Not sure what to pack for Guatemala?
We are here to help.
Having spent 2+ months backpacking Guatemala, there are some things I wish I had packed (and not packed) for my Guatemala trip.
Guatemala is a very unique place to pack for. It is a third-world country with diverse landscapes. The country is filled with mountains so the elevation varies from sea level to as high as 4,2000m above sea level. As a result, you need a comprehensive packing list for Guatemala.
Without further ado, here are the things we recommend you to have on your Guatemala packing list!
What To Pack For Guatemala: The Guatemala Packing List
After backpacking in Guatemala for two+ months, I can honestly say traveling with a backpack in Guatemala is the best way to see the country.
My condolences go out to the travelers with huge rolling luggage dragging them across the cobbled-stoned streets of Antigua.
If you have to bring luggage, make sure it’s not difficult to carry them along.
The public transportation (chicken bus) is really not luggage-friendly and even the tourist-transportation can sometimes have difficulty with big pieces of luggage.
Keep in mind that your luggage will have to go on top of the transport van/bus when you are taking them. And as always, the ride is extremely bumpy in Guatemala, everywhere you go.
The Osprey Farpoint 55L is my current backpack that I have been traveling with for 2+ years. It’s extremely reliable and Osprey offers a life-time warranty, no questions asked!
A reliable daypack is probably one of the most important items to have on your Guatemala packing list. Guatemala has more than 37 volcanoes and many of them are hikable.
Without a reliable daypack, it would be difficult to take a day trip and hike any of these volcanoes or mountains. The Osprey Talon 22 and Tempest 20 are my favorite daypacks because they have amazing back support as well as a hip belt. The hip belt is an absolute life-saver when doing a long hike.
If you want to hike Volcano Acatenango (and watch a volcano erupt), I highly recommend you to bring a nice and comfortable daypack with you.
A filtered water bottle is one of the most overlooked items to bring with you to Guatemala. The water quality in Guatemala is not good and it is not safe to drink from the tap. Even when you are using tap water to brush or teeth, there is a chance you could get sick from it.
Using a filtered water bottle will allow you to drink from ANY freshwater source. Tap water? Definitely. A stream you encounter on a hike? Why not? The gorgeous Lake Peten surrounding the island of Flores? Yes!
It is hands-down one of the most versatile things to bring with you to Guatemala or any travel destination!
My favorite one is the GRAYL Ultralight Water Purifier and Filter Bottle. It is stylish and easy to use! You can have clean potable water in 15 seconds!
If you are backpacking Guatemala, a microfiber travel towel is an essential item to bring with you. A microfiber towel is a fast-drying and compact towel that can be folded up into the size of your hand.
Traditional towels are amazing to have at home but they take too long to dry and they take up too much space in your luggage. That is why the microfiber towel is the perfect travel towel.
If you are traveling Guatemala on a budget, having your own towel will save you lots of money because hostels will charge you to rent one of their towels!
My favorite brand is Rainleaf. Their microfiber towels have never failed me and I actually have two of them. They come in many different sizes so you can find the perfect one as your travel buddy!
Combination locks are crucial items to bring to Guatemala to protect your belongings. Whether you are staying in a hostel, out on a hike, or camping in Tikal ruins, a combination lock will make sure your belongings are there when you return.
I always carry a combination lock with me for the zippers of my backpack. It deters thieves from just unzipping your backpack and taking whatever they can find, especially on the crowded chicken buses of Guatemala.
The other combination lock is always in my accommodation. It is either on a locker or around the zippers of my main luggage or backpack. That way I always have complete peace of mind when I am out exploring.
Always bring two combination locks with you when you travel.
My favorite ones are these TSA-approved combination locks. They make sure your luggage doesn’t get damaged during inspection!
Packing Cubes transformed my travel experience. Their individual cubes allow you to separate your articles of clothing and toiletries. If you have dirty laundry, you can separate them in their own cube. Wet clothes from swimming in Semuc Champey? Throw them in the water-proof pouch.
Packing cubes have made traveling so much easier. If you are traveling with family members, you can designate one cube just for them. The potential for packing cubes is endless.
My favorite brand is the YAMIU 7 pieces of packing cubes that include a shoe bag and toiletry pouches.
One of the biggest mistakes when traveling to Guatemala is not packing a rain jacket. Guatemala gets a common misconception of being a country of eternal sunshine but that is just not true.
