As the birthplace of the ancient Maya civilization, Guatemala is an intriguing mix of history and culture with an incredible array of natural scenery thrown into the equation. From the ruins of ancient Mayan temples to picturesque Spanish architecture and lush tropical rainforests, Guatemala is an explorer’s dream. Immediately south of Mexico, the country itself is mountainous and seething with stunning volcanoes, pretty valleys and canyons, and gorgeous Pacific Coast beaches. Guatemala offers travellers almost any outdoor activity imaginable from miles of hiking tracks, to hang gliding over a volcano or scuba diving inside a volcanic crater. Plus, the genuine warmth and courteousness of its people will leave a memorable impression on all visitors.

Independent Travel

Guatemala

Delve into the fascinating world of Guatemala and unearth a country bursting with culture, exquisite scenery and breathtaking ruins.

Independent
Days 11
From (Per person / Twin share) $5,875

Guatemala Facts & Tips

Capital
Capital — Guatemala City
Population
Population — 16.5 million
Language
Language — Spanish
Religion
Religion — Predominantly Roman Catholic
Time Zone
Time Zone — 16 hours behind AEST
Currency
Currency — Guatemala Quetza
  • The Quetzal is the name of the national currency. It is also the name of the national bird of Guatemala, (the Resplendent Quetzal) and is so named because the tail feather of the bird was traded as currency during Maya times.
  • The five main exports of Guatemala are coffee, raw sugar, bananas, gold and other precious metals, and tourism, which is the country’s main income earner.
  • Guatemala also has a larger amount of jade than any other country on earth.
  • Over half of the current day Guatemalans are descendants of the Mayan people.
  • Guatemala, although a relatively small country, is home to 33 volcanoes.
  • As the hub of ancient Mayan civilization, Guatemala has approximately 200 Mayan sites, dating from 350BC to 900AD.

Australian passport holders travelling to Guatemala do not need a visa at this time.

We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.

Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.

The Australian Embassy in Mexico is responsible for Guatemala:

Ruben Dario 55, Polanco
Colonia Bosque de Chapultepec, CP
11580 Mexico City
Ph: +52 55 1101 2200
Fax: +52 55 1101 2201

Australian Honorary Consulate in Guatemala:

Avenida Las Americas 7-20
Zona 13 Real America local 24
Guatemala City
Ph: +506 4210 9805

The official currency of Guatemala is the Guatemala Quetzal (GQT; symbol Q). Notes are in denominations of Q200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, and 1. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.

The recommended currency to take to Central America is the USD. Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.

Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.

If you don’t have Guatemala Quetzal with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.

Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.

  • The price of a cappuccino in Guatemala is approximately USD2.20
  • The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately USD5.80
  • The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately USD16
  • The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately USD2

Like Mexican food, Guatemalan cuisine revolves around meat, beans, and a variety of tortilla’s and most of it is fried, deep fried or refried! Fresh and healthy eating is slowly seeping its way into Guatemalan cuisine and you will find a wider variety in the larger tourist spots. Vegetarians will also have much better luck in the larger towns. Traditional dishes include tamale (cornmeal filled with meat and tomato salsa); frijoles (beans, and are usually mashed and refried); tacos, burritos and doblada’s (all corn tortillas with various fillings—meat and cheese are popular choices); and hearty soups or stews with a spicy tomato base are popular, too. For those with a sweet tooth among us, well worth a try are rellenitos (mashed plantains filled with sweetened beans and then fried) and mole de plantano (plantains served in a beautiful cocoa sauce)

Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later!  If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.

If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.

Guatemala has two distinct seasons—wet and dry, typical of a tropical climate; however, the mountainous terrain likes to wreak havoc with those seasons. It is suggested that Guatemala has, in fact, 3 separate climate zones— tropical (hot and steamy all year round) along the coastal regions, temperate in the low-lying mountain areas and a cool zone in the high mountains, where temperatures get to freezing point. Generally, the dry season runs between March and early May. The wetter season runs from May to October.

Want to get out and explore on your own?

Taxis are widely available, particularly in larger cities and towns. Fares tend to be low but should be negotiated in advance. If you are feeling adventurous, even cheaper than a taxi are the local tuk tuk’s—they can be hired for small trips around town for a fraction of a taxi fare.

When catching taxis, make sure you have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. We recommend you ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.

So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Guatemala…

Guatemala is a fantastic place to buy some local handcrafted souvenirs, the biggest of those being textiles and woven fabric. Guatemalans take great pride in their local products. Some of the best places to pick up some high-quality items are in the local markets. The markets at Chichicastenango are reputed to be the best in Central America and offer an incredible array of brightly coloured clothes and fabrics, as well as silver jewellery, jade, ceramic items and woven baskets.

  • The indigenous Mayan’s can be funny about having their photo taken, so always ask if it is ok first before taking someone’s photo.
  • A Maya woman may be shy about talking to a foreign man. As a male, if you need help or assistance, you may be best asking another man.
  • If you have received great service, a tip is very much appreciated!
  • A general greeting of ‘buenos dias’ is considered polite manners.

The vibrant and diverse cultural heritage of Guatemala makes for some incredible and colorful holidays and festivals. This is further fueled by Guatemala's religious practices, which are actually a combination of several beliefs and their traditions.

Guatemala’s Independence Day is celebrated on September 15. This holiday is celebrated like others in Guatemala — with dancing, music, parades, food, and fireworks.

Other national public holidays to be aware of include:

  • New Year’s Day
  • Good Friday
  • Holy Saturday (Easter Saturday)
  • Assumption (15 Aug)
  • All Saints Day (01 Nov)
  • Christmas Day

Guatemala Highlights

South & Central America Destinations

Argentina

From the sub-tropical jungles and steamy falls of Iguazu to the frozen Antarctic water of Tierra del Fuego, it is incredible to believe that one country can contain so much.

Bolivia

Landlocked and sharing borders with Peru, Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Paraguay, Bolivia is an intriguing country to visit with a diverse natural environment.

Brazil

Containing some of the most diverse flora and fauna, Brazil is home to the largest rainforest, one of the world’s longest rivers, and the biggest and most exuberant festivals on the planet.

Chile

A land of extremes from the arid Atacama Desert in the north to the southern icebergs of Patagonia, there are few countries on earth that could claim such diversity and so many varied attractions than Chile.

Colombia

Colombia is , a country of spectacular natural beauty, filled with warm, friendly locals, a fascinating history and an abundance of culture and nightlife.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a pleasure to explore with the country’s lush and rugged natural beauty, stunning coastlines and fascinating history.

Cuba

Enjoy incredible scenery at Cienfuegos, discover the rich history at Habana Vieja and immerse yourself in the culture of Trinidad.

Ecuador

Ecuador, the smallest Andean country in South America, offers a wealth of vibrant indigenous cultures, colonial architecture, volcanic landscapes and dense rainforests.

Mexico

Mexico is a country of many different identities and jungles, mountains, deserts and beaches all make up Mexico’s rich flora and fauna.

Peru

The rich history, archaeology, wildlife and enduring indigenous cultures of Peru all add up to make it one of South America’s most popular destinations.

Uruguay

The second-smallest South American country, Uruguay offers something for everyone, from cosmopolitan Montevideo to historic Colonia, the party vibes of Punta del Este to meeting gauchos in Tacuarembó.

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