Guatemala travel advice
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Guatemala - Exercise a high degree of caution
Exercise a high degree of caution in Guatemala due to high levels of violent crime, roadblocks, strikes and demonstrations that occur throughout the country.
Regional advisories - Avoid non-essential travel
Avoid non-essential travel to the following areas due to very high levels of violent crime:
Within Guatemala City:
- Zone 3
- Zone 18
- Zone 19
- Zone 21
- San José del Golfo
- San Raymundo
- Villa Nueva
Safety and security
The Guatemalan Presidential transition took place on January 14, 2024. Demonstrations could occur throughout the country in the following weeks, particularly in Zone 1 of Guatemala City. Demonstrations could affect your ability to travel safely across Guatemala, including on major roads.
If you participate in demonstrations as a foreigner, you may face detention, deportation or be denied future entry into Guatemala.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for up-to-date information on the situation
Violent crime, including homicides, is common in Guatemala. Due to a lack of resources within the police force, arrest and detention rates are quite low. There have been incidents involving deceptive police officers who commit petty crimes, while other officers have reportedly been involved in sexual assault cases.
Most incidents are drug- and gang-related. They occur throughout the country, including in tourist destinations. Travellers have been attacked when visiting volcanoes and other tourist sites. Rifles and handguns are very common.
Criminals perceive foreigners as wealthy. As a result, travellers are often victims of robbery and carjacking. They have also been subject to armed assault and sexual assault, including rape.
Incidents of armed robbery occur daily on public buses. Buses are frequently targeted by gangs, who may hurl grenades or fire shots as a way of ensuring compliance with their demands or to settle accounts. Criminals have attacked drivers, fare collectors and passengers.
Due to very high levels of violent crime, you should avoid non-essential travel to certain:
- zones in Guatemala City
- municipalities in Guatemala and Escuintla departments
- departments along the borders with El Salvador and Honduras
- highways throughout the country
Crimes that occur in these areas include:
- sexual assaults
Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, is prevalent in urban and tourist areas, especially in:
- national parks
- other crowded places
Crime tends to increase during the holiday seasons.
Schemes often involve some form of distraction. Criminals frequently operate in groups and, increasingly, on motorcycles. Typically, two men on a motorcycle accost a pedestrian or driver stuck in traffic and demand valuables.
Some criminals also pose as police officers. They may tell you they are drug enforcement officers and then take you to a side road where they steal everything from you. Victims who have resisted have been injured or killed.
If travelling to Guatemala:
- don’t display signs of affluence, especially upon arrival at the airport, where travellers have been followed and robbed or carjacked en route to Guatemala City and Antigua
- keep laptop computers, mobile phones and other personal electronic devices out of sight, and refrain from using them in public
- ensure that your belongings, including passports and other travel documents, are secure at all times
- carry only a copy of the identification page of your passport and enough money for the day
- if threatened by robbers, do not resist: hand over your valuables and cash immediately
Express kidnappings have occurred. The kidnappers usually force their victims to withdraw funds from an ATM or to arrange for family or friends to pay the ransom. Criminal taxi drivers often use this ploy. They first pick up the victim and then stop to pick up associates.
- Be cautious of strangers
- Avoid travelling alone, especially at night
- Avoid isolated areas and secondary roads
- Avoid low-cost hotels with poor security
- Avoid excessive alcohol and narcotic consumption, as it can make you a more vulnerable target for criminals
Border areas often see higher levels of criminal activity and violence. Crime rates are high near all border crossings in Guatemala, but are worse near unofficial ones.
Drug-related armed attacks occur in departments close to all borders. The southwestern department of San Marcos at the Guatemala-Mexico border and the zone at the border with Belize are especially affected.
There is a heightened security presence at the official Guatemala-Mexico border points due to increased migration flows. Military and police forces conduct random vehicle searches along all borders. Wait times may be long.
Many border posts close for lunch and at dusk.
