7 things no one told me about traveling in Guatemala

I've wanted to explore Guatemala for a long time!This is a country that has a little bit of everything.Bustling cities and markets, towering volcanic peaks, lakes surrounded by jungle, vibrant nightlife and mysterious Mayan ruins.I figured I had Guatemala pretty well figured out before I even got there.How wrong I could have been.Traveling in Guatemala has shocked, amused, and amazed me at every turn.

There's a lot about this fun-loving country that isn't covered in any travel guide, so without further ado, let me tell you all about traveling in Guatemala

1.The people are super friendly

Go to a local bar to work on your Spanish!

The local Guatemalans are some of the friendliest people in all of Central America!Walk into a bar or visit a salsa club and you'll be chatting with a friendly group of locals in no time at all.My Spanish, although terrible, has improved so much since I've been out here as the locals are so patient with backpackers' Spanglish that you can learn to speak basic Spanish pretty quickly.

If you get lost, people are always happy to help and I've found that getting stopped in Guatemala is relatively easy as people are so happy to try and help travelers.In short, I was truly overwhelmed by the friendliness and generosity of Guatemalans.

When it comes to Couchsurfing; traveling in Guatemala is a great place to try it out, and it's really easy to find a great host.

2.Guatemalans love to party!

And you'll hear them a mile away …

I don't know if it's a cultural thing, but if you wander near a club or bar while traveling in Guatemala, there is a very real risk that your eardrums will explode!

Guatemalans LOVE their loud music and whether you are on a bus, in the back of a pickup truck, or even in a fruit market, there seems to be loud music at all times.Clubbing in Guatemala is a bit of a strange affair, as you very rarely hear anyone talking to you.

God help you, if your room is somewhere near a club, you won't sleep.

3.People ride shotgun with shotguns

Shotguns seem to be a big thing here.Rent-a-Cops too.Every single store, from ice cream parlors to sofa stores, seems to have at least one security guard armed with a pump-action shotgun.

Since many Guatemalans travel by motorcycle, it is not uncommon to see people riding motorcycles with a machete on their hip and a shotgun in their lap.Or, even better, riding on the back of a motorcycle with a gun pointed in the air.

Maybe it's just me but I have the Terminator soundtrack in my head every damn time!

4.Fried chicken stores are literally everywhere

Chicken Land for breakfast someone?

Guatemalans love their fried chicken.They love it so much that every street seems to have at least one fried chicken.If you somehow manage to not try the chicken while traveling in Guatemala, you, my friend, are missing out!

The most popular chicken store seems to be PolloLandia – which I think means "chicken country".

I have yet to go to Chicken Land, but I'm looking forward to it when I finally get the chance to go.Guatemalans seem to eat fried chicken for breakfast, and it's certainly better than refried black beans, sorry Guatemalans – I'm not a fan of beans!

5.Guatemala has some crazy buses

All aboard the hippie bus…

I've been on many cool buses around the world, but the Guatemalan chicken buses are the coolest yet!They are also one of the most fun ways to get around while traveling in Guatemala!

These great, shiny chrome buses used to be U.S. school buses, but were resold to Guatemala.Here they got colorful paint jobs and a second life as some of the tightest and potentially most dangerous buses in Central America.

The conductors love to stuff as many people as possible.I once counted 70 people on a bus with maybe 40 seats.

A ride on the chicken bus is always eventful; The drivers are a little crazy and speed around the curves, so there's that.But even better are the wandering vendors and preachers who get on the bus for ten minutes and give a long, heartfelt (and loud) speech about what the hell they're selling before offering treats (z. B. Distribute CDs). These will be taken away from you 2 minutes later if you don't pay.

I'm never quite sure what to make of these situations, but they can be quite amusing.

6.This is a country where there is something for everyone

Want to explore a flooded cave by candlelight?Yes, we did!

Guatemala is a country that really has something for everyone.The temples here are truly amazing (more on that in a moment), but the real highlight of the country is that you can pretty much choose any lifestyle and live with it.

Want to feel like an expat and hang out in cool bars, retro cafes, great hostels and smoothie joints?Continue on to the cobblestone streets of Antigua.

Climbing volcanoes, swimming in crystal clear water and smoking cheap joints?Make your way to the rocky port of San Pedro on Atitlan Lake.
If you really want to get off the beaten path, it's pretty easy – head to the mountains around Xela and explore colorful Mayan villages.

Happy with the normal backpacker circuit?Why wouldn't you be; it has caves, jungles, temples, parties, beaches, rivers and adventure activities galore!

This is a country that truly has it all… except, as it turns out, spare parts for my Panasonic camera.

7.The temples have to be seen to be believed

I like temples, that's no secret.I have been on many of them.

I've explored rock tombs in Petra, climbed over the Buddhist ruins of Bagan, and wandered through the hidden rock temples of Hampi.Met the reclining Buddha in Bangkok, chatted with monks at a Burmese monastery, and even hung out in Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's hometown.

I've seen several pictures of the ruins of Tikal, but nothing has really prepared me to actually explore them.

Arrived on a blisteringly hot afternoon and had the whole place to myself because of the heat.I discovered towering step temples, majestic hieroglyphs and mysterious passages.The jungle closed in on all sides and I walked along remote trails to reach some of the lesser known ruins.The temples are breathtaking and if you are lucky, you can have them all to yourself.

Captured a beautiful sunset from the top of one of the main temples and would love to return one day to see the sunrise as well.

If you have the opportunity, try camping at Tikal like I did – you'll have much more time to explore the site.

The next time I travel to Guatemala will be the five day round trip to El Mirador.A Mayan megacity hidden deep in the jungle north of Tikal still being excavated by archaeologists.

When you are done with your trip in Guatemala, continue on to beautiful Nicaragua. my favorite country in all of Central America!

I've been using World Nomads for some time and have made a few claims over the years.They are easy to use, professional and relatively affordable.They can also allow you to buy or renew a policy once you have started your trip and are already abroad, which is very convenient.

It's good to get lost sometimes, but it's also good not to get too lost.There are people who want you to come home in one piece.

There's one travel insurance provider that The Broke Backpacker trusts with all of its wildest shenanigans … World Nomads!

Click the button below to get your insurance quote, or read our in-depth review of World Nomads coverage.And then … let the shenanigans begin. 😉

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