Republic of Guatemala
Travel Warnings: Issued when Protracted situations make a country dangerous or unstable. Defer or reconsider travel.
Travel Alerts: Issued when short-term conditions pose imminent threats. Defer or reconsider travel.
Embassy Messages: Issued when local security issues arise.
Length of stay.
One page per stamp.
Not required for stays of 90 days or less.
Not required, but several recommended.
A valid U.S. passport is required for all U.S. citizens to enter Guatemala and return to the United States, regardless of age. Even if dual nationals are permitted to enter Guatemala on a second nationality passport, U.S. citizens returning to the United States from Guatemala are not allowed to board their flights without a valid U.S. passport. Visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website (Spanish only) website for the most current visa information.
U.S. citizens do not need a visa for a stay of 90 days or less. That period can be extended for an additional 90 days upon application to Guatemalan immigration (If the initial period of stay granted upon entry is less than 90 days, any extension would be granted only for the same number of days as the initial authorization). U.S. citizen travelers should have at least 6 months of validity remaining on their U.S. passports after the date of entry or they may be turned back by the airline or immigration.
Fines of approximately 1.30 USD per day are exacted for overstaying visas. In June 2006, Guatemala entered a “Central America-4 (CA-4) Border Control Agreement” with El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Under the terms of the agreement, citizens of the four countries may travel freely across land borders from one of the countries to any of the others without completing entry and exit formalities at immigration checkpoints. U.S. citizens and other eligible foreign nationals who legally enter any of the four countries may similarly travel among the four without obtaining additional visas or tourist entry permits for the other three countries. Immigration officials at the first port of entry determine the length of stay, up to a maximum period of 90 days. Foreign tourists who wish to remain in the region beyond the period initially granted for their visit are required either to request a one-time extension of stay from local immigration authorities in the country where the traveler is physically present, or to travel outside the CA-4 countries and reapply for admission to the region.
If your passport is lost or stolen in Guatemala, you must obtain a new passport at the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible and present it, together with a police report on the loss or theft, to the Guatemalan Immigration Agency (Dirección de Migración) in order to obtain permission to depart Guatemala.
For further information regarding entry, exit, and customs requirements, travelers should contact the Guatemalan Embassy at 2220 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 745-4953, fax (202) 745-1908, visit the Guatemalan Foreign Ministry website, or contact the nearest Guatemalan consulate.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Guatemala.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. Effective May 1, 2017 Guatemalan authorities require that minors who are Guatemalan citizens (including dual nationals) must carry a notarized power of attorney (carta poder) when traveling alone or with someone other than their parent. A minor traveling with at least one biological parent is not required to have a letter. The “carta poder” must be notarized by a Guatemalan notary or Guatemalan Consular Officer. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
Crime: The threat of violent crime in Guatemala is rated by the U.S. Department of State as “critical.” The Embassy has no reason to believe that U.S. citizens are being specifically targeted, although criminals in Guatemala may assume that U.S. citizens and their relatives have more money than average Guatemalans.
The number of violent crimes reported by U.S. citizens and other foreigners has remained high and such crimes have occurred even in areas of Guatemala City once considered safe, such as Zones 10, 14, 15, and 16. Due to large scale drug and alien smuggling, the Guatemalan border with Mexico (and in particular the northwestern corner of Petén) is a high-risk area. The border areas including the Sierra de Lacandon and Laguna del Tigre National Parks are among the most dangerous areas in Guatemala. The U.S. Embassy takes extra precautions when U.S. government personnel travel to the region. Reports of sexual assault remain high. Women should be especially careful when traveling alone and avoid staying out late without an escort. Support for victims of sexual assault is lacking outside of major cities, and there are not enough trained personnel who can help victims either in the capital or outlying areas. Theft, armed robbery, and carjacking are the most common crimes against U.S. citizens who visit Guatemala. To decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim, do not display items of value such as laptops, iPods, iPads, cameras, or jewelry and refrain from using a cell phone on the street. Carry a photocopy of your passport when out and about to avoid losing it during a robbery. A number of travelers have experienced carjackings and armed robberies as they drive away from the airport after arriving on international flights. Victims have been killed when they resisted an attack or refused to give up their money or other valuables. Pickpockets and purse-snatchers are prevalent in major cities and tourist sites, especially the central market and other parts of Zone 1 in Guatemala City. For security reasons, the Embassy does not recommend U.S. government employees stay in hotels in Zone 1 and urges private travelers to avoid staying in this area. In a common scenario, an accomplice distracts the victim while an assailant slashes or simply steals a bag or backpack. The Embassy advises tourists and residents to be very vigilant of their surroundings and report any crime incidents promptly to the police. We strongly encourage you not to use public ATMs.
