Regulations and requirements
many be subject to change at short notice, and you are advised to contact
the appropriate diplomat or consular authority before finalizing travel
Restricted entry: Nationals from the following countries require special authorization from the Department of Immigration in Guatemala prior to applying for a visa: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Botswana, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Central African Republic, Congo, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guyana, Haiti, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, North Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgystan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Lithuania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Moldova, Mongolia, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Yemen, Zaïre, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Details of passport, work reference, bank statement, purpose of visit, family or business contact in Guatemala, return ticket and evidence of means of support are all required. Inquire at Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy) for further details, as the specified nationalities may be subject to change at short notice. Authorization will take 3-4 weeks.
Nationals of China and India will be refused entry into or transit through Guatemala.
PASSPORTS: Required by all.
(a) 1. nationals of EU countries for a stay of 1 month with a possible extension to 3 months (except Greece and Portugal, and those on business from the UK and Republic of Ireland, who do need visas; and tourists from the UK and Republic of Ireland who may stay for a maximum stay of 90 days without a visa, to whom a Tourist Card will be issued at Guatemala airport);
(b) nationals of Andorra, Argentina, Belize, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Nicaragua, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland, Uruguay and Vatican City for stays of 1 month with possible extension to 3 months.
Note 2: Nationals of Australia, Canada, Mexico and the USA entering Guatemala by air do not need a visa, provided coming for strictly touristic purposes, for a maximum stay of 90 days. They will be issued with a Tourist Card at Guatemala airport.
Types of visa: Visitors (tourist) and Business. Both are valid for 30 days from date of entry, but must be used within 30 days of issue. Cost: £7.
Application to: Guatemalan Consulate (or Consular section at Embassy). For addresses, see top of entry.
Application requirements: For Tourist visa:
(a) 2 application
For Business visa:
Note: Passengers from Guinea and Nigeria should present a valid certificate of vaccination against yellow fever or they will be subject to five days of quarantine on arrival. Working days required: 1.
Visa Application Form
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1. Wear good walking shoes (boots, mountain footwear)
2. Take warm clothing for trips to the western highlands, mountain regions or volcanoes. Remember, in some places, such as the Cuchumatanes, temperatures can drop below freezing from November through February.
3. When visiting areas on the Pacific coast, the Caribbean Sea, on Lake Izabal or in Peten, light-weight clothing with long sleeves is recommended to protect you against mosquitoes.
4. Both in the lowlands and the highlands, the sun can be cruel from 10 AM onward, so do not forget a hat or cap. Sun glasses can be useful, but your contacts with the local people will be friendlier if you do not wear sun glasses when talking to them.
5. Do not forget your bathing suit when visiting the protected areas on the sea or lake shores, as they all have beaches or swimming facilities.
A 10 to 15% tip is usually recommended. More often than not, tips are not included in the prices of meals or other services. The sales tax (VAT) is 10% of the total amount of the purchase. The hotel room tourist tax is also 10%.
There is a variety of restaurants and cafés serving a wide selection of cooking styles including American, Argentine, Chinese, German, Italian, Mexican and Spanish. Fast-food chains also have outlets here and there are many continental-style cafés. The visitor should note that food varies in price rather than quality.
International cuisine can be enjoyed in first-class hotels and restaurants. The staple ingredients of typical dishes are meat, poultry, rice, beans and corn. Avocados, considered a delicacy in many parts of the world, are part of any regular meal for Guatemalans, and one of the enormous variety of fruits grown in the country. Guatemala is noted for high quality beef. Steak houses rank high on the list of favorite restaurants for locals. Seafood, if not as abundant, is equally good.
Violent crime is a very serious and growing problem throughout the country. Crime victims often complain of inadequate assistance from the police, and impunity from prosecution is a major concern on a broad level in Guatemala. No area can be definitively characterized as "always safe." Visitors who suffer criminal assaults are encouraged to contact the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy (or the duty officer after hours) for advice and assistance.
Nonpolitical kidnappings are prevalent, but to date have not affected American tourists. However, there have been eleven kidnappings during the past two years involving American citizen residents of Guatemala, one of whom was murdered. The Guatemalan government has had some recent success in its fight against kidnappers.