- Travel only through official border crossings
- Allow enough time for border formalities
- Cross only during the daytime and allow enough time to reach your destination or a major city before dark
Credit card and ATM fraud occurs.
When using debit or credit cards:
- pay careful attention when others are handling your cards
- use ATMs located in public areas or inside a bank or business
- avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
- cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
- check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements
Demonstrations take place frequently. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
Vigilante justice has increased in rural areas, resulting in lynchings of suspected child abductors, extortionists and other criminals.
Many people in Guatemala fear that children are being kidnapped for illegal adoption or sexual abuse. Photographing children and women, especially in areas with Indigenous presence, may result in exacerbating this fear. Violent incidents involving foreigners taking photos have occurred.
Avoid approaching or photographing children and women, especially in Indigenous communities.
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.
Incidents of sexual assault have also occurred, including on buses. Some tourist service-providers build trusting relationships with female tourists and then sexually assault them.
- Avoid travelling alone, with informal guides or with strangers, even if they appear friendly and helpful
- Use only reputable tour guides or buses
- Ensure the tour guide has a name tag with the name of the tour company
Spiked food and drinks
The spiking of drinks is a problem in tourist areas, especially in Antigua. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, including taxi drivers. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
Mountain activities, such as hiking, can be dangerous, especially if they are not well-organized. Trails are not always marked and weather conditions can change rapidly, even in summer.
Some volcanoes are at high altitude, with sub-zero temperatures at night. Warm and waterproof attire is essential. Local tour companies might underestimate the risk of hypothermia.
There is no mountain rescue service in Guatemala.
If you intend on hiking, including on volcanoes:
- never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
- buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
- ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
- ensure that you’re properly equipped
- stay informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
- inform a family member or friend of your itinerary
- know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
- obtain detailed information on hiking routes before setting out and do not venture off marked trails
Coastal waters can be dangerous. Riptides are common.
Not all beaches have lifeguards or warning flags.
- Exercise caution when swimming
- Don’t swim alone, after hours or outside marked areas
- Consult residents and tour operators for information on possible hazards and safe swimming areas
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
Tour operators may not adhere to international standards.
If you participate in adventure activities, such as zip-lining, diving and whitewater rafting:
- choose a well-established and reputable company that has insurance
- make sure safety equipment, such as helmets and life jackets, are available and in good condition
- make sure your travel insurance covers the recreational activities you choose
- avoid challenging rivers, such as the Cahabón, Los Esclavos, Nahualate and Naranjo rivers, if you don’t have previous rafting experience
If in doubt concerning the safety of the facilities or equipment, don’t use them.
Road safety and road conditions can vary greatly throughout the country. While most roads in urban areas are in fair condition, travel on secondary streets and rural roads can be hazardous due to:
- poor maintenance and lighting
- poorly maintained vehicles
- lack of road signs
- pedestrians on the road
- steep and winding mountain roads
- mudslides and rock slides during the rainy season, which can also affect main highways in mountainous regions
Local drivers generally don’t respect traffic laws. They are often reckless. Driving under the influence of alcohol is also common.
There is heavy traffic on:
- the Pan-American Highway (CA-1)
- the road from Guatemala City to the Atlantic Ocean (CA-9)
Police presence is scarce on:
- the isolated dirt roads near Lake Atitlan
- the road from Godínez to Panajachel
Seek advice from a registered travel agency if you plan off-road travel in the remote highlands of Petén to ensure you’re prepared and properly equipped.
Roadblocks erected because of roadwork are common, particularly in the following northern and western departments:
- Alta Verapaz
- San Marcos
These roadblocks may cause substantial delays.
Illegal roadblocks are also frequent. They can occur on the main roads leading to Guatemala City’s La Aurora International Airport.
- avoid travelling at night
- drive with car windows closed and doors locked at all times
- be prepared to change your travel plans in case of roadblocks
- don’t go through roadblocks without stopping, even if they appear unattended
PROVIAL, the government roadside assistance agency, patrols most of the major highways and provides updates on roads conditions.
