Driving in Guatemala

How to drive in Guatemala
Updated 2017-09-18 09:38

The majority of public means of transportation in Guatemala is notoriously uncomfortable, so being able to drive is essential and offers much-needed freedom. Here is useful information for foreigners willing to drive in Guatemala.

Driving in Guatemala as a foreigner

If you hold a full valid driver's license issued by a foreign country and are aged 18 at least, you may drive in Guatemala for 30 days. International licenses are recommended but not mandatory.

After this initial period, you can apply for temporary permits (permisos). Issued by the Guatemalan National Civil Police, these cost GTQ 30 per month of validity. You can find more information on the website of the Departamento de Transito.

To gain permanent right to drive in Guatemala, you should exchange your foreign licence for a Guatemalan one. In order to do so, you will need to pass a written road awareness test (in Spanish) with a driving school recognised by the Ministry of the Interior, as well as an eyesight exam with an official ophthalmologist. Then, simply walk in any Maycom licensing center with the following documents:

  • Your residence permit
  • The certificates proving you passed your eye and written tests
  • Proof of payment of the applicable fees (about GTQ 120 a year, varying with the period of validity of the driver's license, which can span up to four years)

Good to know:

You need to have a Guatemalen permanent residence permit to be entitled to a driver's licence conversion.

Highway code in Guatemala

Here is the gist of traffic regulation in Guatemala:

  • Speed limits are set to up 50 km/h in built-up areas, 80 km/h on intercity roads and 110 km/h on highways
  • Vehicles drive on the right-hand side of the road
  • Passengers must fasten their seat belts
  • Using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited, unless with a hands-free kit
  • The legal blood alcohol content level is set at 0.08%. The road police are allowed to perform random checks and drivers under the influence may be jailed.
  • Drivers must carry valid identification and driver's documents, a car registration certificate or rental contracts, and insurance documents at all times.


Local drivers may take more risks when driving (particularly when overtaking), which foreign drivers should be aware of.

Roads in Guatemala

Highway and main arteries are paved, but dirt roads are still dominant in rural areas. You will find numerous speed bumps (mulos) on Guatemalan roads, even on the highways. Some legs of road are tolled (for example, from Palin to Antigua).

Although you will likely find plenty of parking spaces in cities' streets, security can be an issue, and resorting to a private, serviced car park is generally a better idea.

Good to know:

You can reach the police by dialling 110 and 120.

Procuring a car in Guatemala

Importing your foreign car into Guatemala is not necessarily the simplest option, as it entails a fair deal of red tape and hefty import duties. Moreover, vehicles older than 2003 are not allowed in the country.

Instead, buying a car in Guatemala can be quite cheap, especially if you are ready to bargain the price. All modern international brands and models are available. You should opt for a full-coverage insurance policy.

You can find cars for hire from USD40 a day. To rent a car in Guatemala, you must be aged at least 25 and have been driving for one year.

Useful links:

Departamento de Transito

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