Solo Travel In Guatemala: Is It Safe For Female Travellers?

solo travel guatemala

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I just returned from a memorable month travelling solo in Guatemala and I can’t wait to tell you all about it and also answer the question, is Guatemala safe for solo female travellers? for anyone who may be wondering.

I started my solo travel trip by entering from Belize and ended by flying from Guatemala City back to my current home base, Mexico City. Along the way, I met wonderful people (both locals and fellow travellers) and saw fantastic wildlife, scenery, UNESCO sites and more.

Guatemala is one of the seven countries that comprise Central America (along with Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama). It’s one of the safer countries and, compared to Costa Rica and Belize, very affordable! This combo makes solo female travel in Guatemala a great idea!

GUATEMALA ESSENTIALS

Accommodation: Booking.com / Hostelworld

Getting there: flight / bus

Activities: GetYourGuide / Viator

guatemala solo travel
In a rush? Pin this for later on Pinterest!

Read next: the ultimate Guatemala itinerary

Is Guatemala good for solo travellers?

YES! I had a great time travelling alone in Guatemala in 2023. I met lots of other like-minded travellers including other women in their thirties like me (along with those in their twenties and 40s+… all ages, to summarise!).

There are tons of women backpacking Guatemala solo as we speak so, if you’re still debating taking the plunge, consider that they’re all fine and loving it… So you probably will, too!

Guatemala solo travel
The cute towns of Lake Atitlan are amazing for solo travel in Guatemala

Read next: my ultimate guide to solo female travel after 10 years on the road!

Is Guatemala suitable for first time solo travellers?

I’m an experienced traveller who has solo travelled in India, South Africa, Cuba and more. But I try not to forget how it feels starting out. Guatemala is perhaps not the ultimate first-time solo travel destination because there is some crime and it’s not as easy to get around with English compared to travelling solo in Asia and travelling solo in Europe.

However, I’d say solo female in Guatemala is relatively easy. Shuttles take you from door to door, there are fantastic hostels and you’ll meet many people doing the same thing as you. If you’ve never travelled alone before, geek up on a bit of basic Spanish and follow my tips for women travelling alone and you’ll be fine!

Read next: where to travel alone for women

Best things about solo travel in Guatemala

  • Guatemala has great tourist infrastructure and is very accessible – almost everywhere you’ll want to go is connected by tourist shuttle, often picking you up at the door of your accommodation.
  • Hostels galore – you don’t need to pay extra when getting a room for one because there are hostels everywhere from Antigua to Flores, Semuc Champey and the various towns around Lake Atitlan. Also, they’re good! I stayed in hostels with swimming pools, bars and terraces with lake views.
  • The country is affordable – I stayed in hostels from £7 ($9) a night and took tours for the same price.
  • English is widely spoken – obviously Spanish is the main language so it’s useful and respectful to learn at least the basics (and a famous thing to do is take classes where you live with a local family) but generally, I found a lot of English was spoken in the popular regions and by most people working in tourism.
Lake Atitlan
Guatemala is SO beautiful!

Challenging things about solo travel in Guatemala

  • Stray dogs around Lake Atitlan – as someone who is already scared of dogs following a previous attack while travelling, I was unnerved by the stray dogs around Lake Atitlan. I told myself I was being paranoid… Until I got bitten when I’d barely been there 12 hours! When walking solo, you feel more vulnerable than if you were with others, so this does add some fear factor to a solo Guatemala trip.
  • It’s a dengue zone – during my trip in September 2023, there was a bad outbreak of dengue fever and several travellers I met got it. I know first-hand how sucky being sick alone is. Although you can reduce the risk by wearing long clothing and bug spray, it’s still a possibility.
  • Some crime – undeniably, there’s some crime in Guatemala that can affect tourists. However, this is restricted to certain areas that you can avoid. I’ll cover this later.

Is Guatemala safe for solo female travellers?

Yes, Guatemala is safe for women travelling alone. I had a brilliant time and felt very safe! The majority of locals are friendly and will want to help you.

Saying that, Guatemala City is not very safe. A couple of my friends decided to walk home 8 minutes from a brewery to their Airbnb and got robbed. From what I hear, it’s a safe enough city in the daytime in the right areas but you shouldn’t attempt walking at night, even as a group. Due to its lack of tourist attractions, you’ll probably want to skip it all together as a woman travelling alone.

Also, I heard some reports of crime along the roads around Lake Atitlan, however this is avoidable as I’ll discuss next.

