GUATEMALA:   Facts at a Glance

DID YOU KNOW?  The word "Guatemala" means "the land of many trees".  This is a land where PINE, OAK, and FIR trees once grew in abundance.
Weather conditions vary from season to season and region to region.  The dry season is from October to early May, and the rainy from late May until the end of September.  Temperatures vary little during the year.  The average high temperature is 77 deg. F. and the low is 55 deg. F. in the highlands.

While in Guatemala City and the highlands area wear spring clothing and a sweater at night.  Comfortable walking shoes are suggested.  While at archeological sites and the lowlands, light-colored, lightweight, cotton clothing is recommended.  Sunglasses and a hat are recommended while on tours or at the beach.  NOTE:  add a bottle of sunscreen to your bag, as many lowland visitors are not accustomed to the intensity of the sun in the highlands.

Direct-dial service to the U. S. is available throughout the country.  Telex, fax, cable, radio, TV and internet are all easily found.  NOTE:  there are many internet cafes.

Most major credit cards are accepted by hotels, restaurants, and shops in Guatemala City and most of the tourism areas.  Traveler's checks can be exchanged at most banks.

The local currency is the Quetzal, named for the national bird.  The rates fluctuate, so check with your hotel for the current exchange rate.  NOTE:  as of the end of August 2001 it was $1 = Q7.8 to Q7.9.

These requirements change often without notice.  Check with your travel agent or a local Guatemalan consulate.  NOTE:  as of the 3rd of August, 2001, import duty on a vehicle you wish to bring in is more than double the value of the vehicle!  Think twice.  Luggage you bring with you is usually O. K.  Shipped boxes may have problems.

Air passengers pay US $30 or Q234 as of August 2001.  Land and sea departure taxes vary according to the area of the country you are exiting.

110 volt AC is found throughout most of the country.  A few locations still have 220 volts.  NOTE:  most houses, apartments and hotels are wired with 2-prong outlets.  Those with 3-prong may not have the third wire to ground.  Three-to-two-prong adapters are often useful.

These requirements change at times without public notice so check with your travel agent or a local Guatemalan consulate.  Passports are required for visitors from outside the Central American region.

To enter with firearms you must have a permit signed by the Ministry of Defense.  It is recommended that you visit a Guatemalan consulate prior to travel.

Guatemala covers 42,000 square miles.  About the size of Kentucky or Tennessee, it is at the northern end of the Central American isthmus.  It is bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean Sea to the east, Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the south.  The country is comprised of towering mountains and majestic volcanoes (some lightly active), temperate plateaus, tropical lowlands, desert-like river valleys, lowland jungles, and swamps.

Guatemala is a democratically elected government with elections every four years.  NOTE:  there is only one house of Congress.

Modern, clean, and sanitary condtions and facilities can be found in most parts of the country.  NOTE:  "farmacias" carry standard medicines, although the prices may be high for some things.  Bottled water, "Agua Pura", is readily available usually for less than $.45.  Drinking unfiltered tap water is not recommended.

The official language is Spanish, but English is spoken in the popular tourism areas.  Over 20 indigenous languages are spoken.

Most pets require a certifcate of vaccination from a Guatemalan Consulate.

The population is approximately 10.1 million.  Guatemalans are a mix of indiginous, Ladinos (these are Spanish/indiginous), and Garífunas (descendants of African slaves).  There is also a population of U. S., Canadian, and European residents.

As in all of Central America, Catholic churches are plentiful throughout the country.  Most other denominations are represented.  Check with your hotel concierge for more information.v NOTE:  there is an English-speaking Protestant church called the Union Church on 12th Calle in Zone 9 a block from Reforma Ave. that serves many business and embassy people.

Goods and services are subject to a 12 percent value-added tax (IVA).  Hotels also have an additional 10 percent tourism tax.

Guatemala is in the Central Standard Time zone and does not observe daylight-savings time.

Generally, a 10 percent tip is appropriate for restaurants.  Ask if the tip is included, since some establishments add it to the bill.

The above information is mostly from VISITE GUATEMALA, copyright 2000 by The Publishing House, used by permission.  Personal-experience notes added.  See also on their web site at
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