Guatemala Driving Advice and Car Hire Info
Driving In Guatemala
Guatemala drives on the right and you can drive using the photo licence of most countries for up to 3 months, though an International Driving Permit is also recommended. Speed limits range from 110Kmh on highways to 50kmh in built up areas and speed limits are strictly enforced.
Around half of Guatemala’s 16,000km of roads are paved. Main routes in Guatemala include the Pan American highway, which is named CA1 in the country and heads west of Guatemala City to Mexico, passing Chimaltenango, Quetzaltenango, Sololá and Huehuetenango. The section between Antigua and Palin is a toll road . There are four main roads out of Guatemala City – towards Puerto Barrios for Atlantic Port Access, Puerto Quetzal for Pacific Port Access, the El Salvador Highway, which provides access to the Honduras border and the east of Guatemala, plus the CA1. Main roads are in generally good condition with an occasional pot hole. Minor routes will often be in a worse condition and will generally be unlit in rural areas.
Many travellers fly into Guatemala City airport and head straight to Antigua (about 30 mins drive). If this is your plan my advice is to get the car delivered to Antigua or rent one from there. Its an easy town to navigate and you’ll avoid the stress of driving in the capital. Also there have been incidents of robbery on people departing the airport in private cars, particularly at night. There have also been cases of Highway robbery on Carretera a El Salvador (Inter-American Highway) which has also seen an increase in alcohol related accidents. Caution should be taken when driving on this road. There have also been reports of attacks on vehicles travelling between Guatemala city and Tikal. Given the relatively lowe cost of flights it’s feasible to fly to Flores and rent a car there to go to the ruins.
Standards of driving can be poor and Guatemalan buses are regularly driven recklessly and at alarming speeds. Pull over, let them pass, and be thankful you aren’t on board! Another quirk of driving abroad in Guatemala are speed humps which are the largest I’ve encountered anywhere in the world- many are like small concrete hills which need to be negotiated with extreme care. As many seem to be only semi-official, erected by villagers, they often don’t have a warning sign. Hit one of these in the dark at full speed and it would be akin to hitting a small wall, so always drive with extreme care.
Although I try and keep the information in the site updated as much as possible, in a rapidly moving world, situations can change daily. Therefore please use the site as an approximate guide, and in conjunction with other resources in order to form your view on driving conditions, roads, safety etc.
Guatemala Car Rental –
Hertz, Alamo ,National, Budget, Dollar, Thrifty, have branches here. Also usually features on Car rental broker sites.
We currently have no local car rental partners in Guatemala. If you are a local car rental company who would like to feature on DriverAbroad.com please check details on our Partnering page or contact us on ADriverAbroad@Outlook.com
Guatemala Self Driving Rules –
Depending on the rental company and even the rental location, different rules seem to apply on where the vehicle can be taken. In general Cars can be driven to Peten, Copan, Honduras and El Salvador. You will need to inform the rental company of where you intend to travel and may need to buy a permit. At certain times of year you may need to rent a 4X4 to access these locations. Vehicles will not usually be allowed to be driven into Mexico or Belize which is a shame as many travellers plan to drive via Tikal to Belize City, drop the car there and head to the Islands. I’ve not found a company who will allows this (please advise if anyone does know of one). If this is your intention you’re best to try and get a one way rental to Flores then take the bus to Belize from there.