Overland Guatemala Travel
Pan American Highway > Guatemala
Currency to display:
- 1 Visiting Guatemala
- 2 Entering Guatemala with a Car or Motorbike
- 3 Driving in Guatemala
- 4 Gas and Diesel price in Guatemala
- 5 Safety and Security Considerations
- 6 Camping in Guatemala
- 7 Navigation
- 8 Special Overland Travel interests
- 9 Vehicle Maintenance
- 10 Buy or sell a car or motorbike in Guatemala
- 11 References
- 12 Helpful External links
Give a brief overview of what it's like to visit. How easy is the border, how safe is the country, are there great things to see and do, etc.
Entering Guatemala with a Car or Motorbike
Correct as of: June 2016
(To check if you need a travel Visa for Guatemala, application instructions and fees see: Guatemala Visa online application at VisaHQ.com)
- Passport of registered owner (original, 1 copy of info page and 1 copy of the page with Guatemalan entry stamp).
- Vehicle registration (original and 1 copy).
- Drivers license of registered owner (original and 1 copy).
- Once when entering from Mexico they also wanted our Mexican Banjercito documentation to prove we'd exited Mexico properly
Process at border
- The owner of the vehicle gains entry at immigration (migración), including a stamp in their Passport.
- Your vehicle will be fumigated, which costs Q40.00 GTQ. Be sure to get a receipt.
- The owner must show the new passport stamp, drivers license and the original vehicle registration to customs (aduana).
- Pay the required fee of Q160.00 GTQ at the nearby bank. Be sure to get a receipt.
- The owner is issued a temporary import permit for the vehicle.
- GPS coordinates of the where to park, fumigation, and offices can be found here
NOTE: You will encounter pushy locals offering to help you with paperwork to get across the border. See Border Crossing Helpers for advice.
Tapachula / Talismán / El Carmen border
- Pushy 'helpers' will try to direct you to a carpark but it might be possible to find a spot on the street (we've managed it both times).
- Migración are the blue windows on the left-hand side just after the bridge, look for "Passaportes". Lefthand Window is for "To Guatemala" ("a Guatemala"), the righthand window is for "To Mexico" ("a Mexico").
- Fumigation is at the beginning of the official buildings on the traffic median under the big roof over the road where it splits.
- Everything else official is done at the SAT office slightly further uphill in the building in the traffic median.
- There is a bank just next door, uphill from the SAT office.
- Photocopies "copias" and any legal work can be done at the shops about 10-20m uphill from the SAT office on the right (since you need a copy of the entry stamp in your passport you will almost certainly need to get copies done).
Note: As of early 2015 if trying to cross between Guatemala and Southern Mexico then Google Maps will likely direct you through the freight-only border crossing. Look for Talismán on the Mexican side and El Carmen on the Guatemalan side.
Mexico to Guatemala at La Mesilla 12th January 2016. Updated to include tourist permit and vehicle permit extensions in Guatemala City. We crossed the Mexican/Guatemalan border on 12th January 2016 with our motorcycle. Our full experience is documented at the following location http://www.tiger800rtw.com/?p=1095 and includes GPS coordinates and photographs.
Cost of entry
- Q40.00 GTQ for fumigation.
- Q160.00 GTQ for the vehicle entry.
There is no cost entry into the country. see note below: It seems that the 20 GTQ/person entry fee for Guatemala is a scam. No one else paid the fee, and the immigration agent refused to give a receipt, stating that the passport stamp was the receipt.
If coming from Belize, the bridge fee at the border is only Q10.00 GTQ, not more! They will try to charge you more!
NOTE: The CA-4 stamp that most nationalities get allowing entry to Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua for 90 days is supposed to be free, but some customs officials will ask for money. Politely ask for a receipt, and do not pay unless you are given a receipt for this. To avoid ire from the immigration officials it is recommended to pay the fee, which is dubbed "beer tax". IF you don't pay, they may refuse entry for unknown reasons.
