World Travelling Guide
World Travelling Guide

Accommodation in Southern Africa and South Africa including accommodation in Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Northern Cape, Gauteng, Limpopo Province, North West Province, Free State, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga

List of Countries
Map of Central America

Guatemala Travelling Guide
Guatemala Travelling Guide

General background: Guatemala was freed of Spanish colonial rule in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had led to the death of more than 100,000 people and had created some 1 million refugees.

Area comparative: Slightly smaller than Tennessee

Climate: Tropical; hot, humid in lowlands; cooler in highlands

Terrain: Mostly mountains with narrow coastal plains and rolling limestone plateau (Peten).

Population: 13,314,079 (July 2002 est.)

Ethnic groups: Mestizo (mixed Amerindian-Spanish or assimilated Amerindian - in local Spanish called Ladino), approximately 55%, Amerindian or predominantly Amerindian, approximately 43%, whites and others 2%.

Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs

Language: Spanish 60%, Amerindian languages 40% (more than 20 Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca)

Government type: Constitutional democratic republic

Capital: Guatemala

Legal system: Civil law system; judicial review of legislative acts; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction.

Economic overview: The agricultural sector accounts for about one-fourth of GDP, two-thirds of exports, and half of the labour force. Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the main products. Former President ARZU (1996-2000) worked to implement a program of economic liberalization and political modernization. The 1996 signing of the peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment. In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused relatively little damage to Guatemala compared to its neighbours. Ongoing challenges include increasing government revenues, negotiating further assistance from international donors, and increasing the efficiency and openness of both government and private financial operations. Despite low international prices for Guatemala's main commodities, the economy grew by 3% in 2000 and 2.3% in 2001. Guatemala, along with Honduras and El Salvador, recently concluded a free trade agreement with Mexico and has moved to protect international property rights. However, the PORTILLO administration has undertaken a review of privatizations under the previous administration, thereby creating some uncertainty among investors.

Communication/Telephone system: Fairly modern network centered in the city of Guatemala

Places of interest: Its volcanoes are the highest and most active, its Mayan ruins the most impressive, and unfortunately, its earthquakes the most devastating.

Travel tips: A relatively high level of violent crimes are committed against foreigners in Guatemala, so travelers should always be alert to potentially dangerous situations. Incidents of bus- and car-jackings are quite common, and Guatemala's larger cities can be dangerous after dark. Intercity travel after sunset should be avoided. Kidnappings, rapes and assaults do occur during daylight hours and in some cases affect entire groups of travelers.