Wondering what to pack for your trip to Guatemala?
Struggling to figure out what clothes to wear?
In this post, I’m going to share with you my packing list for Guatemala. This list is ideal for 1, 2, or 3 weeks of traveling, going on a yoga retreat, or studying in the country. It’s also good for longer stays. I was in the country for three months.
If you’re curious about what to pack for working remotely in Guatemala, check out my digital nomad packing list.
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Let me tell you about a major packing mistake I almost made before my trip to Guatemala.
It wasn’t until the day before I was to cross the border from Mexico to Guatemala that I figured out that I’d packed the wrong clothes.
I just assumed that since it’s south of Mexico that it would be even warmer than Mexico.
It’s so close to the equator, so it must be hot—was my thinking.
In all fairness, I should be excused for my ignorance. I’m from a state near Canada that is as flat as you can get and as cold as Siberia. I didn’t understand mountains before my trip.
I’d been traveling throughout Mexico for six months and only had short-sleeved shirts and no cold weather clothes except a fleece and pants.
So the day before my trip, I ran out to a store to buy something long-sleeved. I ended up not with the most fashionable wardrobe, but it did keep me warm on those chilly nights at the lake.
But what else do you need to pack?
In this guide, I’ll share with you what I packed for Guatemala and what I regret not packing.
So let’s get straight to it!
Check out my 2023 Guatemala Travel Guide for more tips, tricks, ideas, and inspiration for visiting the land of eternal spring. You’ll find over 15 travel articles to help you explore the history, culture, food, and natural beauty of Guatemala.
Table of Contents
Luggage for Guatemala
Let’s take a look at what the ideal luggage is for your trip to Guatemala.
Backpack or suitcase?
With or without packing cubes?
What’s the best daypack?
Osprey Fairview 40L Backpack
You’ll want to use a backpack rather than a suitcase for Guatemala for four reasons: (1) cobblestoned streets of Antigua are a killer on suitcase wheels; (2) some of the best places to stay are in remote areas that require walking over rough terrain; (3) lots of stairs but no elevators in hotels or Airbnbs; (4) if you do the Acatenango, El Mirador, or Xela-Lake Atitlan hikes, you need a backpack.
One of the most popular backpacks is the Osprey Fairview 40L. Osprey has a bigger version at 55L, but I’m a minimalist so I don’t think you need anything bigger than 40L. Guatemala is also a pretty casual place, so I don’t think you need too many fancy clothes.
The male version of the Fairview is the Osprey Fairpoint 40L.
2. Backpack Rain Cover
Frelaxy Hi-Visibility Backpack Rain Cover
It might rain while you’re in Guatemala, so you’ll want to pack two rain covers for your (1) big backpack and (2) small daypack.
Ideally get rain covers that have their own little pouch that you can store your rain cover in and that you can shove in the side or front pocket of your backpack for easy access.
3. Packing Cubes (+ Laundry Bag)
Tripped Compression Packing Cubes
I never travel without compression packing cubes now that I’ve found the perfect ones. I love the ones from Tripped because they’re narrow enough to easily fit inside a backpack. Wide packing cubes don’t work with backpacks. I also like their size–not too big or too small. Plus, because they compress your stuff, they save you lots of space. You also get a shoe case and a laundry bag, which is a packing item people often overlook and then regret not having when they’re on the road.
4. Day Backpack
Osprey Daylite Plus
You’re going to want a simple backpack to carry your stuff around during the day in Guatemala. Ideally, not more than 20L. Just big enough for your rain jacket, water bottle, snacks, insect repellant, sunscreen, a small first-aid kit, pens, notebook, Kindle, and rain cover. If you’re bringing a laptop, you’ll want a backpack sleeve as well.
I actually use a camera bag as my day backpack because I have a lot of camera gear. Jump to the camera bag section of this post to see what I use now.
But before I had so much gear, I used to have a regular backpack for when I was out and about. I loved my Patagonia bag. Sadly, Patagonia redesigned its backpack and I can’t recommend the new version. So, I’m recommending the Osprey Daylite Plus.
5. Travel Purse
Travel-On Anti-Theft Crossbody Purse
I love this purse–love the 4 compartments, little interior pockets, the lock on the zippers, and the size. It’s a great purse for organizing your stuff and keeping everything secure.
Some people may think it’s crazy to carry a purse and backpack as you’re walking around town, but I like to have my wallet in front of me in a purse and not in a backpack.
6. Dry Bag
Earth Pak Dry Bag
If your Guatemala itinerary includes visiting Semuc Champey or doing some kayaking on Lake Atitlan, Lake Peten in Flores, or Rio Dulce, then a dry bag is good to have. It’s so easy to get your stuff wet when you’re at the waterfall or at the lake. If you aren’t planning to go to Semuc Champey or go kayaking, you probably don’t need a dry bag.