Pickpockets and purse snatchers are prevalent in major cities at tourist sites, especially the central market in Guatemala City. Highway robberies and robberies of pedestrians by armed thieves have been on the increase. Armed car theft is also a serious problem, although persons who offer no resistance when confronted by armed thieves are usually not hurt. It is dangerous to climb volcanoes, especially Pacaya, where tourists have been robbed and raped. Hiking alone in less populated areas of Guatemala is risky. Citizen frustration with crime has led to some incidents of vigilantism against persons allegedly involved in criminal activity. In that sense, it is wise to avoid public gatherings of agitated citizens.
In the city of Antigua, incidents of armed robbery and rape have increased. An American was shot resisting a robbery attempt at midday in January 1996. Cerro de la Cruz Park has seen vicious machete attacks, rapes, stabbings and robberies of foreign tourists, and in November 1996 a foreign national was murdered during the armed robbery of a group of more than 20 visitors. In response, the Guatemalan government has deployed a special tourist police force in the Antigua area, and is at least temporarily posting national police officers at the park during daylight hours.
In January 1996, two tourists, one American, were murdered on the beach at Panajachel. The Mayan ruins at Tikal and Flores are considered generally safe, provided that visitors fly to Flores and then travel by bus or tour van to the ruins. Overland travel in the rest of Peten Department is difficult and dangerous.
Tecun Uman, the principal transit point between Guatemala and Mexico, is a center of criminal activity and was the site of the 1995 shooting of two American tourists.
The loss or theft of a U.S. passport abroad should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. Useful information on guarding valuables and protecting personal security while traveling abroad is provided in the Department of State pamphlet, "A Safe Trip Abroad." This publication, as well as others such as "Tips for Travelers to Central and South America," is available from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington D.C. 20402.
The following dates are national holidays in Guatemala:
January 1st ............................................................................................
City in particular there are nightclubs and discotheques with modern
In the cities the marimba is a huge elaborate xylophone with large drum sticks played by four to nine players. In rural areas the sounding boxes are made of different shaped gourds (marimbas de tecomates). There are also theaters and numerous plays in English and other cultural performances.
Films with English and Spanish subtitles are often shown in major towns.
Roman Catholicism is the faith of the vast majority of the people of Guatemala. The leading Protestant denominations are the Baptist and the Evangelical. Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, but Native American languages are widely spoken.
Most long time residents will tell you that in years past, most expatriates lived in Guatemala City in zones 9, 10, 13, 14, and 15, which are all near the U.S. Embassy. But times have changed, and now many live on the outskirts of the capital. The town of Antigua is popular with foreign residents and is only 20 minutes from downtown Guatemala City. Others have chosen the picturesque town of Panajachel, on Lake Atitlan, two and a half hours from the capital.
Older, well established homes fill the zones surrounding the U.S. Embassy. Many of these homes are now being converted into office and commercial space. Small houses in this area sell for $150,000 and up, and rent for at least $1,200 per month. Most newcomers bypass zones 9 and 10, due to the increase of commercial activity. They generally prefer areas outside of the congestion and noise of the city.
Zone 15, also called Vista Hermosa, is a beautiful neighborhood, with well maintained landscaping and large trees. Most homes in this area have high walls surrounding the property, which is common in most Latin neighborhoods. Small homes and condominiums in this area range from $100,000 up to $250,000. Larger estates start at $300,000 up to $1,000,000. Monthly rents range from $850 to $4,000.
Nice areas, just 15 minutes outside the city, are also located on the road to El Salvador. New construction of large estates with impressive views of the city start at $250,000.
Zone 14, also known as Canada, is one of the nicest districts, with many large estate homes and foreign embassies. Large homes sell from $500,000 to $4,000,000 and rent from $2,500 to $6,000 per month. Town houses and apartments are also available in this area at more reasonable prices, but are hard to come by. Sale prices vary between $900 and $1,500 per square meter of construction. Prices can increase if gardens are large.
Zones 2, 5, 7, 11, 12, 13, and 16 are mostly home to middle class Guatemalan professionals, but a few foreigners live there also. In these areas homes start at $25,000 and range up to $125,000.