PROVIAL - Directorate General of Road Safety and Protection (in Spanish)
Local public buses, known as “chicken buses”, are not safe. Most of the time, they are recycled school buses mechanically unreliable. They are often overcrowded. Unlicensed drivers often drive at excessive speeds. They are frequently involved in major road accidents, and serious crimes occur on board.
Avoid using chicken buses.
Privately owned bus lines, including Transmetro and Transurbano in Guatemala City, are safer, but passengers have been subject to attacks at stations. If you travel by bus:
- travel only during daylight hours
- make sure the transportation provider is reputable and reliable before booking
- confirm your drop-off location, because Guatemala City Council no longer allows some intercity buses to enter the city centre
Hotel-associated taxis and yellow cabs (taxis amarillos), which operate in Guatemala City, are considered safe. White taxis operate independently and are considered dangerous. They have been involved in cases of extortion, petty theft and other crimes.
- Avoid boarding taxis at taxi stands or flagging taxis in the street
- Avoid using white taxis
- If using hotel taxis, request the service at the front desk and always look for the hotel logo on the car
- When travelling by air, pre-arrange your pickup with your hotel prior to your arrival or use authorized airport taxis
- Note the driver's name on the picture identification badges, as well as the licence number
- Never share a taxi with strangers
- Make sure the driver doesn’t pick up other passengers along the way to your destination
- Negotiate the fare in advance
- Have small bills available for payment
Several ridesharing services are also available but safety varies depending on the company.
Ridesharing services drivers are sometimes targets of taxi drivers who oppose these services. As a result, some may ask you to sit in the front seat to hide the fact that they are providing a rideshare service.
- Use ridesharing services from a trusted app only
- Confirm the driver’s identity and the licence plate before getting in the car
Tuk-tuks / rickshaw taxis / moto taxis
These two- or three-wheeled motorcycles with passenger cabins are unsafe. While they operate with taxi licences, they are not regulated and are frequently involved in accidents.
Avoid riding in tuk-tuks, rickshaw taxis or moto taxis.
Illegal drug traders may operate vessels in Guatemalan waters. Boaters in the Rio Dulce area of Izabal have been the victim of violent armed attacks.
- Avoid boating at night
- Enter Guatemala only through official ports of entry staffed by Guatemalan immigration officers
- Use officially recognized docking and berthing facilities only
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Entry and exit requirements
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Guatemalan authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada.
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave Guatemala.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Passport with “X” gender identifier
While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Tourist visa: not required for stays of up to 90 days
Business visa: not required for stays of up to 90 days
Student visa: required
You may request an extension of up to 90 days from the Guatemala Directorate General of Migration. If you wish to conduct business or stay in Guatemala for a period exceeding 6 months, you require a visa.
Guatemala Directorate General of Migration – Government of Guatemala (in Spanish)
When entering Guatemala by land or sea, you must obtain an entry stamp in your passport.
If you fail to present your entry stamp when departing Guatemala, you may be fined and experience delays.
If you enter Guatemala with a vehicle, you must comply with the deadline for leaving the country, which is indicated on the temporary importation form provided by Guatemalan customs at the port of entry. If you fail to leave Guatemala with your vehicle by the expiry date, you will be subject to a fine for the extra days.
Electronic declaration form
You must complete an electronic declaration form before arriving and leaving Guatemala. You will then receive a QR code. Keep your QR code in order to present it to authorities upon your arrival or departure.
Electronic declaration form - Government of Guatemala
Central America-4 Border Control Agreement
Under the terms of the Central America-4 Border Control Agreement (CA-4), Canadian tourists may travel freely within any of the following CA-4 countries:
- El Salvador
You can travel between these countries for up to 90 days without having to undergo entry and exit formalities at border immigration checkpoints.
You must still check in at immigration counters when you enter or exit these checkpoints.
The 90-day period begins at the first point of entry to any of the CA-4 countries. You will be fined if you exceed the 90-day limit.
