Guatemala travel guide
Guatemala humbly has it all: from colonial towns to Mayan ruins, great mountain lakes to vibrant religious festivals, sandy beaches to exotic jungles. Often visitors to the country find they leave enlightened; civilisations they believed long gone are found thriving, Tomb Raider landscapes they thought fantasy are shown to be real.
Antiquity is at the heart of Guatemala, and the country is home to many spectacular Mayan archaeological sites, most significantly the vast UNESCO World Heritage Site of Tikal, where great towers peep through the rainforest canopy and monkeys swing past the sprawling ancient plazas. The pine-forested hills of the highlands are home to many Mayan communities, whose indigenous beliefs, traditional dress, religious practices and craftsmanship, flourish. Indeed, Guatemala has around 21 different ethnic groups, speaking some 23 languages giving it a distinctive culture like nowhere else in the region.
Although Guatemala boasts some truly stunning cities – most notably Antigua, an upmarket colonial town surrounded by smouldering volcanoes – Guatemala’s real joy is its nature. The great Lake Atitlan in the highlands is a place of rare beauty and offers various adventure activities ranging from scuba diving to fishing.
On the other side of the country, the vast and remote region of Peten houses the country’s thickest jungle, home to long-abandoned Mayan ruins that few get to see. Elsewhere, gargantuan lakes, lava-oozing volcanoes, black sandy beaches, natural hot springs and roaring rivers combine to form the most geographically diverse destination in Central America.
Though consistently beautiful, Guatemala is a nation of contrasts; a place where Catholic churches exist alongside Mayan temples, where rugged highlands give way to tropical jungles, and where the legacy of its ancient civilisations is as evident as its modern, Latin American culture.
Despite stories of high crime rates and volatile politics, most visitors encounter nothing but warmth and hospitality from its people, as well as epic landscapes that make them wonder why they didn’t visit sooner.
108,889 sq km (42,042 sq miles).
16,672,956 (UN estimate 2016).
137 per sq km.
Constitutional Democratic Republic.
President Alejandro Giammattei since 2020.
President Alejandro Giammattei since 2020.
Coronavirus travel health
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Guatemala on the TravelHealthPro website
See the TravelHealthPro website for further advice on travelling abroad and reducing spread of respiratory viruses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You must keep to the social distancing rules and wear a mask at all times, in all public spaces, including the airport.
Guatemala does not permit the entry of travellers who have been in the United Kingdom, Brazil or South Africa in the 14 days prior to their arrival. This measure does not apply to Guatemalan nationals, diplomats or foreign nationals legally resident in the country who instead must self-isolate for a period of 10 days at their place of residence upon return.
All persons aged 10 or over arriving in Guatemala must present a negative COVID-19 PCR or Antigen test, dated no more than 72 hours prior to check in at the airport, or arrival at land border. Airlines will request proof of a negative test prior to boarding. Health protocols are in effect at ports of entry for the screening of arriving and departing passengers. Non-resident foreigners presenting symptoms of COVID-19 upon arrival may be denied entry into Guatemala. Please see Entry Requirements for more information
You should stay informed before making any travel plans by confirming with your airlines and checking the Guatemalan Government website [in Spanish].
Entry and borders
See Entry requirements to find out what you will need to do when you arrive in Guatemala.
Returning to the UK
When you return, you must follow the rules for entering the UK.
You are responsible for organising your own COVID-19 test, in line with UK government testing requirements. You should contact local authorities for information on testing facilities (only available in Spanish).
Be prepared for your plans to change
No travel is risk-free during COVID-19. Countries may further restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company or airline for any transport changes which may delay your journey home.
If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.