Permitted length of stay
90 days. Guatemala is part of the CA-4 Border control agreement. This agreement grants travel between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua for a TOTAL of 90-days. The number of days remaining on your CA4 is written in your passport as you travel from country to country. The 90-day limit begins when you enter any country that is part of the CA4 agreement. To avoid penalty and fines, Exit the CA4 countries and enter into Costa Rica or Mexico/Belize before the 90-days limit expires.
Extension of stay
In Guatemala City, you may, as a courtesy, receive one extension of 90 days for a tourist visa. You can also get your vehicle permit extended to match the date on your passport in Guatemala City.
To extend your tourist visa you'll need to go to the Immigration Office Extranjeria in Zone 4. Direccion General de Inmigracion (Extranjeria), Avenida 6, 3-11, Zona 4, Open Monday to Friday (excluding holidays) 8:30am-4:30pm. Phone #: (502) 2411-2411
GPS: N14 37.297 W90 31.014. This process takes 8 calendar days.
- Black and white passport photo (available next door)
- Original passport
- Two copies of the passport photo page
- One copy of the Guatemalan passport stamp
- Completed application form (available at the information window)
- Q118.50 GTQ (as of Feb 2013).
The process to have your car permit extended is a lot easier and can be done free of charge in Guatemala City in 15-20 minutes. The steps are outlined here How To Extend Your Vehicle’s Import Permit. It's recommended that you read all of the comments in the post. NOTE, this process only works if you've already received a new stamp date on your passport either by using the above process through Immigracion or by leaving the country via air or ground.
- Your car (they will inspect it to make sure the VIN #'s match)
- Title of the car
- Current/Active Car Permit you are extending
Storing a vehicle and temporarily leaving the country
The vehicle import permit can be "temporarily extended" if you wish to visit a neighboring country such as Belize or Mexico, and reinstated once one decides to come back to the country. All one needs to do is pay another visit to the Customs office and inform them of the dates one is leaving and returning. Not official policy, but a courtesy they can extend to you. They’re losing revenue by allowing people to stay in the country for long stretches of time without paying import taxes.
Overlanders have left their vehicle in Guatemala and flown out of the country. Make sure you're back before the temporary import permit expires and you should be fine.
Exiting with a vehicle
- The registered owner presents the temporary import paper to customs.
- The registered owner is stamped out of Guatemala at immigration.
Make sure you get the documentation signed and keep it. Upon re-entering Guatemala we were told that we never had our temporary import cancelled. We were sure we had but had not kept the paperwork from that time and so had no proof. This lead to 5 hours and a lot of money in fines and process getting back into Guatemala.
NOTE: As with entering Guatemala, you will definitely encounter very pushy locals offering to help you with paperwork to get across the border. See Central America Border Crossings for advice.
If your vehicle leaves Guatemala then it will not be allowed back in again for another 90 days. There are however some ways around this. The record of the vehicle is tied to the VIN and the passport number of the owner. So one way around this re-entry limit, if you have 2 people, is to come back into the country with a different owner. At the border we were even told by an official how to do this: there was a notary right at the border who for a fee draw up documents that the SAT office recognised as the vehicle changing ownership. Another possibility is to fill in the sale portion of the title documentation but this may cause trouble back in the vehicle's home country. Another possibility I haven't tried is if you yourself have passports from 2 different countries then present the other passport (including at immigration) when entering.
Driving in Guatemala
Recommended books for Overlanding in Guatemala
Travel insurance for Guatemala
Vehicle insurance requirements
Insurance is required in Guatemala, though it seems most people get away without it.
Cost of Insurance
Liability only was about:
- Q350.00 GTQ for 1 months (130,000 GTQ of liability, which is not much).
- Q1,000.00 GTQ for 6 months
- Q1,500.00 GTQ for 12 months
Where to purchase insurance
Todo Riesgo has offices in both Santa Elena, Peten and Guatemala City. We went to the Guatemala City office to get insurance for Guatemala and it turned out the insurance covered us for all of Central America except for Belize and Panama.
Todo Riesgo address in Guatemala City: 7a Avenida "A" 4-40, zona 9, Guatemala, CA
Ask for: Alejandra Mendoza or Sergio Ramazzini (I spoke Spanish, so don't know how good English is).
I was told today (31-MAR-2016) at the Todo Reisgo office in Guatemala City: They will let you order by email. They need copies of your passport, car registration, and title.