Is solo travel in guatemala safe?
Guatemala is safe for solo female travel

Safety tips for solo travel in Guatemala

Take the boat rather than the road around Lake Atitlan – some of the roads around the lake are apparently in need of repair and there are reports of robberies so they’re best avoided. Luckily, riding the ‘lanchas’ across the lake is cheap, easy and offers fantastic views!

The exception is short journeys including the one from San Pedro to San Juan; getting a tuk-tuk for 10 Quetzales (£1) is safe during the day. Also, the road between Panajachel and nearby villages, Santa Catarina and San Antonio is safe enough to take an even cheaper ride with the locals: a pick-up truck for 5 Quetzales!

Hike in a group – there are some great hiking trails around Lake Atitlan such as the Indian’s Nose hike and the 3-hour walk between Santa Cruz and San Marcos. For the latter, go as a group and leave your valuables behind. For the Indian’s Nose, the issue is that you have to cross local land (and organise a tuk-tuk ride at 4am to see sunrise) so it’s best to take a group tour.

Don’t go too far off-piste – there’s a well-trodden tourist trail with popular places including Antigua, Flores, Semuc Champey, El Paredon, Xela and Lake Atitlan. This is more than enough to keep you busy for weeks, if not months, so there’s no need to stray into areas where you might stand out as a tourist.

Learn how to shake off dogs – I was told to pretend to throw a rock at them because they’re used to locals doing this to fend them off. Avoiding walking alone at night in the lake towns is advisable.

Specific solo female travel safety tip regarding San Marcos, Atitlan – the square in the middle of the town has some problems with men drinking and a house with aggressive dogs. Do avoid it in the evenings.

getting around by boat
How to get safely around the lake

Do you need to know Spanish?

Well, it won’t hurt and it WILL help! But, to be honest, it’s not necessary to travel solo in Guatemala. In tourist areas, you can get around with English because staff in tour agencies, cafes and hostels etc will speak some.

However, it’s polite and respectful to learn a bit of the local lingo so I would highly recommend doing so. The apps I use for learning Spanish are Duolingo and Babbel, and I also have the Google Translate app which includes a camera feature that translates text.

I’d definitely recommend learning the numbers because this will be useful for haggling while shopping and comparing prices in tour agencies. In San Pedro, I asked all the agencies how much the Indian’s Nose hike was and got answers varying from setenta (70) to noventa (90) and cien (100).

Ultimately, the more Spanish you know the better… for you and the locals! But don’t beat yourself up if you find learning a new language hard. Guatemalans are friendly and happy to help.

Getting to Guatemala

By flight: The first option is flying into Guatemala City. You can get direct flights from many cities in Latin America and US cities like New York, Atlanta, LA, Washington and Houston. If you’re coming from Europe, you’ll likely need to change in the US (so don’t forget to apply for an ESTA). I use Skyscanner to find cheap flights, using the ‘search by month’ feature to see the cheapest dates.

If you’re arriving/departing Guatemala City, I would not recommend staying for long. The capital is not very safe for solo female travellers in Guatemala. Your best option is a shuttle to Antigua or wherever your first destination is.

Overland from Mexico: local agencies in both destinations organise transport between the two. If you’re headed to Mexico next, you can book transport to San Cristobal (which, by the way, is a lovely city) from most tourist hubs.

Read next: solo female travel in Mexico

Overland from Belize: this is what I did during my recent trip. Although you can arrive all the way from Caye Caulker by shuttle, the closest popular location in Belize is San Ignacio, a destination I encourage solo travellers in Belize to visit.

Read next: travelling solo in Belize

Belize
Solo travel in Belize is ideal for beach lovers

A shuttle from San Ignacio to Flores will cost $20 USD or you can take the local option of a taxi ($7 BZD) to the border then a local bus for 50 Quetzales ($7 USD total). I did this with two other travellers and can confirm it was easy and safe. I’d feel comfortable doing it solo.

Tip – you get a better rate on exchanging money over the border on the Guatemalan side. Change your leftover Belize Dollars into Quetzales so you can pay for the bus to Flores.

Getting around Guatemala

Getting around is so simple, even easier than getting around in Mexico where I usually have to pay for a taxi (not having anyone to split taxis with is one of the downsides of solo travel!) to the bus station. In Guatemala, I got accustomed to getting taken door-to-door!

Tourist shuttles

These small, aircon minibuses can be booked between tourist destinations. They either pick you up from the door of your accommodation or a designated meeting spot. They can be booked in any tourism agency or your accommodation although hostels often charge more.