In the northern part of Guatemala is a region called the Peten rainforest. A place filled with mysterious Mayan ruins such as Tikal ruins, a visit to the Peten region is a must on any Guatemala itinerary!
In addition to the rainforest region, many of the hikes in Guatemala take you to high elevation. At high altitude, the weather is unpredictable and the possibility of rain is high.
That is why I highly recommend you to bring a portable rain jacket with you on your Guatemala vacation!
My friend broke your leg while going down the steep Volcano Acatenango and surgery in Guatemala is not pretty.
Insect Repellent is an essential item for your Guatemala trip, especially if you are visiting the Peten rainforest, Hobbitenango, or Lake Atitlan. In areas in Guatemala where the elevation is below 1,500m, mosquitos can be a problem.
With the presence of mosquitos comes the danger of malaria. Though malaria is not rampant in Guatemala and close to none of the travelers I met protected themselves against it, there is still a possibility. At the time of writing, there is a Dengue fever outbreak in Guatemala as well.
Dengue is spread by mosquitos so it is imperative to bring insect repellent with you to Guatemala.
Protect yourself from malaria and dengue with insect repellent with Picaridin. It is known to be as effective and more pleasant than DEET.
You should also consider purchasing travel insurance when visiting Guatemala!
An all-purpose travel medication kit is another essential for your packing list for Guatemala. Whether you have motion sickness from the terrible roads in Guatemala (from Lanquin to Flores), food poisoning from eating the wrong food, or just a fever from the flu, an all-purpose medicine kit will have you covered.
The kit is portable and doesn’t take up a lot of space in your luggage. It is an item I always bring with me when I go traveling.
How can you travel to Guatemala and not bring a camera to take photos as memory? But don’t just bring any camera with you, you must bring a compact travel camera. A compact travel camera is portable, fits in your pocket, and gets the job done in terms of quality.
The Sony CyberShot RX100 VII is exactly one of those. When you take it out in Guatemala and use it, the locals won’t think it is an expensive camera because of the size.
If you take a huge DSLR out, the locals will automatically assume it is an expensive camera because of the size. If they have bad intentions (wants to rob you), then you might run out of luck.
In wealthier countries, I would recommend a bigger camera for better quality, but not in Guatemala.
Do you want to look like a lobster when you come back from Guatemala? No? Then make sure you pack some good sunscreen from home! You can also purchase sunscreen in Guatemala but the quality is not so good. Locals in Guatemala just don’t use sunscreen.
Many of the cities in Guatemala are located very high above sea level. Antigua, arguably the most popular city in Guatemala, is located 1,500m above sea level. Quetzaltenango (Xela), another big city in Guatemala, is located 2,300m above sea level.
The sun at high altitudes is much stronger and damaging to the skin. Make sure you pack some sunscreen for your Guatemala trip!
Most of the Guatemalans you encounter on your trip will not speak any English. That is why it is important to either have a basic level of Spanish, bring a translator, or carry a basic Spanish phrase and dictionary book with you.
I find that having a physical phrase booking is not only helpful, but will also help you learn Spanish in Guatemala.
If you don’t already have a portable charger to charge your phone when you are on the go, you need to get one right now.
A portable charger will keep your electronics alive when you are out exploring the city or on a hike. It can charge your phone, some cameras, and other electronics.
My favorite brand is Anker and I have had it for 5+ years and it is still functional!
Guatemala uses the two-pinned plug similar to the ones they use in the United States. If you have one, you don’t need to buy a travel adapter. If you don’t, then I highly recommend this EPICKA travel adapter.
It is universal so you can use it for any destination in the entire world. There are also USB plugs so all you need is a cable to charge your electronics! It is so versatile!
Bringing warm clothing to a country called the “country of eternal spring” might be a strange thing. But if you are doing any multi-day hikes such as the Volcano Acatenango hike or the Tajumulco hike, it is wise to bring so warm clothing. Once the sun sets in Guatemala, it can actually get quite chilly.
A light windbreaker is a must for Guatemala as well as some gloves and hat if you are going to be in high elevation at night. Don’t just bring t-shirts and shorts. You will regret it!
Documentation/Vaccines/Currency/Etc For Guatemala
1. Passport, Visas, and a Return Flight
Self-Explanatory. Make sure you have your passport and the proper visa to enter Guatemala. If you are not sure if a visa to required for you to enter Guatemala, make sure you check beforehand.
There is a possibility that the airline will ask your proof of onward travel. That means you need to prove you are leaving Guatemala via a flight ticket or bus ticket to another country. You will not be able to board the flight unless you have proof of onward travel.