Whatever bag you get, make sure it has backpack straps so you can wear it like a backpack.
Tech Gear for Guatemala
When you’re traveling in Guatemala, it’s important to have the right tech gear. Most people already have a smartphone, so I’m not going to talk about what phone to get. I will, though, tell you what other tech essentials you should take with you to Guatemala.
7. Power Bank
Mophie Power Bank
It’s so important that you get a power bank for Guatemala. This will help keep your cell phone and Kindle with enough battery life for the day. It’s easy for your phone battery to reach zero when you’re on a long shuttle ride, on a long hike, or out and about all day.
Imagine trying to get back to your hotel, it’s dark out, your phone has no battery life left, and you’re lost.
My old power bank didn’t work with my new Samsung phone, so when I was on the El Mirador hike, I had no way to take photos on my phone after my battery died on the second day.
If your phone uses USB-A ports, you’ve got to get a power bank that does both input and output for USB-A. The Mophie power bank was the only one I could find in 2022 that does that.
8. Power Plug Adapter
Power Plug Adapter
If you’re from North or South America, you probably don’t need a power plug adapter because Guatemala uses the same outlet and voltage (120V) for plugging electronics into that Canada, the United States, and the rest of the Americas use.
For people from Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world, you might need something to convert your plug from your tech gear so that it fits into Guatemala outlets. So, a plug adapter is essential.
The one reason North and South Americans might also need a plug adapter is for tech gear using 3-prongs. I only saw 2 prong outlets in Guatemala.
I packed one just in case, but I never used it during my time in Guatemala.
9. Item Trackers
Air Tags or Tile Mates
The best tech gear for travel that’s come out recently has been item trackers. Most people call them Air Tags, but those are just the trackers used for Apple products. If you use Android gear like a Samsung phone, you’ll need to get a Tile Mate or a Tile Slim.
Tile trackers are essential packing items for Guatemala. Attach them to your things and then use an app on your phone to track where the item is. For example, when you’re flying to Guatemala and you need to check your luggage, you can put an Air Tag or Tile Mate into your backpack or suitcase and you’ll know where the bag is at all times by tracking it on an app. So cool!
If you’re on a bus in Guatemala and your bags are stored somewhere out of sight, you can put a tracker in your backpack and you’ll know if your bag leaves the vehicle without you.
You can also attach it to your wallet or purse and if you leave it somewhere or someone steals it, you can track it down. There are also Tile Stickers that you can stick to your phone.
10. Kindle or Kindle Fire
Kindle Paperwhite or Kindle Fire
My Kindle Fire was a lifesaver when I was traveling alone in Guatemala. I used it when I went out to eat alone or hung out at my hotel or hostel room alone in the evening, or when I traveled on those long shuttle rides around the country.
I prefer the Kindle Fire to the Kindle Paper White just because with the former, I can watch movies on it as well as read. Plus, I like to have my Lonely Planet Guatemala guidebook on my Kindle and I can see the colored photos and maps easily on the Fire.
You might be interested in these posts:
Clothes for Guatemala
The clothes you pack for Guatemala depends a lot on the weather and the area of the country you’re visiting.
The good news is that for Antigua and Lake Atitlan temperatures during the day are consistent all year round.
- In Antigua, it’s 74 F (23 C) degrees in January and 76 F (24 C) in July. Check out the table below.
- At Lake Atitlan, it’s 81 F (27 C) degrees in January and 81 F (27 C) in July. Check out the table below.
- In Flores and at Tikal, it’s 82 F (27 C) degrees in January and 91 F (33 C) in July. Check out the table below.
Average Temperatures in Guatemala
The biggest issue is the drop in temperature at night for Lake Atitlan and Antigua. It’s warm during the day, but it gets really chilly at night. Plus, there’s usually no heating inside. So, you’ll want a combo of long-sleeved and short-sleeved tops. Bring pants/trousers. Pack a fleece. Layering is key.
The other issue is that it’s often much warmer in Flores and Rio Dulce than at Lake Atitlan and in Antigua, so you’ll want to dress a bit differently for the Lowlands and the Highlands. It felt more comfortable walking around Antigua in pants or capris than shorts. But when I was touring Tikal in December, it got really hot.
This is what clothes I would pack for a short and long trip to Guatemala:
- 1 fleece
- 1 rain jacket
- 4 – 6 pairs of long pants, capris, leggings, and/or shorts
- 1 skirt
- 2 – 3 long-sleeved shirts
- 4 – 5 short-sleeved shirts and/or tank tops
- 1 swimsuit
- 7 – 10 pairs of underwear
- 3-4 pairs of socks
- 2-3 bras
- 2 sleepwear
- hat for protection against the sun
Make sure that all of your clothes are casual and lightweight. Look for clothes that are labeled “travel” or “hiking.”