If you’re wondering whether Guatemala is safe for solo female travel, feel reassured that this mode of transport couldn’t be safer!

In my experience, here’s where you need to meet based on the destinations I visited:

  • Antigua – pick up from door
  • Panajachel – pick up from door
  • San Pedro – meeting spot
  • Flores – meeting spot
  • Semuc Champey – meeting spot (but hostels organise a transfer there).

Rough idea of prices:

  • Flores to Lanquin (Semuc Champey) – 100 Q
  • Lanquin to Antigua – 220 Q
  • Antigua to San Pedro – 150 Q
  • Panajachel to Guatemala City airport – 200 Q.

Chicken buses

Chicken buses solo travel guatemala

These old US school buses have been given a lurid makeover, often complete with vibrant paintwork, gaudy details and flashing lights. Riding them is certainly an experience! However, they don’t service that many destinations directly so you often need to change. They’re much cheaper than the tourist shuttles but also less convenient.

Where to travel solo in Guatemala

There are lots of amazing places to visit in Guatemala and I’ll provide a (tried and tested) sample itinerary later so you know how to fit them all in. But my number one tip is to schedule enough time in Guatemala so you get to visit as many places as possible! I spent a full month.

My personal highlights were Tikal, Antigua and Lake Atitlan. Visit all three to experience a cultural and historic site, a charming city, and beautiful lake towns with spectacular scenery. Guatemala really has it all!

I can vouch for all these places as being safe for solo female travel in Guatemala…

Antigua (my favourite place!)

Antigua city

The quaint UNESCO Heritage City of Antigua is my personal heaven: countless coffee shops, beautiful buildings and volcano views. It’s a slow city where you can relax during a busy Guatemala itinerary OR do some memorable and difficult hiking!

Things to do in Antigua:

  • Do the short walk up to the Hill of the Cross viewpoint
  • Hike Acatenango Volcano (more about this coming up)
  • Hike Pacaya Volcano
  • Take a trip to El Azote Beer Garden out of town (reached by taxi or colectivo) or simply visit Antigua Brewing Company in town.

Some of the best coffee shops to visit are 12 Onzas, Fat Cat Coffee House, Basil & Coffee (great cakes), Cafe Estudio (rooftop views) and the River Coffee House. There are lots of great places to eat Guatemalan food or you can try healthy/vegan food at Wachuma or international eats. I had an amazing banh mi at Mì Vietnamese Kitchen, and the pizzas and calzones next door look to die for!

Cobbled streets antigua safe places for solo travel in guatemala
Idyllic Antigua

How long to spend in Antigua? Around 1 week if you want to hike both Pacaya and Acatenango volcanos with some rest time in between. Otherwise, 1-2 days is enough.

Where to stay in Antigua: Flore Hostel / Barbara’s Boutique Hostel.

About the Acatenango Volcano hike

Acatenango volcano hike
The stuff of bucket lists

I didn’t do the hike on this trip as I had a foot injury but I’ll be back to Guatemala in 6 months to do it and update this section with more personal details!

At a lofty 3,976m (13,041 ft), a trip up Acatenango offers breathtaking views of the surrounding area as well as Fuego Volcano which is highly active and regularly spitting fire. The hike is gruelling but bound to be one of the best experiences of your solo Guatemala travels.. and possibly, life!

The hike takes two days, departing on the morning of the first day and returning around midday on day two. You sleep overnight on the volcano either in tents or huts depending on the company you choose.

Very early on day 2, you have the option to do an extra hike to Volcan de Fuego, something that’s recommended just for pro hikers because it’s difficult and views aren’t guaranteed based on the visibility and weather.

For budget travellers, Soy Tours is easily the best. The whole thing will cost 500 Quetzales (£50/$60) including guides, accommodation, three meals, beer and hire of warm clothes. I also hear good things about Ox Expeditions who charge around 700 Quetzales but provide accommodation in huts rather than tents.

Flores Island (and Tikal)

Tikal ruins

The most famous reason to visit Flores is as a launching point for the majestic Tikal ruins dating back to the 4th century BC. Once a powerful kingdom home to 60,000 ancient Mayan people, this enormous jungle site comprising more than 3,000 structures was built in alignment with the constellations.

It’s recommended to take the 4am tour (booked in any agency or your accommodation) to beat the heat and see Tikal before it gets crowded. You can even take a 3am tour to see sunrise but, since I was travelling in rainy season, I was advised not to bother because you’re not guaranteed a clear sunrise.

