If you are planning a trip to Guatemala, this Guatemala Packing list will be a helpful tool to decide what to bring with you and what to leave behind. Whether this is your first time in Latin America, or you’re a travel pro this post will help you find out what you need in the multiple situations and variable climate that you will find in Guatemala.
Before getting into what to wear in Guatemala and all the other goodies that you should pack in your bags, let’s just take a moment to chat about this beautiful country in Central America. Guatemala is twice the size of Costa Rica but is less touristy. It borders Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and El Salvador.
Flights from the United States to Guatemala are quick and affordable, which makes it a practical destination for U.S. and Canadian travelers.
Guatemala has beautiful scenery, a fascinating culture, and intriguing history, all of which make it a great place to visit and an attractive destination both for travelers and digital nomads.
Thanks to its varied geography, Guatemala has many different climates, each with distinct weather patterns and varying average temperatures.
Volcanoes adorn the landscape from one side of Guatemala to the other. The coastal plains are green with sugar cane plantations and pastures for cattle. In the Petén, ancient Mayan temples peak above the jungles.
You can imagine how such a variety of landscapes and altitudes bring the different temperatures and packing needs, besides the general packing list with the essentials.
And in this post, I will tell you all about it and more.
Essential Guatemala Packing List
Everyone is unique and has unique needs, so take this Guatemala packing list as a jumping-off point. You probably have an idea of what kind of travel style and activities you prefer.
Are you going to backpack? Use public transportation? Visit luxury hotels and resorts? Take salsa lessons? Learn Spanish while staying with a local family? Let your activities inspire and inform what you take.
If you’re going to Guatemala for a quick vacation, it makes sense to take everything you need with you. If you plan to stay for a month or a few, save the weight in your suitcase for the things that matter most. You’ll have time to go shopping for toiletries and other essentials once you arrive.
Let’s begin with the essential stuff.
Depending on how long you’ll be in Guatemala, you might only be taking a carry-on. Pack a foldable duffle bag into your luggage so that you can load up on souvenirs and artwork and avoid paying checked-bag fees on your way down.
Or maybe you’ll be in Guatemala medium to long term. Getting a couple of hard-sided suitcases will protect your belongings in transit.
Documents and Identification
No matter how long you plan to be in Guatemala or what activities you have planned, these are things you can’t travel without.
Passport – with at least six months left before its expiration date
Driver’s License or Motorcycle License – if you plan to rent a car or a motorcycle (which is not recommended by the way)
Vaccine Card or Certificate of Exemption — You must be completely vaccinated against COVID-19 at least two weeks before arrival or have a certificate of exemption from a doctor. To avoid problems, it’s probably best to have your certificate of exemption translated into Spanish and signed and sealed by your doctor.
Negative COVID-19 test — Whether you are vaccinated or not, you’ll need a negative PCR or Antigen test. It must not be more than 3 days old
Credit cards – Many Guatemalan stores now accept international credit cards. If you can do it, opt for a provider that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees like Discover or Capital One.
Debit card – if you plan to take money out of an ATM, having your debit card with you is a great idea. If you travel a lot, you may want to look into banking with Charles Schwab. The refund all international ATM fees at the end of each month.
Otherwise, if you have a different card and you can’t withdraw money, go to 5B ATM and it should work (with a fee).
Travel insurance – Always worth the expense! You never know what can happen and if you want prime care you must go to private hospitals which are very pricey. Make sure you are covered. If you are in doubt read my post on why you should have
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Local Currency/Foreign Currency — You should exchange your currency into Quetzales as soon as you arrive. Keep in mind that banks will give you better exchange rates than currency exchange shops.
You’ll be asked to show proof of identification (a passport). In border areas, you will be approached by random guys with stacks of money in their hands offering to change money.
They are reliable and they have much better rates than banks but It’s not recommended to change too much money. Just what you need for the next couple of days.
Extra cash money – It’s always good to have a backup supply of cash, especially if you’re a solo traveler. It’s also important not to take too much money. Don’t go overboard, just give yourself a cushion. This extra money doesn’t even have to be in local currency. You can take the US or Canadian dollars with you.
Note: Guatemalan financial institutions can be fussy about changing old-looking or large bills. To avoid problems, take clean crisp $20 bills. Alternatively, order Guatemalan currency from your bank before going.
Money belt – This isn’t essential, but it’s a nice way to hide cash on yourself for when things don’t go as planned.
It’s also a great idea to keep photocopies of your documents in a safe place.
