Select Page

10 Things you should know before visiting Guatemala

10 Things you should know before visiting Guatemala

Guatemala is an appealing country for first-time backpackers as well as seasoned travellers. We could sum up a lot of reasons for visiting Guatemala. The country has a lot of natural beauty and culture to discover, but there are also a few things to consider before visiting this Central American destination. Every country is different and the same counts for the beautiful Guatemala. If you don’t have the luxury of time or you just like to travel with a group, then we recommend this tour by G Adventures. Locals have a lot of habits and customs that might feel weird to someone who just arrived. That’s why you should know these interesting facts before visiting Guatemala. 

ATM’s don’t love your credit card

Getting money out of an ATM machine can really be a pain in the ass. In larger cities, which are mostly more touristy, your chances of being a winner at the ATM machine increase but nothing is certain until you hold that cash in your hand. On our first ‘over the ocean’ trip in 2012, our VISA card got skimmed. Now, we are using Travel Cards: Revolut and N26,  which allow us to top up an amount of money which is available within 3 working days. Most ATMs accept these travel cards. It is also possible to pay with them in stores without transfer costs. We keep the VISA card as a last resort.

Toilet paper goes in the bin, not in the toilet

On your first trip to a country which doesn’t have the best plumbing system in the world, it can come as a surprise that you’re not allowed to throw your toilet paper in the toilet. Instead, you just put it in the bin provided next to the toilet. At first, this can be a bit weird but you’ll get used to it pretty fast. And it is a good habit to keep when you’re travelling to other countries in Central- and South America as well. 

Do not drink the tap water

As is the case in many a country, the tap water in Guatemala isn’t drinkable. Locals often do drink the water from the tap but it is certainly not recommended. You can buy bottled and purified water in almost every store. Avoiding ice cubes in drinks can be smart, as you do not know if the ice cubes are made of drinkable water or not.   

Guatemalans can be Mayan as well as modern

There is a mix of cultures living in Guatemala. The indigenous people have a Mayan heritage and their clothing is often still in the tradition of their ancestors. Walking around in Guatemala, you will see people wearing what we call modern or more western clothes as well as the traditional, colourful garments of the Mayan. 

Guatemalan hostels can be cosy and modern

 

If you are not familiar with staying in hostels, it might come as a surprise to you that many hostels offer similar or even better deals than a lot of hotels do. As is also the case in Guatemala. There is a wide range of hostels you can choose from, varying in price and facilities. Mostly the cheapest option is to sleep in a dormitory where you share your room with other travellers. But if you like your privacy,  most hostels also offer cosy and clean private rooms. If you want to find good deals, you can use Hostelworld. Check reviews of other travellers on Tripadvisor. Or if you have the time, use our tips to bargain the best hostel price when you go hostel shopping. 

There is a great LGBT bar in Antigua

While travelling we love to dive into the LGBT scene, if there is one! We are constantly on a quest of finding a place where we can just for 100 % be ourselves. As there is most likely more than one LGBT bar in Guatemala, we have found a great one in Antigua! The place to be for LGBT and friends is called: FRIDAS ATICO. We were received with open arms and felt right at home. And above all, this is not only a bar but also a restaurant where they serve amazing food! It’s been around for 22 years now and the party continues! 

You can buy laminitas to exterminate mosquitoes

Despite carrying diseases like malaria or dengue fever, mosquitos are just incredibly irritating. Of course, you can wear clothing that covers you up head to toe and spray bug repellent on every uncovered inch of your delicious body. Sometimes it just won’t do. A mosquito net can keep these unwanted guest away while sleeping. Another method to get rid of these little vampires is old school insecticides. Maybe not everyone is a fan but most of the time it is very effective. Also in Guatemala, you can buy a plug-in (electricity plug) and little blue plates of insecticides called “laminitas.” One blue laminata a night is enough to sleep tight!

Spanish is not the only language

Travelling through Guatemala you will see a lot of indigenous people. They are descendants of a variety of Maya groups living all across the country. Although Spanish is the main language in Guatemala now, a lot of its original residents still speak their mother tongue; a Mayan language, like Q’eqchi or K’iche. No worries if you don’t understand any of it! A basic knowledge of Spanish can help you overcome a lot of predicaments encountered on the road.  

 

Not every green salsa is Guacamole

Of course, you know that not every green salsa is Guacamole. Still, it can be useful to remember this when getting excited while trying new food. Guatemala has its good deal of delicious dishes, don’t forget that they like to spice up their platters! Before getting generous with the sauces accompanying your dish, it can’t hurt to ask: “pica mucho?” (Is it hot?) 

A scam a day keeps the doctor away

And yes, last but not least, also in Guatemala they love to scam tourists. As there is a wide range of scams to choose from, the most commonly used are:

*Giving you a bad rate if you want to exchange money from one currency to another. Borders are the worst place to change your money!