I paid 100 Quetzales ($12 / £10) for the tour, and entry to Tikal is a further 150 Q. Not bad to see one of Guatemala’s three UNESCO sites!

Tikal flores
A must for solo female travel in Guatamela!

Many travellers just spend 1-2 nights in Flores to see Tikal but I actually spent 4 nights, 3 days on this charming island. During one day, I caught a public boat (10 Quetzales) to visit Mirador de Canek, Chechenal lake beach and the Mayan World Museum (be sure to eat lunch at Cool Beans 2!).

Then, on the final day, I hung out at the famous Jorge’s Rope Swing only accessible by boat. This is a family-run venue on the other side of the water where you can use the rope swings and chill in the hammocks with a beer. The highlight was the huge iguana chilling in the tree above me! A fun way to arrive is by hiring a kayak for the day.

Iguana
A new scaly friend!

If you’re going alone to Jorge’s Rope Swing, it’s cheaper to get the family to send their boat rather than take a local boat (my hostel organised this). It’s still a bit spenny at 100 Quetzales for a return ride and entry but a fun way to spend an afternoon.

Where to stay in Flores: Hostal Don Cenobio / Los Amigos.

Semuc Champey

Semuc champey solo female travel guatemala

The bad thing about Semuc Champey? How far it is from everywhere else! It’s 8-12 hours from Antigua (the journey goes through the capital and the traffic is variable) and around 8 hours from Flores. So you need to factor in two full travel days.

The good thing about Semuc Champey? Everything else! This region is absolutely stunning and packed with treasures like caves and scenic viewpoints. There’s also some fantastic accommodation including hostels that will make you feel like you’re in a 5-star resort!

Swimming in the nearby sublime pools is easily the highlight, along with hiking up to the viewpoint. A trip through K’an Ba Caves is a lot of fun although slightly scary when the guides post you through a drop-off hole and you land underwater! Most accommodations can organise a day tour of the region for around 250 Quetzales.

Getting there: ride the bus to Lanquin. Most of the hostels are within the countryside so send a free daily shuttle to collect their guests from the bus.

Strangely, I got my ticket from Flores-Lanquin for 100 Quetzales (£10/$12) but the one to Antigua, a similar road distance, costs more than double at 220 Quetzales.

How long to spend? You just need a day to see the region during a tour. If you have a second day, you can go tubing or simply relax and enjoy your accommodation. I had a pool day mine.

Where to stay in Semuc Champey

Zephyr lodge lanquin

For solo travel in Guatemala, a good option is Zephyr Lodge, a gorgeous hostel with a swim-up bar and sublime views. They organise tours into the park, tubing trips and onward shuttles to your next destination.

However, I had mixed feelings because it felt slightly cliquey as many travellers arrived in groups (but maybe that was just bad luck when I stayed). Also, there’s no kitchen so you have to eat in their restaurant… and they even charge you for hot water!

Tip: If you do stay at Zephyr, splash out the extra few bucks for the brand-new deluxe 11-bed dorm with aircon, curtains and huge lockers. I moved here from the 6-bed which felt dated and cramped. If you can bag bed number 32 in the 11-bed with a pano view of the valley, you’ll be waking up in paradise!

Other accom options: I heard good things about Greengo’s which is actually inside the park and just a 10-minute walk to the famous pools, so no need to pay for a tour. It has great reviews and I met a few people who had stayed there and liked it.

Lake Atitlan

The vast Lake Atitlan is several destinations all bundled up in one. The villages on its shores range from backpacker party hubs to spiritual stomping grounds and authentic, local villages where you can learn about traditions and crafts practised for centuries. Better yet, Lake Atitlan is safe for solo female travellers provided you travel by boat.

So it’s worth doing your research based on what you like! Luckily, I’ve done the work for you…

San Pedro (backpacker hub with nightlife and cafes)

San pedro travelling alone as a woman guatemala
I didn’t love San Pedro but it does have the best cafe views

San Pedro is the backpackers hub of Atitlan with several hostels and pubs known for live music and nightlife. I didn’t love San Pedro because there was no Guatemalan culture to be found: in fact, the businesses are 90% Israeli-owned since the town is a hub for Israeli travellers.

However, reasons to visit San Pedro during solo travel in Guatemala include the Indian’s Nose sunrise hike. Every agency in town offers a tour with competitive prices starting from 70 Q. Tours depart the town at 4am but it’s worth it for the wonderful sunrise over the lake!

Views of lake atitlan from cafe
Stunning cafes!