Plan ahead and make sure you:
- can access money
- understand what your insurance will cover
- can make arrangements to extend your stay and be away for longer than planned
Travel in Guatemala
The Guatemalan President declared a State of Prevention from 14 to 29 July 2021to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
The restrictions during the state of prevention are:
- The sale of alcohol is prohibited. The consumption of alcohol is also prohibited in public and commercial establishments open to the public. These restrictions are in place every day from 6pm to 6am until 29 July
- Strict enforcement of the measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in open air events and meetings;
- Public demonstrations are permitted as long as they comply with the biosecurity measures ordered by the health authorities;
- Local authorities have orders to disband without warning any group or public demonstration carried out without authorisation. Authorised meetings, groups or public demonstrations that turn violent or where weapons are involved or where sanitary measures are not followed may also be disbanded without warning
- Only the Security Forces will have the right to carry weapons
- Drivers and passengers must follow sanitary measures when in a vehicle, whether the vehicle is stationary or moving
- Be prepared to answer questions and cooperate with the local authorities
Restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus are in place. If you are in Guatemala you should;
- comply with social distancing of at least 1.5 metres;
- use of masks is mandatory for the entire population in public, including on the street; also in state or public establishments, private places open to the public, private places of restricted access services and any kind of transport. Children under 2 years of age and those with a medical condition certified by a health professional are exempt from this;
- people that have recovered from COVID-19 must wear their masks for 14 days after recovery; and those under quarantine must use masks inside their homes as per instructions of the health authorities;
- wash your hands frequently;
- frequent and appropriate hand sanitisation;
If you do not comply with these measures you could be fined or face criminal charges. Fines range from £700 to £15,000.
From 30 April, the following measures against COVID-19 took effect:
- Visits to beaches, lakes, rivers, resorts and water parks throughout the country will be permitted. There are restrictions on the maximum capacity. Visitors may not stay past 9pm
- Fairs are permitted, however, parties, concerts, and “any other activity that generates a congregation of people” in the municipalities with red and orange alerts are prohibited. For fairs, the 9pm restriction also applies
- Shopping centres may remain open for entry until 9pm
- Supermarkets and food shops may serve until 9pm, but must limit capacity to 50%. Markets must close by 7pm
- Restaurants, bars and nightlife venues must continue to close by 9pm
- Concerts and mass events are at the discretion of the local authorities, but they must respect the time limit of 9pm
- Churches may have face-to-face activities until 8pm
Attendance at funerals and burials is limited to a maximum of 10 attendees. Everyone should comply with the measures put in place in Guatemala to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).
While the curfew has ended, health measures remain in effect, including maintaining social distancing within businesses and other public facilities based on the health alert level in each location. Every town has been assigned a colour, which corresponds to the number of positive COVID-19 cases reported. Red signifies the highest number of cases, amber signifies a high number of cases, yellow signifies a moderate number of cases and green signifies a lower number of cases. For information about the specific restrictions in your location, refer to the Guatemalan government’s website.
- The list of threat ratings for each department and municipality and the activities which are permitted at each threat level can be found on the Guatemalan government’s website.
You should familiarise yourself with the threat level in the area you live in and keep up to date with any changes.
Public transport has reopened in Guatemala, however, there are a number of restrictions on capacity and access can still be very limited. If you wish to move to or from the airport you should hire a private taxi or driver.
For information on entering Guatemala, see Entry Requirements
When travelling in the country, follow the advice of the local authorities (PROATUR) and monitor local media. See Local travel.
If you are trying to find a hotel in Guatemala, please call in advance to confirm that they are taking reservations and to be informed of any measures or requirements they may have.
Healthcare in Guatemala
Many of the hospitals in Guatemala are full given the COVID-19 situation in the country. If you think you have COVID-19 symptoms you should seek medical advice and check the official page where all important information about COVID-19 as well as all advice from the Guatemalan authorities can be found. Please visit the Guatemalan Ministry of Health’s website for information and advice.
British-issued prescriptions cannot be used locally. To find a pharmacy (“farmacia”) look for one of the big national chains such as Meykos, Cruz Verde or Carolina y H, among others; searching online should help you to identify the nearest one. For contact details of English speaking doctors visit our list of healthcare providers.
Your emotional and mental wellbeing is important. Read guidance on how to look after your mental wellbeing and mental health
View Health for further details on healthcare in Guatemala.
See also the guidance on healthcare if you’re waiting to return to the UK.
COVID-19 vaccines if you live in Guatemala
As information is available about the national vaccination programme, this page will be updated.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is the UK authority responsible for assessing the safety, quality and efficacy of vaccines. It has authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines for temporary supply and use in the UK. Find out more about MHRA approval for these vaccines.
British nationals living overseas should seek medical advice from their local healthcare provider in the country where they reside. Information about vaccines used in other national programmes, including regulatory status, should be available from the local authorities. This list of Stringent Regulatory Authorities recognised by the World Health Organisation may also be a useful source of additional information. Find out more information about the COVID-19 vaccines on the World Health Organization COVID-19 vaccines page.
For information on financial support you can access whilst abroad, visit our financial assistance guidance.
