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This Guatemala packing list includes everything you'll need for a trip to this vibrant destination in Central America no matter your plans or the season.
With a temperate climate and a huge variety of landscapes, traveling to Guatemala calls for a thoughtfully packed bag and clothes for a variety of activities like hiking Volcan Acatenango, chilling at the beach in El Paredon, or swimming in the enchanting pools of Semuc Champey.
Having the right items on your packing list is crucial for seamless transitions and ticking off your travel itinerary without stress. As Guatemala travel experts, our packing list details what to bring and what NOT to bring on your vacation to Guatemala.
Without further ado, let's get packing!
First and foremost, it's important to have a solid bag or suitcase to carry all your travel essentals.
Whilst a rolling suitcase is normally easy to transport, the cobblestone streets of Antigua can be hard on the wheels of large suitcases. The type of luggage you choose for your trip depends on what your Guatemala itinerary includes.
We recommend traveling with a lightly packed backpack in Guatemala. Something like the Osprey Fairview 40 (which is sized to meet most airline carry-on requirements) is the perfect one-pack-does-all for streamlined travel from a trusted brand.
As a backpacker, you'll also want a daypack for day trips, hikes, visits to the market, and general outings.
Whether you are on vacation for a week or backpacking the world for a year, packing cubes are a must-have travel accessory to make your life easier, as they save space and help to keep your luggage organized throughout your trip. Packing cubes usually come in sets of 3-5 and come in different sizes as well.
World Nomads is a great provider of travel insurance for Guatemala and the rest of the world, with different plans available based on your travel plans. They base your coverage on how long your trip is, how many countries you plan to visit, which activities you plan to participate in, and the general safety of your destinations, etc.
Activated charcoal has endless benefits when it comes to treating a range of common traveler complaints. If you get an unexpected bout of food poisoning, altitude sickness, or nausea during those long bus journeys, taking an activated charcoal tablet offers a natural solution.
We always recommend packing a power bank when taking trips with potentially long adventure days so your devices can stay charged up to capture the memories. The Mophie Power bank contains roughly 5 full charges for a phone and is compatible for most devices.
A travel towel is handy on any trip abroad, especially when you want to swim in Lake Atitlan, go to the beach in El Paredón, or take a shower at a hostel where towels are generally rented as opposed to included in the nightly fee.
Microfiber towels are lightweight, they don't take up too much space and they dry quickly, making them convenient for when you're on the go. You can always wash them with your weekly laundry.
If you’re going to stay at a hostel, this is a good way to keep your belongings safe while you’re out and about.
It's absolutely essential that you arrive in Guatemala with an onward ticket - something many backpackers get caught out on. Either print it out and put it in your bag, or have a digital version ready on your phone. Without this, immigration may not allow you to enter the country. Some backpackers use services like onwardticket.com to obtain fake return tickets as a workaround.
The great thing about underwater cameras is that you can capture all your memories without risking an expensive smartphone. Whilst at the beach or Lake Atitlan, switch to an underwater camera. The Akaso EK7000 is the top-selling budget option on Amazon, with tons of 5-star reviews and being waterproof up to 30m.
Guatemala is generally very safe for tourists, but if you are concerned about security, there are some nifty travel accessories you can add to your packing list to help you ensure your items always stay close and safe. A money belt is usually worn on the waist underneath your clothing to keep your most important items secure.
The Guatemala rainy season runs from May through October. The amount of rain is really quite minimal, but when it rains it pours. So, if you're visiting Guatemala during this window, it's essential to bring a waterproof jacket. The climate is humid so a light and thin jacket like the Columbia Switchback is best.
It is difficult for locals to exchange foreign currency, so paying with the local Quetzal note is preferred. Travelers cheques are a thing of the past, and most Guatemalan banks will not exchange foreign currency without an account at that bank. Note that $1 equals roughly 8 Quetzal.
Most businesses in Antigua and many places on Lake Atitlan are equipped to accept credit cards, but it is always recommended to carry enough cash for whatever you might need as there are just as many places that accept cash only.
An adventure through Guatemala is truly aesthetic, bursting with color from the buildings of colonial Antigua and traditional dress worn by men and women in the Guatemalan highlands. Many travelers these days are accustomed to taking photos with their smartphones, but Guatemala is a wonderful place to bring your camera if you are into photography.
One highly rated camera is the Fuji X-T4 Mirrorless Camera. The X T4 is designed to be reliable and robust in any situation, thanks to its newly developed mechanical shutter that is capable of making images at 15 frames per second. It also has an impressive battery capacity of up to 600 frames per charge2 that gives you peace of mind knowing that you won t miss out on the perfect moment due to lack of power.
A useful accessory for any camera is a SmallRig Mini Tripod. It is designed for any camera and smartphone, and it can also be used as a grip for handheld shooting and selfies.
