Guatemala Travel, Backpacking & Gap Year Guide
Guatemala is an amazing destination where you will get to see volcanoes, ecosystems, scenic towns and ancient Mayan ruins. View our comprehensive Guatemala travel and backpacking guide with tips, ideas for the best things to see and do and information about itineraries, costs, how to save money, and more!
Activities & Things to Do in Guatemala
Travel to Guatemala
Our destination guide aims to give you all the information you need to have an amazing experience in this amazing country. Find affordable travel and backpacking ideas with advice for amazing things to do and how you can be more than just your average traveller. You can also get recommendations for budget travel tips, where to stay and advice how to stay safe.
Get inspired to visit Guatemala today!
- Population: 12,300,000 (approx)
- Currency: Quetzal (GTQ) although US dollar is accepted
- Capital: Guatemala City (population 1,100,000 approx)
- Language: Spanish + local languages
- International Country Code: +502
- Country Area: 108,900 km2
Top Reasons to Travel to Guatemala
Here are some of the top reasons why you will love visiting Guatemala:
- Great value for money destination
- Ancient ruins
- Beautiful cities like Antigua
- Realatively untouched by globalisation
- A lot safter than decades ago
- International tourism here is growing fast so you need to get here before the crowds arrive
- Good transport connections to other destinations in the region
If you are planning a trip to Guatemala you will be please to know you won't need to apply for a visa before hand if you are a British citizen. On arrival you will be granted a 90 day visa where you can travel anywhere you like. If you would like to stay longer you might need to do a border crossing and go back which is quite easy to do. Also unlike many countries no bank funds or proof of outbound tickets are required so the experience of getting into Guatemala is very easy.
Best Places to Visit in Guatemala
- If you travel to Lake Atitlan where there are two massive volcanoes over a lake, its really pretty and looks amazing in real life
- Antigua is a really scenic town with little cobbled streets and colourful houses and shops and is someone you need to add to your itinerary
- Guatemala city is huge and worth exploring if you like big cities
- Be sure to visit the ancient ruins of Tikal which are some of the best in the world and our top recommended thing to see in Guatemala
- Flores is a relaxing place to stay if you are going to visit Tikal, take bug spray though as its surrounded by water and there are mosquitoes
- Other must visit places include Lanquin and Livingstone
Travelling & Backpacking in Guatemala
Guatemala is located in Central America, it shares borders to the north and west with Mexico, to the southeast with El Salvador and Honduras, to the northeast with Belize and the Caribbean sea.
Guatemala is a highly recommended country to visit, it might not be as popular as Mexico and is a little bit off the beaten track but its well worth visiting. There are lots of things to do and we have put together some useful advice which you might find useful. Expect lots of culture, history and tradition in Guatamala - a country which has been plagued by war in the past but which is now very peaceful and open to tourists. We have some fantastic travel packages where you can mix with locals and see more than your average tourist.
Highlights of Guatemala including the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, Lake Atitlan, remote colonial towns and the pretty city of Antigua. Visiting the little town of Flores and then going to see Tikal is a must, hidden in the jungle there are lots of ruins which are up there with the best in the world. Lake of Atitlán is a highly recommended place to visit in Guatemala and has to be one of the best lakes to see in the world. Locals still where the traditional dress which is a great sight to see. Lake Atitlan has two large volcanoes overshadowing it which looks spectacular. Antigua is also a really scenic city.
You will be intrigued and delighted in Guatemala - there's something for everyone here! Take the hassle out of your travels by booking a trip through our website. The logistics are worked out for you - accommodation, transportation and an experienced leader to show you the best the country has to offer and to take the stress out of your trip. Travel operators can even pick you up and drop you back to the airport! Our packages are suitable for all - whether a short break or want an experience to form part of longer travels.
Guatemala Travel Tips
Guatemala is a very cheap country to travel in especially compared to other destinations nearby like Costa Rica and Mexico.
You can find lots of hotels and hostels in Guatemala if you book a program through our website accommodation is usually provided where you will stay in a shared house with other internationals, there are also homestays available for an authentic local experience. This is a very cheap country to visit in Latin America and the food is very varied and tasty. You can find cheap hotels, dorms and hostels throughout the country all at great prices among the lowest in Central America.
Transport & Getting Around:
If you are looking to travel on a budget check the Tika bus which operates buses both North and South in this continent. Knowing basic Spanish will improve your experience. There are also lots of mini buses designated just for backpackers which you can book in hostels and hotels and at travel agencies which are located everywhere. On our website you can also book organised trips which provide a great chance to explore this country is a safe fashion with others.
Food is a very cheap in Guatemala and the local food is very tasty, we recommend you try a tamalitos which is like a tortilla.
Guatemala on the whole is a safe destination but be more cautious in the larger cities and at night. Use common sense when travelling in Guatemala, it is very safe but try not to walk around flashing money or your phone, also try to travel with someone especially at night. You shouldn't encounter anything that you wouldn't expect in other countries.
Gap Year in Guatemala
Guatemala is one of the most up and coming destinations in Latin America for backpackers and its easy to see why. Guatemala has some of the friendliest people in the whole continent and lots of places to visit including the ancient temple ruins of Tikal deep in the jungle. Guatemala will not disappoint. If you want to really make a difference on your gap year and travel with purpose then we recommend viewing our gap year programs, this gives you chance to explore this beautiful country and to help local people in places like Antigua.
Traveling in Guatemala can be a daunting but exciting prospect, don't let the countries last wars put you off now its a very safe country to travel in. Guatemala presents a great opportunity for you to make explore ancient ruins, help communities, improve your Spanish and see amazing places.
A safe and recommended way to experience the highlights of Guatamala is to join an organised trip, you can book these on our website. There are lots of different trips and itineraries where you can explore Guatemala,or travel overland seeing more of this region or a neighbouring country. Transport is very easy to book, public transport in the form of funkily local busses are reliable and easy to use but sometimes very crowded. Try to get a lock and keep an eye on your belongings.
Local people are very welcoming especially if you speak a little Spanish and there are a wide range of options where you can help. You could join a program to improve the lives of less fortunate communities in Guatemala and get a really rewarded experience, a lot of people travel to Antigua and join a teaching program helping to educate local children. You could also work at a day care centre, nursery, community centre or orphanage.
Don't worry if you don't have any previous experience doing something like this, most placements in Guatemala are non-skilled meaning you don't need previous experience. You will need to have a positive attitude and be open to living and working in a new culture though. It's not all work too, there will be free time at weekends to visit new places and explore the country. There are also lots of cultural homestay programs where you can live with a local family and teach them English. You might also like to view our Costa Rica gap year programs.