I can’t believe the day has almost arrived when I will be heading to Guatemala to explore this beautiful Central American country! The time has gone by so fast since I purchased my flights back at the end of August and now I am already leaving next Friday morning.
I have spent this past week slowly packing and deciding what to bring. Reading other peoples’ packing lists (like this one from Becky at The Girl and Globe travel blog and this one from the blog Her Packing List) was a huge help as I decided to what to bring for myself. I am a big fan of traveling minimally and will be packing carry-on only for this trip as well. Since my very first solo backpacking trip in May 2015, I have been traveling with a carry-on backpack only and have really enjoyed the benefits that come along with packing light – for example, not having to wait for your baggage when arriving at your destination and physically feeling lighter and freer.
So what exactly did I end up packing for my two weeks traveling in Guatemala? This is my minimalist packing list for backpacking through Guatemala. I always research other peoples’ packing lists when planning my trips, so I hope that my own carry-on packing list is helpful to you if you are planning a trip to Guatemala or Central America! Here it is.
I have updated this packing list after returning home from Guatemala with notes about what items I used often and what I could have left behind. You will see these post-trip notes in italics beside some of the items below.
I love to travel light and with carry-on baggage only, so I am only bringing two backpacks with me. I have realized that it’s soo much easier to get around when you don’t have a massive suitcase to haul with you and you can get through airports much faster.
Main Backpack – I have a Gregory Cairn 48-litre backpack and I love it. It’s the perfect size to fit everything that I need as a minimalist carry-on traveler, it is lightweight and comfortable to wear, it has lots of pockets for organization, has a padded hip belt, and it’s durable. I have been using this backpack since my first backpacking trip in May 2015 and it’s been great. I would highly recommend it. This backpack fits the airline size requirements for being a carry-on. This backpack was able to carry everything that I brought with me and purchased along the way throughout my time in Guatemala.
Daypack – I use the PacSafe Slingsafe 300 GII daypack for my daypack. It has lots of anti-theft features to help give you peace of mind when traveling, like slashproof straps, mesh, etc. and it’s the perfect size (12 litres) for me. I take this daypack with me when I am out exploring my destination during the day. This daypack was perfect for exploring places during the day and I used it to carry my camera, wallet with some local cash, phone, and portable external charger for my phone.
I LOVE packing cubes because they are able to keep my stuff organized and separated, making it so much easier to find something when I need it. This is a list of the packing cubes that I have and what I am storing in each one.
Two Medium-Sized Packing Cubes (For Clothes) – I have two medium-sized Eagle Creek packing cubes which I use for separating my tops and bottoms. I roll all of my clothes so that they fit nicer.
One Small Packing Cube – I use this packing cube for packing my underwear, socks and bras.
One Small Packing Cube (For Electronics Stuff) – My other smaller packing cube works great for storing my chargers, cords and batteries for my electronics. I keep it in my daypack when I am traveling on planes or buses and then locked up at my hostel or B&B when I am out exploring at my destination.
Two Small Packing Cubes (For Toiletries and First-Aid Supplies) – I have two smaller-sized packing cubes with a clear plastic lining on the inside, to protect against liquid spills. I use one of these bags for my toiletries and the other one for my first-aid/medical supplies. Because I travel carry-on only, I pack all of my liquids in a clear plastic bag from Lewis N Clark while I am on the plane and then transfer them to my toiletry bag when I arrive at my destination.
Deciding what clothing to bring when I travel is always the most difficult part of packing for me. What makes it even more difficult is the fact that I will be experiencing a wide range of temperatures in Guatemala, from cooler 15 degree Celsius weather during the evenings and nighttime to mid-20 degree Celsius weather during the daytime in Antigua and Lake Atitlan to hot and humid mid-30 degree Celsius weather in the jungle of Peten (Flores and Tikal), so I have had to pack a variety of clothing for these conditions. I have packed mostly basic, comfortable, solid and neutral coloured clothing that can be layered.