I wash a piece of clothing or two or three every night in the hotel bathroom with a bar of soap that’s specifically for washing clothes. You can buy this bar at any grocery store in Guatemala. I’ve also used regular hand and face soap and shampoo to wash my clothes.
When I use up all seven pieces of clothing, I take my clothes to the local lavanderia to get them washed. In Guatemala, there are no DIY washing machines. You hand your clothes to the lavanderia. They weigh them. Tell you the price and when it will be read (usually 24 hours later but sometimes the same day), and then you return at that time to pick them up and pay.
In 16 months of traveling through Mexico and Central America, I’ve never lost a piece of clothing at a lavanderia.
What clothes to pack for hiking Acatenango?
One of the best things to do in Guatemala is to hike up Volcano Acatenango and/or Volcano Atitlan. It gets extremely cold at the top, especially at night, so you’ll want to dress warmly for it. You’ll need the following items for the hike:
- warm socks
- thermal top and bottom
Many tour operators like Wicho and Charlie rent clothes out to hikers. But they don’t guarantee that they have your size.
At the same time, it’ll be warm on the way up during the day. Therefore, you’ll want to do layers.
What clothes to pack for a yoga retreat
One of the best things to do at Lake Atitlan is to do a yoga retreat. Many people do them for a week. If this is you, just add your usual yoga clothes to your backpack.
You probably don’t need to bring your own yoga mat, but ask the retreat center for their advice. I have seen a few travelers traveling with yoga mats.
Here is what clothes and shoes to pack for your trip to Guatemala:
Columbia Benton Springs Fleece Jacket
Let’s start with the #1 most important clothing item to pack for Guatemala: the fleece jacket. So versatile and comfy. It’s essential to have one at Lake Atitlan, Antigua, Semuc Champey, and Xela. There also good to have in case you get the chills from a fever and you want to get warm.
When you travel to places like Guatemala where temps vary from warm during the day to cold at night, you’ve got to wear layers. You can add a layer when it gets colder or peel off one when it gets too warm. A fleece is one effective layer you can add.
Some people spend loads of money on a fleece, but you really just need an inexpensive Columbia fleece. It’ll keep you warm in Guatemala.
12. Rain Jacket / Windbreaker
Columbia Switchback Rain Jacket
I recommend packing a lightweight rain jacket/windbreaker for your trip to Guatemala. You need something that will roll up easily and that won’t take up too much space.
When it gets cold, you can wear the jacket over your fleece. Before you buy your jacket, try it on first over a fleece to make sure it fits.
I have a simple Columbia Rain Jacket that does the job. But there are more expensive jackets out there from REI. Just make sure it’s not so thick that you can’t scrunch it up and fit it into a tight space in your backpack. I once made the mistake of buying a jacket that was too thick. It turned out to be a waste.
13. Pants, Capris, Leggings and Shorts
Pants, capris, leggings, or shorts?
Bring a combination of these items. Pants and capris are best for Antigua, Lake Atitlan, and Xela, where it’s not so hot and more conservative.
Shorts are great for Flores and Rio Dulce where it’s hot.
If you’re doing the El Mirador hike, wear long pants. Don’t wear shorts.
I would not wear shorts that are too short in Guatemala, especially in the Highlands as the people are quite conservative. It’s better to wear shorts that are just above the knee.
Ideally, I personally would take the following:
- 2 pants
- 2-3 capris
- 2 shorts
Capri Hiking Pants
These capri hiking pants are great for Guatemala. Lightweight, quick-dry, and comfortable. They also have loads of pockets with zippers. My only beef with them is that the elastic is a bit tight.
The North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Capri Pants
My favorite capris are these North Face pants that I bought in 2017. They’re perfect for Guatemala–lightweight, quick-day, and super comfortable. Lots of pockets including ones with zippers. The elastic is much more comfortable than the above capris.
Columbia Outdoor Boot Cut Pants
Another great pair of pants for Guatemala are these Columbia boot cuts pants. I’ve had these since 2017. They’re lightweight, quick-dry, and comfortable. No elastic waistband but there is a drawstring to tighten them. My only complaint is that there are no zippered pockets.
A RipSkirt is a practical item to take with you to Guatemala. They’re very versatile. You can wear them to the beach as well as around the city. They’re lightweight, quick-dry, and comfortable. They also roll up nicely in your luggage. I also love that they come in a variety of colors and patterns. You also get to choose from 4 different lengths:
- length 1 – really short (maybe too short for Guatemala)
- length 2 – just above the knees
- length 3 – just below the knees
- length 4 – ankles
15. Tops – Long and Short-Sleeved
Amazon Essentials V-Neck Shirts
You’ll need a combo of long and short-sleeved shirts for Guatemala. I’d bring 2 – 3 long-sleeved shirts and 4 – 5 short-sleeved shirts. It gets chilly in the evenings in Antigua and Xela and at Lake Atitlan or anywhere in the Highlands. Of course, from the end of October to February or March it’s even colder. However, it’s hot in Flores, Tikal, and Rio Dulce all year round.
