Transport – taking a mixture of shuttles and chicken buses enables you to get the best of both worlds. I thoroughly enjoyed catching chicken buses with locals people watching and practising my Spanish. They were also super cheap. However, sometimes it was nice to get shuttles for longer distances so you did not have to change buses all the time with heavy backpacks.
Food – be prepared for tortillas, beans, rice and eggs. There is however plenty of great types of food to try – tamales, empinyadas, tostadas and much more. The fresh fruit and smoothies are a must. The street food is super cheap and tastes amazing. I did not get sick from it but some people do, so ween your way into it.
Accommodation – less accommodation is advertised on hostel world. It is best to find out by word of mouth where to stay or just turning up and walking into a few places to find the best price / quality of accommodation. Also couch surfing is a great way to learn more about culture and you can stay in some very decent places.
Language – in Guatemala there are over 20 different languages spoken. Everyone speaks Spanish. As it is their second language, people talk slightly slower and it can be either easier or harder to understand.
Prices – it is pretty cheap to eat, stay and get around in Guatemala. Hostel prices should range from 50q to 80q (£5- £8). Tourist areas are slightly more expensive and shuttle buses can be expensive too. Tour agencies, really try to catch you out, so make sure to shop around and haggle or explore yourself – just as easy and sometimes more fun.
Safety – I generally felt pretty safe throughout Guatemala. However, there were times I felt uneasy being alone. I felt as if I stood out being white, having blue eyes and fair hair and being female. While it was not pleasant getting weird looks it was not extremely dangerous. Using common sense, being street wise and sticking to areas where there are people meant nothing bad happened.
Where should you go?
Flores – a beautiful island town on a stunning lake. It was a great base to go and visit the Tikal ruins from.
Tikal ruins – magical Mayan ruins surrounded by the wonderful jungle.
Semuc Champey – geographic beauty, crystal clear river surrounded by the jungle, you can swim, tube down and jump in off rope swings into the river. You can explore amazing, extensive caves by candle light. Stay in the depths of the jungle (very remote hostels, do not have WiFi).
Antigua – lovely colonial town with the option of volcano hikes and surrounding outdoor adventures.
Chimaltenango – nice town, not too much to see, not a must by any means. I just St stopped off to stay with some amazing couch surfers)
Lake atitlan – many villages to stay here:
Panajachel (ex pack community, touristy but a good Base to visit other villages).
San pedro (party place, cheap accommodation, fun nights out)
San Juan and Santiago (traditional village, not many tourists, great to see how locals live and fabulous handy crafts to be bought)
San Marco (hippy, yoga retreat destination)
Xela – fun place to stop, great surrounding volcanoes to visit and beautiful Mayan spiritual lagoon to see.
Guatemala city – very interesting to stop for a day. Like any other big city, lots of shops also lots of poverty. The market and old town square is fun to explore.
Rio dulce – beautiful place to visit, the boat ride to livingstone is stunning.
Livingston – mixed feelings, fun place to stay but not the nicest place. Seven alters was magical but clouded by the polluted beaches. Good stop over for travel to Honduras.