(Last Updated On: April 19, 2021)

Check latest Covid information and travel restrictions here first before planning any Backpacking Guatemala trip: International travel Covid information 

Backpacking Guatemala overview - Forever Roaming the World - Pic 1

Guatemala is a true backpacker experience from the rainforests and Mayan temples in the north to the active Volcanoes in the south.

This isn’t your usual type of guide to budget backpacking Guatemala. This overview doesn’t tell you how to plan your itinerary, cover ‘top 10 things to see and do’, what to pack, or offer a dollar by dollar account on what to spend.

However, in this post we do cover and provide you some useful tips, and advice, things to be wary of while backpacking Guatemala, and practical information for everyday life while backpacking Guatemala.

Not only is Guatemala seeped in Mayan history but its color and vibrancy can just captivate you. However that’s not all this vibrant country has to offer, Guatemala is basically a playground for the adventurous with two-thirds of the country covered in mountains there are so many hidden gems that will make you feel like Indiana Jones.

Travel through Guatemala and you will discover:

  • Mountains
  • Jungles
  • Mayan temples and ruins
  • Caves
  • Sinkholes
  • Caverns
  • Underground rivers
  • Amazing waterfalls
  • Active volcanoes
  • Amazing people who still live in traditional ways
  • and much more…

But, if you’re not looking for adventure and thrills and just want to relax through your trip, don’t worry Guatemala is quite slow-paced and there are some amazing lakes you can relax on.

Backpacking Guatemala overview - Forever Roaming the World - Pic 2

Budget backpacking Guatemala

In this country overview we are going to dive into and cover things you will need to know for everyday backpacking life: 

  1. Basic information for backpacking Guatemala 
  2. Visa options for backpacking Guatemala
  3. Practical tips 
  4. Things to be wary about 
  5. Budgeting information for backpacking Guatemala
  6. Local and national transport information
  7. Accommodation options 
  8. My personal experience of backpacking Guatemala
  9. Interactive map of Guatemala 

Basic things to know before backpacking Guatemala

  • Official language spoken: Spanish 
  • Is English Spoken: Very basic
  • CurrencyGuatemalan quetzal
  • Backpacking Guatemala is: Cheap
  • To check live exchange rate click here XE.com

Visa options for backpacking Guatemala

No visa needed for British tourists for a stay of up to 90 days.Check GOV.UK for more information 

However do make sure you get an entry and leaving stamp – Corruption is rife on borders

Check if your nationality needs a visa for Guatemala here 

Practical tips for backpacking Guatemala

  • If visiting Tical go early morning to avoid hoards of tourists
  • It’s good to learn some basic Spanish, it will help you a lot and there are a lot of schools that backpackers can attend to learn
  • Shop around for tours, be confident to haggle between tour companies. However, you will find different tour companies are run by the same operator
  • The food at the night market in Flores is amazing
  • A straight trip from Flores to Antigua is a mammoth journey, break it up and stop over in Semuc Champey
  • Try to visit Semuc Champey when the weather is good, the waterfalls have amazing color when warm but look a horrible dirty brown when the weather isn’t so great
  • Antigua is picturesque you may find it hard to leave
  • Antigua is the party capital of Guatemala. Bars do close early, however, the party doesn’t stop, that is when you will discover secret parties and bars dotted all over the place
  • A special meat sub made on street BBQ’s after a night out is amazing
  • The coffee in Guatemala is the best coffee I’ve ever drunk
  • Ride a chicken bus
  • It’s well worth doing a volcano climb, there’s a chance you will get to see one erupt
  • If visiting Lake Atitlan try to get around to all the communities and villages around the lake, they are all different and have their own unique charm and identity
  • San Pedro da Laguna is the main backpacker hub on Lake Atitlan
Backpacking Guatemala overview - Forever Roaming the World - Pic 3

