Guatemala: Local Travel Info
Land of Eternal Spring
Internal Flights and Major International Airports in Guatemala
There are two major international airports in Guatemala, Guatemala City (Aeropuerto Internacional La Aurora), which connects with North America, Europe and Central America.
There are internal flights to Quetzaltenango, Retalhueu, Coban, Playa Grande and Huehuetenango. Flores International Airport (Mundo Maya International Airport) has international flights to Belize, Mexico, Cuba and Houston Texas. There are internal flights to Guatemala City.
Getting to and from the Airport at Guatemala City
Getting to and from the airport in Guatemala City is straightforward. It is located four miles (6km) south of Guatemala City, and is approximately 16 miles (25km) from Antigua (Guatemala).
From the lower arrivals hall, an airport shuttle bus meets most flights and drops travellers off at the larger hotels in Guatemala City. You can also take a taxi from here. Bus 32 leaves the airport for the city centre every 30 minutes. Minibuses are available, both to Guatemala City and to Antigua (Guatemala).
Travel Costs in Guatemala
The cheapest way of getting around Guatemala is to use the local and long-distance buses, which are invariably old US school buses painted in bright colours. Coaches are moderately more expensive, but are a safer and more comfortable option especially for long-distance travel. Another inexpensive option is travel by minibus, many of which connect the major tourist and sightseeing centres. Travel by taxi is expensive and can present problems because taxis are not metered. Car hire is another option, provided you can cope with poor roads and low driving standards.
Renting Cars in Guatemala
Hiring a car in Guatemala will usually cost more than £37 per day. There are both Guatemalan and international car hire companies that visitors can use to hire saloon cars and four-wheel drive vehicles. In order to hire a car, you will need your driving licence, your passport and credit card as identification. Hire companies will usually only hire cars to people aged 25, or older. If you do not have a credit card, you may be able to leave a cash deposit, but ensure that you are given a receipt for this. It is worth checking that you are covered for loss and theft when hiring the vehicle.
To book car rental in Guatemala online, view our Car Hire section for Guatemala. We offer Ok Alpha users the latest special offers and best rates available for car hire in Guatemala. We advise you book your Guatemala hire car in advance so you can pick it up and drop it off directly at the airport.
Drivers License Requirements in Guatemala
In Guatemala, they drive on the right-hand side of the road. A valid US driver's license can be used for the first 30 days of your visit, but you would need an international driving permit for longer stays. A UK Driving Licence can be used in Guatemala for visits under three months, but it is recommended that you obtain an International Driving Permit. You need to take extra care on Guatemalan roads because the rules of the road are frequently ignored. For example, indicators are rarely used and drivers will use hand signals in a rather nondescript way. Similarly, speed limits, lane markings and stop signs are often overlooked. Another habit of Guatemalan drivers is passing blindly on winding and steep mountain roads. The road surfaces are often poor, there are many unmarked hazards, including frequent landslides and poorly marked temporary highway repairs. Seat belts must be worn in Guatemala, but there are no laws regarding the use of child safety seats. It is against the law for drivers to use mobile phones while driving. If you do have an accident you should contact the National Police by calling 120 or the fire brigade by dialling 122 or 123. In the case of an accident it is expected that you should wait for the police to arrive.
Guatemala by Bus
It is easy to get to all parts of Guatemala by buses, which are cheap and frequent. Most local, and some long-distance, routes use old US school buses, which are the cheapest option. For example, it can cost only 50p to travel from Antigua (Guatemala) to Guatemala City, a journey of 28 miles (45 km). However, for long-distance travel it is both safer and more comfortable to use modern coaches. A typical journey from Guatemala City to Flores by coach will take about 10-12 hours, cost £15 and is a distance of 303 miles (488 km). Coaches have videos, air conditioning and toilets. Mini buses are also a travel option for many popular routes in Guatemala, for example between Antigua (Guatemala) and Guatemala City Airport, or between Flores and Tikal.
Guatemala by Taxi
Travel by taxi in Guatemala can be expensive. Even at best, cab fares are comparable with those in more affluent countries, such as the US or UK. Although there are set rates for fares, there are no meters in the cabs and taxi drivers may often try to charge you excessive amounts. For this reason, it is best to agree the fare before taking the ride. Unless, you are travelling on a lavish budget, long-distance taxi rides are not really an option and they are best used for shorter journeys in the major towns. Be especially vigilant on journeys to and from airports, as some taxi drivers like to see what they can get away with in those situations.
Cycling in Guatemala
Cycling is becoming ever more popular in Guatemala. Bicycles can be rented from towns such as Panajachel, Antigua (Guatemala) and Flores. There are also increasing numbers of organised cycle tours available. However, a long-distance bike ride can be hazardous, as the rules of the road in Guatemala are rarely adhered to strictly and most local drivers are not used to seeing cyclists. As a general guide, hiring a bike will cost between £3.50 and £4.50 per day.
Water Transport in Guatemala
Guatemala’s wonderful lakes make boating an especially pleasant way to travel and to see the country. The type of boat used on Lake Atitlan is generally a fast outboard motorboat, called a launcha, which is used by the locals living around the lake as the main means of transport. These boats should cost you about 60p, but tourists are often charged in excess of this, perhaps up to £1.20. You can also travel between Flores and Santa Elena by launcha, a journey that lasts about 5 minutes and should cost about 15-20p As on Lake Atitlan, be prepared to haggle!
Hitchhiking in Guatemala
Although hitchhiking as we know it does not exist in Guatemala, local people and travellers often hitch rides on the backs of lorries in remote areas where there is little public transport. Instead of using your thumb, you simply hold out your arm to indicate that you would like a lift. You are expected to pay the driver as if it were a bus. Perhaps surprisingly, this is generally a safe travel option. Lorries can often become overcrowded.