Questions to ask before visiting Guatemala

With a diverse culture stemming from its Mayan heritage and indigenous roots, Guatemala is one of the most alluring destinations in Central America. There are just so many fascinating things to see and do, from the colonial sites in Antigua to the impressive archaeological ruins. While there’s a lot of adventure to be found here, it can be daunting for first-time travelers to plan a trip to the country. Here are five questions to ask before visiting Guatemala (and the answers too)!

5 questions to ask before visiting Guatemala:

When is the best time to visit?

Before you begin planning, you need to know what the best time to visit is. Guatemala is a popular tourist destination, especially during the winter. Top sights like Tikal, the Mayan archaeological site, are swarmed with tour groups from December to March. You’ll want to stay away during these months, if possible, since it can be hard to see the best sights with the massive crowds. It’s also important to note that Guatemala has a rainy and a dry season. The dry season is hotter but it can be difficult to get around during the rainy season. The best time to visit is during the shoulder time between the rainy and dry seasons.

Do I need to know the language?

A lot of people speak English in Guatemala, but you should still try to learn the basics of Spanish before you go. Knowing how to ask for things like the bathroom or directions can get you far, especially in rural areas where it’s harder to find English speakers. The popular tourist cities have a lot of English speakers, so it shouldn’t be challenging to get around. Joining a Guatemala Spanish school is a great way to improve your Spanish skills while taking in the local culture.

What are the best sights in Guatemala?

There’s so much to see and do in Guatemala that it’s impossible to fit everything into a single trip! If you want to make the most of your time, it’s best to stick on one particular region. This will help you avoid long travel times between popular spots. A city you should definitely try to visit is Antigua, which is one of the most well-known colonial cities and is especially popular during the many festivals. 

If you want to take in the natural beauty of Guatemala, visit Lake Atitlan, a stunning lake framed by quaint villages and volcanoes. Another beautiful spot is Semuc Champey, a patchwork of natural pools in the heart of the jungle. Spend a few nights in the park to really explore the area. There’s a lot to see and do in this gorgeous country and you can’t go wrong with any of these locations. Guatemala is one of the only places in the world with live volcanos, colonial cities, ancient temples, and more all in one country!

What’s the coffee and food like?

There’s much to see in Guatemala, but even more to taste! Like many places in Central and South America, coffee is king here. It’s perfectly normal and expected to drink coffee with every meal. Cafes are popular in both cities and rural areas and you’ll have some of the best coffee of your life here. If you’re interested in meeting new people or even just people watching, cafes are the prime spot. Don’t be surprised if you see everyone drinking coffee, from infants to the elderly.

In terms of food, there isn’t really one standout national dish but rather a variety of foods that are everyday staples in Guatemala. Tortillas are eaten with every meal (even breakfast) so be prepared to enjoy this favourite food. Chicken and beef are the most common meats and they’re traditionally enjoyed with rice and beans or plantains.

Popular dishes you should try include chiles rellenos, chicken pepian, and kak’ik. Chiles rellenos are peppers filled with rice, cheese, meat, and veggies. Like everything else, they’re served with tortillas and coffee. Chicken pepian is chicken coated in a spicy pumpkin and sesame sauce. Kak’ik is a Mayan dish made with turkey and chilli peppers. Finish with a sweet dessert like homemade flan or tres leches cake. If you want a yummy snack, you’ve got to try the different varieties of homemade guacamole and nachos. Fruit drinks are really common too so be sure to try the local flavors.

Is Guatemala safe for travelers?

One of the most common questions new travelers ask before visiting Guatemala is if the region is safe. There are a stories about travelers having bad experiences in this Central American country but it’s safe as long as you follow most common sense travel tips. Most incidents aren’t violent in nature and aren’t any different than the crime that happens in the United States. To avoid unwanted attention, don’t flash valuables and be wary of anything that sounds like a scam.

There are some areas of certain cities that are less safe for travelers. It’s a good idea to review area maps or speak to your hotel or accomodation about the safest areas in each city for travelers. It’s important to remember that the vast majority of the people in Guatemala are friendly and helpful. As long as you practice common sense and don’t flash valuables, you shouldn’t run into any problems. 

And there you have it! Five questions to ask before visiting Guatemala. We hope you have a great trip!

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Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Maximo Nivel but of course, all opinions remain the writer’s own.