Scams involving attempts to acquire a victim’s ATM card and personal identification number (PIN) are common. U.S. citizens have also been victims of credit card scams where the card is copied and used improperly or where the citizen has been the recipient of inflated charges. Credit card copying can also lead to identify theft. Extortion calls and grandparent scams are common in Guatemala. For additional information, please read our information on International Financial Scams. If in doubt whether a caller is legitimate, call the U.S. Embassy at 011-(502) 2326-4501. Avoid low-priced public intra- and inter-city buses (often recognizable as recycled and repainted U.S. school buses). U.S. Embassy personnel are not permitted to use any local buses. Public buses are subject to frequent attacks by armed robbers and often are poorly maintained and dangerously driven. Do not hail taxis on the street in Guatemala City. For shorter trips, the safest options are radio-dispatched taxis (Taxi Amarillo), INGUAT approved taxis from the “SAFE” stand from the airport or hotel taxis.
The introduction of modern inter-city buses with prepaid fares has somewhat improved the security and safety of inter-city bus passengers; however, several travelers have even been attacked on first-class buses on highway CA-2 near the border areas with both Mexico and El Salvador, on highways CA-1 and CA-9 near the border with El Salvador, and in the highlands between Quetzaltenango and Sololá.
Security escorts for tourist groups and security information are available from the Tourist Assistance Office (PROATUR) of INGUAT (the Guatemalan Tourism Institute) at 7a Avenida 1-17. Zona 4, Centro Civico, Guatemala City. INGUAT’s PROATUR division has 24-hour/seven days per week direct telephone numbers for tourist assistance and emergencies. You may call them at (502) 2421-2810, fax them at (502) 2421-2891, or simply dial 1500 in Guatemala to reach INGUAT Tourist Assistance. You can also request the service by e-mail at email@example.com.
PROATUR also maintains regional offices in all major tourist destinations in Guatemala, and the regional delegates provide rapid and appropriate assistance to crime and accident victims. Travelers may also wish to visit INGUAT’s web site. Tourist groups are advised to request security escorts from INGUAT. There have been no incidents of armed robbery of groups escorted through the Tourist Protection Program. The request should be submitted by mail, fax, or e-mail and should arrive at INGUAT at least three business days in advance of the proposed travel. Requests should be directed to the attention of the Coordinator of the National Tourist Assistance Program, and should provide the itinerary, names of travelers, and model and color of the vehicle in which they will be traveling. Travelers should be aware that INGUAT might not be able to accommodate all requests.
Travelers should be aware that basic safety measures and precautions commonly required in the United States for swimming, boating and other outdoor activities may not be observed in Guatemala. Additionally, crime incidents have occurred on both land and waterways, with multiple boaters in the Rio Dulce area of the Department of Izabal having been victims in violent armed attacks while aboard boats.
Demonstrations: Large demonstrations occur throughout Guatemala, often with little or no advance notice, and can cause serious traffic disruptions. Although most demonstrations are peaceful, they can turn violent, and travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. When acts of violence are particularly severe, such as those caused by drug traffickers in the Petén region, a state of siege can be declared by the authorities. That likely means a curfew will be set and increased police patrols in the areas affected. U.S. citizens traveling through these places should be very cautious, cooperate with the authorities and stay indoors after the curfew.
Keep informed of possible demonstrations by following the local news and consulting the Embassy’s web page and hotel personnel and tour guides.
Indigenous Areas: Please be mindful of local traditional practices when visiting indigenous Mayan communities as tensions can rise quickly and locals occasionally take the law into their own hands
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police using 110/220 and the U.S. Embassy at (502) 2326-4000. We can:
Victims of crime in Guatemala can also contact the following phone numbers for assistance:
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.
For further information:
The full range of medical care is available in Guatemala City, but medical care outside of the city is limited. Guatemala’s public hospitals frequently experience serious shortages of even the most basic medicines and equipment. Care in private hospitals is generally adequate for most common illnesses and injuries, and many of the medical specialists working in them are U.S.-trained and -certified.
The U.S. government does not pay medical bills. Many hospitals in Guatemala require payment prior to treating patients, even if personal insurance will cover the treatment. They do not typically enter into payment plan agreements. Travelers should be aware that they may have to pay in advance and seek reimbursement. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not cover you overseas.
Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
Carry prescription medication in orginal packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.
Zika Virus: Zika virus is a mosquito-borne illness that can be spread from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby as well as through sexual contact. The CDC has concluded that the Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects in some fetuses and babies born to infected mothers. For additional information about Zika, including travel advisories, visit the CDC website.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. Persons violating Guatemala’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Arrest notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.:
Faith-Based Travelers: See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.
LGBTI Travelers: While there is no legal recognition of same-sex partnerships or marriages, private same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults is legal. Antidiscrimination laws exist, but do not include specific protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity. According to LGBTI rights groups, gay and transgender individuals often experience police abuse. LGBTI rights groups allege that police officers regularly engage in extortion by waiting outside clubs and bars frequented by LGBTI persons to demand that those engaged in sexual activities pay protection money or pay to avoid jail. A lack of trust in the judicial system and a fear of further harassment or social recrimination discourage victims from filing complaints. There is general societal discrimination against LGBTI persons in access to education, health care, employment, and housing. For further information on LGBTI travel, please read our Information for LGBTI Travelers page and section 6 of the Department of State’s Human Rights report.
Persons with Mobility Disabilities: Except for major hotels, some government buildings and major museums that have special access ramps for people with disabilities, most buildings remain wheelchair-inaccessible. Mayan ruins such as Tikal do not provide special access for disabled people.
Women Travelers: Please see our travel tips for Women Travelers.
Customs: Guatemalan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Guatemala of items such as antiquities and other cultural property. You should declare any amount of cash exceeding 10,000 USD that you bring into the country or the money may be confiscated by the authorities. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington, D.C. or one of Guatemala’s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Marriage: Non-Guatemalan citizens who wish to marry in Guatemala are required to provide proof of identity and civil status (indicating whether they are single or divorced). Prior notice of the marriage must be given in the Diario de Centro América (Guatemala's Official Record) and any large-circulation daily newspaper for 15 days. The marriage must take place within six months of the publication of the notice or the publication loses validity and a new one is required with additional expense.
Suspicion of Outsiders: Particularly in small villages, residents are often wary and suspicious of outsiders. In the past, Guatemalan citizens have been lynched for suspicion of child abduction, so we recommend that U.S. citizens keep a distance from local children, and refrain from actions that could fuel such suspicions. In addition, U.S. citizens are advised to be aware of and to avoid activities that might unintentionally violate a cultural or religious belief.
Beaches and Lakes: Beware of strong currents, riptides, and undertow along Guatemala's Pacific coast beaches. They pose a serious threat to even the strongest swimmers. Signs warning of treacherous surf are rare and confined mostly to private beaches owned by hotels. Lifeguards are rarely present on beaches. Lake Atitlan, one of the most popular tourist destinations, is deep enough to have dangerous undercurrents.
Volcanic Activity: There are currently four active volcanoes in Guatemala. Volcanic activity has on occasion forced evacuations of nearby villages. Tourists planning to climb the Pacaya and/or Agua volcanoes during Guatemala’s rainy season (May through October) should plan their climb for the morning hours when thunderstorms are less likely to occur. Climbers should monitor the weather situation and return to the base of the volcano as quickly and safely as possible if thunderstorms gather. INGUAT has organized an active community-based tourism program in San Vicente Pacaya to minimize the risk of armed robbery on Pacaya. In February 2016, the Embassy issued a security message putting the Agua volcano off limits to Embassy personnel due to the high incidence of roberries on the volcano. Climbing volcanoes in groups is still highly advisable to reduce the risk of robbery and assault.
Earthquakes: Guatemala is a geologically active country. Visitors should be aware of the possibility of earthquakes at any time and make contingency plans.
Storms: Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Guatemala are vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms from mid-May through November. Mudslides and flooding during the May to November rainy season often kill dozens of people and close roads. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available locally from the National Disaster Reduction Coordination Office (CONRED) and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Please consult CONRED for updates on natural disasters or tropical storms and hurricanes.
Road Conditions and Safety: Driving in Guatemala requires one’s full attention, and all drivers must take extraordinary efforts to drive defensively to avoid dangerous situations.
Traffic Laws: Traffic rules are only casually observed. Many drivers do not use their turn signals to alert other drivers. Instead, a common custom is for a driver or passenger to stick a hand out the window and wave it to indicate that they will be taking an unspecified action. Passing blindly on winding and/or steep mountain roads, poorly designed surfaces, and unmarked hazards, such as frequent landslides and precarious temporary highway repairs present additional risks to motorists.