I bought maximum liability that they would sell me: 130,000 GTQ. Policy was good for BELIZE, GUATEMALA, HONDURAS, EL SALVADOR, NICARAGUA and COSTA RICA. Not Panama. Doesn't seem to cover my car at all. They had 30 day, 60, 90, and 120.
Technically an International Driving Permit is required.
In reality, showing a license from anywhere in the world seems to be good enough.
Driving side of road
Right hand drive vehicles are permitted without problem.
Mandatory items in vehicle
Fire extinguisher and safety triangles (2) for any roadside problems/accidents, etc. If a driver is stopped by the police, the absence of these items in the car can result in a citation and fine.
General Road quality
Roads in Guatemala vary greatly. The Pan American is paved and good quality for the length of the country, as are most other highways. Lesser roads are gravel and can be very bumpy and rutted. Towards the center of the country, roads are extremely bumpy and slow-going. During the rainy season many roads are impassable.
Road signs are uncommon, and can not be relied upon.
The only toll road runs from Escuintla to Palin on the highway towards Guatemala City and costs Q15.25 GTQ, credit cards accepted. By far the best road in the entire country.
Bribery in Guatemala
Police bribery is relatively common in Guatemala, so you should expect it to happen. See the bribery tips page for advice.
Police checkpoints are not very common in Guatemala. You'll primarily be asked to show your Passport, Vehicle registration, drivers license, and the temporary import permit you were issued at the border.
It's a good idea to have copies of all important documents in a separate envelope. Police cannot confiscate official documents as they are considered to be personal property; however, if a police officer is insistent you can relinquish your copies instead.
Traveling with pets
- A Health Certificate for the animal in Spanish (updated at least every four months)
- A vaccination record (the European Pet Passport works well)
You might not be asked for either one, but you should have them ready.
Gas and Diesel price in Guatemala
Last updated: March 2015
Currency and unit to display:
|Regular||Q22.99 GTQ per Gallon (US)|
|Super (90)||Q24.59 GTQ per Gallon (US)|
|Normal Diesel||Q19.99 GTQ per Gallon (US)|
|Diesel (low sulfur)||??|
Gas and Diesel Availability / Frequency
Gasoline is common.
Gas and Diesel Quality
Accepted to be low quality. Low sulfur diesel is now available at some stations.
Safety and Security Considerations
Driving at night
Driving at night is absolutely not recommended in Guatemala, due to safety considerations.
- The North of the country near the Belize border is known to be especially dangerous.
- Driving all the way around Lake Atitlán (Lago de Atitlán) is not recommended - numerous Overlanders have encountered bandits along the road to the South.
Find a secure parking lot to park for any length of time. Price unknown.
Special driving considerations
Like most Central American countries, you need to expect the unexpected at all times. Unlike Mexico, speed bumps are no longer called "topes" and are referred to as "tumulos" in Guatemala.
Security advisories and information
- Country Specific Information - U.S. Department of State
- Travel Reports and Warnings - Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
- Travel advice by country - Foreign and Commonwealth office (U.K.)
- Travel Advice for Guatemala - Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Camping in Guatemala
Camping is not popular in Guatemala, though you will find the odd spot if you keep a lookout. Roadside camping can be OK in the smaller out-of-the-way places.
The Police in Antigua offer a free campground in the middle of the city - a popular meeting place for Overlanders. See Overland Travel Interest below
TURICENTRO AUTOMARISCOS, KM 33.8 Carr al Pacifico, Amatitlan, Guatemala. Base camp for climbing Volcan Pacaya, and Indian market of Palin. “Natural Hot Springs, Camping for RV and Tents - best in the Americas” 5 of 5 starsReviewed March 22, 2015 From Alaska to Argentina, driving the Pan AMerica Highway in a RV, we have never encountered such a paradise campground. Seafood Restaurant, Olympic Swimming Pool, 5 smaller pools, jacuzzi, vapor baths, picnic tables, barbeques, shelters, full hook ups for RVs, and free high speed WI-Fi.... what more!!!
