Guatemala Travel Information
Electrical current is 120 volts, 60Hz. A variety of plugs are in use including the flat two-pin (Type A).
The official language is Spanish, but English is understood in hotels and tourist destinations. In addition, there are many indigenous languages spoken in Guatemala as well.
There are a number of health risks associated with travel to Guatemala and travellers are advised to take the latest medical advice at least three weeks prior to departure. Malaria is prevalent in the low-lying areas outside Guatemala City.
Dengue fever is endemic and the Zika virus can be contracted, so
strict insect-bite protection measures must be taken. A yellow
fever certificate is required from travellers entering the country
from infected areas. Hepatitis A and B, and typhoid vaccinations
are recommended, as well as an MMR (Measles, mumps and rubella)
Visitors should be careful what they eat and stick to bottled water, or boil all water before drinking if bottled water is unavailable. Guatemalan hospitals are unlikely to give medical treatment unless the patient has travel insurance or can pay up front.
Good travel insurance is therefore essential. State-funded hospitals are best avoided and travellers should only use private clinics where possible. All medication should be accompanied with a signed and dated letter from a doctor explaining what the medication is and why it is needed.
Generally a 10 percent tip is recommended for good service in Guatemala. It is customary to tip waiters if a service charge hasn't been added to the bill and tipping extra for excellent service is also customary. Taxi drivers are not usually tipped. Hotel staff and tour guides expect to be tipped for their services and can be more favourable in their service when receiving generous tips.
The rate of violent crime in Guatemala is exceptionally high. There has also been a relatively high rate of violent attacks on tourists, especially in remote places and in the capital, Guatemala City, particularly after dark. Visitors need to be particularly vigilant in the central Zone 1 of Guatemala City where most of the cheap hotels and bus terminals are, and in all parts of the city at night.
Tourists arriving at Guatemala City airport and travelling to
hotels in the business districts have been targeted, so visitors
should be extremely alert when leaving the airport. Protest may
arise without warning and should be avoided if possible.
Pick-pocketing and petty theft are common in tourist areas and market places. Many robberies take place on the cheaper buses when travelling on the tourist routes from Guatemala City to Antigua, and from Antigua to Panajachel. So keep all belongings close at hand.
There have been reported incidents of attacks, including the sexual assault of female passengers on buses during the day on main routes. Hold-ups by armed gangs occur frequently on city and long distance public buses. Visitors are advised to avoid them if possible.
Armed robberies on minor roads around Lake Atitlan have taken
place and visitors are advised to use the boat services between
towns on the lakeshore. There have also been armed attacks on
tourists at Tikal and on the approach road from Flores to
Guatemala's rainy season between April and November usually brings about heavy rain and flooding, mudslides, and hurricanes. These mudslides have claimed the lives of many people in recent years and it is best to exercise extreme caution when travelling to areas known for heavy rains and mudslides. Guatemala has active volcanoes, so it is important to always be aware of any volcanic activity.
It is very common to greet most people, especially in the countryside. Clothing need not be too conservative. However, modesty is advised for female travellers in order to avoid unwanted attention.
Ask permission before taking photographs, particularly of children, as locals are suspicious of foreigners approaching kids for pictures due to incidences of kidnapping, particularly in remote areas where tourists have been attacked. A small tip might be required.
Military clothing is illegal, so avoid camouflage-patterned clothing. Public displays of affection between same sex couples should be avoided, particularly outside of Guatemala City.
Business etiquette in Guatemala is similar to the rest of Latin America. Due to the warm, humid climate, men often wear lightweight suits. Women usually wear a dress or a skirt with a blouse. Always be punctual for meetings, as Guatemalan business people are very punctual.
Use professional titles such as such as doctor, professor, ingeniero (engineer) or abogado'(lawyer), otherwise address colleagues as señor (Mr), señora (Mrs), and señorita (Miss), followed by their last names.
Speaking softly is considered polite. Business cards may be exchanged although there is no ritual around it. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, with an hour taken over lunch and business lunches or breakfasts are preferred over business dinners.
The international access code for Guatemala is +502. The outgoing code depends on what network is used to dial out on, which is followed by the relevant country code (e.g. +44 for the United Kingdom). City codes are not required. There are generally surcharges on calls made from hotels. Rates are generally less expensive after 7pm. Wifi connections are available in the cities and main tourist areas and many hotels, hostels and language schools will offer reasonable internet rates.
Travellers to Guatemala over 18 do not have to pay duty on 500g of tobacco in any form and five liters of liquor or spirits.
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