Antigua Guatemala is a small city of under 40,000 residents. Most people get around Antigua on foot or using a patchwork network of privately-owned public transportation.
Many residents own motorcycles or scooters to get around town. Those who can afford it prefer cars for trips to the city and nearest big-box stores and supermarkets.
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Driving in Antigua Guatemala – Roads and Rules
Cars drive on the right side of the road and have the driver’s seat and steering wheel on their left side. The legal minimum age in Guatemala for driving is 18 years. Road signs and rules follow international standards, and signs on the main roads are in Spanish.
Drinking and driving are strictly prohibited. Seat belts are mandatory, but it’s rarely enforced in Antigua. The use of a mobile phone while driving is prohibited, but again, this is rarely enforced in Antigua Guatemala.
Operating a cell phone while driving is supposed to be prohibited
The standard speed limits are 80 km/h on expressways, 50 km/h in town. Due to Antigua’s cobblestone streets and uneven pavement, it’s recommended that drivers slow down – those who don’t want to damage their vehicle’s suspension at least.
Nearly all roads in Guatemala are toll-free except for the expressway that leads from Palin, Escuintla to the Pacific Coast.
Children’s Car Seats
Currently, there are no laws in Guatemala requiring the use of car seat for children of any age. However, for the safety of children, visitors should provide them with car seats, and requests the same when renting vehicles at local car rental agencies.
Drivers are aggressive and don’t tend to be considerate towards pedestrians. Drivers also frequently disregard stop signs and have a tendency to speed.
International Driving Permits
Visitors are allowed to drive in Guatemala with their home country’s driver’s license for the first 30 days. You’ll be required to carry your passport to prove you’re staying legally in Guatemala.
Foreigners staying in Guatemala for longer than 30 days can drive here with an International Driving Permit (IDP). Guatemala does not issue IDPs – you should purchase yours in advance. To obtain one, visit your country’s national automobile association (in the US, that would be AAA). Guatemala only recognizes IDPs based on the 1949 Geneva Convention, which is issued by many countries. Having an IDP alone is not sufficient to drive in Guatemala – you must show IDP and a valid driver’s license and passport if requested.
If obtaining an IDP is a challenge, there is an alternative way of driving past 30 days in the country. The Guatemalan National Civil Police will issue “permisos temporal” (temporary permits) to foreigners who hold valid driver’s licenses from another country and who want to drive in Guatemala beyond their initial 30 day period in the country.
Permisos cost 30Q per month of validity, and are only issued for the duration of the applicant’s legal stay in Guatemala. When driving with a permiso, you’ll also end to carry your valid foreign driver’s license. You can obtain a permiso at:
Departamento de Transito
Galerias del Sur
Calzada Aguilar Batres 34-70, Zona 11
Tel. (502) 2320-4545
US Embassy in Guatemala
Gas stations are found all across Guatemala. In Antigua proper, there are four: One at 4a Calle Oriente and 1a Avenida Norte, another a block away, in front of La Concepción Convent, a Shell Station in Santa Inés, on the road that leads to San Lucas, and a Texaco Station in front of Soleil Hotel, on the road that leads to Ciudad Vieja.
The vast majority of gas stations provide full service – in Antigua, all gas stations are full service. Gas stations close during the night. A liter of regular gasoline costs roughly 22Q (as of May 2018). High octane gas and diesel are widely available, and payment is possible by credit card or cash.
There are four gas stations in Antigua, not a single traffic light
Getting gas at a full service is easy. When you pull into the station, an attendant may direct you to a stall. Just park, open your window and shut off your car. Tell the attendant what kind of gas you want (e.g. “regular”), how much (e.g. “lleno” for a full tank) and how you will pay (e.g. “credit card”). He will ask for your NIT number (to fill out a receipt for tax purposes, which you can decline). Make sure the pump counter start at all zeroes.
The attendant may also offer to wash your windows, check your tires’ air pressure. They can also verify the vehicle’s oil levels if requested – attendants accept tips.
Parking in Antigua’s streets cost 10Q a day – you can buy the “marbete” (permit) from Municipal transit agents stationed at various points in town. If you’re driving a vehicle with foreign license plates, you won’t be required to purchase a parking permit. There are secure parking lots in town, each costing about 10Q an hour.
Parking is prohibited for vehicles where the curb is painted red, white (reserved for motorcycles), blue (reserved for the disabled), in front of garage entrances, and wherever there’s a no parking sign (“Prohibido Estacionar” – big E with a line through it). Don’t block driveways either, or your car may be towed.
Parking? Be prepared to pay the extortion fee
If driving a car registered in Guatemala, you can obtain a “calcomania” (parking decal), which cancels the need to buy parking permits.
If you’re renting in Antigua, you can get the parking sticker at Mini-Tesorería Municipal (5a Calle Poniente #46, Centro Cultural Cesar Brañas), open Monday through Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm, and Saturdays, from 9 am to 12 pm. You’ll need the following documents:
- Documento Personal de Identificación (DPI) or passport.
- Rental contract for your living space, in your name.
- “Tarjeta de circulación” (Vehicle registration card) in your name.
- Boleto de Ornato 2017 (tax receipt) issued in Antigua Guatemala. The cost of this tax certificate is based on the applicant’s self-declared monthly income – the fee can be anywhere from 10Q to a max of 150Q.
- Vehicle’s title in your name.
In Antigua, you’ll be almost sure to encounter the hated “cuidacarros” (car minders), people who’ll offer to help you park and will look after your vehicle for a fee.
Cuidacarros operate illegally – most prominently on weekends, often extorting drivers for fees as high as 50Q to ensure nothing “accidentally” happens to the car. Those who don’t pay the fee can expect to find that their car was broken into, or damage done to the paint and/or side mirrors.
There’s a plan in the works to rid the street of cuidacarros, but other than occasional spot checks by the Police, nothing has been conclusively resolved.
Notify local Police if accosted by a cuidacarro, or avoid them altogether by parking in a public lot.
Want more tips about living in Antigua?
Check out the Living in Antigua section.