Stick with simple shirts and colors that you can mix and match with pants or skirts. Guatemala is a casual place. You don’t need to dress up.
16. Underwear and Socks
I usually pack 10 pairs of underwear and 4 pairs of socks.
If you have plantar fasciitis, you can buy these compression socks. I had two pairs but lost one. They’re quite pricey, though. They didn’t solve my foot problem but they did add a bit of comfort to my feet.
One of the best things to do in Antigua is the Acatenango Volcano hike. For that hike,, you’ll probably want to get some thicker woolen socks to keep your feet warm once you get to the top. The Merino wool hiking socks are a good choice.
Latuza Sleepwear Top with Capri Pants
Because it gets really chilly at night and there’s often no heating inside at Lake Atitlan, Xela, and Antigua, you’ll need to pack sleepwear that’s suitable for that kind of weather as well as ones for the hot weather of Flores.
I packed these pajamas. When I was at the lake and in Xela and Antigua, I adapted them by replacing the top with a thermal top and a fleece.
Pack a hat or cap to protect your head against the sun. I’ve been more careful about skin cancer since a friend of mine got cancer on his scalp.
It’s good to wear a hat, especially while exploring the ruins at Tikal or spending time in the Highlands around Lake Atitlan and Antigua.
21. Cap, Scarf, & Gloves
Three more items you ONLY need to pack if you’re doing the Acatenango hike are a warm wool cap, a scarf or thermal neck warmer, and winter gloves. It gets really, really cold at the top of the volcano.
If space is an issue, you can rent these as well as a warm jacket from the tour operator that guides you up Acatenango. Wicho and Charlie rent out attire for the hike.
Shoes for Guatemala
Guatemala is a very casual place and the streets are full of cobblestones and uneven sidewalks, so wear comfy sneakers/trainers and leave your high heels at home.
You don’t need hiking boots. You just need high-quality walking shoes with good support and good treads on the bottom that you can wear around town and on a volcano.
To save space, leave your sandals at home. But bring flip-flops or some kind of lightweight shoes for wearing around your accommodations.
22. Walking Shoes
Brooks Adrenaline GTS 22
I only wear Brooks Adrenaline GTS shoes when I travel. Guatemala was no exception. I have plantar fasciitis and bunions and these shoes are the only kind I can wear. I have a whole article on how great these shoes are for people with foot problems in which I wax and wane about how much I love them.
I wore my Brooks when I walked around Antigua, Flores, and the villages of Lake Atitlan, hiked up and down volcanos, and walked 80 kilometers on the El Mirador hike.
If you’re lucky and don’t suffer from foot problems, then I recommend the Cloudflyer On shoes. They’re stylish and they give you amazing support. Because they don’t come in wide sizes, I can’t walk a long time in them. But I used to wear them while teaching and never had a problem with my feet. Plus, if you need to dress up a bit, you can still wear them.
23. Flip Flops
Havaianas Flip Flop Sandals
I always pack a pair of lightweight flip-flops with me when I travel. Guatemala was no exception. I wore them around my hotel, hostel, or Airbnb and in the shower.
I have plantar fasciitis and I’m a klutz, so I rarely wore them out and about. Plus, many of the streets in Guatemala are made of cobblestones or they’re hilly and thus, slippery. You need shoes with good traction.
24. Water Shoes
Water Sports Shoes for Men and Women
If Semuc Champey is on your Guatemala itinerary, bring water shoes. They helped me walk on the slippery rocks and the rocky bottom of the pools at the cascades I also wore my water shoes when I went kayaking at Lake Peten, Lake Atitlan, and Rio Dulce.
They don’t take up much space in my backpack either.
If you’re not planning to visit Semuc Champey or go kayaking, then leave water shoes off your packing list for Guatemala.
Items for Security
Guatemala has a reputation for being a dangerous country, but in general, it’s pretty safe for tourists as long as you don’t get involved in the narco industry, you stay out of bad neighborhoods in Guatemala City, and you take a taxi or tuk-tuk at night, especially after bars close late at night.
Still, you’ve got to take some precautions to keep your things secure. Here’s what I recommend for Guatemala:
25. Combination Padlock
TSA-Approved Combination Locks
Bring a combination padlock if you’re planning to stay in a hostel. You’ll usually get access to a locker where you can store your valuables, but you’ll need to provide your own lock.