You may request an extension of up to 90 days once a year. You must request this extension and pay the required fee at the Guatemala Directorate General of Migration before your first 90-day limit expires. Immigration authorities will determine the length of the extension.
Guatemala Directorate General of Migration (in Spanish)
Children and travel
Children travelling with only one parent or with a third party must travel with a notarized letter of consent from the other parent, both parents or their guardian.
- Immigration exit requirements – Government of Guatemala (in Spanish)
- Recommended consent letter for children travelling abroad
- Travel with children
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.
Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Pre-travel vaccines and medications
You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary.
Yellow Fever - Country Entry Requirements
Yellow fever is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
Country Entry Requirement*
- Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country where yellow fever occurs.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
- Contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada
* It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
There is a risk of hepatitis A in this destination. It is a disease of the liver. People can get hepatitis A if they ingest contaminated food or water, eat foods prepared by an infectious person, or if they have close physical contact (such as oral-anal sex) with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.
Practise safe food and water precautions and wash your hands often. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers to areas where hepatitis A is present.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is caused by parasites spread through the bites of mosquitoes.
There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this destination.
Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic before travelling to discuss your options. It is recommended to do this 6 weeks before travel, however, it is still a good idea any time before leaving.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times:
• Cover your skin and use an approved insect repellent on uncovered skin.
• Exclude mosquitoes from your living area with screening and/or closed, well-sealed doors and windows.
• Use insecticide-treated bed nets if mosquitoes cannot be excluded from your living area.
• Wear permethrin-treated clothing.
If you develop symptoms similar to malaria when you are travelling or up to a year after you return home, see a health care professional immediately. Tell them where you have been travelling or living.
In this destination, rabies is commonly carried by dogs and some wildlife, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. While travelling, take precautions, including keeping your distance from animals (including free-roaming dogs), and closely supervising children.
If you are bitten or scratched by a dog or other animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. In this destination, rabies treatment may be limited or may not be available, therefore you may need to return to Canada for treatment.
Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who are at high risk of exposure (e.g., occupational risk such as veterinarians and wildlife workers, children, adventure travellers and spelunkers, and others in close contact with animals).
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus. Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.
Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
The flu occurs worldwide.
- In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs from November to April.
- In the Southern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs between April and October.
- In the tropics, there is flu activity year round.
The flu vaccine available in one hemisphere may only offer partial protection against the flu in the other hemisphere.
The flu virus spreads from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Clean your hands often and wear a mask if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms.
Safe food and water precautions
Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.
- Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
- Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs.
Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insect bite prevention
Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:
- Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
- Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
- Minimize exposure to insects
- Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed
To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.
Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.
There is a risk of chikungunya in this country. The risk may vary between regions of a country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease) is a risk in this country. It is caused by a parasite spread by infected triatomine bugs. The infection can be inactive for decades, but humans can eventually develop complications causing disability and even death.
Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from triatomine bugs, which are active at night, by using mosquito nets if staying in poorly-constructed housing. There is no vaccine available for Chagas disease.
- In this country, dengue is a risk to travellers. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue can cause flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. The level of risk also varies between regions in a country and can depend on the elevation in the region.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites. There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue.
Zika virus is a risk in this country.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be sexually transmitted. Zika virus can cause serious birth defects.
During your trip:
- Prevent mosquito bites at all times.
- Use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact, particularly if you are pregnant.
If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you should discuss the potential risks of travelling to this destination with your health care provider. You may choose to avoid or postpone travel.
For more information, see Zika virus: Pregnant or planning a pregnancy.
Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.
Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.
Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette, which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:
- washing your hands often
- avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
- avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV, and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.
Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.
For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.
Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care professional.
High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.
Medical services and facilities
Good health care is limited to private hospitals and clinics in urban areas. Quality of care varies greatly throughout public or rural facilities.
Public facilities are often understaffed and experience shortages of basic supplies and medication.
Physicians and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical care, though most private hospitals also accept credit cards.
Medical evacuation can be very expensive and you may need it in case of serious illness or injury.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
If you take prescription medications, you’re responsible for determining their legality in Guatemala.