Guatemala is a conservative country and I want to respect their culture, so I packed modest and casual clothing, with the exception of one pair of shorts for the jungle in Flores. You might assume that because Guatemala is located in Central America, that it is always hot and has tropical weather, but that is not true for most of the country. The areas where I will be spending the majority of my time – the colonial city of Antigua and the indigenous villages around Lake Atitlan – have comfortable spring-like temperatures pretty much year-round with an average temperature of between 20-23 degrees Celsius during the daytime and cooler at night. For this reason, I didn’t pack many hot-weather clothes and mostly brought jeans, longer sleeved tops and t-shirts. My final destination in Guatemala will be Flores and the Mayan Ruins of Tikal, which are located in the northern Peten region, in the dense tropical jungle. The average temperatures during November will be around 35-40 degrees Celsius during the day and extremely humid, so I brought one pair of shorts, lightweight pants for exploring the ruins and protecting my legs from mosquito bites, and a couple of tank tops.
Post-Trip: The temperatures in Antigua and around Lake Atitlan during my visit were very comfortable at around 23 to 24 degrees Celsius and sunny during the daytime but the temperatures cooled down significantly for night to around 10 to 15 degrees Celsius. I mostly wore leggings or jeans during the daytime and a t-shirt and then added a thicker sweater in the evenings and at night. In Flores and Tikal, the weather was much warmer at around 28 to 30 degrees Celsius during the day and around 15 to 20 degrees in the evenings. I was constantly sweating in Flores during the day and wore longer shorts or capri pants along with a t-shirt or tank top. In the evening, I covered up with a sweater or cardigan.
In addition to packing for the weather, I also take my planned activities into consideration when I am packing. During my travels in Guatemala, I plan to spend time walking the streets and exploring the cities and villages; hike a volcano or two; trek through the jungle to explore the Mayan Ruins of Tikal; browse local markets; visit some local farms; relax at the lakeshore; and maybe go for a swim either at Lake Atitlan or Lake Peten Itza (at Flores). For exploring Tikal and trekking through the jungle, I brought lightweight travel pants and will probably wear a long sleeved moisture-wicking shirt. For climbing volcanoes, I packed a moisture-wicking tank top and athletic capri pants and shorts along with my athletic running shoes. For exploring cities and villages, markets and farms, I plan to dress casually in jeans and a t-shirt and my Converse shoes. For going out for dinner, I brought one nicer shirt and will likely pair that with jeans or leggings.
I plan to do laundry (either hand-washing in the hostel or B&B bathroom sink or dropping my clothes off at a local laundromat to be washed) once or twice during my trip. I ended up only doing laundry once during the trip and it was done by the bed and breakfast that I had been staying at in San Pedro La Laguna.
Two Tank Tops – I packed one athletic moisture-wicking tank top that I will probably wear when hiking volcanoes or exploring the ruins of Tikal. I also brought a simple, solid-coloured tank from H&M. The only place that I wore tank tops was in Flores, because the temperatures were much warmer there than anywhere else in Guatemala.
Six Short Sleeve Tops – I packed five basic solid-coloured t-shirts from H&M and one athletic moisture-wicking t-shirt. I wore all six of my short sleeve shirts that I brought and I am glad that I packed a good variety.
Three Long Sleeve Tops – I brought a nicer long sleeved blouse made of lightweight fabric to wear for going out to dinner, a thin long sleeved solid-coloured shirt, and an athletic long-sleeved top. I didn’t end up wearing the athletic long sleeved shirt and only wore the blouse and thin long sleeved shirt once each.
One Cardigan – I packed a solid-coloured grey cardigan which will be perfect for layering on top of t-shirts or tank tops if I am feeling a bit cool. I only wore the cardigan once and found that it was too thin for the cooler evenings.
One Sweater/Hoodie – I brought a thicker, grey zip-up sweater with fleece on the inside from H&M, which will be good for chilly airplanes, shuttle buses, and during the cooler evenings. I was so glad that I brought this sweater and wish I had packed a second one along, as I wore it every evening and morning.