Make sure your padlock’s bars/cables are thin because sometimes the hole you need to put them through is narrow. You can also use the padlock to lock your backpack zippers. That’s what I always did when traveling on buses.
Security Cable Lock
A cable lock is an optional packing item for Guatemala. It’s ideal when traveling on buses. You can secure your daypack or even your large backpack to a pole or the leg of your seat–something that is permanently attached to the bus.
It will then be harder for someone to snatch your bag if you fall asleep like I always do while riding a bus.
27. Money Belt
Stashbandz Unisex Travel Money Belt
You’ll want to keep your passport, credit and debit cards, and money in a secure place while in Guatemala. Wearing a money belt is a good way to protect your valuables from pickpockets.
However, they can be horribly uncomfortable and can give you an unsightly bulge on your waste. That’s why I used a runner’s belt during my trip to Guatemala. They’re not so bulky, they’re more comfortable, and they don’t have a belt that someone can cut from behind.
28. Document Holder
Storage Zipper File Pouch
It’s good to have a physical copy of your passport, your flight information, and the addresses of the hotels or hostels you’re staying at. I also like to have physical proof that I have a reservation for a tour and my accommodation.
But where do you store all these documents?
Keep them securely in a plastic document holder so that they don’t get wet or lost.
Document holders are great for storing receipts as well.
29. Plastic Ziploc Bags
Ziploc Storage Bags
Another must-have item for your trip to Guatemala is a set of plastic Ziploc bags. I usually bring as many as I can stuff in my backpack. Always bring various sizes.
I use them to store my passport and other valuables that must not get wet.
I also use plastic bags for storing bottles that can leak or items like toothbrushes and my retainer case that ants and other bugs are attracted to.
They are also good for storing food like opened packs of crackers or bread.
You might be interested in these Guatemala guides:
Toiletries for Guatemala
The good news about traveling in Guatemala is that you can find most toiletry items in grocery stores and pharmacies.
However, the bad news is that you’ll have a very hard time finding travel-sized toiletry items. So, if you run out of shampoo in Guatemala, you’ll most likely end up buying a full-sized bottle.
Here is a list of what I packed for my trip to Guatemala:
- Conditioner – it’s hard to find conditioner in Guatemala
- Styling cream
- toothbrush –
- toothpaste – you can find American brands but they won’t be travel-sized
- dental floss – you can find American brands
- mouthwash – you can find American brands but again they won’t be travel-sized
- soap – you can’t find liquid shower gel in Guatemala
- face soap
- chapstick – the air can get really dry in the Highlands
- contact solution – you can buy American brands but not travel-sized
- eyeglass cleaner and microfiber cloth
- Brush or comb
- Feminine hygiene products
30. Toiletry Bag
Osprey Ultralight Toiletry Bag
You’ll of course need a toiletry bag for Guatemala. Get one that comes with a hook that you can hang from something like a towel rack in the bathroom. Also, get something with zippered compartments to keep out bugs, especially at Lake Atitlan, Flores, Semuc Champey, and Rio Dulce.
I like this Osprey one a lot (1) it has a hook that I can hang from a towel rack in the bathroom (2) It has several compartments with zipper to organize my toiletries (3) it’s slim and not too big and bulky, which is perfect for backpacks and for storing inside the top part of your backpack.
31. Secondary Toiletry Bags
32. Soap Container
Kiasona Travel Soap Box
I love this Japanese-brand soap box. Sadly, I left mine in Costa Rica and I have to make do with a cheap one that leaks.
It’s got a sponge that soaks up the extra water, which keeps the soap dry and helps it last longer. The container also has a band that goes around it, preventing it from opening up in our toiletry bag and spilling all the contents out.
33. Microfiber Towels
Rainleaf Microfiber Towel
You might want to take your own towel with you if you plan on staying in hostels or if you plan on swimming or doing some water sports. Make sure it’s a microfiber one as it will save you space in your luggage. These towels also dry quickly.
You can buy a variety of sizes. I have one that’s the size of a beach towel and one that’s really small and that I use to dry my face.
34. Towels for the Shower
First-Aid Kit for Guatemala
How many times have you traveled and you’ve forgotten to bring some medicine?
I don’t have enough fingers or toes to count how many times I wish I had brought something and didn’t or brought some medicine only to find that it’s way past its expiration date.
It’s important for me that my just-in-case first-aid kit is well-stocked because I am prone to getting sick and injured when I travel.
I once had problems with my ears in the Philippines and used a local brand of ear drops. They actually made my ears worse and I ended up becoming deaf for a while and going to an ear specialist. So, I carry medicine for health issues that I am prone to getting.
Plus, sometimes you just need some medicine or first-aid item right away or in the middle of the night, and you don’t have any time to wander around an unfamiliar city looking for it.
It’s especially important to have things on hand when you travel solo.