Guatemalan authorities request that people keep up to date with the latest information by visiting the following official page where all important information about COVID-19 as well as all advice from the Guatemalan Ministry of Health can be found.
If you need urgent consular assistance, contact your nearest British embassy, high commission or consulate. All telephone numbers are available 24/7.
Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America; there were 4,914 violent deaths in 2018. Although the majority of serious crime involves local gangs, incidents are usually indiscriminate and can occur in tourist areas. Despite the high levels of crime, most visits to Guatemala are trouble-free.
On 22 April 2017, a violent armed attack involving a group of tourists, including five British nationals, was reported at La Laguna, Pasaco, in the department of Jutiapa.
Car-jacking and armed hold-ups are common on the main road ‘Carretera Salvador’ leading from Guatemala City to the border with El Salvador. The crossroads at Fraijanes, San Jose Pinula and Las Luces are also focal points for express kidnappings.
Such attacks, including sexual assault can take place anywhere and at any time of the day. Attacks usually involve firearms and motorcycle riders. There is a low arrest and conviction rate. Victims have been killed and injured resisting attack.
No parts of Guatemala City are free from crime; this includes Zone 10 (Zona Viva) - popular with tourists and foreign residents. Take care in Zone 1 (historical centre) where the cheaper hotels are situated and several bus routes terminate.
For shorter trips within towns and cities the safest option is to take radio or hotel taxis. When arriving at the airport you can buy pre-paid taxi vouchers from the INGUAT Tourist Office in the arrivals terminal.
Take care around ATM machines, petrol station forecourts, the airport, bus stations and shopping centres. Check ATMs for evidence of tampering, but be aware that affected machines may not be easy to spot. It’s safer to change money in hotels, at banks or at foreign exchange offices. Don’t withdraw too much money at once, and avoid withdrawing money at night.
Avoid displaying valuable items like laptops, cameras and mobile phones. Don’t wear a lot of jewellery and only carry minimal amounts of cash. Use a hotel safe if possible.
Avoid travelling around on your own or at night, especially at border crossings or areas where there are few other people around. When travelling to remote areas it may be safer to travel with others or take part in a tour with a reputable company.
Be wary of bogus police officers. There have been reports of visitors becoming victims of theft, extortion or sexual assault by people dressed in police uniforms.
Foreign visitors and residents can be targeted by scam artists. The scams come in many forms, and can lead to great financial loss. Be cautious if you are asked to transfer funds to family or friends in Guatemala. Try and get in contact with your family member or friend to check that they have made this request.
You can get up-to-date security information through INGUAT (a telephone information service is available in English), the Guatemalan Tourist Institute. INGUAT’s tourist assistance service, PROATUR offers an escort service for tourists groups or individuals travelling locally in the region. You can contact them on (502) 2290 2810. You may also dial 1500 in Guatemala.
There have been armed attacks on tourists travelling by road to/from major tourist sites like Antigua, Tikal, Petén and Lake Atitlan. Boat services between towns on the shore of Lake Atitlan may be a safer alternative.
PROATUR issues advice on which routes to take when travelling in and around Sololá, Panajachel and Lake Atitlan. Avoid the Godinez by-pass via Patzun between Guatemala City and Panajachel. Use the Pan American Highway to Sololá instead. You should also avoid the road between Cocales (Suchitepequez) and San Lucas Toliman (Atitlan) if possible.
Be careful when accepting lifts.
For information on the current requirements if travelling to Mexico, contact the Mexican Embassy in Guatemala.
Pay particular attention to your security in the border areas with Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize.
Take particular care in the Belize/Guatemala border area because of the ongoing dispute between the two countries. Only use the officially recognised border crossings.
There have been reports of disruptions and tensions at the Mexico-Guatemala border.
From 12 February, local authorities have reported an increase in activity associated with the Fuego and Pacaya volcanoes. You should be mindful of the greater risk when in the vicinity of these volcanoes. The direction of the wind may change, expelling volcanic ash in different directions. Local communities surrounding the volcanic area and flights from Guatemala City La Aurora International Airport may be affected. Airports maybe subject to closures due to volcanic ash. Please monitor the websites of the Guatemalan Meteorological Office (INSIVUMEH) and La Aurora International Airport.
Before climbing volcanoes, you should visit the website of the Guatemalan Meteorological Office (INSIVUMEH) and the CONRED disaster agency for information on access, restrictions and recommendations. You should also check and follow the advice of local authorities beforehand.
