17 Top Guatemala Packing List Items + What to Wear & NOT to Bring (2018)

Updated on June 25, 2018 by Asher Fergusson

What should I bring on my Guatemala trip?

1) World Nomads Insurance – Travel insurance is essential for any trip abroad. If you’re backpacking in Guatemala, you’ll be using public transportation. Often you will be separated from your bag (which is placed in the luggage compartment under the bus) during your journey. In the unlikely event that you and your luggage are not reunited at the end of the bus journey, you’ll be glad to have the insurance coverage to fall back on.

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2) Pepto-bismol tablets – It’s always good to have Pepto Bismol tablets on hand just in case you fall victim to food poisoning or giardia. Traveling in Guatemala tends to involve lengthy bus journeys where the opportunity for bathroom breaks is scarce. Pepto Bismol tablets will come to your rescue if you happen to fall sick on a travel day.

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3) Dry Shampoo – Guatemala is a developing country, and as such, there are times when water is scarce, cold, or simply unavailable. Dry shampoo will keep you looking fresh even when the luxury of a shower is unavailable to you.

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4) Compact camera – Whether strolling the streets of Antigua, browsing the market of Chichicastenango, or scaling ruins at Tikal, you’ll want to snap some photos to commemorate the trip. Expensive smartphones can make you a target for pickpockets, so consider this inexpensive point and shoot camera instead. As a bonus, it’s waterproof, so you’ll be able to trek through caves with it at Semuc Champey as well.

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5) Bug repellant – Bug repellant is critical in Guatemala. Much of the country consists of dense jungle, and some areas are even subject to malaria warnings. Additionally, bug bites can become infected quickly in the warm, humid climate, so it’s best just to avoid them all together. This cream works to repel insects and relieve itchiness for bites you already have.

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6) Biodegradable sunscreen – It’s vital to bring (and wear) sunscreen in Guatemala. Even if you’re not at the beach, the sun is hot and punishing, especially at high altitude locations. This reef-safe brand is ideal for the environmentally conscious traveler.

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7) Quick-dry towel – A microfiber towel is a traveler’s best friend. It’s compact and dries exceptionally fast. It works great for the beach, the pool, or just around on the hotel. And, because it comes in a handy stuff sack, it can even substitute as a pillow if you need one!

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8) Spanish Phrase Book – Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, and English is not widely spoken. If your Spanish is rusty or lacking, a phrasebook will be your best friend. Sure, Google Translate works most of the time, but your need to communicate doesn’t cease when the WiFi connection does. This pocket-sized edition is easy to carry around!

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9) LifeStraw Water Purifier – Tap water in Guatemala isn’t safe to drink, and while bottles are usually readily available, the LifeStraw will come in handy if you ever find yourself without access to bottled water. It’s compact and can provide up to 1000 Litres of clean water before it needs replacing.

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10) Water bottle – A water bottle is an environmentally friendly way to ensure that you stay hydrated throughout your entire trip. This collapsible version will fit easily inside your pack when it’s not in use.

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11) Day Pack – A daypack is essential in Guatemala. It will come in handy for excursions during the day, such as volcano hikes, or exploring Mayan ruins. You’ll also be glad to have it on travel days when the rest of your luggage is stowed in the hold under the bus. Keep your valuables (passport, wallet, phone), a water bottle, and some snacks in your daypack, so they are easy to access during your bus journey

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12) Sleeping sack – – ​A sleeping sack is great for ensuring that wherever you sleep is clean and hygienic. The silk fabric is lightweight and packs into a compact pouch that fits easily inside your luggage. Additionally, the material is soft and breathable which keeps you feeling fresh during warm nights.

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13) Wet Wipes – These hygiene wipes are great for when you don’t have access to a shower or a sink to wash your hands. You can freshen up with these and feel (almost) as good as new. Plus, they’re biodegradable!

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14) Compact Portable Charger – You’ll never have to worry about your phone or camera running out of battery when armed with this lipstick-sized charger. It’s small enough that you won’t notice the extra weight in your daypack or purse when you’re out and about for the day

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15) Tissues – It is always a good idea to have tissues in your backpack or purse in Guatemala. Many restrooms do not come equipped with toilet paper, so you’re best to take your own, just in case

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16) Campsuds All-Purpose Cleaner – Campsuds is the ultimate travel soap. You can use it to wash your hair, clothes, hands, and even dishes. It’s highly concentrated, so you don’t need to use much at a time; a small bottle should last your entire trip (andthen some). This soap is especially handy for washing your clothing on the road.

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17) Rain Shell – Guatemala’s rainy season extends from May to November, but showers are possible all year round. On top of that, when it rains in Guatemala, it pours. Be sure to pack a lightweight rain jacket to throw on if you see rain clouds brewing in the distance.

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Other items



What to wear in general

Your wardrobe in Guatemala will vary depending on what your itinerary includes, but generally, casual clothing is in order.

