Guatemala, once primarily visited by volunteers and backpackers, now attracts global tourists with its ecological diversity and rich history. With direct flights from Europe, Canada, and the US, travelers from these regions, as well as El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras, enjoy visa-free entry with their passports.
Foreigners visit Guatemala for various purposes, including tourism, business, work, and volunteering. However, most of them arrive in the country as tourists.
Guatemala is known for its national parks, rare flora, and fauna, Mayan ruins, religious monuments like the Basilica of Esquipulas, and bustling beaches. International travelers visit the country to explore these and to soak in the local culture.
Foreign nationals who wish to participate in the ecological and conservation activities of various governmental and other agencies visit Guatemala to volunteer in these fields. Many foreigners volunteer in Guatemala’s shelter homes for women, children, and the underprivileged. Some foreigners arrive in the Central American country to work. A developing economy, the country offers various opportunities in the industries such as tourism, textiles, and petroleum.
Backpacking youngsters find temporary jobs while on the go in resorts, surf clubs, and other such avenues. Guatemala also welcomes foreign businessmen to either start new ventures or expand their existing businesses.
Some foreigners from North American countries consider Guatemala an ideal retirement destination. They arrive in the country to spend their retirement.
Foreigners who wish to visit Guatemala must get legal permission from the government of the country. Citizens of over 80 countries, such as the USA and Canada (nations in Category A) can enter Guatemala without a visa. They can arrive in the country with their legally valid passport. Immigration authorities at the port of entry will verify their passport. If everything is in order, they will be allowed in.
Travelers from Category B countries like India and Jamaica will need a visa, and for this, they need to apply at the Guatemala consular mission in their countries. They need to submit documents to prove their personal identity and passport information. Similarly, citizens of Category C countries like China needs to attend personal interviews apart from submitting various documents to get a Guatemalan visa.
Citizens of the CA-4 (Central America-4 for Border Control Agreement) countries, including Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, do not need a visa. They can enter and leave Guatemala without many border checks and move freely inside the country.
The Central American country has Honduras, Belize, and El Salvador as its neighbors. It also has a coastline bordering the Caribbean Sea. International travelers can enter Guatemala by air, land, and water. Airlines are operating many direct flights from European countries like Spain and North American nations such as the US and Canada to Guatemala to cater to the increased demand from tourists. This is the most preferred mode of transport by foreign travelers.
There are two international airports in Guatemala and a few other large airports. The largest airport in the Central American country is La Aurora International Airport. This airport is also known as the Guatemala City Airport. Located about 25 kilometers from the Guatemala City center, this (IAIA code is GUA) is the primary international airport in the country and can accommodate over 20 aircraft at a time. The airport has two terminals catering to both domestic and international passengers.
Many international airlines, including the Unites Airlines, operate directed flights to and from the Guatemala City Airport.
The Mundo Maya International Airport is the second-largest international airport in Guatemala. Located outside the Guatemalan cities of Santa Elena and Flores, it serves over a million international and domestic travelers in a year. Travelers who wish to visit the Mayan ruins of Tikal or Yaxha can opt for this airport.
Guatemala shares its land borders with Honduras, Mexico, and El Salvador. As part of the CA-4 agreement, citizens of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador can enter and remain in Guatemala without any immigration checks at the land border crossings. Similarly, foreigners holding valid visas from any of the above-mentioned countries can cross Guatemala’s borders without security checks and a Guatemalan visa.
This is also applicable for travelers from foreign nations that otherwise will require a visa to enter Guatemala. There are three major border crossings between Honduras and Guatemala. They are at Corinto, El Florido and Agua Caliente. Likewise, there are four major crossings between Guatemala and El Salvador, Chinamasa/ Valle Nuevo; San Cristóbal; La Hachimura/ Ciudad Pedro de Alvarado, and Anguiatú.
There are also multiple other land border crossing options for international travelers planning to travel between Guatemala and its neighboring countries.
Land border crossings can be quick and seamless or can be a major hassle depending on the volume of travelers. Foreign travelers can directly join the queue at the immigration counter. Ensure that their passports and other documents are in order and up to date. Immigration officials may ask them a few questions with regard to the nature of travel, stay in the country, and passports. They are required to answer them truthfully. Note that entry to Guatemala depends on the decision of the immigration officials, and if they find something not right with the documents or the answers, they may be denied entry.
