Guatemala-Borders and Driving

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Don't let the recent history of Guatemala, including bloody civil wars and cruel dictators of the 1970s and 1980s, scare you off from visiting. The people of Guatemala are some of the friendliest you may find in Central America. Explore the archeological wonders in Northern Guatemala such as awe-inspiring Tikal, enjoy the friendly Garifuna culture on its small Caribbean coast, wander the gorgeous colonial streets of Antigua, observe the thriving Mayan culture in San Andres Xecul, or shop-till-you-drop in the huge market of Chichicastenango. You'll leave with great memories and start planning your next visit as soon as you get home.  Learn more about border crossings, roads, and driving. 

Basic Facts

  • Population: 13,000,000
  • Capital: Guatemala City
  • Fun fact: During the Quema del Diablo or Burning of the Devil celebration in the market town of Chichicastenango, men wearing suits of fireworks dance through the people with streets sparks shooting into the crowds.

Border Crossing Information

Entry Requirements

Necessary documents

  • Passport
  • Vehicle Title
  • Proof of cancellation of Mexican vehicle import permit: Importancion Temporal de Vehiculos - Certificado de Retorno

Costs

  • Q18 fumigation
  • Q10 tourist permit
  • Q40 for vehicle import permit

(Fees apparently scheduled to change at the whimsy of the border official)

Procedure

It is wise to change Mexican pesos to Guatemalan quetzales before you arrive at the border, as the people offering to exchange money will not likely give you a favorable rate. After completing the necessary paperwork in Mexico, proceed into Guatemala where you may need to have your car fumigated. After paying Q18 to have the car sprayed (count the change they give you carefully, they may ´accidentally´ forgot to give you correct change), proceed to the migracion station with the proof of fumigation document. After examining and stamping your passport, you will pay for a tourist permit permisso 131 rp, which costs 10 quetzales. Next at the aduana the officer will inspect your car and ask to see you car title, passport, and the receipt showing that you canceled your Mexican vehicle import permit. You may also need your driver's license. You will get a receipt to bring to the Banrural nextdoor to payment for the necessary documents. After paying Q40, return to the aduana with proof of payment, where you will receive your vehicle import sticker for the window. They will also stamp your passport to indicate that you have imported a vehicle.

Procedure for Extensions in Guatemala City

  • In Guatemala City, you may, as a courtesy, receive one extension of 90 days for both the temporary import permit and the tourist visa.
  • As of February 2013, after one extension (for 180 days total) your vehicle must remain out of the country for 90 days before you can apply for another temporary import permit.
  • You must extend your tourist visa first, at the Immigration Office in Zone 4. GPS: N14 37.297 W90 31.014. '''This process requires FIVE business days'''. Bring:
    • Color (bring your own) or Black & White Passport Photo (available next door)
    • Original Passport
    • Two copies of the passport photo page
    • One copy of the Guatemalan passport stamp
    • Completed application form (available at the information window)
    • 118.50Q (as of Feb 2013).
  • To extend VALID temporary vehicle import permit, go to the SAT office at the airport. GPS: N14 35.056 W90 31.829. If vehicle import permit is EXPIRED, then you must go to the Central SAT office at Torre Azul, Av. 7 Calle 4, Zona 9. GPS: N14 36.461 W90 31.059 (approx.) Bring:
    • Original import permit
    • Original passport with valid tourist visa
    • EXPIRED permits require notarized copies of passport pages and a written request: Lic. Berta Caceres, 7 avenida 7-07, zona 4, El Patio oficina 124 Telefono: 2331-6120, 2360-0482 23317053 - Fax: 2360-0812 bcaceresm@yahoo.com (English spoken)

Exit Requirements

Necessary documents

Procedure

Exiting Guatemala is a fairly simple process. You will show the border officials your passports and vehicle import permit documents. The countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua are part of the CA-4, and for a period of 90 days tourists should be able to travel between the 4 countries without paying any fees (vehicle import permits are a separate issue). If you do not plan on driving back through Guatemala in the near future, surrender the sticker-permit you placed on our windshield when you entered Guatemala, and ensure that the stamp in your passport is cancelled. If you do plan to return within 90 days of your entry date, ask them to leave your permit "open" and not stamp you out. The process is fast, efficient, and free.