Some volcanoes are at high altitude with sub-zero temperatures at night. Six tourists died of exposure on Acatenango in January 2017. Warm clothing and waterproofs are essential. Local tour organisers tend to underestimate the risks.
You can use your UK driving licence to drive in Guatemala for visits under 3 months, but an International Driving Permit is recommended. Driving standards are variable. You should drive carefully and expect the unexpected. Adequate car insurance is essential. If you are involved in an accident, contact the National Police by calling 120 or the fire brigade by dialling 122 or 123 and wait for them to arrive.
PROVIAL, a roadside assistance force, patrols most of the major roads in the country. However, patrols are sporadic. PROVIAL can be contacted by calling 2419-2121.
It is generally safer to travel on main roads. There is a greater risk of attack on quieter routes. Travel in convoy if possible. In more isolated locations, roads are unpaved and you may need a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Motorcyclists throughout the country must wear an orange vest and helmet with the registration number. Those violating the law face a fine of Q1,000 (around £100).
Speed limits are strictly enforced and there are heavy penalties for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. These can include fines, confiscation of driving licences and imprisonment. It is against the law for drivers to operate mobile telephones whilst driving. For more information you can visit Departamento de Transito PNC and Transit Law (in Spanish).
The eruption of Fuego volcano in June 2018 damaged the National Route 14, which connects Escuintla and Antigua, Sacatepéquez. The road has reopened, but for safety reasons it is vulnerable to closure at short notice, during heavy rain or due to volcanic activity. Check with your tour operator and local authorities (PROATUR) before travelling along this route.
Public buses and coach services
For security reasons you should avoid travel on public buses (repainted US school buses). There has been an increase in armed attacks by local gangs on bus drivers and conductors, often resulting in serious injury or death. Since July 2010 these attacks have included the use of explosives. There have been reports of violent muggings, including rape and assault against foreigners on these buses.
Private inter-city coach services are generally safer, but have been attacked during daylight hours on well-used, main roads.
Guatemala City Council no longer allows some inter-city buses to enter the city centre. Passengers are dropped at various points on the outskirts.
There are risks of demonstrations and although most demonstrations are peaceful, they can turn violent. You should avoid all demonstrations. Guatemalan legislation prohibits political activities by foreigners. If you take part in demonstrations you may be detained and/or asked to leave the country.
Incidents of political violence, strikes and large demonstrations can occur, often with little or no notice.
The use of roadblocks and blocking public facilities, including the international airport, can happen at any time.
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Guatemala, attacks can’t be ruled out.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
There are severe penalties for drug trafficking (10-20 years) and drug use (8-15 years). Guatemalan prisons are overcrowded, violent and unclean.
Don’t take photographs without permission, especially of children. This is particularly important in more remote areas such as Quiché, Petén, San Marcos and Chiquimula provinces. There have been lynchings related to accusations and fears of child kidnapping for adoption or theft of vital organs. Foreigners have been caught up in the violence. You may be asked to pay a small amount of money to take photographs of both children and adults.
Homosexuality is not illegal, although there are currently no provisions in Guatemalan legislation guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. There is no recognition of same-sex marriages in Guatemala. In Guatemala City, local people are largely tolerant of different lifestyles and small displays of affection between same sex couples are accepted. Outside Guatemala City attitudes are more conservative and same-sex couples should avoid public displays of affection. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
In most parts of the country you can carry a photocopy of your passport for identification purposes. In San Pedro La Laguna, Sololá, local authorities may not accept a copy of your passport as identification, and may fine or detain you if you can’t produce your original passport or a certified copy when asked. You should ensure that your passport has sufficient validity and a plentiful supply of unused pages before you travel.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you are travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you are unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you are travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
Entry rules in response to coronavirus
You must keep to the social distancing rules and wear a mask at all times, in all public spaces, including at the airport.
Guatemala does not permit the entry of travellers who have been in the United Kingdom or South Africa in the 14 days prior to their arrival. On 16 April, Guatemala included Brazil in this provision. These measures do not apply to Guatemalan nationals, diplomats or foreign nationals legally resident in the country who must instead self-isolate for 10 days at their place of residence upon return.