Keep your valuable safe!
Another safety tip is to create a document listing important information and phone numbers. You can include telephone numbers for your embassy, your travel insurance numbers, the address and phone number of your hotel/s, your bank phone number, and your flight itinerary information. If anything goes wrong, it will be good to have this information handy.
Later on in this post, I go into what to wear in different seasons and different areas of Guatemala, including at high elevations, at the beach, or when climbing a volcano. The main thing is to take clothes that are comfortable and functional. Tailor your wardrobe to the activities you expect to do in-country.
General Clothing Items
2-4 pairs of pants (a mix of jeans, leggings, capris, and lightweight hiking pants)
1 to 2 week supply of socks and pairs of underwear
2 Bras (for women)
1 Lightweight sweater
1 Medium weight jacket
2-4 sets of Running/Athletic Gear
1 Bathing Suit (or more if you plan to spend lots of time in the water)
2-4 pairs of shorts
1 pair of sunglasses
1-2 pairs of pajamas or sleeping shorts
Planning to go to a fancy dinner? Pack dress pants and a button-up shirt and blazer, or a pretty dress and high heels. If dancing at clubs or taking a salsa class sounds fun, take some snazzy dresses, shirts, and skirts.
Expecting to get active? Take a pair of athletic shorts (or a few), good athletic shoes, handkerchiefs, and a fanny pack.
Travel essential (click on the image to check the item)
Take electronics that are important for your safety and enjoyment. However, you should keep in mind there’s a risk of items getting stolen or damaged.
Once in the country, don’t flaunt your electronics, especially in any major city. Keep them stowed away until you’re at your hotel or hostel.
Once you’re out of the city, crime is lower, and you can feel freer to use your electronics in public. Just don’t let your devices detract from living the moment!
Guatemala uses a 120V system, so you won’t need special currency adaptors to use U.S. and Canadian electronics.
Cell phone & Cable – It’s always important to stay connected and have the option to make calls during emergencies. Although you can use your hotel’s wifi to keep in touch with people, I recommend getting a local sim card.
That way you can make local calls when booking hotels, tours, and arranging transportation. Some tourists take two cell phones — one unlocked and ready for a sim card, and the other their standard phone from home.
Battery Charger – It’s always a good idea to have this backup plan to recharge your cell phone. Plus, it’ll give your phone extra juice for photographing the scenery.
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Three-prong converters – A lot of places in Guatemala only have two-prong outlets, so having a couple of converters in your bag can save the day.
Kindle, Nook, or E-Readers – Reading is a great way to pass the time. And although you will be running around and trying to squeeze in your Guatemala itinerary as many things as possible, you will also enjoy swimming on your hammock by lake Atitlan reading a book while relaxing, and enjoying the soothing views.
Note: There are some book exchanges at several of the Guatemalan hostels if you prefer paper (or don’t want to pack one more thing in your bags). There are also book stores in Guatemala City, Antigua, Panajachel, and other places if you’re hoping to pick up reading material.
Music – music player/Mp3 player/small speaker/earbuds — got to have some tunes!
Wristwatch — water-resistant is best
USB or USB-C Wall Wart – keep your phone and kindle charged for when you need them
Laptop Computer – A computer is essential equipment for the digital nomad and remote worker, but if you’re on vacation, why not leave it at home? You can reconnect when you return.
Safety tip – If you take public transportation, especially in major cities, keep your electronics out of sight.
Walking, running, and hiking opportunities abound in Guatemala. Even if you don’t plan to trek around the country, you might find yourself putting in a lot of steps just exploring. Lots of towns have rough cobblestone streets or paving stones, and plenty of hills and uneven sidewalks. Long story short, it’s important to have sturdy walking shoes.
Flip flops — these are handy for taking a shower in a hostel, hanging out by a pool, or protecting your feet from the hot black sands of the Pacific
Comfortable shoes for walking — Not sporty? Shopping is still walking!
high heels — if you plan to go out on the town or want to dress up for the fun of it
Toiletries & First Aid
If you’ll be in Guatemala for a chunk of time, buy some of these items in the country to save suitcase space.
- Shampoo & Conditioner
- Shaving Cream
- Insect repellent
- Feminine hygiene products
- Hair Brush
- Hair Elastics and Clips
- Lip Balm
Blow dryer — I wouldn’t carry it with me. In most hotels and hostels, it’s available to borrow.
Glasses — if you wear glasses, take at least one spare
Contact Solution —it’s expensive in Guatemala so it’s best to bring your own
Prescription Medicines, if you have them take them with you and bring the doctor’s prescription just in case.