Also, San Pedro has many cafes with stunning lake views. Have coffee and cake at Sababa, smoothie bowls at Forbidden Fruit and authentic Israeli food at Pita Sabij. The namesake dish of pita with aubergine (eggplant), boiled egg, tahini and salad was mind-blowing!

Where to stay in San Pedro: Mandala’s Hostel.

San Juan (my favourite lake town!)

San Juan guatemala

I’m so glad I took a day trip from San Pedro to San Juan. Despite being just a 15-minute drive apart, they couldn’t be more different. In San Juan, I was the only foreign tourist and I loved the opportunity to observe the locals wearing traditional dress, enjoying a Sunday in their beautiful country.

You can see the town in a day so it’s not necessary to stay overnight. If you’re the kind of solo traveller who likes to meet others, it may not be the best place to stay as it doesn’t have a big backpacking scene (although Eco-Hostel Mayachik looks like a decent base). But, it’s a safe place for solo female travel in Guatemala and, for local life, a must-visit!

When you’re not wandering the colourful streets and taking photos, you should hike up to Mirador Kaqasiiwaan which takes about 30 minutes and costs 30 Quetzales. The lake views are incredible! Back in town, visit some of the women’s co-operatives selling traditional woven items from clothes to bags and accessories. Kemo was my favourite.

Don’t miss the roasteries serving delicious Guatemalan coffee! Sadly, Cafe Las Marias with rooftop views was closed as I visited on a Sunday but I had a great cup down at Cafe San Juan beside the pier.

San Marcos (hippie hub)

San Marocs solo female travel guatemala

When I say San Marcos is spiritual, I don’t just mean a bit of yoga and meditation. Yes, there’s plenty of this, but there’s also every soul-searching activity you could ever dream up… and then some! From sound healing to cacao ceremonies, San Marcos caters to enlightened types. I even saw a poster inviting me to ‘court my divine masculine’. Say what?

While some of it was lost on me, I did enjoy a bit of yoga and even tried a sound bath (a kind of meditation experience where the practitioner plays various instruments designed to awaken energy in different parts of the body). I enjoyed it!

But, like San Pedro, this isn’t a place to experience Guatemalan culture. Most of the people running and benefitting from the workshops are Western travellers who live there semi-permanently. For that reason, it wasn’t my favourite place. I’d say skip it if you don’t plan to take any classes. But I did love all the cute cafes. No prizes for guessing it’s vegan heaven!

Tip – for the best yoga class, head to Yoga Forest with fantastic views. Eagle’s Nest is a famous hotel and holistic centre but I heard mixed reviews. It’s certainly an aesthetic dream but the classes aren’t that good, according to locals and travellers experienced in holistic practices.

Where to stay: I recommend Casa Ahau with great breakfasts and dorm & private rooms. The social area is a great place to meet other solo travellers in Guatemala.

Where to eat:
Dragon Moon for healthy bowls, Circles for AMAZING baked goods, Zen for tasty vegan tacos. For coffee, I give another mention to Circles as well as Nectar ArtCafe and Ararti Cafe. The latter is a good place to work on a laptop.

Panajachel (the biggest lake town)

The hub of Lake Atitlan isn’t anything special but it has good tourist infrastructure and acts as a launching point to explore nearby points of interest, for example Chichicastenango Market (Central America’s biggest market) on Thursdays and Sundays. From Pana, I took half-day trips to…

Santiago (local life)

Santiago village lake atitilan
View from the mirador, Santiago

Aside from San Juan, this was the best Lake Atitlan town I visited for skipping the tourist trail and seeing local life. There’s a large, bustling market where you can enjoy local street food for pennies. There’s also a couple of miradors where you can snap pano views.

Santa Catarina & San Antonio (colourful murals and traditional crafts)

These two towns close to Pana can easily be visited during a half day. Santa Catarina Palopo is a captivating mural village painted with traditional Guatemalan details. It’s also known for its woven goods; learn about the trade at the cultural centre.

After an hour in Santa Catarina, I continued to San Antonio Palopo, a village known for pottery-making. There are several venues where you can witness potters at work and see the items coming to life. I didn’t see any other tourists around and gladly purchased a few beautiful items to support the artisans.

From this point in Pana, you can jump on a local pick-up truck to the two villages.

Xela

Xela unusual places for solo female travel guatemala

Quetzaltenango, nicknamed Xela, is an off-the-beaten-track destination for solo travellers in Guatemala. It might be the perfect pick for those who want to escape tourist towns like San Pedro. Nestled in a valley at 2,400m above sea level, it’s a fantastic city to experience authentic local culture, yet it still feels modern enough with all the amenities you need.