One Lightweight Rain Jacket/Windbreaker – I packed my North Face rain jacket, just in case it rains, which is very possible in the jungle! I love how lightweight and comfortable this rain jacket is, it has a viser on the hood to shield my face from the rain and it always keeps me warm and dry. The only place that I wore my windbreaker was when I went to Pacaya Volcano and I was glad that I did, as it was quite windy and chilly as we gained elevation. This would have also come in handy if it had rained during my travels, but thankfully, I had wonderful warm and sunny weather the entire time.
One Pair of Shorts – I brought one pair of athletic shorts made from moisture-wicking fabric for spending time in the jungle near Flores and Tikal and for lounging around the hostels in the evenings. I don’t plan to wear shorts anywhere else, as Guatemala is very conservative and I would definitely feel uncomfortable. Dressing appropriately and respecting the local culture is important to me. I ended up switching out the athletic shorts last minute for a pair of longer knee-length army green bermuda shorts before leaving home. The only place that I wore these shorts was in Flores, because it was super humid and hot being surrounded by tropical jungle. I would have felt uncomfortable wearing my athletic shorts, had I brought them with me, as Guatemalans do dress very conservatively and I would rather blend in than stand out.
One Bathing Suit – I packed my two piece modest tankini bathing suit, if I decide to go swimming at Lake Atitlan or Lake Peten Itza. I never ended up swimming at all in Guatemala, so I could have eliminated this. I never felt warm enough to swim in Lake Atitlan as the temperatures were always very comfortable and moderate during the day and the water in Lake Peten Itza around Flores looked dirty and full of seaweed, which grossed me out.
Two Pairs of Pants/Jeans – I brought one pair of black jeans and one pair of lightweight hiking pants. I am planning to use the hiking pants for trekking through the Tikal Ruins. I wore the hiking pants for exploring the Tikal Ruins and they were perfect. It was humid but the temperatures were quite comfortable during the morning when I was there and I didn’t feel like I needed shorts. By the time we left in the early afternoon though, it was getting quite hot and uncomfortable. My reason behind wearing pants originally, was to protect my legs from mosquito bites but I hardly noticed any mosquitoes at Tikal, which was nice.
One Pair of Sweatpants – I plan to use my sweatpants as pajama pants and for lounging around the hostels in the evenings. They are also perfect airplane attire because they’re so comfortable!
One Pair of Leggings – Leggings are always an essential item for me when traveling, so I am bringing my classic black pair. I wore my leggings pretty much every day in Guatemala. The weather was always comfortable but never hot, so leggings were perfect. I only wished that I had brought more than one pair!
Two Pairs of Capris – I figure that the temperatures might be warm enough during the daytime to wear capri pants, so I brought one pair of looser fitting, lightweight capri pants and one pair of form-fitting athletic capris. When I wasn’t wearing my leggings, I would often wear my longer capri pants.
Seven Pairs of Socks – I brought two pairs of hiking socks (one longer pair and one ankle pair) and five other athletic ankle socks.
Twelve Pairs of Underwear – As you can tell, underwear is something that I am not willing to skimp on. I like to have enough pairs for most of my trip but will do laundry along the way also.
I have updated this post with my thoughts on certain items that I packed with me, after returning home from my Guatemala travels. You can find these comments in italics beside specific items if you’re interested.
I plan to do a lot of walking in Guatemala – exploring villages and cities on foot, hiking volcanoes and trekking through the jungle while visiting the Tikal Mayan Ruins. These are the shoes that I am bringing with me.
Nike Running Shoes – I am bringing my Nike athletic shoes because they are super comfortable and they will be good for hiking volcanoes and exploring Tikal. These were the shoes that I wore the most in Guatemala because they were light and felt comfortable for doing lots of walking.
Converse Shoes – I brought my Converse shoes as an alternative instead of wearing my athletic shoes everywhere. These are also comfortable and great for walking around.
Flip Flops – I plan to use my flip flops primarily for the shared showers in hostel dorms where I will be staying.