Motion sickness medicine or ginger chews — The roads are steep and curvy in the highlands so anti-nausea pills will be a huge help but consult your doctor before taking anything.
Benadryl/Epipen— if you have allergies, consult your doctor first.
After-bite/Anti-itch cream for bug bites (I got a lot of those)
Quick Tip: Street food is delicious, but it can also make you sick. If you decide to buy some, make sure it’s freshly cooked and hot off the grill. I also recommend disinfecting raw produce before you eat it.
Day bag — for carrying money, documents, a water bottle, and other essentials during day trips
Hiking Backpack — If you plan to backpack around Guatemala or climb a volcano, taking your backpack is a great idea.
Fanny Pack — Great if you want to take a few items with you on a walk or run, or if you have clothes without pockets. It’s also very practical to keep your money close to you and give a hard time to pickpocketers.
Miscellaneous/ Personal Items
COVID-19 Face-masks — You must wear a mask when you are in public areas in Guatemala and to enter stores, government buildings, and tourist sites
Spanish phrasebook — although you are not required to hold a conversation in Spanish, it’s nice to master a few words or phrases to mingle with locals and show respect to their country and language.
Water bottle — It’s always a good idea to stay hydrated, even more, when you reach such altitude, like in Antigua with an elevation of 1651m / 5417feet. Usually, hostels and hotels have water dispensers available for guests to refill their bottles. Having your water bottle is a way to use less plastic.
Quick-dry towel — these small and light dry towels take very little space in your suitcase, making them perfect for travelers
Earplugs — things can get pretty loud in Guatemala! Earplugs are a great way to make sure you get your beauty sleep. That way the dogs, roosters, buses, ambulances, church services, and late-night parties won’t disturb your slumber.
Card games, books, journals, drawing paper, and pencils, plus anything else you enjoy doing in your leisure time, especially if you are planning to stay in Guatemala for longer than a month.
Wallet — for cash and ID during the trip
Combination Lock — If you’re going to stay at a hostel, this is a good way to keep your belongings safe while you’re out and about.
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Hospitality gifts — This one is optional, but it can be fun to give gifts of appreciation to families you stay with or cool locals you meet.
Kids love toys, balls, and candy (you will be their new best friend) while adults enjoy getting kitchen items like high-quality knives, lemon squeezers, and vegetable peelers, or food staples like coffee, chocolate, cakes, and mugs or platters.
You can also bring something special and meaningful from your hometown. Gifts don’t have to be expensive. You could even give something as simple as a keychain.
What to Pack for Camping
Plan to go camping in Guatemala? If you don’t want to spend money renting or buying inferior gear, packing your camping equipment is the best way to go about it. Camping is becoming more popular in Guatemala.
There are now many areas of Guatemala where you can pitch a tent for a small sum of money. Some great places to camp include areas near Pacaya Volcano, Ipala Volcano, Tecpán, Rio Dulce, and Lake Atitlan.
Here are some items that you should bring with you.
- Tent with rainfly, pegs, taut lines, and plastic groundsheet (optional but helpful)
- Sleeping bag rated for the climate you expect to encounter (and sleeping bag liner)
- Camp stove compatible with propane, gasoline, or butane canisters
- Pot, frying pan, spatula
- Mug, bowl, plate, fork, spoon
- A good knife and cutting board (depending what you plan to cook)
- Towel, soap, and scrubby for washing dishes
- Water filter — not essential, but it could come in handy
- Hand Sanitizer
- Toilet paper (pick up once you’re there) or One-Wipe Charlies
What to pack for Backpacking in Guatemala
Backpacking is a wonderful option for sightseeing in Guatemala. There are lots of hiking opportunities, whether you plan to travel on foot or enjoy the simplicity of carrying everything you need on your back.
Packing cubes are a great way to organize your backpack. They’ll also keep the chaos at bay while you’re on the road. Use different packing cubes for different categories of items such as light clothing, toiletries, electronics, and documents.
Check out the general packing list above to make sure you have your bases covered. Opt for clothes you can layer according to weather conditions such as a pair of shorts, lightweight pants, a short-sleeved shirt, a light jacket (or two), and a rain jacket.
I also recommend taking the minimal amount of toiletries needed. You can always top up on soap, shampoo, and toothpaste at one of Guatemala’s ubiquitous corner stores.