However, just be aware that you can often find a lot of the same or similar items in Guatemala, and they can be cheaper than in your home country. I was able to stock up on the same brand of multivitamins in Antigua that I buy in the U.S.
- Insect repellent – You can find the OFF brand but only in an aerosol spray can
- Sunscreen – You can find American brands in stores but no travel-sized containers; quite expensive
- Aloe vera gel – Great to use in case you get sunburned
- Benadryl or hydrocortisone cream – Great to use to stop insect bites from itching, sunburn, or a rash
- Vitamins – You can find them in Antigua and Guatemala City but it’s harder to find them in other cities; quite expensive
- Zicam – They taste awful, but they are great for shortening colds
- Pain-relief medicine like Advil, Aleve, and Tylenol – You can find American brands and local brands of paracetamol in Guatemala
- Anti-diarrhea medicine – I know some people say never take this stuff, but if you’re going to be on a long shuttle ride in Guatemala of several hours, what are you going to do? You’ve gotta take it.
- Cold-relief medicine – Harder to find in Guatemala; I usually bring some with me just in case
- Throat lozenges (cough drops) – I always bring a bag with me as they are hard to find
- Band-aids – the quality of the ones in Guatemala aren’t as good as the ones from the U.S.
- Neosporin antibiotic cream – Make sure your tube hasn’t expired like mine was!
- Antiseptic first-aid spray – Get a small spray bottle of antiseptic first-aid spray or wipes to clean wounds
- Eye drops – Good to have for dry eyes and other eye issues
- Thermometer – Good to have in case you get a fever
- Cotton swabs (Q-Tips) or cotton balls – You can find these in Guatemala, but they’ll come in large packs
- Extra pair of glasses – if you wear glasses, bring an extra pair in case yours break
- Nail clippers – don’t think you won’t need it!
- Tweezers – you never know
- Tiny scissors – so useful for cutting tape to opening packages
- Face mask
- Hand sanitizer
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Before traveling anywhere, I like to know what common diseases or illnesses are in the country. Is rabies a problem? How about dengue fever? Zika? Malaria? Make sure you know these things before visiting Guatemala. Don’t rely on one source for this info. Check several different sources like the government websites of the U.S., British, Australia, etc. Sometimes government agencies will say that malaria exists in a country without being specific. Which regions in Guatemala? And how frequent? And what time of year? Knowing these things will impact what you pack for your trip.
Camera Gear for Guatemala
If you’re only going to use your phone to take photos, you can skip this part of the Guatemala packing list.
But for those who want or have a DSLR or mirrorless camera, this section is for you.
Fuji X-T4 Mirrorless Camera
I own a Fuji X-T4. The camera takes great photos. Fuji cameras are known for producing photos with great color. It also has built-in image stabilization. Fuji just came out with an X-T5, but I think the X-T4 is good enough.
Sony a7 III Mirrorless Camera
The other camera that I recommend getting is the Sony a7 III. This is probably the best non-professional camera on the market. It’s got great autofocus and it produces sharp images in low light. know Sony came out with the a7 IV, but the a7 IIII is still great and is now cheaper.
DJI Mini 2 Drone
Guatemala is a great place to use your drone. You can take it with you when you climb up Acatenango or Pacaya or if you’re doing the El Mirador hike. I’m not sure if you can use drones at Tikal.
The DJI Mini 2 is the drone a friend of mine uses and that is one of the most popular and affordable drones on the market.
37. Extra Lenses
Extra Lenses for Your Camera
I recommend the following lenses for photographing the best sights in Guatemala:
- Average focal length Zoom (16-80 mm) for normal everyday shots of street scenes, people, and attractions
- Wide Angle Zoom Lens (10-24 mm) for the architecture of Antigua and ancient ruins of Tikal and the landscape photos of Lake Atitlan
- Telephoto Zoom lens (70-300 mm) for getting a shot of El Fuego erupting
SmallRig Mini Tripod
If you want to get a shot of El Fuego erupting at night, you’ll need a tripod to take photos in such low light. This SmallRig Mini Tripod is perfect, especially if you’re planning on hiking up Acatenango. It’s small, lightweight, and stable. I like it more than the gorilla pods.
This tripod also works with phones and GoPros as well as cameras.
39. Lens Cleaning Kit
Movo Deluxe Camera & Lens Cleaning Kit
I guarantee that you’re going to need to clean your lenses multiple times when you’re in Guatemala. Pack a lens cleaning kit. There are lots on the market.
I recommend at least having a lens pen.
The next things you should pack are a small spray bottle of cleaning fluid (the same kind used for eyeglasses), a microfiber cloth, a brush, and a rocket air blower. Finally, take something to clean the sensor in case that gets dirty.