Because I travel with a carry-on only, I can only pack liquids that are 100 ml or less in a clear zippered bag from Lewis N Clark for my flights. I then transfer them to the packing cube once I arrive at my destination. I like keeping all my toiletries together in one cube and it makes it easier for showering and getting ready in the morning at hostels for bringing everything with me, instead of attempting to carry individual items.
Shampoo and Conditioner in GoToobs – I love my GoToobs! These squeezable containers are one of the best travel gear investments that I have made. They never leak and they are made of a soft material, making them easy to squeeze. I always fill them up with my favourite natural shampoo and conditioner from home. For longer trips, I usually run out about halfway through the trip at which point I head to a local pharmacy or convenience store and purchase travel-sized containers of shampoo and conditioner to re-fill my GoToobs again.
Roll-on Deodorant – My favourite roll-on deodorant is from Rocky Mountain Soap Company in Canada! It’s made from natural ingredients and I love the lemongrass scent.
Toothbrush and Toothpaste – I have a folding travel-sized toothbrush and brought my favourite natural toothpaste from Green Beaver.
Contacts, Solutions and Case
Glasses and Case
Hair Brush – I have a small travel-sized bamboo hairbrush that is perfect.
Insect Repellent – I am bringing a small container of mosquito spray but will probably buy more once I am actually in the jungle. Surprisingly, there were far fewer mosquitoes in Flores and Tikal than I had expected there to be in the jungle. I only saw a few mosquitoes while exploring Tikal, but they were not super persistent. I didn’t end up using my mosquito spray very often at all!
Dr. Bronner’s Multi-Purpose Soap – I brought a travel-sized version of this multi-purpose soap and plan to use it for hand-washing my clothes in the sink at my hostels and B&Bs.
Nail Clippers, Q Tips, and Ear Plugs – The essentials!
Stain Remover Stick – I have a Tide To-Go stick to use on my clothes if I happen to get some stains… most likely will happen while eating.
First Aid Supplies
I am sure that most, if not all of these items could easily be obtained in Guatemala, but I like to be prepared and bring everything that I may need. I know for sure that if I were feeling sick, the last thing I would want to do would be to go to a local pharmacy and attempt to find what I needed.
Motion Sickness Medication – I had read that Guatemala has lots of winding roads through mountainous and hilly regions, so I packed organic ginger Gravol and chewable ginger tablets (from Natural Factors) to hopefully help with that. This was ESSENTIAL and I am so glad I brought it with me. The roads in Guatemala were all so winding with sharp curves as they meandered through the mountainous landscape. I felt sick on numerous occasions, especially when driving from San Marcos La Laguna to Chichicastenango; from Antigua to Panajachel; from Antigua to Pacaya VOlcano and from Antigua to the Guatemala City Airport. I always brought the organic Gravol with me and it really worked well to stop that nauseous feeling.
Pain Medication – I packed a supply of extra-strength Tylenol for fevers, headaches, and general pain.
Nausea/Stomach Sickness – For nausea and indigestion, I brought Pepto-Bismol cherry-flavoured chewable capsules. These worked really well for me and helped to relieve my symptoms in Mexico last year when I got sick from something I ate. On my second day in Antigua, I had eaten some strawberries from the local market and later that evening experienced some really intense stomach pains. The Pepto-Bismol helped somewhat and I also used it frequently when I was on a shuttle on the crazy Guatemalan roads as well.
Allergy Medication – I packed allergy relief pills, just in case I were to get an allergic reaction from something. There was one bed and breakfast that I stayed in where my room was infested with mosquitoes. I got bit on my finger in the nighttime and it swelled up like crazy for some reason, so I was glad that I had packed my allergy pills.
Diarrhea – I brought some tablets of Immodium for this potential issue. Unfortunately, I was affected by traveler’s diarrhea for most of my time in Guatemala, like many others. I didn’t end up using the Immodium though as I read that it’s supposed to be a last-resort in severe cases.
Digestive Health – Digestive health is important, especially when you are traveling to a foreign country and will be eating new foods. I packed a supply of natural probiotic pills (the ones that don’t need refrigeration) to take daily throughout my trip. I also started taking them today, ten days before my trip begins.