Things to be wary of when backpacking Guatemala

  • If traveling into Guatemala on land from Belize be very vigilant and check they have stamped you in properly. (I along with 25 other people got scammed and didn’t realize until I left the country.)
  • You will be hounded by tour operators when arriving into Flores, they will charge you more for trips to Tical and lake trips than on the actual Island.
  • Tour operators in Flores will try to convince you that there is no public transport or overnight buses towards Antigua. They will try to convince you to pay for a private shuttle from their own company, don’t fall for it as there are 1st, 2nd and economy buses that travel to the south
  • Pickpocketer’s when visiting tourist attractions like Tical. Keep your belongings safe.
  • Keep personal belongings safe, especially on local transport Guatemala is generally safe but there is some crime
  • Check the weather if visiting Semuc Champey, waterfalls turn a horrible color on days of rain, can ruin your experience
  • If doing volcano climbs take a headscarf or something to cover your face, sometimes winds pick up and you can actually get wind burns on your face, even loose grit from the volcano grazing your face
  • While Guatemala is generally a safe country be very careful in Guatemala city, it’s not the friendliest of places
  • Be wary of anybody in Guatemala City who’s walking around with plastic bags covering their shoes hands and heads (was told by a local they do that so they don’t leave evidence if they try to mug people. *Note I only saw this once, in a bus station at 5 am in Guatemala city
  • Tour operators in Panajachel trying to sell you tours around Lake Atitlan (you should shop around for best options)

If you feel like you need Travel insurance for Backpacking Guatemala, get a quote from World Nomads one of the worlds best travel insurance companies for backpacker

Backpacking Guatemala overview - Forever Roaming the World - Pic 4

Budget information when Backpacking Guatemala

Generally backpacking Guatemala good for a tight budget. However, you may have to juggle your budget depending on what adventure sports you want to do, if you’re planning on seeing every Mayan temple or how many volcanoes you want to climb.

Do be wary though, if you love coffee, you can easily start spending freely without noticing, you will have to use your willpower to walk away – In my opinion, it’s that good!

If you eat locally and not in western style restaurants food will be quite inexpensive. Eating street food, daily set menu’s in local cafes or buying food from markets to cook for yourself are good ways to save money. Be warned though eating street food can become addictive.

Buying alcohol in shops and pre-drinking will also be a big help as buying alcohol in bars is quite expensive in relative to Guatemalan prices.

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Learn more about budgeting, funding and prolonging long term travel and much more in my debut long term solo travel book written to help your future travels 

Backpacking Guatemala: Get your thrill on! 1

Activities/tours/excursions

Backpacking Guatemala overview - Forever Roaming the World - Pic 5

With such a variety of options to choose from, activities and tours could eat at your budget depending just how much you want to do. Some can be quite expensive especially the major tourist attractions like Tical and some Volcano climbs. However, when backpacking Guatemala, it’s full of hidden gems and so much can be found on the cheap and even for free. There are so many places you will hear just from word of mouth from locals and other travelers.

However if you’re dead set on doing organised tours but feel haggling is too daunting for you with local operators. You can get an idea of prices or pre booked tours and excursions through reputable companies like Contiki and Intrepid travel – Or find specific trips through Get your guide. The banners below will take you directly to their sites.

With prices changing all the time, it would be unfair to try and give you specific prices or tell you how much you should budget for. However if you want to check out some live prices these two sites will give you a better idea: numbeo and expatisan.

This link will give you a more comprehensive breakdown of prices for backpacking Guatemala: Budget your trip

Transport options for backpacking Guatemala

Transport is not a problem when backpacking Guatemala, however, the journeys are long and because of the mountainous terrain and can be quite arduous. Your best bet for long journeys is to jump on an overnight bus to save on a nights rent, however, that doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily get some sleep.

Due to it’s terrain Guatemala is a country I recommend you choose comfort over price. With Guatemala being quite cheap even more luxurious buses will not be that much of a stretch to the budget.

Getting around locally

  • Chicken Buses – Old American School buses converted into local public buses. (Don’t be surprised to see livestock on these)
  • Collectivos –  Mini-vans that wait until the are filled up and run certain routes
  • Tuk-Tuks – run locally in towns and cities
  • Taxi boats – Will get you out to across lakes and Island inlets

Getting around nationally

  • Private bus companies – 2nd class, 1st class and VIP (not much difference in price but comfort difference can be felt) Litegua is a popular choice
  • Private shuttles – Safe and fairly inexpensive (If you don’t want to travel on a bus)
  • Planes – Domestic flights are available but much more expensive
Backpacking Guatemala overview - Forever Roaming the World - Pic 6

Accommodation options when backpacking Guatemala

There’s a wide range of budget accommodation in Guatemala from the bare basics to larger and sociable hostels. However, it’s a good idea to look around at different choices because sometimes the pictures they show on booking sites are not what they look like in real. (I found that out at a bug infested hostel in Flores.)