Tap water is not safe to drink in Guatemala, so you'll need to have a plan for your drinking water. A LifeStraw water bottle is a good option to filter any water, anywhere during your trip. If you bring a regular refillable water bottle, you won't find free filtered water to fill it up everywhere but most hostels, hotels, etc will have drinking water available. In a pinch, there is always easy access to plastic water bottles in small tiendas (stores) on almost every street corner.
No matter what time of year you plan to visit, sturdy walking shoes or hiking boots are a must for your Guatemalan adventure. There are mountains galore to explore if that's your thing, but if not, still pack comfortable shoes. Your feet and your ankles will thank you when you are exploring the cobblestone streets of Antigua.
For hiking Acatenango, you need proper hiking shoes that have already been broken in. Regular sneakers do not provide the grip and strong ankle support that's needed for the rough terrain. Check out brands like Solomon and Merrell, they have a good reputation for making sturdy hiking shoes.
Another must-have for Guatemala is insect repellent: Malaria, Zika, and Chikungunya are mosquito-transmitted diseases that exist on the coast. The beach also has sand flies that come out after sunset, and you definitely don't want to spend the rest of your trip covered in insect bites.
A lot of places in Guatemala only have two-prong outlets, so having a couple of converters in your bag can save the day.
Guatemala now has a digital customs form you have to fill out online BEFORE you enter Guatemala and also before you LEAVE. Here is the link to the Customs Form.
You only need to complete one form per family and you can add multiple passport numbers when you fill out the form (English option is available). Once you complete the form, a unique QR code will be emailed to you and you just show your QR code on your way out after you collect your bags. If selecting English, you still need to click the drop-down & find "United States" under "Estados Unidos" in your from the USA. You can fill one firm for all family members. The QR Code is good for 24 hours.
There is free Internet at the airport and there are banner signs on your way to immigration with a QR code that links you to the online form. It should take less than two minutes to complete. If you don’t have a phone you can use one of the provided kiosk laptop computers just before immigration."
You can fill out the form before you leave your country. It has been reported that some airlines will not allow you on the plane if you haven't filled it out. But paper forms seem to be available still at least in the transition period.
You can find general hygiene necessities in grocery stores like La Torre and Bodegona, but many items you would consider "common" at home are not as easily accessible in Guatemala, so try to pack mindfully. Prescription medicines are often available over-the-counter, but pharmacies don't always have dependable supplies.
Regarding souvenirs, Guatemala is a great place to buy vibrant and unique textiles. Guatemalan women are extremely talented weavers, and most often work with naturally-died fibers for their weaving projects.
The locals, especially those of Maya descent are very modest and conservative in their dress. With this in mind, it is thoughtful for visitors to be somewhat conservative in their dress. Local men would never wear shorts in public, and women would not wear revealing or suggestive clothing.
The Guatemalan highlands have a fairly temperate climate, for which reason it is aptly known as "the land of the eternal spring." While the mornings are almost sunny and warm, the afternoons of the wet season can be quite rainy (May-October), so a rain jacket will be a good idea in those months. The local mayan women of the Guatemalan highlands wear conservative clothing, which is usually the typical dress of their region- including a skirt (corte pronounced "cor-tay"), belt to hold fasten the skirt around the waist (faja pronounced "fa-ha"), and a short-sleeved top called huipil (pronounced "wee-peel"). It is always good to be mindful of the clothing you choose in a conservative culture. Year-round, it can get chilly at night at high altitudes, but even more so in the months of November-January, so you will want to pack warm clothing and wear long pants in the evenings.
If you plan to hike Volcan Acatenango during your time in Guatemala, here are some essentials for your packing list: warm clothes including a warm jacket, warm layers, long pants, thick socks, and proper hiking boots. These are absolutely essential if you plan to camp on top of the volcano overnight- the temps drop overnight and it gets cold with the high altitudes. Hats and gloves are recommended, but many of these cold-weather items can be rented from your chosen tour agency for very reasonable prices if you don't have room to pack your own.
You will be required to hike up with 2 liters of water per person in your pack. You might also want to pack a headlamp with spare batteries.
The Pacific coast of Guatemala is known for its hot and humid weather, high temperatures and great surf. You'll want to have some sunscreen, a sun hat, swimwear and warm-weather clothing on your packing list if you plan on visiting the beach. Depending on where you are staying, you likely need to bring your own towel to the beach as well if you plan to lay out.
Kayak Guatemala is Lake Atitlan’s #1 base camp for exploration and adventure, offering activities like epic volcano hikes, family kayak tours, cooking classes, and village-to-village boat and walking tours. We employ and upskill underprivileged local people, plus a portion of our profits goes towards an NGO that works hard to alleviate poverty in Lake Atitlan.
For more help with planning your trip to Lake Atitlan, check out our "Top Tours & Things To Do In Lake Atitlan" guide.