Digital money transactions may not be possible in many land crossings. Travelers must get physical money in accepted currencies. They may otherwise be hassled by agents who claim to help them in money exchange. Travelers should also be prepared for long queues. They can bring something like a book to pass time.
The Central American country has five seaports along its Atlantic and Pacific coastlines. They are Puerto Barrios, Champerico, Santo Tomas de Castilla, Puerto de San Jose, Puerto Quetzal. Apart from these, Guatemala also has seaports dedicated to cargo operations.
Many agencies run cruise trips to and from these Guatemalan seaports. Most such cruise ships anchor at Puerto Quetzal. International travelers from visa-free countries like America and Canada can enter through Guatemalan seaports with their passports and other travel documents.
Citizens from visa-required countries need a tourist visa to enter Guatemala through seaports. They can stay up to 90 days.
Most international travelers who visit Guatemala are tourists. The country has categorized travelers into three groups such as A, B, and C. Foreigners from countries category A do not need a visa to enter Guatemala and remain in the country for a maximum period of 90 days. They can arrive in the country by air, land, and sea with their passports. However, they will need a visa or a temporary resident permit if they want to stay in the country for over three months.
Citizens of countries in categories B and C need a tourist visa to enter the country as a tourist. Travelers from countries in category B can submit the visa application in a Guatemalan consular mission.
They do not need to appear for a personal interview. However, citizens of countries in Category C need to attend a personal interview in the Guatemalan embassy in their home country. Travelers may also need to submit medical and travel insurance, proof of economic solvency, and their traveler itinerary to the Guatemalan embassy officials.
Foreigners and backpacking youngsters can volunteer in Guatemala. Many foreigners volunteer in Guatemala’s national parks, shelter homes, and others. Like in the case of tourist visas, foreign nationals from countries in Category A, such as Canada and the US, do not need a visa to volunteer in the country for up to three months. They will require a visa to remain in the country as a volunteer for more than 90 days. For this, they will have to apply to the Guatemalan immigration office while in the country.
They will have to submit various documents while applying for this permit. The documents include their passports, photographs, and proof of funds. Citizens of countries in categories B and C require an embassy visa to volunteer for even three months. They can apply for a temporary visa permit and a Visa Ordinaria at the Guatemalan immigration office if they want to extend their stay for more than three months.
Students from over 80 foreign nations (in Category A) do not need a visa to do short-term courses in Guatemalan educational institutions. The maximum duration of the course should be three months. If they want to take up courses that are longer than three months, they need to apply for a student visa at the Guatemalan embassy in their country home country. They are required to submit an acceptance letter from a registered educational institution in Guatemala apart from documents such as their passports and economy solvency certificate.
Minor applicants need to provide a letter of authorization from their parents. All the applicants should also get a police verification certificate. Note that a student visa is valid for one year and can be renewed for the duration of the course. For students from category A countries, the visa application process is mostly carried out online.
Foreign students from countries in categories B and C need a student visa to enter and remain in Guatemala as a student. A student visa is a must for both short-term and long-term courses. They need to apply through the Guatemalan embassy in their country with all the required documents and pay the processing fee.
Foreign nationals who wish to work in Guatemala in various capacities need a work visa. The government of Guatemala grants two types of work visas. Type one is issued to the spouses and children of Guatemalan citizens. For this, they can directly apply at the Guatemalan consular mission or immigration office.
Type two is issued to foreigners who have a job offer from a company registered in Guatemala. In this case, the visa application should be filed by the company. Applicants need to submit an offer letter from a Guatemalan company and a police verification certificate apart from other identity documents.
Applicants who have arrived in Guatemala with or without an entry visa and who wish to stay in the country for more than 90 days should apply for a temporary resident permit. They can apply at the Guatemalan immigration office once they are in the country. They need to submit all the required documents.
A temporary resident permit is issued for 90 days.
Foreigners must apply for a Visa Ordinaria within this time period. This document can be extended for a maximum of two years. At first, a Visa Ordinaria is issued for six months, and applicants should ask for an extension of Visa Ordinaria every six months.
All foreigners who have been living in Guatemala for two years with a Visa Ordinaria can apply for a permanent resident permit.