It’s a great place to learn Spanish and an even better place to hike! There are plenty of trails and hikes from Xela.

El Paredon

El Paredon

Personally, I didn’t make it to El Paradon but, for beach chills and surfing, I hear it’s your best option. This sleepy coastal town is known for its sunsets and swell. Although it’s one of Central America’s best surf destinations, it’s more of an advanced spot so not best for beginners.

It’s certainly not a fancy beach resort destination: accommodations are mostly modest, the roads are badly paved and you’ll find lots of those pesky Guatemalan stray dogs (so don’t walk alone on the beach at night). And you can cast the idea of white sand beaches from your mind: this volcanic region is known for its black sand beaches. But, personally, I find these more interesting!

Where to stay in El Paradon: Driftwood Hostel is the best accommodation for backpackers, and they can even help you organise an ethical turtle release.

Rough Guatemala itineraries

2 week Guatemala itinerary:

  • 1-2 days in Flores
  • 1 day in Semuc Champey (factor 2 travel days either side)
  • 3-4 days in Antigua (add extra days for volcano hikes)
  • 5 days in Lake Atitlan.

3 week Guatemala itinerary:

  • 2-3 days in Flores
  • 2 days in Semuc Champey (factor 2 travel days either side)
  • 3-4 days in Antigua (add extra days for volcano hikes)
  • 7-10 days around the lake
  • 2-3 days El Paradon.

For a 1 month itinerary, add a week at a Spanish school!

Best hostels for solo travel in Guatemala

Here are some places I can vouch for. They’re all safe for solo female travel in Guatemala and great places to meet others.

Antigua

I’ve only done Airbnbs in Antigua but the hostels I hear the best things about are Flore Hostel (9.8 stars on Hostelworld) and Barbara’s Boutique Hostel (9.7 stars on Hostelworld). Flores is about a dollar cheaper per night, but I don’t think you can go wrong with either!

Flores

The party option is Los Amigos. I heard mixed things about this place because it’s all set around a bar/restaurant so doesn’t feel like a regular hostel. I went for the more chilled option of Hostal Don Cenobio (70 Quetzales (£7/$9) with a gorgeous terrace offering lake views. It was clean and very pleasant but solo social butterflies might prefer Los Amigos.

Hostel is guatemala safe for solo female travellers
Don Cenobio

Lake Atitlan

San Pedro de Laguna: everyone’s heard a horror story about the crazy party hostel that is Mr Mullet’s! Personally, I don’t think I could hack this kind of hostel even aged 20 so it certainly wasn’t for me 13 years on, but it might work for some. I stayed at Mandala’s Hostel instead in the 3-bed dorm (100 Quetzales (£10/$12) where you get a comfy double bed each!

Panajachel – I stayed at Selina which is great for chilled travellers (especially those older than 25 or who work online) with a restaurant, bar, pool, cinema room and co-working areas. Just don’t book any tours or activities here as they’re a robbery compared to the local agencies who I bet they sub-contact to anyway! Considering this, accommodation is surprisingly cheap with beds starting from $12.

I hear Dreamboat mentioned as a more lively option for backpackers in Pana.

Santa CruzLa Iguana Perdida! In fact, this is the main reason to visit Santa Cruz as there’s not much going on there. This cosy hostel runs ‘family’ dinners each night costing 70 Q for 3 courses: ideal for solo travel in Guatemala! They also have affordable cocktails (£2.80 margs!), regular evening entertainment and amazing views to accompany your morning coffee and breakfast.

The rooms are basic but fine, my main complaint was the lack of hot water!

Hostel view lake atitilan
Veggie breakfast at La Iguana Perdida hostel in Santa Cruz

San Marcos – a good option is Casa Ahau with reasonably-priced dorms and privates. My private room was just 120 Quetzales in off-season including breakfast, and I believe the dorms start from 90 Q. The brekkies are good: either fruit, yoghurt and granola, or eggs, beans, bread and plantain. The owners are super friendly and the communal area is spacious with swings, hammocks, tables and beds.

The only slight downside to Casa Ahua for solo female travellers in Guatemala is the walk up an alleyway that feels eerie at night. But saying that, it’s halfway between the town and the holistic centres up the hill like Yoga Forest, which is a plus.

