For many, traveling to Latin America in general, and Guatemala in particular, results in a sudden change in culture, societal norms, and indeed many aspects of everyday life.
Celas Maya has assembled some information to help you prepare for your travels.
From most countries, only a passport is needed for entry into Guatemala. It is generally not necessary to get a visa prior to arriving. When you pass through customs, you will be given a visa for between 30 and 90 days (you can request a 90-day visa). It is possible to remain in Guatemala for a longer period, but doing so requires renewal of your visa. Please inquire at our office if you require more information.
Banking, Currency and Money
Guatemala’s official currency is the quetzal, after the tropical bird of the same name known for its very long tail feathers. While a few businesses will accept payment in a foreign currency (most often the US dollar) the large majority of Guatemalan businesses can take only quetzales. Once in Guatemala, the easiest currency to change into Guatemalan quetzales is the US dollar. You can change money at the border with private money changers, in the upper level of the Guatemala City airport, and in any bank throughout the country.
In Quetzaltenango, most of the banks are located around the Central Park. The banking system in Guatemala is modern, computerized, and able to make most kinds of international financial transfers quickly. It is possible to use Visa and MasterCard to get cash, although Visa cards have significantly wider acceptance. Additionally, most banks will gladly change American Express traveler’s checks and personal checks without additional fees. Note: There is a 8% service charge on all credit card transactions in Guatemala. At most ATMs, debit cards do not have this charge and we strongly recommend bringing some method of cash withdrawl other than just credit cards. Payments at Celas Maya made with debit cards also have a 8% service fee.
*”The exchange rate between US dollars and Guatemalan quetzales has been changing a lot lately, and is currently at about 8 quetzales for every dollar. If you want to know what the exchange rate is, ask Comó está el tipo de cambio?”
Warning Canadian citizens! We strongly recommend bringing US dollars since it is very difficult to find banks in Guatemala that change Canadian dollars.
Climate and Clothing
Being in the highlands, Quetzaltenango is blessed with a mosquito-free, generally cool climate, ranging from 0 to 30 degrees Celcius (32 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit). The dry season begins in November and ends towards the end of May. During the winter months (November – January) it is quite cold, and since buildings here do not have heating it is recommended that visitors bring warm clothes to sleep in, and for the daytime, clothes that can be layered (t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, jackets, hats, scarves and gloves). Between June and November, Quetzaltenango has frequent rainshowers in the afternoon after generally sunny and warm mornings. A warm wool sweater and a rain jacket or umbrella is recommended if you are out in the afternoons. During the daytime, light dress (shirt, pants, shorts, etc.) is fine.
Water coming directly from the tap is unsafe for drinking anywhere in Guatemala, although it is perfectly safe for bathing. Purified bottled drinking water is readily available anywhere you go.
A Friendly Environment
We value the concept of building a friendly environment for study. Classes are conducted in a landscaped and peaceful garden located in a historic, colorful hacienda in the heart of the city. Students and staff enjoy free and unlimited hot coffee, hot tea, and purified water. During the morning break, we also offer fresh bread and cookies from a local bakery.
Use www.guatemalastory.com for travel information and trip planning in Guatemala