- Bring sufficient quantities of your medication with you
- Always keep your medication in the original container
- Pack them in your carry-on luggage
- Carry a copy of your prescriptions
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit, especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
Laws and culture
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect lengthy prison sentences.
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Guatemala.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Guatemala, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements.
International Child Abduction
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. It does not apply between Canada and Guatemala.
If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Guatemala by an abducting parent:
- act as quickly as you can
- consult a lawyer in Canada and in Guatemala to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
- report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre.
If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.
Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
Guatemalan law doesn’t criminalize sexual acts or relationships between individuals of the same sex.
However, outside urban areas, 2SLGBTQI+ travellers could be discriminated based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics.
If you plan on buying property, or making other investments in Guatemala, seek legal advice in Canada and in Guatemala. Do so before making commitments. Related disputes could take time and be costly to resolve.
Dress and behaviour
Guatemala has many different and firmly held local beliefs and customs.
To avoid offending local sensitivities:
- dress conservatively
- behave discreetly
- respect religious and social traditions
Imports and exports
Customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning import or export of items such as antiquities and artefacts.
It is illegal to photograph:
- government buildings
- military installations and establishments
- the Presidential Palace
Don’t photograph children and women, especially in areas with Indigenous presence.
You can drive in Guatemala with your valid Canadian driver’s licence. You should carry an international driving permit.
If you are involved in a driving accident that results in injury or death, you may be taken into custody until responsibility for the accident is determined.
The currency in Guatemala is the Guatemalan quetzal (GTQ).
You cannot exchange Canadian dollars in Guatemala. Some ATMs will accept Canadian debit cards with a four-digit PIN. Canadian debit cards with a five-digit PIN are not accepted.
U.S. dollars may be exchanged for local currency at most major banks.
Natural disasters and climate
Forest fires occur between November and June. They can happen throughout the country, but the Petén area is usually the most affected.
The air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate due to heavy smoke.
In case of a major fire:
- stay away from affected areas, particularly if you suffer from respiratory ailments
- follow the advice of local emergency services personnel
- monitor local media for up-to-date information on the situation
Hurricanes usually occur from mid-May to the end of November. During this period, even small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes.
These severe storms can put you at risk and hamper the provision of essential services.
If you decide to travel to a coastal area during the hurricane season:
- know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
- be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
- stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
- follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
- Tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons and monsoons
- Large-scale emergencies abroad
- Active storm tracking and hurricane watches and warnings - United States’ National Hurricane Center
The rainy season extends from mid-May to mid-November. Seasonal flooding can hamper overland travel and reduce the provision of essential services.
Flash floods and landslides are common. Roads may become impassable and bridges may be damaged.
Weather bulletins - National Institute of Volcanology and Meteorology (in Spanish)
Earthquakes and tsunamis
Guatemala is located in an active seismic zone. Earthquakes and tsunamis can occur.
A tsunami can occur within minutes of a nearby earthquake. However, the risk of tsunami can remain for several hours following the first tremor. If you’re staying on the coast, familiarize yourself with the region’s evacuation plans in the event of a tsunami warning.
There are four active volcanoes in Guatemala.
Eruptions may occur at any time. Series of tremors sometimes lead to evacuations of surrounding areas. Falling ash may also disrupt flights at La Aurora International Airport.
In the event of an earthquake or volcanic eruption:
- monitor local media to stay informed of the evolving situation
- follow the instructions of local authorities, including evacuation orders
Emergency services exist but may be subject to certain limitations. In case of emergency, dial:
- police: 110 / 120
- medical assistance: 122 / 123
- firefighters: 122 / 123
Guatemalan authorities provide information and assistance to tourists via their ASISTUR and DISETUR programs. They may arrange security escorts for road travel or organized hiking activities.
INGUAT - The Guatemalan Tourist Institute
Guatemala City - Embassy of Canada
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Guatemala, in Guatemala City, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services.
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