To be eligible for entry, you must comply with one of the following options:
a. You must provide a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test, dated no more than 3 days before the date of your arrival in Guatemala. The 3 days commence from the date and time the test is conducted to the moment you check-in with the airline, or arrival at land border.
b. If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past 3 months, you must present a medical certificate from the health clinic where you were treated, that states the date you were diagnosed with COVID-19 (including the copy of the test) and confirmation of your recovery.
c. If you have received the COVID-19 vaccine, you must present evidence that you have received two doses (one dose if vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine). The last dose must have been administered no less than 2 weeks prior to the date of travel.
Passengers with journeys originating in, or transiting through Brazil, the UK or South Africa will not be permitted to board flights to Guatemala.
Guatemala does not permit the entry of travellers who have been in the United Kingdom, Brazil or South Africa in the 14 days prior to their arrival.
Local authorities have advised against travel if suffering from any respiratory disease or presenting COVID-19 symptoms.
Testing/screening on arrival
You should comply with any additional screening or testing measures put in place by the authorities.
There are no quarantine requirements. Upon arrival, you are required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR or antigen test, dated no more than 72 hours prior to check in at the airport, or arrival at land border .
24 hours before your arrival, you are required to register your details via the Guatemalan Health Pass website on this link.
Testing on departure
There is currently no testing upon departure in Guatemala. They will take your temperature upon arrival at the airport.
There have been reports of disruptions and tensions at the Mexico-Guatemala border. Periodic closures are possible and you are advised to check with local authorities before attempting to cross the land border.
Regular entry requirements
British citizens do not need a visa to visit Guatemala for up to 90 days. For further information on entry requirements for tourists and for those planning to work in Guatemala, contact the Guatemalan Embassy in London.
If you wish to extend your visa, you must submit an application to the Guatemalan Institute of Migration in Guatemala City. You can find more information on the website of the Guatemalan Institute of Migration (in Spanish).
If you overstay your visa then you should expect to pay a fine before leaving the country. This fine can only be paid at the main Migration office in Guatemala City. Fines can’t be paid at the airport or land borders.
The State of Calamity, which commenced on 5 March 2020, ended on 5 October. During which time, the length of stay for tourist permits was frozen. Now that the State of Calamity has ended, the length of stay has been unfrozen, and will be deducted as normal.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into Guatemala.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry to and exit from Guatemala. ETDs must have a minimum period of 6 months validity from the date you enter Guatemala.
If you’re travelling via the United States of America on an ETD, you’ll need to get a USA visa. For more information, please contact the USA Embassy in Guatemala.
Central America Border Control Agreement
Guatemala is part of the Central America Border Control Agreement (CA-4). Under the terms of this agreement, British tourists can travel within any of the CA-4 countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala) for a period of up to 90 days without completing entry and exit formalities at border immigration checkpoints. This period begins at the first point of entry of any of the CA-4 countries. Fines are applied for travellers who exceed this 90-day limit, although a request for an extension can be made for up to 30 days by paying a fee before the 90 days limit expires. If you are expelled from any of the four countries you are also excluded from the entire CA-4 region.
If you are planning on travelling to Nicaragua, before you travel please check information on entry requirements with your travel company, the Nicaraguan Immigration authorities, or your nearest Nicaraguan Embassy. Please also check our travel advice for Nicaragua.
There is a US$30 (or Quetzal equivalent) airport departure tax, which is normally included in the price of the ticket.
When crossing into Guatemala by land border, there have been numerous reports of customs/immigration officials charging an “entry fee”. This is illegal. By asking for an official receipt for your money you may find that the “fee” is dropped.
When entering the country, make sure your passport is stamped by a migration official. If you enter Guatemala without obtaining the relevant stamp, you are likely to receive a fine and may experience delays when leaving the country.
When crossing into Guatemala by the land border at El Carmen, be wary of people offering to help process your entry into the country.
Check the latest information on risk from COVID-19 for Guatemala on the TravelHealthPro website
See the healthcare information in the Coronavirus section for information on what to do if you think you have coronavirus while in Guatemala.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist is available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
While travel can be enjoyable, it can sometimes be challenging. There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
UK health authorities have classified Guatemala as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.
Hospitals in Guatemala are reluctant to give medical treatment unless they are satisfied that you have medical insurance. It is therefore essential that you carry evidence of your insurance cover at all times. Make sure you get confirmation from the hospital administration that your insurance coverage is accepted. In some hospitals the administration may ask you to pay upfront and you may have to claim on your insurance later. State-funded hospitals are often under-staffed, under-funded, ill-equipped, and can be unhygienic. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment and repatriation.
