What do tourists think of Guatemala?
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The spread of COVID-19 continues to lead to restrictions in international air and travel traffic and impairment of public life.
There are currently warnings against unnecessary tourist trips to Guatemala.
Guatemala continues to be affected by COVID-19. The regional focus is the region around the capital Guatemala City.
Guatemala is still classified as a risk area. The Guatemalan Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) provide current and detailed figures.
The airports in Guatemala as well as the national borders are open to foreign travelers. At the time of entry or border crossing, all foreigners must present a negative PCR / antigen test result. The test must not be older than 3 days at check-in. The authorities can order quarantine if symptoms are detected upon entry and this indicates the need for a PCR test to be carried out at the airport. Persons fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can provide a certificate stating that two doses have been administered. Those who have been infected with COVID-19 in the last three months can provide a medical certificate stating that they have fully recovered and are no longer infectious.
The immigration authorities provide information about the entry requirements due to the pandemic.
In Guatemala, PCR / antigen test appointments can be made online with the laboratories. Samples can be taken directly on site in the laboratory. It is also possible to arrange a home visit for a surcharge.
Depending on the laboratory and test, the prices and the waiting time for the laboratory results (up to 24 hours) vary. The costs for antigen tests start at Q300.00 (EUR 35.00) and for PCR tests at Q600.00 (EUR 65.00).
Tests can also be carried out on site at Aeropuerto Internacional La Aurora Airport in Guatemala City.
Transit and onward travel
It is currently not possible for foreigners who are not resident in Belize to leave Guatemala for Belize. The land border with Mexico is closed. It is only possible to enter Guatemala from Mexico via the land border. Other neighboring countries may have stricter entry requirements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inland public transport is restricted. International flight connections to and from Guatemala have been resumed, albeit to a limited extent.
Restrictions in the country
Authorities, churches, institutions, shops and markets sometimes work with limited capacity and opening times. Staying in public parks is only permitted until 7 p.m., alcohol consumption in public is prohibited after 8 p.m. Bathing beaches / lakes and other tourist destinations are partially closed. Larger gatherings or events, as well as church services, are prohibited or only permitted under strict conditions up to a maximum of 9 p.m. and only with a very small number of participants (depending on the area of the respective location). In many shops and authorities, only a reduced number of customers are allowed to enter, the temperature of the customers is always measured.
Mouth and nose protection is mandatory in public spaces. Exceptions apply to children under two years of age. Distance rules must be observed.
- Pay close attention to compliance with the AHA regulations and also follow the instructions of local authorities. Penalties can be imposed for violations of the hygiene regulations.
- Find out about detailed measures and additional information from the Guatemalan government (only in Spanish).
- In the event of COVID-19 symptoms or contact with infected people, contact the authorities on 1517.
- Stays in foreign countries can currently affect the possibility of entering other countries. Therefore, find out about the current regulations on entry, transit and quarantine in the respective travel countries via the travel and safety information before starting any trip.
- When you return to Germany, note the valid entry restrictions such as registration, test and quarantine regulations, inquire about the current conditions of carriage at the responsible company or your tour operator, if necessary, and contact the health department at your place of residence or residence if you are entering from a risk area . Further information can be found in our continuously updated info box on COVID-19 / Coronavirus.
In Guatemala City and other large cities, but also in rural areas, demonstrations can lead to traffic obstructions such as road blockades. Violent clashes broke out in central Guatemala City on November 21, 2020. The situation has calmed down in the meantime.
- Find out about the local media, especially before visiting the city center.
- Avoid demonstrations and large crowds in large areas.
- Follow the instructions of local security guards.
Guatemala has a high crime rate. In addition to general street crime, Guatemala is also the scene of clashes in the area of gang crime. The inhibition threshold when using violence is low.
In Guatemala City, using the red city buses is dangerous, the green city buses (“Transmetro”) and the blue buses (“Transurbano”) are considered to be relatively safe. There are occasional attacks on public buses. Assaults on pedestrians and drivers take place at any time of the day, even in heavy rush hour traffic, and are usually committed by several armed perpetrators together. The “Zona Viva” business and nightlife district in Zone 10, where most hotels and restaurants are located, is not entirely safe either.
The risk of robberies also exists in tourist centers such as Antigua, Flores, Tikal and on Lake Atitlán. Volcanoes are often the scene of attacks on tourists. The danger of robberies and of negotiating paths is not to be underestimated there.
Resistance can have tragic consequences in the event of a robbery, as weapons are widespread and there is a low threshold for using them.
