guatemala cheat sheet

Want to know some of the basics before you travel in Guatemala? We've got you covered!


15.47 million

main cities

Guatemala City (capital), Quetzaltenango (also called Xela), Antigua.

bordering countries

Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Guatemala.

Guatemala's Top Tourist Destinations

Semuc Champey is a big draw whilst the ruins at Tikal and the gorgeous little town of Antigua are also sure to feature on everyone's itinerary. 


Which Languages are Spoken

Spanish is the official language, whilst there are a 20+ Mayan languages still in full and widespread use. 


Local Currency and 2017 exchange rate

The local currency is the Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ)

$1 USD = 7.3 GTQ  |  £1 = 10 |   €1 = 8.5


Essential Reading

Whilst we now do most of our planning online, we still never head off an adventure without a guidebook buried in our backpack. If your Spanish is a bit rusty, this little phrase book may well prove indispensable!



Our Route Through Guatemala

As you can see below, we covered a lot of ground in Guatemala, exploring most of the great things the country had to offer. In fact, we fell a little bit in love with it - staying for 10 weeks!


Must-try food and drink

Guatemala has a lot to offer tourists, but not so much those looking for particularly exciting culinary experiences. A lot of basic meat stews, rice, frijoles and plantains - oh, and they do love their fried chicken! Whilst Andrew certainly wasn't a fan of the corn tortillas, a couple of these bought fresh and still warm are great at breakfast.

All of this covered in the ubiquitous hot sauce, of course.

The one dining treat we did really enjoy however, was topado. A coconut based fish soup specific to the Garifuna community - if you're in Livingston definitely check it out.


Is Guatemala good for vegetarians? 

The staple breakfast of eggs, beans, tortilla and cheese can be found anywhere and most small restaurants will give you this option at dinner if requested. In bigger towns and anywhere popular with tourists you'll also be able to find basic pasta dishes and pizzas, although the quality is often pretty poor.

Our recommendation? Take advantage of the amazing fresh fruit and vegetable markets across the country, pick a hostel with a kitchen and cook for yourself!


Transport Options

The trusty chicken bus was our transport method of choice, and should be yours too if you want to see a little more of the country or are on a tight budget. However, we do recognise that some people are a little anxious about this, or short on time, and so tourist shuttles have become a popular alternative. Whilst they cost significantly more, they will certainly get you from A to B a little quicker.


Accommodation Options

Tourism has increased significantly in Nicaragua, and with it accommodation choices have flourished. Whilst we opted for hostels during our stay in the country, hotels, airbnbs, apartments and homestays are a possibility.

Airbnb | | Hostelworld


Can i see it in a month?

Sort of. It would be very possible to tick off all the main attractions in Guatemala over the course of a month but, this would involve moving pretty quickly and denying yourself the opportunity to fully enjoy some of the best parts of the country. If you only have a few weeks, plan out a decent route in advance so you can make the most of it. 


Can I drink the tap water?

No. That's why we always recommend travelling with a water bottle that has an in-built filter, carrying a glass bottle that you can fill up from free filtered water at your accommodation or using a steripen.


Is malaria present? 

Although the risk of contracting malaria is low here, it IS present in rural areas at low altitude - be sure to visit a travel clinic to decide whether you need anti-malaria and pack some good mosquito repellant just in case.

But while you're here, take a look at this post and this post.


Are any vaccinations needed? 

In addition to the usual childhood vaccinations, it is also recommended to have Hepatitis A and typhoid. Please also consider rabies vaccine if you are going to be in the country for a long period of time or undertaking high-risk activities as the disease is present within the country.

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