Wondering about travel to Guatemala? You’re not alone. This beautiful country is visited by people from all over the world every year and it’s easy to get to as it’s connected to some of the world’s busiest airport hubs.
What’s the easiest way to travel to Guatemala?
Flying is the simplest way to reach Guatemala, neatly solving the problem of getting into and out of a country dominated by major mountain chains and two oceans.
Guatemala City’s main airport is La Aurora, a large, modern facility that is just a few kilometres from the city centre.
By flying to La Aurora you can easily get to the major attractions in or near Guatemala City, including Antigua to the west and spectacular volcanoes to the south.
Best routes for flying to Guatemala
If you live outside the Americas and want to fly to Guatemala, then you’ll probably need to get a connecting flight, via one of the big hubs in the USA.
Several major airlines fly serve La Aurora airport from Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago, New York and Atlanta, as well several airports in Florida and Texas. From Mexico, regular flights operate from Mexico City and a few from Cancun.
You can fly direct to Guatemala from all the Central American countries, with Panama City and San Salvador offering the most frequent services.
The only regular South American route is Avianca’s service to and from Bogota in Colombia. Iberia operates the only direct flights to Guatemala from Europe, flying from Madrid in Spain on a seasonal basis.
Arriving at Guatemala’s international airports
La Aurora is by far the biggest airport in Guatemala and is your most likely arrival point. Since 2007 the airport, which is the fourth busiest in Central America, has added new gates, ticket counters and parking facilities.
If you’re lucky, the approach to La Aurora can offer stunning views of the group of volcanic peaks known as La Horqueta, to the south-west. You may also get a glimpse of Lake Amatitlan, which sprawls across the southern edge of the city.
Once you’re on the ground at La Aurora, you can easily pick up an authorised taxi as you leave. The taxis can take you into the city but will also drive you to nearby Antigua, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country.
It’s probably also worth mentioning the much smaller Mundo Maya airport, which is the only other airport in Guatemala which operates international flights. Serving the twin cities of Flores and Santa Elena, Mundo Maya has some flights to and from Belize, but mainly serves domestic flights.
If flying isn’t an option for you, then you may need to travel to Guatemala overland. This means going by road, because no trains are available in the country at the moment.
You can use long-distance buses from most of the major cities in Central America and Mexico. You can also use a private vehicle, but make sure you have your original driver’s licence and the vehicle’s registration papers.
If you do drive, try to avoid doing so at night and stick to the main highways, as criminals may attack vehicles in the more remote areas. Traffic can be very heavy on some highways, and driving conditions are often hazardous.
Visa and customs
Tourism is very important for the Guatemalan economy, contributing around 7% of the country’s GDP, so getting a visa is pretty straightforward for most travellers.
Citizens of more than 85 nations can visit without a visa, including the USA and Canada, all the European Union member and most of South America. This does not cover several large nations, including China and India, so check before you travel that you have the correct documents.
Guatemala does have some important customs rules, some of which are important to prevent the introduction of plants or animals which could damage the country’s vital biodiversity. As a result you cannot bring in wild plants or plant products, or milk or milk products.
Safety and security
Guatemala is generally a safe and welcoming place to visit, but you should always check the latest updates before you do travel.
You should check your own country’s official guidance before you travel to Guatemala, and even if you’re not British it’s often worth reading the UK Foreign Office’s very detailed assessment.
Overall, if you’re a first-timer flying in to visit Guatemala is a hassle-free way to travel. Just make sure you plan your trip well, and have the right documents for your journey.
About Jürg Widmer Probst
Jürg Widmer is a busy blogger and resident of Guatemala who often shares all things about Guatemala, from the country’s hidden gems, article and culture to the best place for food and drink.