40. Camera Strap
Peak Design Camera Strap
If you need a strap for your camera, I cannot recommend this Peak Design one enough. I love it.
It’s supposed to work with any camera brand. I find the strap easy to adjust, durable, and comfortable.
Just watch several videos first before attempting to put the strap onto the camera. Some videos teach you the wrong way.
41. Protection Against Humidity
Silicone Gel Packets
Humidity can destroy a camera and a lens. It can get really humid in Flores, at Tikal, in Rio Dulce and at El Mirador. So, bring some silicone gel packets with you to keep the moisture out of your camera and lenses.
I destroyed my camera and a lens while traveling through Central America because the moisture from the humidity got into my gear.
42. Portable Hard Drive
Transcend Rugged External Hard Drive
You’ll want to somewhere to store your photos while traveling through Guatemala. Pack an external hard drive.
Make sure it’s got plenty of storage space, preferably 3 – 4 TB. It’s also got to be durable enough so that if you drop it, it doesn’t break. You’ll also want one that transfers photos quickly. The Transcend Hard Drive is what I’ve used for many years. The other one that many travelers use is the LaCie brand rugged hard drive.
43. Camera Bag
Brevite Jumper Camera Bag
This is the camera bag that I currently have. I like it. It’s comfortable and sturdy. There are five storage compartments as well as an internal zippered compartment and several pockets for storing camera gear. My bag fits my Fuji X-T4 and 3 lenses. It’s also got a laptop sleeve.
I also like that it’s only an 18L.
Plus, the bag doesn’t scream: expensive camera gear inside!
It’s a good bag to bring with you to Guatemala.
Wandrd Prvke Lite Camera Bag
However, if I could redo my purchase over again, I would have chosen the Wandrd Prvke Lite. At the time I was buying a bag, I bought the Wandrd Prvke 30L and it was way too big and heavy for me, so I returned it and got the Brevite Jumper instead.
Now Wandrd has an 11L camera bag that expands to 16L called the Lite and it’s probably the ideal bag for me and a perfect one to take with you to Guatemala.
The bag has got four compartments as well as internal smaller comparts. It’s sturdy, durable, and comfortable. There’s a laptop sleeve. I also like that the camera compartment opens from the back and not the front.
TRAVEL TIP: I highly recommend registering with your country’s embassy in Guatemala. When I was in Guatemala, there was a nationwide transportation strike that shut down all buses, shuttles, taxis, and tuk-tuks for a few days. But I knew it was happening the week before because I got an email from my embassy telling me it would start on Monday. This knowledge saved me from being stranded at the border because on that Monday, I was planning on crossing the land border from Belize to Guatemala. Knowing there would be a strike on Monday, I crossed on Sunday instead. I made it to Flores and got stuck there for a few days until the transportation strike ended. Register with your embassy so you know about strikes, protests, volcano eruptions, landslides, road closures, etc that might prevent you from getting to the airport for your flight home. For more tips, check out my list of things to know before traveling to Guatemala.
Miscellaneous Items for Guatemala
Here are a couple of items you should pack for your trip to Guatemala.
What about an umbrella?
I never pack an umbrella. If I need one, I just buy one at my destination, borrow one from the hotel, or buy a poncho. I have a rain jacket, which I think is good enough.
44. Water Bottle
HATORI LED Mini Flashlight
If you’re doing the El Mirador or Acatenango hike, you’ve got to have a flashlight.
I also found a flashlight helpful in my hotel room. Most of the time there was no lamp next to my bed, so I needed a flashlight to make my way across my hotel room in the middle of the night. If I stayed in a hostel, I also needed a flashlight. Many streets in Antigua, Flores, and Panajachel are not well lit.
I didn’t bring a flashlight with me, thinking I could get by with my phone. But I found it really inconvenient to always use the phone. Eventually, I had to buy a flashlight in Guatemala, but the one I bought was big and poorly made.
Another option is to get a head lamp.
46. Travel Journal
If you want to keep a journal of your travels through Guatemala, Moleskin journals are fabulous. They’re thin, lightweight, and durable. They also just give you a nice writing experience. I’ve been using them for years to plan for and record my travels.
47. Travel Guidebook
48. Guidebook for Antigua
Antigua Guatemala: Its Heritage
If you want to learn about the background and history of Antigua, the best book is Elizabeth Bell’s Heritage book. Bell lives in Guatemala, runs a travel agency there, is a bigger supporter of the preservation of Antigua, and is one of the foremost experts on the history of the city.
You can read about how to take her walking tours in this fabulous guide to Antigua.
Plus! Check out this list of books on Guatemala.
49. Guidebook for Tikal
Maya Ruins of Tikal & Copan Guidebook
The best book I’ve seen on the Tikal ruins is this Approach Guide. This is a guide to the history, art, and architecture of Tikal. As you walk around the ruins, stop at a temple, open the guidebook, and you’ll learn the backstory of the temple and the meaning of its various features.
