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A Year in Guatemala

Tcat Left 2
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Tcat Right 2
Scott S's picture
Joined: Mar 30 2010

In June, I will be moving to Guatemala from Texas for ten months to work on community health projects around the Lake Atitlan region. I really want to take my 2000 GMC Yukon for the road trip experience, the freedom to travel, and the flexibility it would allow me during my stay. After educating myself on the documentation required, though, I'm not sure I can make it work.

Traveling through Mexico and Central America seems easy enough, but having a car in Guatemala long term is looking like a headache. From what I've read, temporary vehicle permits into Guatemala only last 30 days (even though temporary tourist visas last 90). Importing the car is out of the question as import taxes appear to be over 20% of the car's worth. Buying a junker in Guatemala is an option, but then I have to worry about repair and selling the car.

What do you guys think? Should I skip the car and just hoof it on buses? Drive out of the country once a month? Buy a used car in Guatemala? Does an extended temporary vehicle permit exist? Let me know if you think I can make this work.


Robert's picture
Robert (not verified)

if you have to renew your

if you have to renew your tourist visa anyway, you can make the 5-6 hour trip to Mexico every month, and make a ton of friends with people that need to do the border run, too. They'll even pay gas.

Guatemala has pretty lax vehicle checkpoints. Don't stop for the cops unless they've got a car and they're in it. If they're on the side of the road, waving a flashlight at you (yes you will see lots of this) don't stop.

And if you do get stopped, plead dumb, ask to pay a fine on the spot, play hardball that "yes, i WILL go downtown with you" (they won't want to) and say that the car was broken and now you're leaving with it. Make up a story. You'll be fine.

That said, there's plenty of busses for cheap around the lake. I would be super nice to have a truck to go to the beach in Monterico (2 hours or so) for the weekend though!

If it was me i'd do it.

Scott S's picture
Joined: Mar 30 2010

Does anyone know if there is

Does anyone know if there is a required time that you must remain out of the country (I've heard 24-72 hours for other renewals) before you can come back in? I think I'm fine going to the border one Saturday a month if it was just a day trip.

admin's picture
Joined: Feb 11 2009

For cars, I not positive. For

For cars, I not positive. For personal immigration, yes off the top of my head it's 3 days. I imagine it's the same for cars. And since you'll need immigration papers anyway ....