General Information about Guatemala

Population and Languages

Guatemala is a multicultural country and home to 23 Mayan ethnic groups, each one with its own culture and language. The Caribbean coast is populated by the Garífuna people, descendants of African slaves and in the southeast region of the country the remaining Xinca population also adds diversity to the country; each of these populations also possesses its own language (Secaira 2000). "Ladinos", people who are a mix of Mayan and Spanish decent make up the rest of the population. The official language in Guatemala is Spanish.


The national currency is the Quetzal, with a current approximate exchange rate of 7.7 Quetzals to the US Dollar.

Quetzal bill
Guatemala's currency was named after the national bird. Each note carries a drawing of a flying male Resplendent Quetzal.

The easiest way to travel in the cities of Guatemala is to use credit cards (VISA, MASTER CARD) and get cash out of ATM machines, available in most banks. US Dollars can also be exchanged for Quetzals in local banks. Please note: not all banks change traveler's cheques! They are accepted in many banks and hotels in cities, however in remote areas where no banks are available you should travel with small amounts of cash. Either way, you shouldn't need to spend more than small amounts of cash during our trips, as most everything is included (you may want to carry a small amount of cash for buying soft drinks, or local artisan products). Your tour leaders will always help you with tips on how to best manage your money during your trip and where you can access ATM machines.

Electricity and Water

Electricity is available in all mayor settlements, 110 volts AC and American standard plugs are used. Most of our birding destinations will be in very rural areas and will have electricity only for a few hours at night if at all in many cases. Purified water and soft drinks are available almost everywhere, even in the very small villages we visit. Tap water should not be used for drinking in Guatemala, always buy bottled water!


Secaira, E. (2000): La conservación de la naturaleza, el pueblo Maya, y la espiritualidad en Guatemala: implicaciones para conservacionistas. PROARCAS/CAPAS/USAID, SUI, FCG, TNC, Guatemala.

Kekchi women in Alta Verapaz
Women weaver group in a Kekchi village in Alta Verapaz.
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