Updated 9 months ago

Guatemala’s public health system benefits from a well-established legal framework, a long-standing institutional history, and dedicated and experienced health sector workers. However, the system is fragmented, with significant disparities between urban and rural areas, both in terms of level and of quality.

Healthcare facilities

Guatemala’s large cities are home to several large, modern hospitals, with a full range of well-trained and experienced doctors covering all different specialties.

Public hospitals, run by the Ministry of Public Health and Social Welfare, provide free care to everyone, including tourists, but they will only treat severe health issues, not mundane ailments. They tend to be under-funded and frequently run out of drugs and equipment.

Private facilities, on the other hand, have a reputation for being more comfortable and reliable, with better quality of care and English-speaking staff. Thus many expats turn to the private sector, although payment is more often than not required up front.

Medical services coverage is, however, somewhat lacking in rural areas, where the only available care is performed by small rural health centres (centro de salud) that focus on prevention. There are usually a handful of overworked nurses or community health workers there dealing with emergencies.

 Good to know:

Pharmacists are generally very helpful and knowledgeable, and sometimes even English-speaking. For minor issues or questions do not hesitate to consult one.

Your country’s embassy may be able to provide a list of recommended doctors in Guatemala.

Health insurance

Established in 1946, the Guatemalan Social Security Institute provides health insurance to all the country’s employees. The scheme covers basic care, such as accidents and common illness, as well as maternity and child care.

If you are not employed, wish to be covered more extensively or want to avoid paying upfront in private facilities, you can purchase a private complementary health coverage. You should be able to contract quality private insurance plans in Guatemala from USD 40 a month approximately.

Generally speaking, the cost of health care in Guatemala is reasonably cheap compared to neighbouring countries, Mexico and the US especially. From essentiel basic care to dental treatments or elective surgery (such as cosmetic procedures), charges are generally below one-third of the cost in the US.

General sanitary advice in Guatemala

It is crucial to pay attention to what you eat and drink. In addition to the intestinal troubles that can occur on the occasion of a change of diet, consuming contaminated water or food and water can transmit such dangerous viruses as the hepatitis A.

There are no mandatory vaccines for Guatemala, but several are highly recommended, such as tetanus, typhoid, hepatitis A and tuberculosis.

Finally, taking action to prevent insect, and particularly mosquito, bites is always a good idea.

 Useful link:

Guatemala City’s medical district

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