How to meet people solo travelling in Guatemala

Hostels: around the world, this is generally the main way to do it! In Guatemala, there’s a good mix of party hostels attracting a younger crowd along with boutique or family-style hostels if you want to avoid all that. At 33, I didn’t feel old at all (which can happen when solo travelling in Thailand for example) while staying in hostels and met plenty of travellers the same age or older than me.

Tours and organised activities:
you’ll meet people on organised hikes, walking and cycling tours of Antigua, cooking classes or chocolate workshops… the list goes on!

Shuttles: everyone on your shuttle is going to your next destination so it’s the perfect place to get chatting to your seatmate!

Best season for Guatemala travel

Most people will tell you that the dry season of October to April is the best time to visit. However, I visited in September (rainy season) and actually loved how quiet it felt. Hostels were at about 50% capacity so the dorms never felt too crowded.

However, in rainy season, it can rain A LOT. Luckily, it’s usually just in the afternoons so I got in the habit of sightseeing in the morning then either working on my laptop or reading in a coffee shop in the afternoon. If you’re travelling as part of a bigger backpacking Central America itinerary, this is a great way to preserve your energy by having half a day of downtime!

Volcano view Antigua
Rainy season is lush, green… and quiet!

How to dress for solo Guatemala travel

However you like! Guatemala is not particularly conservative but, of course (sadly) you will get more attention if you show more skin, like anywhere.

In rainy season when mosquitos are prevalent, I’d recommend bringing some long pants and long sleeves to avoid bites. Warm clothes are required for the Acatenango Volcano hike but these can easily be rented from your hiking company so you don’t need to worry about bringing them.

Useful items for Guatemala travel

Don’t forget the following:

Food and health

pepian what to eat solo travel in guatemala
Pepian, the national dish

I wasn’t crazy about Guatemalan food but perhaps that’s because I’m so used to Mexican food and some of the things are similar.

However, I did enjoy eating the national dish of pepian, a rich sauce served with chicken and rice. You can even get vegan versions in tourist places. I ate this at Cafe Sabor in Santa Cruz, Atitlan, an amazing social enterprise with amazing lake views.

Eating street food is perfectly safe, just follow the golden rules:

  • Eat where it’s busy to ensure a fast turnover of food
  • Santisise your hand before eating.

Can’t miss experiences in Guatemala

Some of my highlights from a month of solo female travel in Guatemala included…

Indian Nose hike, Lake Atitlan

Indians nose hike
Sunrise in paradise

Despite being a little steep, the Indian’s Nose hike isn’t too difficult because it’s so short. I’d read it was 40 minutes but the route our guide took us was even shorter. We were the only group at our lookout so I believe there are different viewpoints; perhaps the hike varies in length depending which you go to.

The best place to do the hike from is San Pedro de Laguna because it’s close to the starting point and agencies sell cheap tours (shop around to get the best price – my hostel were selling it for 150 Quetzales but I found it for 75 just two minutes away at Guadalupe travel agency).

San Juan town is actually closer to the start point so you may be able to get good prices from here although I personally didn’t check.

The hike departs at 4am and returns around 7.30am. You’re owed a big brekkie and lazy day in the San Pedro cafes after that!

Tip for safety for solo female travellers in Guatemala – it was when leaving my hostel (Mandala’s) at 3.50am that a dog bit me, so be aware. Maybe you can find some other travellers to join you for safety in numbers.

Tikal ruins

Tikal solo female travel guatemala safety
Ticking Tikal off the bucket list!

2,000-year-old ruins built in alignment with the stars? Yeah, you can’t leave Tikal off your Guatemala bucket list! It’s easy to book a tour from your accommodation or any agency in Flores.

Chocolate-making workshop / coffee tour

Since coffee and chocolate both have links with this part of the world, it would be rude not to try them! I did a fun chocolate workshop at Ek Chuah in Antigua where I learned about the history of chocolate (first drunk as a bitter, water-based beverage by ancient Mayans here and in Mexico) and got to make my own bar to take home.

Coffee tours are also popular. You’ll get taken to the plantation to see the different steps in production, and try some of course!

Chichicastenango Market

Chichicastenango Market where to travel alone guatemala women
A colourful place to visit

The biggest market in Central America is well worth a visit whether you want to shop for textiles or simply browse. Chichicastenango Market sprawls through the streets on Thursdays and Sundays selling everything from cheap tourist tat to antique items such as embroidered clothing over 100 years old.

It’s easy to visit as a day tour from Panajachel. Shuttles leave at 8am and give you several hours to explore, beginning the return journey at 2pm. Expect to pay around 150 Quetzales for the return ride.