2. Travel Insurance
I cannot stress this enough. Travel insurance is an essential part of traveling, especially if you are visiting a poor country like Guatemala. Stealing an iPhone form you is worth two months of their salary, if they even have a job. Guatemalans are some of the friendliest people I have met but people can do bad things in desperate times.
Some cities in Guatemala are safer than others. For example, the safety in Antigua is quite high but it is dangerous in most parts of Guatemala City.
Don’t let a few mishaps ruin your Guatemala trip.
Purchase travel insurance beforehand.
3. Foreign Currency (Guatemalan Quetzal)
I recommend exchanging for some Guatemalan Quetzal currency before you arrive in Guatemala. Nearly all the shops in Guatemala (except Guatemala City) will only accept cash.
You don’t need to take that much though, just enough to get you from Guatemala City Airport to Antigua. Antigua has numerous ATMs where you can withdraw Quetzales from for a small additional fee. It is the most economical way to get local currency in Guatemala.
Guatemala City airport does not have an ATM.
4. Credit and Debit (ATM) Card
As I said above, the most economical way to get the most amount of local currency is to use a local ATM with your debit (ATM) card. Credit cards will work in Guatemala cities and some shop in Antigua, but is useless in most of the other places in Guatemala.
Always remember to make a backup of your cards and document by taking photos of them and uploading them on Google Drive or Dropbox!
As I am not a medical professional, refer here for the list of vaccines needed for Guatemala. Though some of those vaccines are only recommended and not required, I recommend you to get them anyways.
Peace of mind is the most important thing when traveling abroad.
What To Not Include On Your Packing List For Guatemala
Most packing guides will just include the things to bring with you, but never mention the items you should not bring. In our guide, we will also mention the things that are not really worth bringing to Guatemala for various reasons.
1. Fancy and Bulky Electronics
Fancy and bulky electronics such as a nice camera will inevitably capture the attention of the locals in Guatemala. They know that those fancy electronics are worth a fortune and taking them from you could means months of their salary.
You are essentially putting a big target on your back if you bring them. If you want to bring a professional camera, I recommend a high-quality compact mirrorless camera such as the Sony A7III. It is one of the best backpacking cameras!
Similar to fancy electronics, jewelry is completely unnecessary for your Guatemala trip. The locals rarely wear it and if you wear a fancy watch or a diamond ring, you will stick out and become a target. If you have to bring jewelry with you, make sure you keep it in a safe place!
3. Huge Luggage, Especially Big Rolling Luggage
Rolling luggage has its place and time, and Guatemala is not the place for it. Its lack of infrastructure and cobbled-stoned roads will be a challenge for you. Imagine dragging your 50-lb luggage across the cobbled-stoned streets of Antigua, your luggage bouncing up and down with every step you take. It is not fun.
Besides the roads, transportation is not very big luggage friendly. Most of the time it is a van that fits around 10 people and your luggage will have to go on top of the van.
If it rains, your luggage gets wet. If the van goes on a bumpy part of the road, your luggage might get damaged.
These are some things to consider when bringing big luggage to Guatemala.
Safety In Guatemala
Guatemala is one of my favorite countries. With its diverse landscapes, rich culture, and friendly people, there are so many things to love bout Guatemala. However, Guatemala is not all perfect.
Guatemala is not the safest place in the world, or even close to it.
Generally speaking, most of the touristy places in Guatemala is safe. Antigua, Flores, Semuc Champey, and Lake Atitlan (not between the villages).
But that doesn’t mean bad things won’t happen to you in those places. If you make yourself an easy target by being under-the-influenced, you will increase the chances of being the victim.
Guatemala City is unsafe, especially at night. Some parts are safe in Guatemala City in the day time such as Zone 1, but it is not advisable to go out at night due to safety reasons. The good thing is there isn’t much to see in Guatemala City.
Quetzaltenango (Xela) is another city with questionable safety. Though safer than Guatemala City, I have heard stories of people getting robbed and held at knifepoint.
Chicken buses are the main form of pubic transportation in Guatemala. They are what the locals take to get from one place to another. They are super cheap and riding them is an experience unlike any other. However, pickpockets are common on chicken buses. Watch your belongings carefully if you decide to take one of them.
This concludes our guide on the Guatemala packing list! I hope now you know what to bring to Guatemala for your next vacation!
Questions? Leave a comment!
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