Guatemala’s temperature averages about 70 degrees throughout the country, though it may be slightly cooler at high altitudes, and warmer along the coast. It can be quite humid, especially in the mountains, so lightweight clothing is ideal.

You won’t find much need for formal clothing in Guatemala, but there are high-end restaurants to be visited in some cities, like Antigua. A simple, composed outfit is perfectly suitable for dinner out. Think, chinos and a button down for men, and a maxi, or knee-length dress for women.

Remember, the temperature can drop at night, especially in the mountains, so be sure to pack a sweater and a pair of pants or leggings for the evenings.

What should WOMEN wear in Guatemala? – (Click to expand)

Women in Guatemala typically wear casual, but conservative clothing. Dresses or slacks paired with a blouse are an everyday ensemble. Some women dress in traditional attire, which consists of a full-length skirt paired with a cotton blouse and a shawl if the weather is cool.
Because the standard dress is casual, packing for Guatemala is pretty easy. Visiting women should plan to bring layers, as it can be cool out in the evening. Leggings or sweats are ideal, paired with a long sleeve shirt or sweater. During the day it can be quite warm, so shorts or sundresses will be the most comfortable.





















What should MEN wear in Guatemala? – (Click to expand)

Guatemalan men typically wear slacks or jeans paired with a tee shirt or button-down shirt. Visiting men should feel comfortable doing the same. Though, visitors won’t be as acclimatized to the heat and humidity so shorts may be more comfortable than pants.

As for footwear, because the streets are mainly dirt or cobblestone, running shoes or sneakers are the best option. They’ll keep your feet clean and your footing sound. Sandals are just fine around town as well but probably aren’t as comfortable for long walks.
















Dressing for the seasons:

Rainy Season (May – October) -​ Guatemala’s rainy season is also the colder season. During this time of year you can expect heavy rain showers, but usually, they don’t last the entire day. The temperatures are typically warm (around 70 degrees) during the day but can dip into the mid 60’s after dark, especially at high elevations. If you’re visiting Guatemala during the rainy season a rain jacket is essential. Also be sure to pack synthetic clothing that will quickly dry if you get caught in a shower. Waterproof trail shoes are a great footwear option for this time of year, as they’ll help protect your feet and keep your footing in the mud.

Dry Season (November – April) -​ The temperature in the dry season is slightly warmer than during the rainy season, and won’t drop as much when the sun goes down. If visiting Guatemala during this time of year, you can expect plenty of sunshine. Shorts, t-shirts, and dresses are comfortable during the day, and long sleeves help keep the bugs off in the evening. Rain showers can still occur during this time of year, so take a rain jacket just in case.

Dressing appropriately for the activity

Walking Around Town​ – When exploring Guatemala’s colorful towns and cities, casual but well-composed outfits are your best bet. The locals always dress nicely, so you should do your best to look put together as well. Comfortable shoes are ideal because the streets are often dirt or cobblestone. If you’re planning to visit religious sites, take care to dress conservatively — skirts to the knee for women, and shoulders covered. A pashmina comes in handy for transforming a sleeveless outfit into a conservative one.

Hikes & Ruins​ – Guatemala is famous for the Mayan ruin at Tikal. This extraordinary archaeological site features numerous ancient structures which jut out from the top of the jungle canopy. You will spend much of the day in the direct sunlight while visiting Tikal, and you will do lots of walking (and climbing of ruins). Be sure to wear lightweight clothing, and take a daypack equipped with a water bottle and extra sunscreen. Secure sandals or running shoes will keep your feet comfortable as you walk around all day. The same attire is fitting for volcano hikes.

Semuc Champey ​ – This famous national park in Guatemala’s mountains consists of a renowned limestone bridge dotted with crystalline pools with delightfully refreshing water. Underneath the bridge is an underground river and plenty of caves to explore. You’ll want to wear water shoes, a swimsuit, and synthetic clothing for your day at Semuc Champey, as you’ll be in and out of the water a lot. A waterproof camera is ideal for helping you capture the experience.

Chichicastenango Market – ​Every Sunday and Thursday people from the surrounding area gather in the town of Chichicastenango and hold a massive market. You buy everything from textiles to leather goods, and, of course, food. When browsing the market women should carry a small, crossbody purse on the front of their body, as crowds are a feeding ground for pickpockets. Sensible shoes are also in order, to protect your feet from being trampled by strangers. If you take a daypack to carry your purchases home, be sure to keep your money in an inside pocket.

What NOT to bring

High Heels -​ Heels are simply unnecessary for Guatemala. Between the dirt roads and cobblestones, wearing them is just too much of a challenge. On top of that, the typical dress in Guatemala is quite casual; wearing heels will make you look out of place. Leave the heels and home and use the extra space in your suitcase for souvenirs.

A lot of jewelry – ​Petty crime isn’t unheard of in Guatemala, and excessive flashy jewelry will only make you more of a target. Additionally, it won’t fit in with the low-key, down-to-earth style for which the local Guatemalans are known.

