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Rental cars can be a wonderful way to explore Guatemala. With your own wheels, you’ll have the freedom do go where you want, when you want. That allows for a great deal of flexibility and the potential to find lesser-visited Guatemalan gems. However, rental cars are not without their risks, and it’s a good idea to thoroughly think it out before renting one.
It’s easy to rent a car in Guatemala’s larger tourism-driven destinations, including Guatemala City, Antigua, Panajachel, Flores, Cobán, and Quetzaltenango. If you do decide to rent a car, you should probably opt for a four-wheel-drive vehicle. The roads outside of Guatemala City, Antigua, and the Pan-American Highway can be bad — having a car that can navigate dirt roads and potholes is important. Most of the cars in Guatemala are stick shifts, but you can usually find ones with automatic transmission, although they may cost a little more. To rent a car, you must be at least 21 years old and possess a valid driver’s license and major credit card.
It can sometimes be cheaper to reserve a car online than in person in Guatemala. If you’re planning on renting a car, especially if it’s during the high season when demand exceeds supply, you might as well reserve it online (we can help you do that). As far as insurance goes, if your home auto-insurance policy or credit card will cover you in Guatemala, then go ahead and use this insurance — but do your homework and make sure that that is really the case. Some policies exclude four-wheel-drive vehicles and going off-road; in Guatemala, this may be necessary.
Guatemalan drivers can be terrible, and it’s not uncommon to come across horses, dogs, or people in the road. The road signs in rural areas can be bad, and driving at night can be especially dangerous. If you’re going to be manning the wheel, you need to have your wits about you and be on the lookout for hazardous situations. It’s also important to not leave anything valuable in the car, and try to park in a secure parking lot.