Capital: Guatemala City
Area: 108,890 km ²
Climate: rainy season from mid-May to mid-October; months are March and April are very hot
Population: 13,276,517 (est. 2009)
Languages: Spanish, 22 indigenous languages
Government Type: Presidential republicGDP: $67.816 billion (est. 2009)GDP – per capita (PPP): $ 4,839 (est. 2009)
Information for Foreign Students in GuatemalaGetting There Guatemala's main airport, La Aurora International Airport (GUA), is near Guatemala City. International flights arrive mostly from other Central American countries and North America. The airport is currently undergoing modernizing reconstruction. It is now a glass-and-concrete edifice with modern shops and duty-frees that you might expect in any large city. Food options are still limited, however, although construction is not complete.
Obtaining a Visa The following nationalities do not need a visa to visit Guatemala: Andorra, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Chile, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Spain, San Marino, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United States, United Kingdom, Vatican City, Venezuela. Valid passports are required of everyone except citizens of Central American countries.
Accommodation You will likely find cheap hotels in every town or village in Guatemala. In the main tourist areas, there are also many high quality hotels. Do not stay in hostels in Zone 1, as it is a dangerous area.
Telephone The phone system isn't great, but it works. Tourists can call abroad from call centers, where you pay by the minute. It is also easy to purchase a calling card to use at public pay phones. The phones there do not accept money, so to use a public phone on the street you must purchase a telephone card. Typically, the cost is around 8 quetzals for a 10 min call to North America. Cell phones are quite cheap and calling to the US through one can get as low as $0.08 a min. If you are planning to stay for a while and plan to use the phone, you should consider buying a cheap prepaid phone. Wireless nation-wide internet access for laptops is also available as a service from some companies. Telefonica has good coverage with their PCMCIA EV-DO cards.
Money Currency used in Guatemala is the Quetzal. However, US dollars are widely accepted and can be exchanged in most small towns. ATMs can be found in the major towns but do not expect to find them in every tourist spot. Traveler's checks are difficult to change in Guatemala, so try to avoid using them.
Drink only purified water. Hepatitis A&B vaccinations are recommended. Preventative anti-malarial medication can and should be purchased ahead of visiting malaria-endemic areas.
Guatemala has one of the highest rates of violent crime in the world. Travelers should take some extra precautions when in Guatemala. If you are mugged, carjacked, or approached by armed individuals, cooperate. Do not make any sudden movements, and give whatever belongings or money that are demanded. Never take photos of children without permission. Some Guatemalans are extremely wary of this and will assume you are a kidnapper (even if the children are someone else's). Pickpocketing is common in markets, so never keep anything in your back pocket and take as little with you as possible.
It's hard to miss the colorfully-decorated buses that crowd the streets of major cities and highways of Guatemala. These are chicken buses, or camionetas in Spanish, and are a common form of travel for Guatemalans and a travel adventure for tourists. They are much cheaper than tourist vans or taxis and are usually very crowded, with three people squeezed into seats barely big enough for two children, and more people standing in the aisles. You can board a chicken bus almost anywhere along its route. If you put out your arm, it will stop. You board and find a space to sit or stand. The conductor will come back to you after the bus is underway, and collect your fare. You need to recognize where your stop is, and move to the door in time. You ask the bus to stop, more or less wherever you want to get off.