Guatemala City in a contrasting counterpart to the country's ancient beginnings and the colonial heritage which offers such allure to visitors Modern and cosmopolitan, the city hosts hundreds of travelers daily from the United States, Europe and Latin America. The first sights that greet you in this friendly, cosmopolitan metropolis are the gleaming, modern buildings sparking in the sun. Luxury and first-class hotels here are on a par with those anywhere, with one delightful addition... the friendly, smiling service that is typically Guatemalan. A full range of services catering to the businessman is also available as well as convention facilities. The city maintains all the modern social amenities such as tennis, golf courses, swimming pools and health clubs. The national telephone, telegraph and telex systems help you keep in touch with the rest of the world. A modern up-to-date television network is supplemented by daily local and international newspapers and publications, provided in several languages, which are available throughout the city.
To travel around Guatemala, the country's modern tourism and transportation companies will take you over a wide network of paved highways. Car rental agencies offer a wide selection of vehicles and taxi service is excellent. A wide range of restaurants offer specialties from all over the world. Enjoy a simple but hearty home-cooked meal, or some of the most sophisticated creations of French haute-cuisine, whatever suits your taste. All are at very reasonable prices. Night life in Guatemala can be enjoy in a number of ways. Primarily located in the center of town and in major hotels entertainment can vary from quiet piano bars to lively discos. In "Zona Viva", you can mingle with both tourists and locals to participate in an entertainment evening. A new wave of artistic style and technique is developing today in Guatemala, a blend of traditional with the modern. This intriguing combination can be seen in the new and original styles of jade and silver jewelry, and in the modern fashionable clothing boutiques and stores throughout the city.
The Cathedral, overlooking Central Park, was built between 1782 and 1868 and houses many art treasures, including some from the old cathedral in Antigua.
Kaminal Juyu, in the western section of the city, is an important pre-Hispanic archaeological site. Although much of this large site has been lost to urban encroachment, what remains is many outstanding examples of sculpture and architecture.
The National Palace, on Central Park, one of the city's most prominent historic buildings, features murals by Alfredo Galvez Suarez depicting the conquest of Guatemala. You can visit some of the ornate chambers in the palace with prior permission.
Museums abound in Guatemala City. Here's a brief museum-hopping tour.
Popol Vuh Museum exhibits Mayan artifacts from all over the country and is the only museum in the world with a Mayan sarcophagus. Colonial relics include silverware, paintings and large sculptures decorated with silver.
Ixchel Museum has a fine collection of native costumes, ceramics and jewelry.
National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology has six permanent exhibits, a hall for special exhibitions and an extensive library of books on archaeology, ethnology and physical anthropology of the Indians of the Americas.
National Museum of Natural History
contains sections on zoology, palaeontology, botany,
National Museum of History and Fine Arts contains contemporary paintings and sculpture, 19th century portraits, flags, photographs and maps.
Antigua Guatemala, former capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala in colonial days, is located 35 minutes from Guatemala City, the present capital, if you travel by automobile; one hour if you take a bus. The road goes through the village of San Lucas, a place with an open air market where fruit, vegetables and typical beverages are sold. There are pine and cypress forests on both sides along the road until you reach the valley sheltering the colonial city per excellence.
At the foot of the Volcán de Agua sits the former colonial capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala, now called La Antigua Guatemala, it was not the first colonial capital but it was the classical one of the spanish culture. Long ago, in 1773, many of its convents, churches and buildings were left partially destroyed after being badly shaken by an earthquake. But La Antigua Guatemala is the ideal place for those looking for the romantic atmosphere of colonial cities. You may visit different museums; the museum of the Ancient Book; Museum of weaponry; the first place of the old University of San Carlos de Borromeo, founded in the XVII century, which keeps valuable colonial paintings; Popenoe House, and the colonial churches and convents.
Near La Antigua are the ruins of Ciudad Vieja, founded by Pedro de Alvarado, the Conquistador of Guatemala. Ciudad Vieja was the country's capital until 1541. Also close to La Antigua and worth a visit is the town of San Antonio Aguascalientes, famous for the quality and beauty of its handicrafts.
After the earthquakes of 1773, the capital was moved from the Panchoy valley (Antigua Guatemala) to the Ermita valley, (Guatemala city).