*Letting you pay too much when using a taxi. It is always smart to discuss the price of a ride before getting in the cab and before the start of the ride. (And ask in your hotel/ hostel what the ride should cost)

*Overcharging when you buy souvenirs. Of course, this also depends on your bargaining skills and of what you think is appropriate to pay for their handicrafts.

*Making you believe their story when they try to sell you something. Sometimes the story is true, but don’t forget that it is also possible that it might just be a very good storyteller who is selling you this or that.

Anyway, these scams aren’t different from anywhere else in the world and most of the time they are pretty harmless, except for your wallet. 

 

The first time we set foot on Guatemalan land was in 2012 and we fell in love with all its beauty and friendly inhabitants. We didn’t speak a word of Spanish than and took a week of classes in Antigua. For us, it helped a lot to be able to have a basic conversation in Spanish. People react positively when they notice you are making an effort and it even helped us getting better deals. At the end of 2017, we travelled back to the country that stole our heart. We are happy to see that not much has changed. Although, there is one big difference; the cost of living. Prices rose high in comparison to 5 years ago. Everything has gotten more expensive; food, accommodation, transport and excursions. But it is still cheaper than travelling in a lot of other countries.

Guatemala, you will always be special to us!

Lesbian travel in Guatemala – How to do it

This time, I was not putting my hand on her waist and I didn’t pull her closer against my own body. Just watching her from a distance would do. The stunning viewpoint lay right behind us and we drove about 30 minutes in Pedro’s Tuc Tuc just to get here. I...

10 Things you should know before visiting Guatemala

Guatemala is an appealing country for first-time backpackers as well as seasoned travellers. We could sum up a lot of reasons for visiting Guatemala. The country has a lot of natural beauty and culture to discover, but there are also a few things to...

Getting around in Mexico – Transportation options

Mexico is a popular destination for backpackers as well as short-term travelers. Some of us like to book an all-inclusive stay at a resort, while others prefer to travel more spontaneously. Both options are good and there are a lot of cool places to see in...

Mexico – Natural Highlights

Mexico is a very popular travel destination for budget travelers as well as luxury travelers. The country offers everything you might wish. Beaches, cenotes, canyons, caves, waterfalls, colonial towns, … and so much more. If you plan on traveling to Mexico or you...

10 Reasons to visit Guatemala

On a trip through central America, Guatemala should certainly be included in the itinerary. It may not be as popular as its big brother Mexico but it has all the assets to sweep you of your feet. It might even be one of our most memorable countries visited ever. Here...

Lesbian night life in Playa Del Carmen – Does it exist?

Imagine yourself arriving at a new destination after an exhausting day of travel. Next to the desk in your hostel, you find a poster for an LGBT event that is taking place… tonight! What a coincidence! As a queer traveler, an unexpected lesbian event in the town...

Flores and the Mayan heritage

The Péten region in Guatemala is known for its numerous ruins and Mayan culture. Flores is a perfect hub to visit a lot of these temples. As a tiny peninsula in Lago Peten Itza, this cozy little town is almost completely surrounded by water.The colonial town is a...

Lago Atitlan – All you need to know

This post contains affiliate links. This means if you purchase something through one of these links, we get a small commission on the sale. You will never pay extra for an affiliate product. Lago Atitlan is a volcanic crater lake in the Guatemalan Highlands. The area...

Semuc Champey – Natural wonder in Guatemala

Semuc Champey is a Guatemalan gem that every traveler in Guatemala should visit. Located in the heart of the Guatemalan jungle, these natural pools lie on top of the fast flowing Rio Cahabon. The river itself is perfect for floating on inner tubes. Most hostels in the...

Rio Dulce – Guatemalan Paradise

  Rio Dulce or the sweet river connects the Caribbean with the Guatemalan mainland. The canyon leaves Lago Izabal as a wide river and narrows along the way. River banks show dense vegetation and every now and then small settlements where kids are playing. Over...

About The Author

Lobke

Hi! I am Lobke . I am a passionate traveler, photographer, and an aspiring writer. My mission is to discover the world and understand different cultures. I want to take you on my quest to broaden my horizon.

Share your thoughts!

About Only Once Today

About Only Once Today

Claim your AirBnB Discount!

Earn 35€ AirBnB Travel Credit - Only Once Today

Buy us a coffee!

A ridiculous amount of coffee was consumed while creating this website. Add some fuel to keep us going! :)

Affiliate Notice

Some of our posts contain affiliate links. This means if you purchase something through one of these links, we get a small commission on the sale. You will never pay extra for an affiliate product. Thanks for your support!

N26 Travel Card

Top 100 Lesbian Blog

Only Once Today - Once More Tomorrow - Europe - Opt In

You just joined our Tribe

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share it now!

Tell your friends about this!