Currency and money tips

For fellow Brits, the conversion couldn’t be easier: just knock off a zero, for example 100 Quetzales = £10! For those dealing with Euros or USD, knock off the zero and add about 20%, for example at the time of writing (October 2023), 100 Quetzales = $13 or €12.

But rates are always fluctuating so I recommend downloading the Xe app where you can add and compare currencies. Sometimes it bugs for me but it should work offline when you’re out and about.

Average prices:

  • Hostel bed – around 100 Q
  • Meal in a local restaurant – 30 Q
  • Meal and drink in a touristy restaurant – 60-100 Q.

SIM cards in Guatemala

Solo female travellers in Guatemala will be relieved to know that it’s easy to stay online and connected. SIM cards with Claro are your best bet: buy a SIM card for 15 Quetzales then top up from a number of packages depending on how long you’re staying. I got the 30-day package including 10gb of data for 100 Q (£10/$12).

If you’re coming from Belize like I did, your first stop is probably Flores and there’s a big Claro store at the base of the island by Maya Mall (tip – you can get your laundry done near here for a fraction of the price of the laundrettes on the island). Remember to bring your passport when getting a SIM card as they will ask.

Final thoughts on solo travel in Guatemala

I had such a blast travelling alone as a woman in Guatemala. I had so many memorable experiences from sunset hikes to gazing over ancient Mayan ruins, swimming in picturesque blue pools, exploring quaint lake towns and much, MUCH more.

If you’re still wondering is Guatemala safe for solo female travel?, know I never once felt unsafe or uncomfortable (well, aside from by the street dogs!).

In fact, I liked it so much I’ll be back in 6 months! If that’s not high praise, I don’t know what is…

FAQs

Do ATMs charge fees? Annoyingly, yes. I didn’t find any charging less than 40 Quetzales (£4/$5). So it’s best to withdraw larger amounts of cash at a time. But remember to store these safely – in a hostel locker, for example – rather than carry it around with you.

Can you haggle?
Absolutely! It’s expected and all part of the game. I learned at Chichicastenango Market to start at around half of what the vendors originally suggested. I found they came down pretty quickly without me having to move much!

But just remember that locals rely on this money for their livelihood so maybe don’t fight too hard over that extra dollar…

Is tipping required?
It’s certainly not on the level of the US or even Mexico but it’s still appreciated. I noticed a few places, particularly in Antigua, add an automatic 10% to the bill.

Thanks for reading!

Read more solo travel guides:

Solo travel in the Americas:

Guides to solo female travel in Asia:

Guides to solo travel in Europe:

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solo female travel safety guatemala

VISITING GUATEMALA? These are my trusted resources:

Getting there by air – I use Skyscanner to find the best-value flights, using the ‘search by month’ tool to find the cheapest dates. You can also use the ‘to anywhere’ feature if you’re flexible on where you’re going.

Driving in Guatemala – since its so easy to get around with shuttles, you don’t NEED a car. But if you want to rent one, use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in Guatemala (and all around the world)

For hotels in Guatemala, use Booking.com – they also have self-catering apartments. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.com.

To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.

Browse tours and activities on GetYourGuide. I always check Viator too in case they have a better price.

Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.

For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.

Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and tips!

8 thoughts on “Solo Travel In Guatemala: Is It Safe For Female Travellers?

  1. Michele says:

    Excellent round-up Rose! I’ve been so overwhelmed with all the incredible things to do in Guatemala and your guide has helped sort out the options. Can’t wait to see what you do next, and to visit myself of course!

  2. Joanne says:

    Hi Rose,
    Thanks for sharing detailed travel info in Guatemala. Any tips of finding good local Spanish classes while travel in Guatemala? Thanks.

    Regards,
    Joanne

    • Rose says:

      Hi Joanne, there’s one called Antiguena Spanish School that’s very good!

  3. Graciela Roa says:

    Hi Rose,

    I only going for 3 days, first day in Antigua, what you recommended me for the other 2 days?

    • Rose says:

      Hi Graciela, have you looked into the volcano hikes? A lot of people do those, Acatenango takes 2 days! Otherwise, breweries, cafes, chocolate making classes are fun!

  4. Rosanna McCurrie says:

    Hi there, great blog post! What time of year did you go? I’m thinking of going in July which I think is rainy season which is putting me off slightly!

    • Rose says:

      Hey, I went in September and it was pretty rainy but because I had plenty of time, I did half a day of sightseeing each day and it worked out ok! Note that Central America is having increased dengue at the moment so this is worse in rainy season.

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