Ah, Guatemala. Boasting endless volcanos, rainforests, Mayan ruins, and coffee, Guatemala has recently seen a substantial uptick in tourism. Even before the pandemic, travelers increasingly started flocking to this wonderful, enchanting country.
This means that as one of the few countries currently open for travel, Guatemala stands out. It’s a travel nomad’s dream: quaint colonial towns, abundant history, rich culture, fantastic food, and endless adventure.
And for 2021, Guatemala is getting ready for a healthy return of tourism. Writing this from Antigua Guatemala, I can already see the tourists trickling in from around the world. And the Guatemalan government is one step ahead; they already allow vaccinated passengers to enter without a Covid test.
Guatemala Travel Requirements
Everyone (10 years or older) must present one of the following:
- Proof of a COVID-19 vaccine (full course) completed at least two weeks before arrival,
- -or- documentation of a recovery from COVID-19 within three months of arrival,
- -or- a negative COVID-19 PCR or Antigen test result within 72 hours of arrival.
Make sure to complete the Guatemala Health Pass prior to leaving.
This latest update in Guatemala’s travel restrictions adds Guatemala to the short list of countries allowing vaccinated passengers to enter without a Covid test. Considering that everyone in the US should have access to a vaccine by May, Guatemala makes a fantastic option to plan a future trip.
If you’re worried about changing travel restrictions, Bankrate’s useful guide covers what you need to know when planning a trip this year. It features tips for canceling and rescheduling travel plans and updated travel and refund policies for major destinations and airlines.
Forewarning: Crossing Land Borders from Mexico and Belize into Guatemala
Our original plan on our Central America trip was to cross the border from Belize to Guatemala in order to see Tikal. Everything we could find online said that the land borders were open, which unfortunately wasn’t the case.
We were alerted by Belizeans that the border wasn’t open, but only after we had already made our plans. This meant we had to spring for last minute airline tickets and change our itinerary completely. Unfortunately, that’s just part of the deal when traveling these deals.
Due to Semana Santa (holy week, celebrated around Easter), the land borders of Mexico and Belize are closed until at least April 26, 2021. This means you’ll have to fly directly into Guatemala if you’re traveling from these countries. The other land borders (El Salvador, Honduras) should be open.
Tourist Attractions in Guatemala: Are They Open in 2021?
As Guatemala witnesses a resurgence of visitors, many tourist attractions that were closed previously are now re-opened. Previously, Guatemala (like most other countries in the world) saw a massive depression in international visitors. However, they fared better in other ways.
With so much to offer, Guatemala saw surge of locals taking advantage of the empty sites and vacant hotels in 2020. As a result, most sites were able to stay open throughout much of the pandemic – great news for anyone looking to visit now.
Here’s a (totally not comprehensive) list of attractions open in Guatemala in 2021:
- Tikal: Open M-F 6AM-6PM
- Semuc Champey: Tu-Su 8AM-4PM
- Volcan de Acatenango: open for tours
- Lake Atitlán: open (include La Fortuna)
- Antigua Guatemala: almost everything (hotels, restaurants, museums) is fully open and functional
- Guatemala City: almost everything (hotels, restaurants, museums) is fully open and functional
- Public Transportation: running at 50%
- Alcohol Sales: prohibited 9PM-6AM
- No curfew!
Our favorite activity was hiking the Acatenango Volcano, as pictured above, for the reason pictured above. Seriously, how cool is it to watch an active volcano from your tent? The hike was pretty intense (5-6 hours up, steep), but worth it. We 100% recommend Wicho and Charlie’s and have no doubts that they are the BEST tour provider to hike this volcano.
Best Local Sim Cards
In Guatemala, the two primary providers are Claro and Tigo. The benefit to Claro is that they have service all over Latin America. That being said, Tigo is the clear winner in terms of speed and reliability in Guatemala.
We simply walked into a (surprisingly beautiful) store in Antigua Guatemala and purchased 10GB of high speed data, including free calling, for only 150 quetzales (about USD$20).
Where to Stay in Guatemala
Every new place we stay at in Guatemala seems to become our new favorite. This is just another way of saying: there’s a lot of fine choice of accommodation here.
Previously the capital of Central America, this quaint, cute, colonial town is probably the main attraction in Guatemala. Its gorgeous, colorful streets are lined with art and history, and filled with charming hotels and restaurants. There’s a nice blend of Spanish and Latin architecture, and nearly every block has a wonderful outdoor courtyard with lovely landscaping and outdoor seating. It’s like having a park at the middle of each building.
Our favorite place to stay in Antigua is Porta Hotel. We found the value to exceed anything else we could find. There are two outdoor pools, a playground for kids, balcony rooms with views on the lush gardens and nearby volcanos, and a restaurant onsite.
Lago De Atitlán
You’ve probably seen pictures of this spectacular lake all over social media. It’s large, beautiful, and surrounded by volcanos.
Our favorite place to stay is La Fortuna de Atitlán. Because of its remote location, you actually have to take a boat across the lake to get to it. What better way to disconnect and unwind than to embed yourself deep in the Guatemalan countryside?
Guatemala’s capital is pretty big. With a population nearing a million, there’s a lot to do and plenty of choice of where to stay.
Located in one of the city’s safest zones, AC Hotel by Marriott Guatemala City boasts excellent views, great food, and nice rooms. That makes it our choice for a downtown hotel.
Tikal is the largest and most impressive Mayan site in all of Guatemala, and it’s open in 2021!
Here, you can decide if you prefer staying close to Tikal (not as much to do, less food, but closer to the main attraction) or down in Flores (bigger city, on a beautiful lake, lots of food).
In Flores, our favorite hotel is the Bolontiku Botique Hotel. This 5-start hotel integrates naturally into the jungle, providing a quiet stay on the shore of a mystical Lake of the Itzá.
For Tikal, there isn’t much choice. That being said, you won’t go wrong with the Jungle Lodge Hotel and Hostel. It’s pretty basic – but it still has everything you need.
Here’s a $5 off $50 coupon for hotels.com: Save $5 when you spend $50+ with code 5OFF50US. Book by 12/31/21. Travel by 3/31/22.
I may receive compensation if you use the link, which in turn helps keep the website running.
Return Covid Testing
All the info you need about Covid testing centers in Guatemala is listed here. As per the website:
As of January 26, all airline passengers to the United States ages two years and older must provide either a negative COVID-19 viral test taken within three calendar days of travel or provide a positive test result and documentation from a licensed health care provider or public health official of having recovered from COVID-19 in the 90 days preceding travel. Passengers must also attest, under penalty of law, to having received a negative qualifying test result or to recovery from COVID-19 and medical clearance to travel.
Testing is available at private clinics and hospitals in Guatemala City and in many departments outside of the capital. Antigen testing typically costs between Q300 and Q500. PCR testing costs between Q645 and Q2,500 depending on the turnaround time. You will receive results within 5 to 48 hours. Here is a list of authorized Covid testing centers in Guatemala.