What to pack for hiking a volcano in Guatemala
Among all the incredible places to visit and things to do in Guatemala, I highly recommend hiking a volcano. It’s a unique, challenging, and rewarding way to see the country. Plus, this is an activity you can’t do just anywhere.
Guatemala has several dozen active volcanoes, but the best ones to hike include Acatenango, Fuego, Pacaya, Santiaguito, and Santa Maria (The first three mentioned from Antigua and the last two from Quetzaltenango. Most of these volcanoes are over 12,000 feet high, so make sure you’re prepared! (If you’re looking for a shorter and less challenging climb, opt for Pacaya or Ipala Volcanoes)
At a minimum, make sure you wear sturdy walking shoes and comfortable clothes (such as long pants in a breathable fabric).
You’ll also want to take lots of water and hydrating fluids, a simple first-aid kit, snacks, and a packed lunch. Be prepared for cold temperatures at the summit by taking warm clothes.
Check out this more detailed packing list for hiking a volcano in Guatemala and you’ll be all set to have a great time:
- Good hiking shoes
- Windbreaker/Rain jacket (especially between May and October)
- Water bottles/hydro-pack (Take plenty of water, there’s no way to refill on the volcano and you don’t want to get dehydrated)
- Small first aid kit (antibacterial spray, bandaids, duct tape for blisters, aspirin for headaches, muscle relaxants)
- Food and snacks
- Camera with extra batteries
- Phone and extra battery charger
- Scarf (optional)
- Deodorant wipes — clean off the volcanic grit and sweat and you’ll feel much fresher!
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper (you can get this in-country) or One-Wipe Charlies
- If you’re doing an overnight hike, you can rent camping gear. Or, take your own (check out the camping gear previously mentioned)
Also read: the best hiking gear for expert travelers
What to wear in Guatemala in the rainy season
Temperatures during the rainy season in Guatemala can still be quite warm and pleasant. You’ll likely still see blue skies and sunshine every morning. In the afternoon, however, black clouds swarm the sky and dump buckets of water on the Guatemalan countryside.
A rain jacket is an essential thing to pack if you’re visiting Guatemala from May to October.
The weather can be cool and overcast, so a couple of jackets of different weights are a good idea. I also recommend taking rain boots or waterproof shoes. A combination of poor drainage and torrential downpours turn many Guatemalan streets into raging rivers.
What to wear in Guatemala in the dry season
The dry season in Guatemala runs from November to March. During this time, it doesn’t rain often (except in Izabal and Alta Verapaz). Most days are sunny with clear skies.
During this season, it’s a good idea to wear sunglasses to keep the dust out of your eyes. A windbreaker can come in handy in November and December, two of the most blustery months. The sun in this Central American country is fierce, and the UV index is high. Plan to wear breathable clothing in light colors.
At night the weather can get chilly at high elevations, so take a few warm layers too.
If you’ll be living in Guatemala for a while, you might even want a beanie hat, scarf, and gloves for windy nights from November through January.
What to wear in the Guatemalan highlands
No trip to Guatemala would be complete without visiting the highlands. The Sierra Madre mountain range stretches from Guatemala’s Mexican border to El Salvador. It’s a place of incredible scenery. Dirt roads wind through terraced fields. Strings of volcanoes stud the horizon, and Lake Atitlán glitters like a gem in the department of Sololá.
This region is home to most of Guatemala’s Mayan people. Indian women wear beautifully embroidered blouses and wrap-around skirts. These are called güipiles and cortes, respectively.
For a famous example, check out Rigoberta Menchu. She is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who wears K’iche Mayan clothing. Some indigenous men still wear their traditional trousers and jackets, especially older men in Sololá. However, it is now more common to see men in western-style pants, T-shirts, or button-up shirts.
If you don’t want to stick out when you’re in Mayan areas, I recommend wearing conservative clothing.
If you’re a woman and enjoy wearing long skirts, this is your chance to go to town. I recommend avoiding shorts if you can, especially extremely short shorts.
Alternatively, wear long shorts. Capri pants offer a happy medium between comfort, breathability, and modesty. As a general rule, keep your shoulders, breasts, and most of your legs covered.
Since you’ll be at high altitudes when you’re in the Guatemalan highlands, the sun and UV index are much stronger. Make sure you pack sunscreen!
The weather can also get chilly depending on your elevation, so it’s always a good idea to pack warm layers and a windbreaker or rain jacket.