Electronics – ​It’s best to limit the number of expensive devices you carry with you on your trip to Guatemala. Not only do they put you at risk for theft, but, the wifi situation in Guatemala is spotty unless you’re staying within a major city. There’s no sense in porting around devices if you can’t even connect with a network to use them on! Keep your electronics to the bare minimum and save yourself the weight in your pack.

Rolling Suitcase – ​While there’s nothing wrong with bringing a rolling suitcase to Guatemala, it’s just not that practical. There aren’t very many places outside of the airport where you’ll actually be able to roll it. It will be much easier to port around a travel pack, which you can throw over your shoulder.

Jeans​ – With the humidity level, warm temperatures, and chance of showers, jeans just aren’t a practical clothing item for Guatemala. You’re unlikely to wear them outside of the airport, and they’re heavy to cart around. Lightweight travel pants or leggings are much lighter and will dry quicker if they get wet.

Makeup – ​Makeup isn’t essential in Guatemala. You won’t look out of place if you wear it, but you’ll blend in just fine with a bare face. It’s most likely going to sweat right off if you do attempt to wear it, especially if your itinerary involves hiking, or caving. If you do bring makeup, stick to the bare minimum.

What NOT to wear

Guatemala’s casual street style means that there’s no need to pack formal wear for your visit. You won’t look out of place in a button down shirt or a sundress, but leave high heels, slacks, and fancy jewelry at home. You won’t miss it.
You should also avoid bringing heavy cotton clothing, like jeans and sweatshirts. These items will perpetually feel damp in the humidity, and they’ll be far too warm to wear most of the time. Instead, stick to synthetic outer layers, and travel pants.

FAQs

What is the best time of year to go?​ – The best time to visit Guatemala is between November and April, which is the dry season. The beginning of the wet season, which extends from May to October, can also be a pleasant time of year, as there aren’t as many tourists.

The temperature is quite comfortable all year round, but the heavy rain during the wet season may cause roads to be impassable, and make it generally challenging to get around within the country. September and October are the peak months for tropical storms which can ravage the country and cause mass destruction.

Do you need vaccinations to visit Guatemala? – It’s best to ask your doctor for their recommendation of which vaccines you should get before visiting Guatemala. That said, the Center For Disease Control recommends vaccinations for Hepatitis B, Malaria, and Rabies.

None of these vaccines are required, but they may be worth considering depending on the nature of your visit. If you’re planning to spend a lot of time outdoors in nature, Rabies and Malaria may be a good idea.

What is there to do in Guatemala? – Guatemala has many different types of activities to offer. It is a fantastic destination for
adventurous travelers who enjoy hiking and spending time in nature. Many travelers base in ecolodges in the mountains and spend their days exploring coffee plantations, hiking volcanoes, kayaking in lakes, swimming in rivers, or exploring Mayan ruins. There are also many colorful towns and cities to explore, from those surrounding Lake Atitlán to Antigua in central Guatemala. These towns are great places to base for weeks at a time. They draw visitors from all around the world who spend their days learning Spanish and immersing themselves in Guatemalan culture.

What is the best way to get around? – Guatemala is easily accessible by chicken bus (most commonly used by the locals), shuttle, or, if you’re willing to spend some extra money, you can hire a private driver.
Chicken buses are the cheapest mode of transportation, but, they aren’t necessarily the most comfortable. For journeys longer than a couple of hours you’ll probably be most comfortable in a shuttle. Shuttles are large vans that carry 15 to 20 passengers and often have air conditioning.

What type of food do they eat in Guatemala? – Most Guatemalan meals consist of meat served alongside rice and beans. A soup or stew usually precedes the main dish. Some dishes that you might recognize from Mexico such as tamales, and chiles rellenos, among others, can be found in Guatemala as well.

How much does it cost to travel in Guatemala? – A room in a mid-range hotel in Guatemala runs about $40 USD, while a bed in a hostel costs about $10. Of course, you can spend much more than that if you wish, but a mid-range hotel will provide a basic, but clean room.

When it comes to eating the cost will vary depending on where you eat. Comedores, which are small eateries where you pay a fixed price for a set menu, will cost about $5 for a full meal. If you eat in a proper restaurant, you can expect to spend about $10 for an entree.

Transportation costs in Guatemala are very low. A chicken bus will cost from $2 to $5 depending on the distance you are traveling, whereas a more comfortable shuttle bus will cost about $20.

Can I pay for things with a credit card in Guatemala? – Many large chains, hotels, and major restaurants will have the means to accept credit card payments, but your average independent store will not. In touristy areas, it is more common for businesses to accept card payments, but more often than not they will be cash only.

It’s not wise to carry a ton of cash with you in Guatemala because petty crime is relatively common, so try to plan out your daily expenses and carry only the amount of money you expect to need.

If your bank charges hefty ATM fees, withdraw a big lump of cash every week, and store it in various compartments throughout your luggage which you leave in your hotel. This way you can skip the ATM fees, and not have to be worried about carrying excessive cash on your person.

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