Guatemala, with a population of over 17.4 million, has the largest economy of Central America and is one of the most important U.S. trading partners in the Caribbean Basin Region. Guatemalan business executives and government officials place great importance on personal contacts with suppliers. U.S. suppliers should be prepared to have a local representative or distributor, and to travel to Guatemala personally.
Travelers are often surprised by the accessibility of key decision-makers and by the frankness of local buyers.
U.S. executives interested in pursuing business in Guatemala should approach local businesspeople in the same manner that they would approach good clients in the United States. Exporters should be prepared to explain how their products and services can complement existing products and systems.
The dress code for Guatemala City business appointments depends on the type of meetings planned. For meetings in the city executives should use proper business attire but for meetings in factories, farms or plants, casual attire is recommended.
Although many Guatemalans in the private sector speak and read English, promotional material should be in Spanish and emphasize U.S. origin. Guatemalans are extremely receptive to technical presentations that are educational rather than sales oriented.
The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala provides travel information to U.S. citizens through the Country Information Sheet which is updated annually.
As of June 2022, Guatemala has a Level 3 Travel Advisory in effect recommending that travelers reconsider travel due to crime. Three departments within the country have a Level 4 Travel Advisory, suggesting that travelers do not travel to specific areas within those departments due to crime and safety concerns. A description of the Travel Advisory Levels can be found on the Country Information Sheet. In addition, the U.S. Embassy regularly shares information with U.S. Citizens in Guatemala through messages that can be accessed through the Alerts and Messages section of the Embassy’s website.
All U.S. citizens traveling to or residing in Guatemala are encouraged to register with the Embassy through the online Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
U.S. Citizens do not need to obtain a visa before traveling to Guatemala. Upon entry into Guatemala, visitors are normally granted a temporary stay of 90 days.
Those who wish to remain longer will need to apply to extend their visa with Guatemalan immigration authorities within 90 days of their arrival in Guatemala.
Information about applying for permanent residency or extending a visa in Guatemala can be found at: http://igm.gob.gt/.
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that each traveler will need to apply and qualify separately for a Nonimmigrant Visa. Visa applicants should go to the following links:
- State Department Visa Website: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html
- U.S. Embassy Guatemala Nonimmigrant Visa Services: https://gt.usembassy.gov/visas/
U.S. Companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States are advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Visa applicants should go to the following link(s): State Department Visa Website
Local currency is the “Quetzal”. The U.S. Dollar is commonly accepted in tourist transited areas such as artisan markets, certain restaurants, and hotels. There is a broad presence of ATM machines throughout the Capital City, but they become less available as one travels into the country’s rural areas. In general, the Capital City, areas where most famous tourist sites are located, and well-established hotels and restaurants will accept international credit cards. When traveling to the rural areas or smaller towns in Guatemala, it is a recommended practice to bring local cash to purchase artisan products, or food from smaller local vendors.
Internet access is widely accessible by computers and smartphones. Hotels offer internet and telephone service, and cell phone systems can be used throughout most of Guatemala. Cell phones must be programmed for roaming in Guatemala; once programmed, calls can be placed to the United States without any problems. Calls can also be placed through hotel operators or directly with AT&T, MCI, or Sprint calling cards, or collect. Claro, Tigo, and other international companies compete in the market and provide telecommunications services, including internet.
Several airlines offer direct flights to Guatemala from the United States, including American Airlines, Avianca, Delta, JetBlue, United, Frontier and Spirit. Other airlines operating in Guatemala include COPA, Aeromexico, Iberia and Volaris. There are direct flights between Guatemala and Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Washington, Newark, New York, and Orlando.
Transportation between the airport and hotels is available by hotel shuttle, Uber or taxi. Several rental car companies are represented at Guatemala City’s airport. However, traffic is often very heavy and chaotic. Additionally, Guatemala has one of the highest rates of crime in Latin America; therefore, it is recommended that travelers take taxis from the major hotels, or dispatch taxis such as Taxis Amarillos (yellow cabs). Reservations can be made at (502) 2470-1515. (Agents speak only Spanish.) Uber is also authorized. Public bus transportation is unsafe and is not recommended. Visitors should only travel between cities during daylight hours, and we recommend contacting the Guatemalan Protection of Tourist Office at (502) 2290-2810 or 1500 for updates on safety issues and possible security escorts for specific routes.
While there are over 22 languages in use in Guatemala, Spanish is the official language. Many firms are accustomed to working in English; however, correspondence should be in Spanish. Catalogs and technical literature should be provided with a careful translation.
Medical Facilities and Health Information: A full range of medical care is available in Guatemala City, but medical care outside the capital is limited. Guatemala’s public hospitals frequently experience serious shortages of basic medicines and equipment. Care in private hospitals is generally adequate for most common illnesses and injuries, and many of the medical specialists staffing them are U.S.-trained and certified.
Most well-known restaurants in Guatemala serve safe food and beverages. As in any part of the world, common sense should prevail. Hot food should be eaten hot, and cold food should be cold. Meat should be well cooked.
Bottled drinks are considered safe. Tap water is generally not potable. Commercially available water bottled in Guatemala at the Salvavidas plant has been judged safe for consumption. Be sure the heat-molded seal on the bottleneck has not been broken. All reputable restaurants in Guatemala use commercially produced ice that is safe for consumption. Contrary to notices occasionally posted in some hotels, water from faucets and other non-bottled sources should not be considered safe to drink.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) by calling 1-800-232-4636 or visiting CDC’s Internet site at www.cdc.gov/travel/. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad and additional health information for travelers, consult the site of the World Health Organization at https://www.who.int/en.
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their health insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as medical evacuations. Many hospitals in Guatemala require payment prior to treating patients, even if personal insurance will cover the treatment. Hospitals do not typically enter into payment plan agreements. Travelers should be aware that they may have to pay in advance and seek reimbursement.
Local Time, Business Hours, and Holidays
Guatemala is on Central Standard Time year-round. The country does not observe Daylight Savings Time.
Business hours are like those in the United States, with typical office hours from 8am to 5pm. Businesses open to the public, like restaurants and grocery stores, tend to be open later, closing closer to 10pm.
A listing of Guatemalan holidays can be found on the Embassy website.
Temporary Entry of Materials and Personal Belongings
The temporary entry of materials and belongings for personal use while in Guatemala (such as camera equipment, cellular telephones, laptop computers) is generally not a problem. Larger quantities of products and display systems for participation in trade events or tools and equipment for projects should be imported temporarily with the assistance of a customs broker, or with the help of the event organizer.
Travel Related Web Resources
- U.S. Department of State Country Specific Information Sheet
- State Department Visa Information: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/us-visas.html
- U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs Travel Information: travel.state.gov
- Visa Information from the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala: https://gt.usembassy.gov/visas/
- World Health Organization: https://www.who.int/en
- Guatemalan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Spanish): www.minex.gob.gt
- Travel, Immigration, and Customs Information: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/know-before-you-visit
- U.S. Embassy in Guatemala: gt.usembassy.gov
- INGUAT -Guatemalan Institute of Tourism: https://inguat.gob.gt/index.php