What to wear on the beach in Guatemala
Sand, surf, and hammocks, what could be better? If you’re going to the beach in Guatemala (or to a hot and humid area like Río Dulce), get ready for tropical heat! Unlike the conservative highlands, the Guatemalan coast is one place where shorts, tank-tops, short skirts, and bathing suits are as common among the locals as the tourists.
Here are some Guatemala Pack List Essentials for enjoying “sol y mar” (sun and ocean).
Bathing suit – see below some nice options if you want to get a new suimsuit for your trip
- Rashguard (if you plan to spend long hours in the intense sun or want to surf or bodyboard)
- Mosquito repellent – Malaria, zika, and chikungunya are mosquito-transmitted diseases that exist on the coast. Use bug spray and sleep under a mosquito net or in a room with screens on the windows.
- Tank tops/Muscle Shirts – always handy to have a couple. Take a look to these ones.
- Summer dresses – such as the ones below
- Light jacket for cool evenings or sudden storms
- Camera with extra batteries
- waterproof phone case to keep your belongs safe from water, salt, and sand
What to wear in Antigua
Most Guatemalan women and men in Antigua and other larger cities around the country wear pants and short-sleeve shirts. Shorts aren’t a common sight except during soccer matches, in gyms, or for people out running and jogging.
Being well-dressed is a cultural value. For example, most construction workers change out of their work clothes to run errands, then change back when they return.
If you want to fit in, Guatemala City or Antigua is a good place to wear long pants or capri pants and a comfortable shirt or blouse. Light, breathable fabrics will help keep you cool during sunny days.
I used to see girls in shorts or miniskirts walking around Antigua and I feel comfortable saying that they didn’t look appropriate at all. Considering the conservative culture and the fact that you are not exactly on the beach, it is not necessary to walk around almost naked.
What not to bring to Guatemala
Use your common sense and avoid bringing expensive items you won’t need, like fancy jewelry and unnecessary electronics.
Drones can be tricky to get into the country, so it might be best to leave them behind.
Traveler’s Guide to what you can buy in Guatemala
If you’re a minimalist and don’t like hauling giant bags everywhere, it’s good to know what things are available in Guatemala. If you’re going on an extended trip or prefer budget travel, why not buy some things in-country? That way you can maximize your luggage space with the things that really matter to you. You might even save money by buying local and fresh.
Although Guatemala is a third-world country, there are convenience stores in almost every community. You can easily buy basic foodstuffs and toiletries at these corner stores, or “tiendas.”
Larger communities also have grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and a slew of pharmacies. If you are used to taking specific medications or vitamins, by all means, bring yours.
However, you should know that in Guatemala you can find any generic and common drugs such us painkillers, diarrhea meds, rehydration fluids, and other common medications at most pharmacies in Guatemala.
In cities such as Guatemala City, Xela, and Coban, you can find large malls, department stores, and even Walmart stores. Cemaco sells everything from bedding, furniture, and kitchen-wares to tools and gardening supplies. Novex is a great place to find tools and building supplies.
La Torre and Paiz are two common grocery store chains. If you have dietary restrictions check out their specialty sections. They stock egg replacers, gluten-free flours and noodles, specialty teas, and a variety of nut butter (though not in every location).
If you plan to be in Guatemala for a long time, you may want to get a Pricesmart membership in Guatemala City or Xela. This Costco-like store has some of the best deals in the country on things like olive oil, coconut oil, almond flour, industrial-size sauces, salmon, cheese, cleaning supplies, tools, and more.
In Antigua, you can find quite a bit of organic stores where they sell gluten-free and vegan products, besides organic produce and animal products as well.
Maybe you’re not sure whether to pack that extra sweater? Do you really need two (or three)? I’ll tell you a fun secret, Guatemala has a TON of used clothing stores. These are known as “pacas.”
Going to a paca (or multiple pacas) is a favorite pastime for ex-pats and locals alike.
The first time I went to Guatemala I found a lot of great stuff for the rest of my trip for a ridiculous amount of money. It’s oddly fun to dig through piles of clothes to find an inexpensive treasure to add to your wardrobe. Just make sure you wash it before you wear it!
I hope this post helped you figure out what to include in your suitcase for your Guatemala trip and what to leave behind.
Read more about Guatemala
About the Author
Hello there! This is Isabella, this blog’s author, and a cat lover. I am an Italian expatriate with a Mexican Residence. After 7 years of living in Cancun, I have decided to leave my job and explore my beloved Mexico and the rest of this beautiful world, starting from South America, while sharing my travel stories and offering useful travel tips about traveling as a solo female traveler and digital nomad.