Visited March 2015
Camping guide books
- Traveler's Guide to Mexican Camping by Church - Known as THE bible for Mexican camping, the newer versions also have information for Guatemala and Belize. Includes GPS co-ordinates, descriptions of campsites, and other pertinent info. Very informative, especially for someone camping in a larger vehicle.
Tap water in Guatemala is not safe to drink. Even in populated tourist areas, such as Antiqua, tap water should not be considered safe. Most tourist restaurants will use filtered water for ice cubes and washing fruit and vegetables; however, these rules do not apply in rural, less touristy areas. To be safe, always drink bottled/filtered water and only eat fruits and vegetables that can be peeled.
Reise Know-How are amoung the best paper maps. Purchase paper maps before arriving in Guatemala
The Mexico Road Atlas (aka the Guia Roji) also has maps of Guatemala. It can be bought at gas stations within Mexico for around $20.00 USD. It is updated yearly, and is in Spanish.
GPS Maps of Guatemala
- Open Street Map: Appears to have good coverage.
- Cenrut: Free Open Source GPS map of Central America. Coverage is occasionally better than OSM. 
- Garmin: Apparently no map of Guatemala beside Garmin WorldMap.
- TomTom: No map of Guatemala. 
- Google Maps Navigation: served us surprisingly well (mid-2015). It can get tricky in smaller towns as almost every street is one-way and either Google does not have the one-way direction it has it wrong.
GPS co-ordinates for camping, propane, gas, repairs, etc. in Guatemala
- iOverlander is a website and iPhone application designed by Overlanders, for Overlanders. It contains GPS co-ordinates and reviews for camping, hotels, propane, water, mechanics, borders and much more.
- Places in Guatemala - Camping Places & Sights in Guatemala by Pawsontour
- Guatemala Campgrounds and Hotels - Life Remotely - List of campgrounds and hostels with photos, GPS co-ordinates, descriptions and amenities from 2012]
- Camping Sites: Guatemala - Detailed list of campsites and propane filling with description, directions and GPS co-ordinates. Some at hotels (lists facilities and price), some roadside and free.
- Central America Camping Locations - List of campsites, with basic directions and GPS co-ordinates. Mostly free sites.
- Camping Log 1: Central America - List of campsites, shopping, fuel, propane and border crossings with excellent descriptions and GPS co-ordinates.
- White Acorn camping log page - GPS co-ordinates and excellent description of campsites]
- GUATEMALA - A trip through the Guatemala with gps locations and prices recorded.
Special Overland Travel interests
- Camping in Antigua is free at the walled and guarded Tourist Police compound. Toilets and cold showers are free also. You are guaranteed to bump into other Overlanders here. The exact location in town is marked on the map in the Lonely Planet, or ask any Police officer for the Police Touristica. GPS coordinates: N14 33.347 W90 44.379 As recently as 2015 some people have had trouble getting in - keep persisting and you will get in.
- Length of stay and curfew can vary depending on the current attitude of the Tourist Police. It's possible to gain permission to stay up to 3 weeks if you ask nicely. Curfew is typically after 10pm and the gates will reopen at 6am.
4x4s / Trucks
- Toyota Global Dealer Locator
- Land Rover International Dealer Locator
- Mercedes Benz International (select country on bottom right)
- Jeep International site locator
- Puento Nuevo Centro de Servicio - In Coban (closest major town to Semuc Champey). Excellent mechanics and fair prices. GPS: 15.47108 -90.38497
- Toyota Dealership in Guatemala City - Typical dealership prices, but speak English and are very helpful. They can also recommend other reliable mechanics if you aren't near a dealership. GPS 14.635197 -90.583831
Buy or sell a car or motorbike in Guatemala
Describe how a foreigner can buy a vehicle. List any difficulties or limitations on where the vehicle can be driven.
Details and costs for importing a vehicle in Guatemala are listed here: How to import your car into Guatemala Taxes, Fees & Paperwork
- Central American Borders and dogs
- Traveling with dogs from Canada to Argentina. Experiences and Infos.
- Antigua | The Road Chose Me
- Antigua | The Road Chose Me
- OpenStreetMap Guatemala
- Cenrut Mapping Project
- TomTom Map availability