Guatemala is located in Central America to the south and east of Mexico, west of Belize, and northwest of El Salvador and Honduras. The country is full of ecotourismsites such as tropical jungles, active volcanoes, cloud forests, beaches, coral reefs, and lakes as well as archaeological wonders such as the ancient ruins of the Mayan culture. There is even a village that still adheres to pre-Hispanic rituals and beliefs called Chichicastenango, which is also home to a famous market.
Even though Guatemala has become safer in recent years as a result of increased police presence in order to protect tourists, there is still crime throughout the country, especially in Guatemala City. The most common crime against tourists is highway robberies along heavily touristed routes (Highway 1) in which cars are stopped and the inhabitants are robbed of their possession. However, some argue that chicken buses are much safer than shuttle minibuses and buses, but they are not 100% exempt from robbery nor are non-touristed highways. Also, robberies in isolated areas along walking trails have been reported. To reduce this risk, go hiking in large groups or request a police escort. So if you decide to travel to Guatemala, use your common sense and be wary of people walking abnormally close to you and only carry on your person the valuables that you have immediate need for.
Guatemala Medical Tourism
Compared to other Latin American countries, Guatemala is a newcomer to the medical tourism industry. However, what it lacks in history it definitely makes up for in quality of care and technology, with the aid of millions of dollars invested in its medical infrastructure. Some doctors were even trained and given board certification by U.S. institutions. Both Guatemala City and Antigua (30 miles (45 km) from Guatemala City) have top-notch hospitals and clinics that cater to medical tourists at a fraction of the cost compared to the U.S.
Popular procedures sought by medical tourists include cosmetic, oncology, bariatric, fertility, orthopedic, urology, dermatology, dental, and ophthalmology.
The official language of Guatemala is Spanish, but English is spoken in all major tourist centers.
The temperature is relatively stable year round with the average ranging from 77oF to 95oF (25oC to 35oC). During December to February, mornings and nights are cool, and March and April are the hottest and driest months. May to October is the rainy season, which also brings mosquitoes. So if you are traveling during this time, bring a raincoat and bug repellent, and if you plan on camping outside, don’t forget a mosquito net.
Visa / Entrance Requirements
U.S. and Canadian citizens must have a valid passport but do not require a visa for stays up to 90 days in Guatemala. One extension of an extra 90 days is allowed without going through the visa process, which can be obtained at the Immigration Office.
Airlines Servicing this Destination
Guatemala has many airports, but the one most pertinent to medical tourists is La Aurora International in Guatemala City (GUA).
The following airlines have flights to Guatemala City:
- Air Canada
- American Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Mexicana De Aviacion
- US Airways
- Northwest Airlines
A room in a budget hostel or guesthouse ranges from $14 to $30 USD per person per night in Guatemala City and $9 to $20 USD per person per night in Antigua. A room in a 3 star hotel costs between $50 and $135 USD per night for a double occupancy room. On the luxurious end of the spectrum, a 5 star hotels starts at $120 USD per night.
The currency of Guatemala is the Quetzales (GTQ).
The exchange rate of U.S. dollars to Guatemalan quetzales is $1 USD to 8.13 GTQ(exchange rate subject to change).
The international access code for Guatemala is 502.
In order to call Guatemala from the U.S. or Canada, you must dial 011 (exit code), then 502 (country code for Guatemala), and then the phone number (eight digits).
To call a cell phone in Guatemala from the U.S. or Canada you must dial 011 + 502 + phone number (begins with the number 4 or 5).
In order to call the U.S. or Canada from Guatemala you must dial 00 + 1 + area code + phone number
Cyber-cafes are widely available in major cities and towns. Many hotels and private hospitals throughout the country offer Broadband Internet connection.
Emergency Telephone Numbers
U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City: 2326-4000.
The two most popular cities that attract tourists are Guatemala City and Antigua. The latter is described as a fantasy land in which building codes are adhered to, trash is collected, power lines run underground, traffic is diverted, and stray dogs do not overrun the city. The city is therefore aesthetically gorgeous and is nestled in between three volcanoes making the view spectacular. The city is filled with students attending the language school and the hostels provide colonial-chic accommodations. Also, you will not be disappointed with the gastronomical offerings of Antigua, which are considered some of the best in the country.
Guatemala City is the largest City in Central America and is the center of the country’s politics, wealth, and power. Recently, some conservationists have worked to preserve the historic center and as a result, fashionable cafes and bars have opened in restored buildings drawing throngs of tourists and students alike. Also, the city is home to JardinBotanico (Botanical Gardens), which is fun for the whole family.
Outside of the major cities there are natural settings for travelers to enjoy. 30 minutes by car from Guatemala City is Lake Amatitlan, which has spectacular views of volcanoes and is the perfect setting for a barbecue, picnic, or boat trip. MixcoViejo is the site of important Mayan ruins and is one of the finest completely restored archaeological sites in the country.
Shopping in Guatemala can be very rewarding. In Mayan towns, there are a plethora of colorful Mayan inspired, hand-crafted items such as tapestries,weavings, and paintings. Also available in markets throughout the country are leather goods, silver jewelry, ceramics, and jade. The most famous market isChichicastenango (two hours from Guatemala City and Antigua), which is open on Thursdays and Sundays. This market has an impressive mix of indigenous groups and draws vendors from all over the country who sell a variety of items from ladies blouses to food. For luxury items, you can find expensive crystals and other high end goods in Guatemala City.
Nightlife and the Arts
Nightlife is mostly localized to Antigua and Guatemala City. In Guatemala City, popular late night hangouts include the Brass Beer Company, which serves an array of international and local brews. El Gazabo and Europa are popular dance clubs located in Old City. NYX is THE place to go for dancing and it draws crowds of cosmopolitan locals as well as posh internationals. In Antigua, Cafe No Se is popular among liquor connoisseurs because of its selection of over 30 kinds of tequila and mezcal. Other popular bars/clubs include Mono Loco, Los ArcosRojos,Estudio 35, and Maconda.
Most museums in Guatemala are located in Guatemala City and they include theIxchel Museum of Indigenous Textiles and Clothing, the National Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the National Palace, the National History Museum, the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the PopolVuh Archaeological Museum, and the National Natural History Museum. Museums in Antigua include the Book Museum, the Guatemalan Museum of Contemporary and Primitive Arts, the Colonial Art Museum, Popenoe House, and the Museode Santiago (St. James Museum).
Guatemala has a few print and online publications in English:
- Guatemala Times
- Voces de Guatemala
- The Guatemala Post
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