Arbitrary measures by security forces are possible and can also be directed against foreigners.
- Be particularly careful in large crowds and when traveling inland and refrain from carrying or showing valuables.
- Keep money, IDs, driver's license, air tickets and other important documents safe and separate from each other.
- Clarify your travel route with the Guatemalan tourism authority INGUAT before you start your journey and, if necessary, ask for security escort.
- In Guatemala City, refrain from using the red city buses and use the green or blue ones.
- Avoid lonely streets and inanimate areas at night and, if possible, during the day as well.
- Do not undertake excursions to the volcanoes without the company of the police or a licensed guide and do not undertake other hikes or trekking tours alone.
- Do not offer any resistance in the event of a robbery and, if possible, carry a smaller amount of money in a separate wallet and possibly a second mobile phone with you.
- Prefer cashless payments and only take the cash you need for the day and no unnecessary valuables.
- Be skeptical about unfamiliar e-mails, profit notifications, offers and requests for help from alleged acquaintances. Do not disclose any data about yourself; if necessary, make sure yourself personally or contact the police.
Nature and climate
Earthquakes and volcanoes
Guatemala lies in a seismically active zone, which is why earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can occur.
The volcanoes Fuego and Pacava, located southwest of Guatemala City, again showed increased activity several times over the course of this year, most recently on March 23, 2021. The emission of pyroclastic currents in June / July 2018 led to numerous fatalities and evacuations. At the moment, extreme caution is advised when climbing the volcanoes.
Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions can repeatedly lead to road closures and restrictions in air traffic.
Tropical storms and floods
The climate is tropical on the coasts and temperate in the central highlands. June through November is hurricane season in the Caribbean and Central America. During this time, strong tropical storms and heavy rain can be expected on the coasts.
In addition to flooding, heavy rainfall can lead to landslides that make the roads impassable for several hours. There is a particular risk in residential areas in valleys surrounded by mountains, so-called barrancos. There can be landslides due to serious infrastructure deficiencies due to uncontrolled development.
- Always observe prohibitions, signs and warnings as well as the instructions of local authorities.
- Find out more from the Guatemalan Disaster Management Agency CONRED and the Institute for Seismology INSIVUMEH.
- Familiarize yourself with behavioral guidelines for earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. These are provided by the fact sheets of the German Research Center for Geosciences.
- Regularly track weather reports and be alert for storm warnings from the National Hurricane Center.
- In the event of a storm warning, please note the information on hurricanes abroad.
Infrastructure / traffic
Traffic routes may be impaired due to measures related to COVID-19 containment, see Current.
Nocturnal travel, even in your own car or rental car, outside of the cities and on remote routes is strongly discouraged. There is an increased risk of accidents, among other things. through unlit vehicles, potholes, stray dogs or obstacles on the road.
The signage is bad. Public intercity buses are more often the target of gangs. Many of these buses are in poor technical condition and therefore have a considerable risk of accidents. Better-maintained coaches and minibuses run by travel agencies, which are considered to be safer, drive to the main tourist centers from the capital and from Antigua.
After accidents, the traveler cannot expect compensation from bus transport companies or domestic airlines.
Only very sporadically set up signposts and signs make orientation difficult for those unfamiliar with the country when traveling by rental car.
Roadside signals asking for roadside assistance can be pretexts for criminal offenses.
Clauses in the rental contract can have serious consequences for tourists, especially with regard to an obligatory deductible and the usually calculated “perdida de uso” (loss of use). In the event of damage, this will be charged to the renter according to daily rates for the time in which the car is likely to break down due to repairs.
The INGUAT tourism authority offers the “Safe Taxis” program. Taxi drivers who have been specially checked and registered with INGUAT can be arranged for the capital, Antigua and the pier of the cruise ships by calling +502 2421 2810 or by dialing 1500. A corresponding INGUAT station is also located in the capital's airport, for example. Otherwise, licensed taxis can be recognized by their license plates that begin with the letter "A" and a license number that is noted on the side doors.
- Use a good navigation system, e.g. WAZE, for journeys during the day and be particularly careful with detours, as routes can be unsafe.
- If possible, do not travel alone, but in organized groups or with a guide.
- For day trips, leave a message at the hotel telling you where you are going and approximately when you are due to return.
- Be cautious when using public buses and make sure you have a minimum standard of safety, if necessary use minibuses.
- Always take care of your luggage and, if possible, do not leave it loaded onto the roof of the bus.
- When driving overland, do not stop because of signals from third parties, but continue to the nearest police station or petrol station if possible.
