As the birthplace of the ancient Maya civilisation, 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 overflowing with stunning volcanoes, pretty valleys and canyons, and gorgeous Pacific Coast beaches. Plus, the genuine warmth and courteousness of its people will leave a memorable impression on all visitors. You can explore all of this and more on a Guatemala tour with Bunnik Tours. Book our tours online or speak to one of our friendly Travel Specialists today.
Guatemala Facts & Tips
Did you know?
- 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.
Visas & Passports
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
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 $2.25 USD
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately $5.75 USD
- The price dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately $16 USD
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately $2.25 - 4 USD
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.
Celebrations & Public Holidays
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
Located on a tiny island in the middle of Lago Peten Itza, Flores is a marvellously picturesque town; connected to the mainland via a causeway. To walk around the whole island takes about 30 minutes, but the narrow cobblestone streets and main plaza are well worth exploring! It is connected to the mainland town of Santa Elena, and these towns are generally used as a starting point to Tikal National Park—the oldest and most famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala. The Mayans inhabited the area from as early as the 6th century BC through to the 10th century AD. Photo by Michiel Ton
Nestled on the north shore of Lake Atitlan, Panajachel is a quaint lakeside town. Panajachel is a great tourist destination, and the town itself is bustling with cafés, bars, shops, restaurants and nightclubs. The biggest and most attractive drawcard is the lake, and the best way to escape the hustle and bustle of Pana is to get out on a boat and enjoy the lake. Chichicastenango is located in the western highlands of Guatemala and is well known throughout Central America as having the best local markets in the entire region. Locals come from all over the highlands to sell their handmade crafts, and these markets offer the best local produce. Photo by V Grudiel
A wonderful display of old Spanish architecture, Antigua is one of Guatemala’s must-see destinations! It was the old capital city during the 16 – 18th century. In 1773, a terrible earthquake destroyed most of the city and the Spanish rulers ordered the capital city to be moved to the new location of Guatemala City. The town centre is a lovely mix of historic buildings, churches, plazas, fountains and ruins. Parque Central is about the size of a city block and a pretty place to visit during the day.
How many days do you need in Guatemala?
The minimum amount of time we’d recommend to spend in Guatemala is a week. This allows you time to visit Antigua, Lake Atitlan and the biggest and best market in Central America, Chichicastenango. For a more in depth holiday, 2 weeks would allow you to relax more in these places and visit the Peten region to see the awe-inspiring ruins of Tikal, a real must see for anyone visiting this part of the world.
What's the best time to visit Guatemala?
Guatemala is a destination that can be visited year round. A nice time to visit is during the dry season between November to April. There are distinct differences between regions. The N.E. Peten jungle region (lowlands including Flores and Tikal) is very hot year round, whereas in the Western Highlands (including Antigua and Lake Atitlan) it can get quite cool, especially in the evenings so you would also need to pack some warm clothes.
Is Guatemala safe for tourists?
Guatemala is a safe place for tourists. However, as we advise with all international travel, please ensure that your personal possessions and valuables are kept safe and secure. You should also avoid walking in unknown areas alone and it is important to be aware of your surroundings, especially in crowded places such as markets. It is important to be more cautious in the capital, Guatemala City as with any large city in the world. The local people are very courteous and friendly, so just make sure you are respectful of their culture and customs, for the best possible trip to Guatemala. If you have any questions regarding safety, please don't hesitate to contact our friendly Travel Specialists.
Is Antigua Guatemala worth visiting?
The city of Antigua is filled with beautiful architecture with fascinating histories, stunning natural views and plenty of adventurous activities. Some of the highlights you can visit with Bunnik Tours, your trusted Guatemala tour company, include:
Santa Catalina Arch: A must-visit landmark in Antigua. This historic landmark was built in 1694 and is located between the cobble streets of the city. The archway represents the resilience of the city.
Cerro de La Cruz: Located on a hill, overlooking the city, the Hillside Cross is a must see attraction. From up on the hill, you will see stunning views of the city.
Acatenango Volcano: Considered one of the highest active volcanoes in Central America. You will be mesmerised by the stunning views of this volcano.
Iglesia de la Merced: This beautiful baroque church was built in 1548. This church has survived many earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
ChocoMuseo: Here you can learn about the history of chocolate in Guatemala. You can also join a workshop and make your own chocolate!
How can I tour Guatemala as a responsible traveller?
At Bunnik Tours, we believe in responsible travel and sustainable tourism. For more information, visit our Sustainable Tourism hub.
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