 

Individual Experiences

People's experiences vary depending on crowds at the border, corrupt or honest border officials, and rules can also change. People's individual experiences are described in the Guatemala- Additional Border Crossing article. 

Roads and Driving

Insurance

Not mandatory, but smart to have in case of a collision. We bought liability-only insurance in Flores/Santa Elena at Todo Riesgo. Their full address is 4a. Calle 6-76, Zona 1, Calle Principal, Santa Elena. Their phone number is 4210-8958. The prices at Jan 2014 were:

  • 15 days: Q229.32
  • 30 days: Q305.76
  • 60 days: Q458.64
  • 90 days: Q1,070.16

Speed bumps

In Guatemala, speed bumps are called topes or tumulos, and you will find a large amount of them on many roads, sometimes unmarked.

Driving Etiquette

The drivers in Guatemala tend to be more aggresive, especially trucks, chicken buses, taxis, and combis.

Road Conditions and Updates

(Updated: December 13, 2008)
Around Lago Atitlan The road from San Pedro La Laguna to Santiago Atitlan is unsafe according to a local person, claiming that the road swings far around the Volcan San Pedro and into an area that was once a Guerrilla training ground. This area is still an easy ambush road for persons to be attacked. The roads from Panajachel around the lake to San Marcos La Laguna are well travelled and pose no threat.
Antigua to Lago Atitlan Some guides will recommend not driving the direct route between Antigua and Lago Atitlan which winds through Patzicia and Patzun. This route is now safe due to an increased police force in the area due to the desire to keep tourism dollars flowing.
Highway 1 Highway 1 from the border in Mexico to Quetzaltenango (Xela) is in great shape - you will find this road in better shape than most roads in Mexico. Highway 1 from Quetzaltenango (Xela) to Antigua is in construction to turn the road into a four lane highway. This will cause delays and dangerous situations due to poorly marked constructions signs. It is advised to follow other vehicles since the road will change from a four lane highway to both directions of traffic sharing one side of a 4 lane highway without good signs indicating the change. You will also encounter hazardous low shoulders and low visibility due to dust.

Gas Prices

Gas prices are expressed in the units of the specific country.

March 2012:
$4.92 per gallon

Premium Unleaded:

06/01/14:

  • Price is in Guatemalan Quetzales per liter Regular:
  • Q35-38/gallon
  • Conversion: 1L=0.26 gallons, 7Q=$1.00 (US)
Wed, 02/29/2012 - 07:09

Border & Gas Price Updates

We crossed from Belize to Guatemala via Melchor de Mencos. Process was exactly the same as above, except the prices seem to have increased. We paid Q20 for passport stamps (this is the official fee, but we didn't have the patience to argue). The vehicle permit cost Q160. This seems to be the new rate because we did receive a very official preprinted form with this amount listed.

Exchange rates at the border stink! Change in advance if possible. Full write up on our experience here: http://liferemotely.com/trip-shenanigans/guatemala/150-belize-to-guatemala-border-crossing

We also took a weekend trip to Copan Ruinas (Honduras) without our vehicle. No hassles. Had to pay a Q10 fee to leave Guatemala, but no other fees when re-entering.

Gas prices are currently around Q36/gallon for premium unleaded. Roughly $4.75 USD.

Note to DTA: the exchange rate is listed incorrectly in the gas prices above it shoud be: (Q7.7 = $1 USD) Thank god it's not the other way around :)

 

 

Sun, 03/18/2012 - 17:01

thanks for the correction

Thanks for the correction and comment - also, this site is a wiki, so feel free to edit the content yourself if you're comfortable doing it.  Just hit the edit tab at the top of the page.  And don't worry about 'messing' things up - all revisions are saved so we can revert things on our end if we need to.  Read more about contributing.

