Region: South America & Central America
There is no established church, but the prevailing form of religion is Roman Catholicism. There are a few Protestants and Jews.
The official language in Guatemala is Spanish. English is widely spoken in tourist areas and major hotels and restaurants. 23 indigenous languages are also spoken, 20 of these are Mayan languages.
Area (sq. km):
108,890 square meters
Guatemala is located in the tropic zone, but temperate seas and an irregular terrain provide a diversity of climates. At sea level average annual temperatures range between 25 and 30 C. At elevations greater than 1800m, temperatures may be as low as 10 C. There is a marked dry season from November to April. On the Caribbean coast, where the winds that rise from warm offshore waters blow throughout the year, there is hardly any dry season. In the central region the annual rainfall varies from 2000 mm in the high plateaus to less than 1000 mm in the arid section of the eastern part and along the middle section of the Motagua River valley.
There are benefits to travel year-round in Guatemala. The dry season runs from late October/early November to April and there is less chance of rain (still possible however), the wet season, which runs from May to early October, is less crowded, but travel to some places may be effected by the rain.
La Aurora International Airport is located 6 kilometres (4 miles) south of Guatemala City and Antigua Guatemala is another 45km to the west. If you don’t pre book a transfer, there is a public bus that will get you to Antigua from Guatemala City or you can get a tourist minibus for approximately US$7 to US$10.
The international dialling code for Guatemala is +502. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider; however, charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. You should also check with your service provider to see if your mobile phone is compatible with the networks used in Latin America. Most countries in the region operate on the 1900 Mhz system. Phone calls made from public telephone offices are generally your cheapest option.
The electricity supply in Guatemala is rated at 110 volts. Two-pin plugs are standard.
In Guatemala, you will mostly encounter tough grilled or fried meat, meat and more meat. Beans and rice are often the cheapest and best alternative. Mexican foods such as tortilla, enchiladas and guacamole are common. Coffee is available everywhere - sometimes spectacularly good, but the best beans are typically exported. One regional specialty is pepian, a spicy sauce often peppered with vegetables and chicken. Beer is prevalent, in light and dark versions, look out for Moza, Dorado and Gallo.
Most travel in Guatemala tends to be by bus. These range from economy buses which are normally the old American school bus type to comfortable overnight express buses. Guatemala has 14,118 km of highways and secondary roads, of which about 35 per cent are paved. The Pan-American Highway traverses Guatemala from Mexico to El Salvador. The country’s major seaports are Puerto Quetzal, Puerto Barrios, San José, Santo Tomás de Castilla, and Champerico. The Guatemalan airline Aviateca provides domestic and international services as does Mayan World Airlines. There are international airports at Guatemala City and Flores.
Look our for the following in Guatemala: brilliantly coloured Mayan textiles and weavings, handicrafts, jewellery, jade carvings, leather goods (including belts, cowboy boots and hats and bags), ceramics and basketry. Markets are best for local products and bargaining is necessary. Ceramics can be purchased cheaply in many places including Villa de Chinautla, San Luis Jilotepeque and Rabinal. Cobán is the cheapest place to buy silverware. The Central Market in Guatemala City and the Craft Market provide a range of crafts combining traditional and modern styles. Also look out for coffee, but make sure it is not ground first! Some of the best coffee can be purchased in Antigua and Cobán.
Australians, Americans, Canadians, British and New Zealanders do not currently require a visa for Guatemala. For all other nationalities please reconfirm your visa requirements with your travel agent.
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