All drivers involved in accidents resulting in injury may be detained and held in protective custody pending investigation or payment of alleged damages.
Public Transportation: The most common form of public transportation is the system of bright red recycled school buses, which serve almost every town in the country. Criminal activity and frequent fatal accidents, however, make these low-priced local and inter-city buses particularly dangerous.
Use of radio-dispatched taxis is far safer than hailing taxis on the street. In Guatemala City several radio taxi companies operate. Taxi Seguro can be reached at 2312-4243, but may not always be available, especially late at night. Taxi Amarillo Express (yellow taxis) is a radio-dispatch taxi service reached by dialing 1766. A Green Cab radio dispatch service operates in the suburbs near zone 15 and the Cayala entertainment and shopping destination. The Guatemalan tourist assistance agency, PROATUR, may be able to provide additional information, and can be reached by dialing 1500.
Although city streets are usually well lit, secondary and rural roads have little to no illumination. Driving outside of urban areas at night is dangerous and not recommended. The Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and the road from Guatemala City to the Caribbean coast (CA-9) are especially dangerous both day and night, due to heavy traffic, including large trucks and trailers. There are no roadside assistance clubs; however, a roadside assistance force (PROVIAL) patrols most of the major highways in the country. PROVIAL can be contacted by calling 2419-2121. Their vehicles are equipped with basic tools and first aid supplies, and their services are free. Police patrol the major roadways and may assist travelers, but the patrols are sporadic and may be suspended due to budget constraints. For roadside assistance, travelers may call the police by dialing 110 or 120 or the fire department by dialing 122 or 123. Cellular telephone service covers most areas frequented by tourists.
Road hazards are common and cars and trucks are often stalled in travel lanes or parked unattended in the middle of the road. Tree branches are sometimes placed in the road before the stalled vehicle to warn approaching traffic of the hazard. While driving in or near large cities, be vigilant of pedestrians who unexpectedly dart across roads, even in heavy traffic, due to the lack of defined cross walks.
Highway Safety: There have been numerous reports of violent criminal activity along Guatemala’s main highways, including the Carretera a El Salvador (Inter-American Highway CA-2). In addition, travelers using alternate routes out of Antigua have reported armed assaults in recent years. There has also been an increase in alcohol-related traffic accidents on this same road at night. U.S. Embassy employees are strongly discouraged from driving at night. Embassy employees are also prohibited from driving from or through Mexico and Belize to Guatemala.
The main road to Lake Atitlán via the Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and Sololá is safer than the alternative secondary roads near the lake. Specifically, the main road is preferable to the alternative road through Las Trampas and Godinez to Panajachel (RN-11) where robbery, rape, and assault have occurred in the past. Armed attacks have occurred on roads between Guatemala City and the Petén region as well as between Tikal and the Belize border. Visitors to the Mayan ruins at Tikal are urged to fly to nearby Flores and then travel by bus or tour van to the site. Violent attacks have occurred in the Mayan ruins in the Petén region, including in the Cerro Cahui Conservation Park, Yaxha, the road to and inside Tikal Park, and in the Tikal ruins, particularly during early morning sunrise tours of the ruins. Tourist police (POLITUR) patrols, however, have significantly reduced the incidence of violent crime inside the park and there have been no reports of armed assaults on tourists there since October of 2012. Travelers should remain in groups, stay on the principal trails leading to the Central Plaza and the Temple IV complex, and avoid remote areas of the park.
Robberies of occupied vehicles are becoming more common in Guatemala City. Often two assailants are on motorcycles and pull up alongside a car stopped at a traffic light.
Rules of the road: Valid U.S. driver’s licenses are accepted for the first 30 days of a visit, and international driving permits are accepted in Guatemala for extended stays. Drivers use the right-hand side of the road in Guatemala, and speed limits are posted (in kilometers) depending on the condition of the road. Speed limits are rarely enforced, and drivers often drive at the absolute maximum speed their vehicle can handle at that particular time. These drivers share the road with slow vehicles, some barely able to manage 20 miles per hour, creating a hazardous mix of velocities. Turning right on red is not permitted unless otherwise posted, and drivers must yield when entering a traffic circle. 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 operate cellular phones while driving but cell phone usage while driving in city traffic remains commonplace.
People found driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs are arrested and may serve jail time.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Also, we suggest that you visit the website of Guatemala’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety, or contact them via e-mail.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Guatemala’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Guatemala’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.