Immune System – To help keep my immune system healthy and in good working order, I brought a bunch of packets of the tropical flavoured Emergen-C.
iPhone 5S – I love this phone and will be using it to keep in touch with family and friends back home while I am away (using Skype, texting and social media), take photos, and post updates and photos on social media.
LG Unlocked Phone – I bought an unlocked phone from someone on Kijiji before my trip and I will me taking it with me to purchase a local SIM card. It will be useful for making local calls around Guatemala and cheap phone calls and texts home to my family. I didn’t end up purchasing a local SIM card in Guatemala, but this phone may come in handy for future trips. I am still glad that I brought it with me, as it would have been a back-up in case my primary phone had been stolen or lost.
Cords, Batteries and Chargers – Cords, batteries and chargers are super important! I brought a few extra batteries for my camera, the charging cord for my iPhone, and chargers for my camera and iPhone and unlocked phone. Note: If you live in North America, you don’t need to bring a travel adapter to Guatemala as they use the same plugs as we do!
SD Cards – I brought four SD Cards for my camera because I take a lot of photos when I travel.
Canon Rebel T5i DSLR Camera – I love this camera and it takes amazing photos! Capturing my travels and experiences is a priority for me and I can’t wait to photograph Guatemala.
Tamron 17-50mm VC f/2.8 Lens – I have had this lens for a little while now and it’s really great. It is versatile and perfect for a wide range of situations from portraits to landscapes.
Portable Chargers – I have two portable chargers from Anker which I absolutely love! I am sure they will come in handy when I may not have access to a power outlet (this sometimes is the case in hostel dorm rooms). I love these portable chargers and I brought them with me when I was taking a day trip or exploring somewhere where I wouldn’t have access to a power outlet. They also worked great for charging my phone at night and keeping it beside me in my bed when I had the top bunk in hostel dorms and was not close enough to an outlet.
USB Wall Charger – I have this dual USB wall charger from Anker and it works great for charging two cell phones (or one of my portable chargers). It’s also helpful for hostel dorm rooms when there often aren’t enough power outlets for everybody, so now you have just created an extra one!
I didn’t bring my laptop because I don’t like traveling with more electronics than I need (carrying around expensive items make me feel vulnerable and uncomfortable) and I am easily able to post updates and photos using my phone on-the-go and write all of my blog posts about Guatemala when I return home.
Travel Towel – Most hostels don’t provide towels, so it’s a good idea to bring your own. I love my micro-fibre towel because it dries fast and is lightweight in my backpack. Some of the B&Bs that I stayed at provided towels, which was nice.
Notebook and Pens – I love documenting my travels (as you can probably tell by the detailed posts I write on this blog!), so having something to write on is essential. I bought a small and plain coiled notebook from Staples and will be using it to write down note along the way about cultural observations, places I visited and ate at, my budget, etc.
Universal Sink Stopper – I may use this to plug the drain when I do laundry in the sink.
Flashlight – Great for finding your way to the washroom at a hostel in the night time, or getting ready in the morning.
Tissues – I packed Kleenex for my daypack.
Combination Locks – These will be useful for securing my valuables in lockers at hostels.
Watch – I have a cheap digital watch from Wal-Mart.
Healthy Snacks – I brought a few Luna Bars, a dark chocolate bar, and some plantain chips for snacks on the airplane.
Ziploc Bags – You never know when you might need these.
Wallet – I have a small and simple folded wallet from Etsy that will be perfect for carrying my cards and a small amount of cash when I am out exploring for the day.
Moon Guatemala Guidebook – I am a huge fan of Moon Guidebooks and the Guatemala one was especially helpful as I planned and researched my travels. It’s super comprehensive and full of detailed information and it is the perfect companion for independent travelers like myself. I am positive that this guidebook will be helpful for me as I travel throughout Guatemala as well.