- Be extra careful when traveling by rental car and check the insurance conditions carefully.
- Avoid using taxis without a license and if possible use the yellow or green "radio taxis" (Taxi Amarillo, Taxi Verde) in the capital, which can only be requested by telephone.
The German driving license is recognized for tourist stays, but it is advisable to take the international driving license with you, which is only valid in conjunction with the national German driving license.
Special instructions on how to behave
Before photographing or filming the indigenous population, it is advisable to obtain their consent. Photographing children should generally be avoided. There are always misunderstandings (kidnapping, etc.) with the risk that the local population will react aggressively.
Homosexuality is not a criminal offense, but there is also no legal protection against discrimination. Same-sex marriages are not recognized. Tolerance towards LGBTIQ is good in the capital and rather low in rural areas.
Guatemalan drug legislation provides harsh penalties for possession, use, and trafficking of drugs.
- Avoid at all costs taking letters, parcels etc. for other people across the border and do not transport them within the country without knowing their contents.
Money / credit cards
The local currency is the Quetzal (GTQ), credit cards (Visa, American Express, Mastercard) are generally accepted as a method of payment. Cash can be withdrawn using credit cards from most ATMs. Exchanging US dollars is often easier and cheaper than exchanging euros, so it is advisable to take cash with you in US dollars.
Credit / debit card fraud and credit card cloning occur nationwide, both when using ATMs and when paying. It is recommended that you only use ATMs that are monitored by cameras, bank staff, etc. If the card is retained by the machine, it may be an attempt at fraud.
- Use credit cards only in front of your eyes and ask for a mobile terminal if necessary.
- Check your account activity regularly
- Report fraud to the Guatemalan police.
Entry and customs
Entry and transit regulations may currently differ due to measures to contain COVID-19, see Current.
Entry and import regulations for German citizens can change at short notice without notifying the Foreign Office beforehand. You can only obtain legally binding information and / or information that goes beyond this information on the entry and customs regulations for importing goods directly from the representatives of your destination country.
You can find the customs regulations for Germany on the website of German customs and via the “Customs and Travel” app, or you can inquire about them by telephone.
Entry for German citizens is possible with the following documents:
- passport: Yes
- Temporary passport: Yes
- Identity card: No
- PreliminaryIdentity card: No
- Children's passport: Yes
Notes / minimum remaining validity:
All travel documents must be valid for another six months upon entry.
German citizens do not need a visa for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua for stays of up to 90 days.
It is essential to ensure that the passport has an entry stamp. Particularly when entering from neighboring countries overland, it is important to obtain the entry stamp in order to avoid difficulties when leaving the country.
If the entry stamp is missing, a time-consuming visit to the authorities with personal presence in the capital is usually necessary.
An extension of 90 days can be requested from the Immigration Service.
Minors traveling alone should carry a certified declaration of consent from the legal guardian in German (with Spanish translation) or in English when entering the country.
Entry and exit via the USA
Local and foreign currencies can be imported and exported without restriction, but must be declared from a value of 10,000 US dollars.
In order to prevent the spread of BSE and foot and mouth disease, the import of fresh products of animal origin (e.g. meat and sausage products, dairy products, raw wool, etc.) is prohibited. Further information is available from the competent authority: Servicio Nacional de Cuarentena Animal.
For pets, a valid international veterinary health certificate, a vaccination or, better still, the EU pet passport, and notifications from veterinary offices and the Guatemalan embassy are required, so that they should be contacted in any case.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the disease COVID-19, which is triggered by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, a pandemic.
In January 2019, WHO declared delaying or skipping vaccinations as a threat to global health. In particular, the lack of vaccination against measles poses a high risk when the number of cases increases internationally.
- As part of your travel preparations, check your and your children's vaccination protection against measles and have this supplemented if necessary.
No compulsory vaccinations are required for direct entry from Germany. When entering from areas endemic to yellow fever, proof of a yellow fever vaccination is required from the age of 1. This also applies to transit stays of more than twelve hours in a yellow fever area.
- Make sure that you and your children have the standard vaccinations according to the vaccination calendar of the Robert Koch Institute up to date.
- Hepatitis A and polio are recommended as travel vaccinations, and hepatitis B, typhoid and rabies for long-term stays or special exposure.
- Please note the instructions for use and help for the indication in the travel vaccination recommendations leaflet.
The DTG offers up-to-date, detailed travel vaccination recommendations for specialist groups.
