00
$91.00

Budgeting Tips

Guatemala is an economical country with several inexpensive options; however, you can still save some bucks and travel more cheaply. Follow these below-mentioned money-saving tips and get a bang for your buck:

1. Snacks

Do not spend money on snacks in cafes while sightseeing instead you can buy fresh fruits and vegetables from local markets.

2. Cash

Bring your own cash as several smaller towns and tourist places do not have ATMs. Get your money exchanged at larger cities or before traveling to Guatemala.

3. Walking Tours

Take walking tours in major cities and most of them are almost free and you can also learn about the history.

4. Meal of the day

Meal of the day is cheaper as compared to other items on the menu and you can get a two-course meal for little money.

5. Chicken Buses

These buses offer the cheapest way to get around Guatemala. Tourists can be overcharged but do not forget to check the local rates.

Where To Stay

The Mayan heart of Central America is home to dozens of cultural and historical sites and other charms. The accommodation is not very expensive when you opt for mid-range hotels or hostels. These are some of the places that I recommend: 

Antigua

E1 Hostel

San Pedro

Luna Azul Bed and Breakfast

Flores

Los Amigos Youth Hostel

How To Get Around

Guatemala has several historic and beautiful cities and you can travel easily and quickly with several transportation options available between the cities.

chicken bus

Chicken Buses

These buses offer the cheapest way to get around Guatemala. Tourists can be overcharged but do not forget to check the local rates.

Taxis

There is an abundance of taxis in significant towns. The taxi ride can be expensive and drivers do not use meters in Guatemala City hence you can agree upon the fare before taking the ride. You can also hire a taxi driver for a longer time if you have a car. This option is slightly less expensive than renting a car. The Uber taxi service is available in Guatemala City and Antigua.

Bus

Within cities and towns outside Guatemala City, you can use public transportation provided by new mini buses. The shuttle mini buses are more expensive than other buses but are quite convenient as they offer a door-to-door service.

Airlines

Guatemala has two international airports. The largest airport is the Guatemala City airport that tourists are most likely to use. The Mundo Maya International Airport is the second international airport located outside the towns of Flores and Santa Elena.

Resources

When To Go

The dry season starts from November till April in Guatemala. The rainy season begins from mid-May and ends in November. The prices are quite high and you can expect to find a lot of crowd in the months of December and January. Hence the best time to visit Guatemala is the months of April and May. The weather is pleasant in these months, prices are reasonable, and the popular attractions are not very crowded.

How To Stay Safe and Aware of Scams

Guatemala is a developing country with endless offerings from metropolitan areas to serene beaches and lively jungles. However, this Central American country is not very safe to travel. The crime rate is quite high and tourists should be careful about the scams and need to follow basic safety tips to stay safe:

1. Public ATMs

Avoid using public ATMs where you can have credit card scams.

2. Valuable Items

Hide all your valuables like smartphones, laptops, jewelry, and cameras. Do not carry the passport on your person.

3. Public Buses

Armed robberies tend to happen in public buses and you must take caution in intercity buses as well. The Guatemalan Tourism Institute has security escorts available for tourist groups and you can request escorts in advance.

4. Robbery

Do not walk in less busy areas as robbery is quite frequent. It is best to travel during the daytime. You can also carry a dummy wallet to dodge the robbers.

5. Volcano Activity

You must check out the latest volcanic activity before hiking on the volcano as a threat can be grave.

6. Children in Rural Area

Do not interact with the children in rural areas as it can be taken in the wrong way.

7. Over friendly Strangers

Beware of the strangers that get over-friendly and act as priests.

8. Fake Police

Several criminals are dressed as police and commit crimes against tourists.

9. Trekking in Groups

The risk of robbery can be quite high if you are trekking alone hence only go out in groups with a guide.

Packing List

The packing provisions you should bring along when traveling to Guatemala can be several and the climate is quite unpredictable. The climate can be quite wet and rough so you need to pack essentials accordingly. Here’s the packing list that includes all the things that you will need to get pleasure from the trip without any hassle:

2 Pairs of Shorts

5 long sleeve

8 pairs of underwear

Medicine

2 Pair of jeans

Flip flops

Toiletries

Locks

Swim Trunks

Comfortable Sneakers

Quick dry towel

Laundry Bag

5 shirts

8 pairs of socks

Dedorant

Hand Sanitizer

Power Bank

Rain jacket

Sun Glasses

Sun Screen

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