Guatemala with Kids: Family Destination GuideEverything you need to know about travelling to Guatemala with your family
Guatemala: Why You’ll Love It
- Relatively undiscovered: Popular with backpackers and the occasional cruise ship (yes, really), Guatemala is still a relatively undiscovered family destination.
- People: The people of Guatemala are incredibly friendly and hospitable – despite (or, perhaps because of, the brutal civil war that ran from 1960-1996). Laidback and quick to make a joke, we met some wonderful people during our time in Guatemala. Expect to make quick friends…especially if travelling with kids.
- Rich Indigenous Culture: The country’s indigenous population hails from 20 diverse Maya indigenous groups, making this one of the multi-ethnic corners in Central America.
- History & Culture: The beautiful city of Antigua was built on a grid pattern inspired by the Italian Renaissance and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Each of the villages bordering Lake Atitlan show a different character – and a different style of embroidery unique to that area. And then there’s Tikal, one of the major sites of Mayan civilisation.
- Shopping: Justly famous for their embroidery, Guatemala is a wonderful place to shop for textiles and crafts, especially if you head to the twice-weekly market at Chichicastenango.
- Coffee: For those parents who like their coffee strong, Guatemala is the world’s second largest producer of this staple drink of parenting (at least in our books!).
Guatemala: Why The Kids Will Love It
- Easy: Distances between the main (and most popular) destinations are relatively short, there’s a good selection of family-friendly accommodation and everyone in Guatemala appears to love kids!
- Wildlife: Wildlife-rich Guatemala is brilliant for children with a range of animals found in its rivers, lakes, forests, highlands and beyond. Tapirs, lemurs, macaws, crocodiles, toucans and iguanas are just some of the creatures that call this country home.
- Activities: Forget museums and galleries (although Antigua has lots of those – and very good ones, too), for kids there are lots of fun activities to do. Some of the things we enjoyed included roasting marshmallows on an active volcano and a family cooking class in Lake Atitlan. Guatemala is all about doing stuff. Really fun stuff.
- Adventure: There are lots of adventure activities for families to enjoy from climbing an active volcano to zip-lining through the trees near Lake Atitlan. Further afield you can swim in caves and dive from cliffs.
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Guatemala With Kids: When To Go
High Season: December to April are Guatemala’s busiest months; expect high hotel prices.
Rainy Season: April to September can see daily afternoon showers. The good news is that prices drop and crowds are fewer during these months but it can be wet.
Shoulder Season: October and November bring mild temperatures and clear days although you may still experience the odd shower or two.
National Holidays: Christmas, New Year and Easter are busy in Guatemala with hordes of people heading to Antigua in particular. Make sure to book accommodation well in advance if travelling during these periods.
Guatemala with Kids: FAQ
Capital: Guatemala City
Time: GMT – 06:00
Language: Spanish is the main language spoken.
Voltage: 120 v
Flight time from the UK: 11 hours
Visas: Many nationalities will be given a 90-day visa upon entry into Guatemala although some countries will require a tourist visa. Make sure to check with the Guatemalan embassy or consulate in your own country prior to travel.
Health & Vaccinations: Visitors need to take special precautions against illnesses not normally encountered at home. Contact your doctor well in advance of your departure date to ensure that you receive all the necessary vaccinations. Country specific information and advice is published by Travel Health Pro. Bring any medication with you in its original, labelled container. A signed prescription note from your doctor is useful to have. Pharmacies are wide spread and stock the basic essentials.
UK health authorities have classified Guatemala as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. Chikungunya has been confirmed in Guatemala as has Dengue fever. Talk to your doctor and take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.
Water isn’t generally safe to drink unless filtered. Make sure you have up-to-date travel insurance that includes medical treatment. See the NHS’s fitfortravel website for further advice.
Getting There: Airlines La Aurora International Airport (GUA) serves Guatemala City and is located 6.4 km (4m) south of the city centre. The flight time from London, U.K. is approximately 11 hours. Flores Airport is the gateway to Tikal. There are daily flights from La Aurora International Airport to Flores. .
Money: Guatemala uses Quetzales (Q). ATMS are found in most towns and cities and credit cards are accepted.
Safety: Crime statistics for Guatemala don’t make for pleasant reading but while crime does happen, violent crime does not tend to be directed at tourists. You’re most likely to be a victim to pickpocketing, bag-snatching or bag-slitting in crowded streets. Be careful in particular when visiting busy areas such as the market in Chichicastenango. Similarly, semana santa in Antigua is a prime target for pickpockets. Guatemala City is home to some dangerous neighbourhoods. Please consult your own government’s travel advisory for safety advice such as fco.gov.uk
Dress: What you pack very much depends on which areas of Guatemala you will be visiting but, in general, layers are your friend. High altitudes mean that the mornings and evenings can be cool (or even, as we found out, quite chilly!). Good walking shoes for traipsing around Tikal (and if you plan to do any further walking) and a swimsuit will come in handy.
Recommended Reading for Guatemala
For You:World of the Ancient Maya by John S. Henderson
The Long Night of White Chickens by Francisco Goldman
Unfinished Conquest: The Guatemalan Tragedy by Victor Perera
The Battle For Guatemala by Susanne Jonas
Shattered Hope by Piero Gleijeses
Lonely Planet GuatemalaGuatemala Rainbow by Gianni Vecchiato
For Kids:The Night the Moon Fell: A Maya Myth is a beautifully illustrated book and a lovely introduction to Mayan mythology.
For young children Guatemala ABCs offers an introduction to the people and places of Guatemala.Hands of the Maya: Villagers at Work and Play is a small picture book filled with photographs of Maya daily life.