Wed, 10/17/2012 - 09:32

Cancelling Mexican Temp Vehicle Import Permit at Tapachula

An additional point to the Entry Requirements listed above (which is pretty much exactly what we experienced) for those folks crossing from Mexico to Guatemala at Talisman (Tapachula):

If you are travelling from Mexico into Guatemala at the Talisman crossing (near Tapachula, Mexico) note that the Banjercito office where you need to cancel your Mexican vehicle import permit and get your original deposit credited back to you is not at the actual border crossing but at the Hacienda checkpoint ("garita") on Mex 200 (Arriaga-Tapachula) that is before getting to Tapachula and right before the intersection to take the Libramiento Sur road that goes around the city of Tapachula to get to the actual border crossing.  Also note that the checkpoint is on the westbound side of the Mex 200 (i.e. the other side of the road).  

The checkpoint is open from 7am to 6pm Mon-Sat and from 9am to 5pm on Sunday.  We arrived to Tapachula around 6:30pm on a Sunday to make the crossing the following morning so we completely missed the checkpoint and were oblibvious to this requirement until the next morning at the border crossing where they made us go back to the checkpoint if we wanted to cancel the permit.  They will not do it at the border crossing.

Wed, 08/21/2013 - 17:52

Guatemala: Melchor de Mencos Border

Belize-Guatemala, Melchor de Mencos Border: Crossed 16/9/12.

There's only one well signposted border crossing.

Exit Belize:

Belize immigration gave exit stamp in passport 37 Belizean dollars(BZD) or USD$18.50 and aduana gave an exit stamp in passport (no charge).

Enter Guatemala:

Motorbikes didn't have to get fumigated, you're just signalled to drive around the side of the fumigator shed. Unfortunately I misunderstood this signal and got fumigated with the bike, cost 12 Guatemalan Quetzales (GTQ) or USD$1.50. Then got entry stamp in passport for USD$2.50 or GTQ20 at immigration and combined Aduana building. Guy at Aduana was painfully slow, got the SAT temporary vehicle import paper and sticker for my windscreen valid for 90 days. I was told to hand this over as I left Nicaragua or if I left Guatemala. This paper has some affiliation with Honduras and Nicaragua, although I still had to do all the usual vehicle entry requirements in those countries. This paper I believe was then cancelled when I left Nicaragua, so it was worth keeping. I guess you would get this vice versa if you were coming north into Nicaragua. The fee for the vehicle temporary import paper was GTQ160 or USD$20. I was told insurance wasn't necessary. Whole process took about 1hr and 30mins. There's a real nice hotel just after the turn off to Tikal about 1hr 30mins ride from the border overlooking the lake, with aircon and a great restaurant. Think there was gas and ATM's at the Guatemalan border, but it was nighttime so not too sure. Gas stations were on the Belize side.

cheers

Dom Harris

Mon, 09/09/2013 - 11:49

Mexico to El Salvador border crossings: photos and details

Hey guys,

We recently travelled through both borders and more, (honduras, nica and costa) and thought you might find the following page helpful in your own adventures!

http://thegypsys.blogspot.com/2013/09/guatemala-to-el-salvador-border-crossing.html

http://thegypsys.blogspot.com/2013/07/mexico-to-guatemala-border-crossing.html

Good luck and remember, adventures are out there!!

 

Sunny, Lexy and Josie

 

Wed, 11/06/2013 - 18:50

Heading from Mexico City to Guatemala City on Thurs 11/7/13

http://www.journeytoolympicgolf.com/blog-updates

Any one cross recently or nearby heading south?

 

Sun, 05/31/2015 - 12:59

Documented our entry and exit from Guatemala - May 2015

Hey everyone,

Entering Guatemala:

We entered from Mexico into Guatemala at the Cuauhtémoc-La Mesilla border crossing. We documented all the steps here:

http://freedomwithbruno.com/mexico-guatemala-border-crossing-cuauhtemoc-...

Exiting Guatemala:

We exited Guatemala into El Salvador at the Valle Nuevo-Las Chinamas border crossing. We documented the process here:

http://freedomwithbruno.com/guatemala-el-salvador-border/

 

Safe travels!

Travis and Amanda