Don't let the recent history of Guatemala, including bloody civil wars and cruel dictators of the 1970s and 1980s, scare you off from visiting. The people of Guatemala are some of the friendliest you may find in Central America. Explore the archeological wonders in Northern Guatemala such as awe-inspiring Tikal, enjoy the friendly Garifuna culture on its small Caribbean coast, wander the gorgeous colonial streets of Antigua, observe the thriving Mayan culture in San Andres Xecul, or shop-till-you-drop in the huge market of Chichicastenango. You'll leave with great memories and start planning your next visit as soon as you get home. Learn more about border crossings, roads, and driving.
- Population: 13,000,000
- Capital: Guatemala City
- Fun fact: During the Quema del Diablo or Burning of the Devil celebration in the market town of Chichicastenango, men wearing suits of fireworks dance through the people with streets sparks shooting into the crowds.
Border Crossing Information
- Vehicle Title
- Proof of cancellation of Mexican vehicle import permit: Importancion Temporal de Vehiculos - Certificado de Retorno
- Q18 fumigation
- Q10 tourist permit
- Q40 for vehicle import permit
(Fees apparently scheduled to change at the whimsy of the border official)
It is wise to change Mexican pesos to Guatemalan quetzales before you arrive at the border, as the people offering to exchange money will not likely give you a favorable rate. After completing the necessary paperwork in Mexico, proceed into Guatemala where you may need to have your car fumigated. After paying Q18 to have the car sprayed (count the change they give you carefully, they may ´accidentally´ forgot to give you correct change), proceed to the migracion station with the proof of fumigation document. After examining and stamping your passport, you will pay for a tourist permit permisso 131 rp, which costs 10 quetzales. Next at the aduana the officer will inspect your car and ask to see you car title, passport, and the receipt showing that you canceled your Mexican vehicle import permit. You may also need your driver's license. You will get a receipt to bring to the Banrural nextdoor to payment for the necessary documents. After paying Q40, return to the aduana with proof of payment, where you will receive your vehicle import sticker for the window. They will also stamp your passport to indicate that you have imported a vehicle.
Procedure for Extensions in Guatemala City
- In Guatemala City, you may, as a courtesy, receive one extension of 90 days for both the temporary import permit and the tourist visa.
- As of February 2013, after one extension (for 180 days total) your vehicle must remain out of the country for 90 days before you can apply for another temporary import permit.
- You must extend your tourist visa first, at the Immigration Office in Zone 4. GPS: N14 37.297 W90 31.014. '''This process requires FIVE business days'''. Bring:
- Color (bring your own) or Black & White Passport Photo (available next door)
- Original Passport
- Two copies of the passport photo page
- One copy of the Guatemalan passport stamp
- Completed application form (available at the information window)
- 118.50Q (as of Feb 2013).
- To extend VALID temporary vehicle import permit, go to the SAT office at the airport. GPS: N14 35.056 W90 31.829. If vehicle import permit is EXPIRED, then you must go to the Central SAT office at Torre Azul, Av. 7 Calle 4, Zona 9. GPS: N14 36.461 W90 31.059 (approx.) Bring:
- Original import permit
- Original passport with valid tourist visa
- EXPIRED permits require notarized copies of passport pages and a written request: Lic. Berta Caceres, 7 avenida 7-07, zona 4, El Patio oficina 124 Telefono: 2331-6120, 2360-0482 23317053 - Fax: 2360-0812 firstname.lastname@example.org (English spoken)
Exiting Guatemala is a fairly simple process. You will show the border officials your passports and vehicle import permit documents. The countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are part of the CA-4, and for a period of 90 days tourists should be able to travel between the 4 countries without paying any fees (vehicle import permits are a separate issue). If you do not plan on driving back through Guatemala in the near future, surrender the sticker-permit you placed on our windshield when you entered Guatemala, and ensure that the stamp in your passport is cancelled. If you do plan to return within 90 days of your entry date, ask them to leave your permit "open" and not stamp you out. The process is fast, efficient, and free.
People's experiences vary depending on crowds at the border, corrupt or honest border officials, and rules can also change. People's individual experiences are described in the Guatemala- Additional Border Crossing article.
Roads and Driving
Not mandatory, but smart to have in case of a collision. We bought liability-only insurance in Flores/Santa Elena at Todo Riesgo. Their full address is 4a. Calle 6-76, Zona 1, Calle Principal, Santa Elena. Their phone number is 4210-8958. The prices at Jan 2014 were:
- 15 days: Q229.32
- 30 days: Q305.76
- 60 days: Q458.64
- 90 days: Q1,070.16
In Guatemala, speed bumps are called topes or tumulos, and you will find a large amount of them on many roads, sometimes unmarked.
The drivers in Guatemala tend to be more aggresive, especially trucks, chicken buses, taxis, and combis.
Road Conditions and Updates
(Updated: December 13, 2008)
Around Lago Atitlan The road from San Pedro La Laguna to Santiago Atitlan is unsafe according to a local person, claiming that the road swings far around the Volcan San Pedro and into an area that was once a Guerrilla training ground. This area is still an easy ambush road for persons to be attacked. The roads from Panajachel around the lake to San Marcos La Laguna are well travelled and pose no threat.
Antigua to Lago Atitlan Some guides will recommend not driving the direct route between Antigua and Lago Atitlan which winds through Patzicia and Patzun. This route is now safe due to an increased police force in the area due to the desire to keep tourism dollars flowing.
Highway 1 Highway 1 from the border in Mexico to Quetzaltenango (Xela) is in great shape - you will find this road in better shape than most roads in Mexico. Highway 1 from Quetzaltenango (Xela) to Antigua is in construction to turn the road into a four lane highway. This will cause delays and dangerous situations due to poorly marked constructions signs. It is advised to follow other vehicles since the road will change from a four lane highway to both directions of traffic sharing one side of a 4 lane highway without good signs indicating the change. You will also encounter hazardous low shoulders and low visibility due to dust.
Gas prices are expressed in the units of the specific country.
$4.92 per gallon
- Price is in Guatemalan Quetzales per liter Regular:
- Conversion: 1L=0.26 gallons, 7Q=$1.00 (US)