Guatemala for Solo Travelers and Backpackers

Guatemala as a backpacking and solo destination

Guatemala is often considered one of the highlights of a trip to Central
America, as it is an exceedingly friendly and inexpensive country dotted with
Mayan ruins and beautiful natural scenery.  Some of the most dramatic Mayan
ruins in the world are located in Tikal, in northeastern Guatemala, or you
can simply sit back along the shores of Lake Atitlan in southwestern
Guatemala and chat the day away with fellow backpackers.  

Guatemalans are very friendly and polite almost to the point of shyness.  An effort at
speaking a bit of Spanish goes a long way to breaking the ice and creating
friendships with the local people, although many Guatemalans, particularly
those involved in the tourist business, will speak a bit of English.  
Guatemala has been heavily backpacked for several years now, thus in all but
the most remote locations people will not find solo travellers the least bit

Accommodation for Solo Travellers

As in many places in Central America, Hostels are a rarity in Guatemala.  
Most travellers don't find this much of an inconvenience, however, as
guesthouses and hotels are very reasonably priced with a single room costing
around US$5-10 a night.  Rooms usually have only the most basic furnishings,
however many guesthouses, particularly those around Lake Atitland and
tourist cities such as Antigua, have comfortable common rooms or roof
terraces where travellers can relax and socialize.

Camping is sparse in most of Guatemala but certainly a viable option around Mayan ruins such as Tikal where you can rent a hammock or set up a tent for only US$1-3 or rent a small cabin for US$6-7.  Another excellent option if you have the time is
to arrange a home stay with a Guatemalan family.  Usually this ranges between
US$30-60 per week including several meals a day.  Most significantly, this
is a great way to meet Guatemalans and get involved with their daily life,
as well as improve your Spanish!

Budget for Solo Travellers

Guatemala is a very inexpensive country to travel in and you won't have much
trouble staying in a daily budget of US$10-15 per day, slightly more if you
want to splurge a bit on nicer hotels.  Most national parks charge an entry
fee although it is usually fairly reasonable, about US$5-7.  Accommodation
will average US$5-10 per night and meals are very reasonable, particularly
if you eat in local restaurants rather than more upmarket tourist

 A basic meal of rice and beans with chicken or beef is only
about US$1-2.  Breakfast is one of the biggest meals of the day, where you
can get fried eggs, bread, beans, juice, tortillas, and coffee for only a
few dollars.  Sodas and water are all under a dollar per drink and alcoholic
drinks US$1-2.  

Locally brewed beer is readily available, although not the most palatable!  Imported beers are available but significantly more expensive.  One of the tastiest and cheapest options is often rum-but beware of the cheaper brands as they can be very strong!  Most places, particularly in more touristy areas, will accept US Dollars as well as Guatemalan Quetzals.  Credit Cards are accepted only in more upmarket restaurants and hotels.

Tips and Activities for Solo Travellers

Guatemala is packed full of things for solo travellers to do Whether you
are looking for solitude relaxing in hammocks and hiking in remote Mayan
ruins, or looking to meet fellow backpackers and Guatemalans, you can easily
do it in Guatemala.

Some things to do include:

- Attending a Spanish school in Antigua or Quetzaltenango, two cities famous
for excellent budget Spanish schools
- Camp near the Mayan ruins at Tikal and hike through the jungle and among the
pyramids at sunrise
- Sit on a roof terrace overlooking Lake Peten Itza and watch the sunset
-Take a riverboat down the Rio Dulce
-Relax for days with fellow travellers along Lake Atitland, one of the most
popular backpacker areas

Guatemala is the sort of place you go for a week and end up staying for a month (or more!)  The amazing thing is that you can stay here for months without either breaking your budget or running out of things to do and people to talk to.  

This is an ideal place for solo travellers as it is such a friendly place, both in terms of meeting other travellers and locals, as well as a place to hang up your travelling shoes for a bit and just kick back and relax.

Submitted by Kristen Mahan

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