A big thank you goes out to Moon for providing me with a complimentary copy of their latest Guatemala guidebook to assist me in my travel research and planning! This is my absolute favourite brand of guidebooks. Their Guatemala guidebook is excellent and packed full of helpful information. I recommend picking up a copy of this guidebook before you head out on your adventure.
Documents and Identification
Passport – A passport is obviously essential for traveling abroad. Make sure to check the expiration date on your passport as it must be valid for at least 6 months during your travels.
Reservation Confirmations – I created an organized folder with all of my confirmation emails for my flights and accommodations that I booked, as well as printed maps for my destination, photocopies of my identification and important phone numbers.
Travel Insurance – Although thankfully, I have never had to use travel insurance, I always purchase from World Nomads before I leave on a trip. I love that they offer comprehensive insurance that covers a wide range of activities and situations and the fact that you can make a claim and extend your coverage online via their easy-to-use website. It’s always a good idea to buy travel insurance, no matter how long your trip is. If something happened and you didn’t have it, you would probably wish that you did.
Debit and Credit Cards – I brought my credit card and two debit cards – one from my main bank and one from another bank.
Foreign Currency – Before I left home, I ordered some of the Guatemalan currency (the Quetzal) from my local bank to start myself off in Guatemala. Once I run out, I will withdraw cash from the ATMs.
What’s in My Daypack?
This is a list of items that I keep in my daypack during travel days, such as when I am on a flight or a bus. When I arrive at my destination, I empty most of these items from my daypack and distribute them between my main backpack and keep my important valuables (like extra cash, credit and debit cards, glasses and contacts, important documents and identification) secured in a locker at my hostel or B&B. I am then able to use my daypack when I go out exploring to carry my camera, cellphone, some cash, water bottle, important phone numbers, etc.
Ziploc Bags with Healthy Snacks – I have a dark chocolate bar and Luna energy bars.
Small Medical Kit – I have ginger capsules (for motion sickness), Tylenol, Gravol, Emergen-C packets and Pepto Bismol.
iPhone and Charger
Electronics Packing Cube – I have a small black packing cube (see the above section on Electronics) that has my chargers, cords, extra batteries, camera SD cards, and portable chargers in it.
Guatemala Guidebook – This will make great airplane reading material!
Small Coiled Notebook and Pens
Ear Planes – My ears don’t pressurize to the elevation changes while ascending and descending on an airplane, so I have these handy ear plugs which do all the work for me. They are so great!
Camera and Lens
Toothbrush and toothpaste – Good for freshening up on the long flight.
Reusable Water Bottle
Documents and ID – I have a folder that I created with my flight itinerary and numbers, accommodation confirmation emails, important phone numbers (like the Canadian Embassy, travel insurance, emergency numbers in Guatemala, accommodations, my bank, etc.), and scanned photocopies of my ID.
Money Belt and Wallet – To hold my Guatemalan cash, credit cards, debit card, etc.
Spanish Phrasebook – I will definitely be studying this and brushing up on my Spanish on the plane!
Face Wipes – A great alternative to washing my face on flights.
Planning Your Next Adventure?
Here are some helpful links if you are currently planning your next travel adventure!
Compare prices and book your flights using Momondo. I love the user-friendly design of this website and how easy it is to filter your flights by price, duration, etc. It’s a great place to find the best flight deals!
Use Hostelworld to book a private room or dorm bed at a budget-friendly hostel and browse through listings across the globe. Use Booking.com to find a huge inventory of independent hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, hostels and chain hotels around the world and for every budget. And if you’re looking for a more authentic and unique experience of staying in a local’s home at your destination, then book your stay using Airbnb (sign-up using my link and get a discount off your first stay).
Click here to read more of my posts about Guatemala to help with your trip planning!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a travel booking on any of the websites I have recommended, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I use all of these websites for booking my own travels and would never recommend something that I don’t already love.
What are some essential items that you always pack when you travel? Do you travel with a carry-on only? Have you been to Guatemala? Any tips on things I should consider bringing with me that aren’t listed here?
I would love to hear your thoughts about this packing list in the comments below!
Thanks for reading!