Zika virus infection
The predominantly diurnal AedesMosquito-borne infection with Zika viruses can lead to malformations in children during pregnancy and neurological complications in adults.
Dengue viruses become diurnal in many parts of the country Aedes- Mosquitoes transmitted. The disease is usually associated with fever, skin rash and pronounced pain in the limbs and is increasingly affecting travelers as well. In rare cases, especially in children, serious complications, including possible death, occur. Overall, however, complications for travelers are rare. There is neither a vaccination nor chemoprophylaxis nor a specific therapy against dengue fever, see also information sheet on dengue fever.
- To avoid dengue fever, protect yourself consistently against mosquito bites as part of exposure prophylaxis, especially during the day.
There are currently cases of Chikungunya in Guatemala, starting from the Caribbean island of St. Martin in January 2014, as in other areas of the region.
Chikungunya viruses are diurnal Aedes- Mosquitoes transmitted. The disease is characterized by a high fever and possibly prolonged joint and muscle pain. The symptoms can often not be clearly distinguished from other mosquito-borne diseases. Chikungunya fever does not always heal without consequences; long-term rheumatism-like symptoms rarely occur. There is neither a vaccination nor chemoprophylaxis nor a specific therapy, see also information sheet on Chikungunya fever.
- To avoid Chikungunya fever, protect yourself consistently against mosquito bites as part of exposure prophylaxis, especially during the day.
Malaria is caused by crepuscular and nocturnal anopheles- Mosquitoes transmitted. If left untreated, the dangerous one is particularly dangerous Malaria tropica often fatal in non-immune Europeans. The disease can break out weeks to months after your stay in the risk area, see also the Malaria leaflet.
- If you develop a fever during or even months after a corresponding trip, see the doctor as soon as possible and inform him about your stay in a malaria area.
There is a medium transmission risk all year round (p. Falciparum approx. 1%) in rural areas below 1,500 m altitude, especially in the Zacapa department in the border area with Honduras.
To avoid malaria, protect yourself consistently against insect bites as part of exposure prophylaxis. You should pay particular attention to the following points:
- Wear light-colored clothing that covers the body (long trousers, long shirts).
- Repeatedly apply insect repellent to all exposed parts of the body, during the day (dengue) as well as in the evening and at night (malaria).
- If necessary, sleep under an impregnated mosquito net.
Depending on the travel profile, in addition to the necessary exposure prophylaxis, chemoprophylaxis (tablet intake) is also useful. Various prescription drugs (e.g. atovaquone proguanil, doxycycline, mefloquine) are available on the German market for this purpose.
Discuss the choice of medication and its personal adjustment as well as side effects or intolerance to other medication with a tropical medicine or travel medicine specialist before taking it.
It is recommended that you bring sufficient supplies with you.
In 2019, vaccine-derived polioviruses were detected in two environmental samples in Guatemala. No cases in humans have been reported to date. All travelers should have full polio vaccination with booster vaccinations every 10 years. Further information can be found in the information sheet Polio vaccination when traveling abroad.
The cutaneous and mucocutaneous forms occur in many parts of the country. The unicellular parasites are also transmitted by mosquitoes. Protection against mosquitoes is also recommended in this regard (see above).
Throughout the year, leptospirosis can occasionally be transmitted through water contaminated with rodent excretions. This bacterial infection usually proceeds like a mild flu-like infection, but in rare cases it can also lead to serious involvement of the liver and kidneys. If exposure is expected, drug prophylaxis with doxycycline can be considered in individual cases after careful risk assessment by a travel or tropical medicine specialist.
Trypanosomiasis ("Mal de Chagas")
In Guatemala, American trypanosomiasis (Chagas) can be transmitted through excretions from predatory bugs that live in cracks in simple dwellings in rural areas. These can be ingested through the bite of infected bedbugs or, less often, through contaminated fruit or sugar cane juices. Correctly attached bed nets can provide protection against bites. In the acute phase of the disease, flu-like symptoms and possibly swelling of the eyelids are in the foreground. Serious organ changes in the heart and digestive tract can occur up to years after the infection. Overall, the risk for travelers of getting Chagas is very low.
- Use correctly attached bed nets to protect against bites.
HIV / AIDS
There is always a high risk of HIV transmission through sexual contact, drug use (unclean syringes or cannulas) and blood transfusions.
- Always use condoms, especially on casual acquaintances.
Overall, health care, especially in rural areas of Guatemala, is often not comparable with the technical and hygienic standards prevailing in Germany. Planned interventions should therefore be carried out in Germany if possible.
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