AirBnb is growing to be quite popular if you’re looking for something different to hostels and there are other options too. Find some great options through Booking.com

  • Hostels – Range from grotty basic rooms to larger more sociable and clean ones.
  • Guesthouses or hospedajes  – smaller than hostels run by families.
  • Budget hotels – Great to have some privacy and some much-needed air-con.
  • Air BnB – Available in Guatemala.
  • Couchsurfing – Stay with locals.
  • Camping – There are safe spots dotted around Guatemala to camp.

Looking for a hostel while backpacking Guatemala? Use the Hostelworld form below to find your best option

Backpacking Guatemala: Get your thrill on! 3



My overview of backpacking Guatemala

Backpacking Guatemala overview - Forever Roaming the World - Pic 7

I have to say, backpacking Guatemala was the country I was most looking forward to when I planned my Central America trip and it didn’t disappoint. I had such an amazing time in Mexico beforehand and Guatemala just kept that thrill ride going and it was filled with some pleasant and unpleasant surprises from the day I stepped into the country until the day I left.

A lifelong dream was realized when during my time here, I witnessed a volcano erupt in front of my own eyes; in all it’s glory (sadly I don’t have any good pics to show you). Over the years traveling from one country to another I have forgotten about so much but this will be a memory that will stay with me forever.

I spent a month backpacking Guatemala and along with all the highlights I managed to improve on the Spanish I started to learn in Mexico. (learning Spanish helps) I fell in love with Antigua and Lake Atitlan.

An interactive map of my route backpacking Guatemala

If you’re looking to go backpacking Guatemala but not sure of the route to take, this map below shows my route, places I stopped, and will hopefully give you an idea of the best route for yourself.

FIND INTERACTIVE MAP HERE

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This backpacking Guatemala overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingguatemala #travelguatemala #solotravelguatemala #guatemalatips #guatemalaguide
This backpacking Nicaragua overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingnicaragua #travelnicaragua #solotravelnicaragua #nicaraguatips #nicaraguaguide
This backpacking Guatemala overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingguatemala #travelguatemala #solotravelguatemala #guatemalatips #guatemalaguide
This backpacking Guatemala overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingguatemala #travelguatemala #solotravelguatemala #guatemalatips #guatemalaguide
This backpacking Guatemala overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingguatemala #travelguatemala #solotravelguatemala #guatemalatips #guatemalaguide
This backpacking Guatemala overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingguatemala #travelguatemala #solotravelguatemala #guatemalatips #guatemalaguide
This backpacking Guatemala overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingguatemala #travelguatemala #solotravelguatemala #guatemalatips #guatemalaguide
This backpacking Guatemala overview, gives you an insight into practical tips for everyday backpacking life, visas options, things to be wary of, transport and accommodation options, an interactive map and more #solotravel #backpacking #backpacker #travelblog #budgettravel #solobackpacker #backpackingguatemala #travelguatemala #solotravelguatemala #guatemalatips #guatemalaguide
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30 Comments

Stuart Forster · June 11, 2020 at 11:05 am

I’m impressed by the level of detail in this post. I’ve never yet been to Guatemala but have enjoyed visits to neighbouring countries. I’ll stop by again to take another look when I enentually get myself booked up.

Emme · September 3, 2017 at 1:15 am

Definitely a place I’d love to explore one. One of my neighbours is from Guatemala, so have enjoyed trying some of her Guatemalan dishes and listening to her stories from Guatemala.

Melissa · August 25, 2017 at 3:32 pm

Always love a list of things to look out for. Generally places tend to be better than their reputations but it’s always wise to be cautious, especially as a traveler. Thanks for the great tips!

Kate · August 24, 2017 at 9:21 am

Ahh I feel like you were telling me about the people in the bus station who wore plastic on themselves to make it easier to mug people! Terrifying! Sucks that they scammed you at the border crossing as well, but I guess it’s just one of those things that happens sometimes when you travel a lot. I was supposed to go to Guatemala in November 2014 actually but I got really sick and had to stay home and have surgery and cancel my flights! I really hope I actually get there one day.

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