I used the book for my tour of the Quirigua ruins.
Travel Documents for Guatemala
Besides a passport, here are some other documents and such that you need to bring with you on your trip to Guatemala:
- A physical and digital copy of your passport – email a copy to yourself and/or store a copy in the cloud in case you lose your passport in Guatemala
- 2 credit cards from different banks – keep them in 2 different places – you need 2 in case one doesn’t work or one is stolen.
- 2 debit cards from different accounts or banks – keep them in 2 different places – you need 2 in case one doesn’t work, the ATM eats one (this happened to me), one gets skimmed at an ATM, or one is stolen. Also, get a card that reimburses international bank fees like the Charles Schwaab. Check out this terrific article on ATM scams in Guatemala.
- U.S. dollars – Even if you plan to get cash from an ATM, bring some dollars with you in case your card doesn’t work. Make sure the dollar bills are in good condition–no tears or creases.
- Physical and digital proof and information of your return flight information – Airlines usually ask for proof of a flight out of the country if you’re entering a foreign country on a one-way ticket. Guatemala immigration usually doesn’t ask for this information but you never know.
- Prescriptions of medication, eyeglasses, or contacts – In case you need to refill a prescription or you need new glasses, bring a copy of your prescriptions.
- Travel insurance and travel medical insurance – Ideally have a physical copy of medical insurance. If not, at least have a digital copy stored on your phone. I use SafetyWing for my insurance.
- Physical and digital copies of your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb reservations – I usually have physical copies of my reservations
- Vaccine card: You don’t need to show proof of a COVID vaccine to enter Guatemala any longer. However, I still carry mine around with me as well as my WHO yellow vaccine booklet.
PRO TIP: Before you leave on your trip, make sure you know whether you can use your phone in Guatemala. Is it unlocked? Are you going to get a SIM card in Guatemala? Or are you going to use an eSim? You might still need to be able to use your home country’s cell number to contact your bank or for verification. I always get local SIM cards. This allows me to use the country’s mobile network. You’ll find that WiFi in Guatemala can be pretty bad, so having access to the local network is essential. This practical article on planning a trip to Guatemala will tell you all about the country’s mobile networks and WiFi.
Useful Apps for Guatemala
Here are some useful apps for Guatemala;
- Google Maps – download maps for Guatemala before arriving in the country
- Maps.Me – sometimes a much better map app than Google Maps
- Google Translate – download to your phone
- Duolingo – great for studying Spanish
- Uber – Antigua and Guatemala City have Uber
- Didi – Another ride-share service app
- Google Voice – If you’re from the U.S. you can call U.S. numbers for free on this App. You need to set it up before you leave the U.S. I transferred my American cell phone number to Google Voice, but you can just get a second number as well.
- Booking.com – Best accommodation booking app for Guatemala
- Freetour.com – An app where you can sign up for free tours; often has walking tours
- GuruWalk – An app with free and paid tours; often has walking tours
- Find Device – This app will help you find your phone if you lose it in Guatemala
- VPN – Get a VPN for your phone and laptop to securely use your public and hotel WiFis.
What to Pack For Studying Spanish in Guatemala
One of the most popular things to do in Guatemala is to study Spanish in Antigua, Xela, or Lake Atitlan. Many people stay for at least a week or even three months.
Do you need to pack anything more than what’s on this packing list?
No, I don’t think so. I studied Spanish for three weeks in Antigua and this is what I packed. However, if there is a specific grammar book or Spanish language textbook that you like, then by all means bring it.
You can buy pens and paper in Guatemala. However, if you like a certain kind or want high-quality pens and a notebook, then pack those too.
Let me end this packing list with a few tips:
- Bring one pair of good walking shoes with good support and traction that you can wear for hiking and for walking around a city
- Layers are the best way to deal with changes in temperature. Pack a fleece as well!
I was so happy to have packed these items and so miserable for not packing them:
- Plastic Ziploc bags
- Tiny scissors
- A hat
- A fleece
- A flashlight or head lamp
- Power Bank
- Long-sleeved shirts
- Laundry bag
- Compression packing cubes
- Good walking shoes
If you think I’ve left something off this list, let me know! Or if you have any questions about something you should or shouldn’t bring, ask me in the Comments Section below.
Where to Go in Central America?
- Top 32 Things to Do in Antigua
- Top 15 Things to Do in Rio Dulce & Livingston
- Top 20 Things to Do in Flores & Tikal
- Top 50 Things to Do at Lake Atitlan
- Top Things to Do in Chichicastenango
- Best Guide to the Quirigua Ruins
- Top 25 Things to Do in San Ignacio, Belize
- Top 20 Places to Visit in Central America
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