Water is generally unsafe to drink unless filtered, but bottled water is cheap and widely available.
Cases of Chikungunya virus and Dengue Fever have been confirmed in Guatemala.
Dengue fever epidemics occur every four to five years in Guatemala due to its tropical and subtropical climates.
For information please visit the National Travel Health Network and Centre website
You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes
The water in Lake Atitlan is not safe for drinking, or for swimming in certain areas. Check with local authorities before swimming in the lake, and seek medical advice if you fall ill during or immediately after a trip there.
In the 2013 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic the UNAIDS/WHO Working Group estimated that around 53,000 adults aged 15 or over in Guatemala were living with HIV; the prevalence was estimated at around 0.7% of the adult population compared to the prevalence percentage in adults in the UK of around 0.2%. Exercise precautions to avoid exposure to HIV and AIDS.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 122 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
The rainy season in Guatemala normally runs from June to November, coinciding with the hurricane season in the Caribbean. heavy rains cause frequent flooding, landslides and collapsed roads and bridges throughout the country. Monitor local media and consult your tour operator and PROATUR as travel routes are likely to face disruption. You should plan any travel carefully. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the World Meteorological Organisation and the National Hurricane Centre. Follow the advice of the local authorities, including any evacuation orders. For more general information see our Tropical Cyclones page.
Heavy rains cause frequent flooding, landslides and collapsed roads and bridges throughout the country. Monitor local media and consult your tour operator and PROATUR as travel routes are likely to face disruption.
The possibility of eruptions always exists.
Take care if you are near any active volcano. Monitor local media and seek advice from your tour operator in case of possible travel disruption.
Four of Guatemala’s volcanoes are currently active and the local authorities issue alerts in response to increased volcanic activity.
There have been several armed attacks on tourists climbing mountains. It is safer to go with others and hire a guide or take part in a tour with a reputable company. Contact the local tourist authority PROATUR for the latest information. Fuego, Santiaguito and Pacaya volcanoes are showing increased activity including lava and ash eruptions. Seek local advice before attempting a climb. You should avoid climbing volcanoes at night.
Take care when climbing the Tajumulco volcano. There have been incidents of unrest among local communities involved in land disputes. Contact PROATUR for the latest information before climbing the volcano.
Volcano climbs are rewarding but need careful preparation. Several of Guatemala’s volcanoes are over 4,000 metres high where temperatures drop to below freezing at night. Warm clothing and waterproofs are essential. Local tour organisers tend to underestimate the risks: six tourists died of exposure on Acatenango in January 2017. There is no mountain rescue service.
For further information visit the website of the Guatemalan disaster agency CONRED (in Spanish).
Guatemala is subject to frequent minor earth tremors and occasional earthquakes.
On 8 September 2017 there was an earthquake of magnitude 8.2 on the Richter scale off the coast of Chiapas, Mexico which caused severe damage in western Guatemala.
Make sure you know what action to take if an earthquake strikes. Follow the advice of the local authorities. Read the hotel earthquake instructions. During an earthquake, you should drop to the ground and take cover under sturdy furniture, in a doorway or next to an inside wall, away from windows or objects which may fall. Cover your head with a pillow or your arms and wait for the earthquake to stop, before moving to a safe area outside.
Debit cards are sometimes rejected by ATMs. Credit cards and travellers’ cheques are more reliable. It is safer to change money in hotels, at banks or at foreign exchanges offices. Credit and debit cards have been cloned after being used in ATMs. Check ATMs for evidence of tampering, although affected machines may not be easy to spot.
If credit cards are lost or stolen there may be difficulties obtaining a replacement as the UK Royal Mail is refusing to accept deliveries to Guatemala. You should use international courier companies to ensure delivery. Check with courier companies about any restrictions and their policy.
You will generally find it not possible to exchange pounds sterling in Guatemala. US dollars can be much more easily exchanged.
If you are abroad and need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) in London on 020 7008 5000 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe.
The FCDO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you are concerned about whether or not it is safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you have identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it is safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place have become unacceptably high, we will highlight this on the travel advice page for that country or territory and we will advise against all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCDO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you have booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or cannot offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider. If you are not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We no longer ask people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCDO travel advice
If you are looking for a previous version of the FCDO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. Versions prior to 2 September 2020 will be archived as FCO travel advice. If you cannot find the page you are looking for, send the Travel Advice Team a request.
If you are a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We are not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.