The climate of Guatemala varies more by altitude than by season. The coastal lowlands are always hot 90 degrees or more during the day. The high mountains, places such as Todos Santos, can be near freezing at night. January is the coldest month. The rainy season begins in May and continues until September. The rain usually begins in after 3 pm or at night, and is often very hard during the first half hour. There is usually a short break in the rainy season during July.
The climate in San Pedro is generally mild. Cool in the morning and evening, but the temperature usually reaches 80 to 85 degrees between 11:00am and 3:00pm. During most days one can get by wearing shorts and a T-shirt. It feels cold when the day is windy. Towns which have a lot of dirt roads (San Pedro has paved almost everything) are very dusty when it is windy. The town of Sololá which is situated on a cliff high on the other side of Lake Atitlán can be 10 or 20 degrees colder than San Pedro la Laguna at lake level.
What clothes to bring: Travel light, if I need something else I buy it. The T-shirts that I bring are ones that I can give away as gifts if the situation arises. Umbrellas are easy to come by or borrow, but raincoats are not. I sometimes buy an extra handwoven blanket there, if the nights are too cold. I can then give it as a gift when I return home.
The past few year the quetzal has been at around 7.5 quetzales to one dollar. This is down from around 7.75 where it has been for about twenty years. One quetzal buys about what one dollar buys in the United States (unless you are buying something like electronic equipment).
There is an Banrural ATM in San Pedro. There are branches of Banrural in almost every town in Guatemala. Do not ever use the ATM near the Panajachel dock. It may be connected to mafia, and more than one person who used it has had their account emptied. Use only ATMs associated with banks, but better yet, enter the bank to withdraw money whenever possible.
Safety: San Pedro is safe while Guatemala City is not. It takes a while to adjust to the change from a first world country to a third world so be aware of confidence schemes in Guatemala City and Antigua. Hikers are more vulnerable to robbers because they are out of sight of witnesses. Before hiking, it is always a good idea to question your teachers and homestay family about current safety conditions. I suggest while hiking you leave most of your money with your family. Hide some money in a shoe, and put a small amount in a billfold in your pocket. That way if you are robbed, you will have bus money to return home.
It is a good idea to have an extra $20 bill, and a $100 bill hidden somewhere so that if you are robbed you have a little bit of money to hold you over. Think twice about bringing valuable items to Guatemala: If you cannot afford to lose it (computer or camera), or it has sentimental value and cannot be replaced, you probably should leave it at home.
Most towns have a health clinic (puesto de salud) which is free for everyone.
The bacteria in the water in Latin America cause most people from the United States and Europe to get sick, often very sick, at some point. Stomach problems are almost unavoidable.
It boils down to two basic rules:
• Don't eat anything prepared in the street.
• Don't drink anything which is not made with purified water. (Watch out for ice cubes.)
Things sold in the street are very tempting. Resist the temptation. The delicious fruits are often kept moist with water. The vendors do not have a source of fresh water with which to clean the dishes. Eating in the street will make you sick at some point.
Coffee and tea served in the houses should be suspect, unless you know for sure that they have used bottled water. When in doubt stick to sodas and bottled water. .
Avoid ice cubes. "No hielo por favor" [hielo pronounced "yello" like in jello] Only in the best hotels are ice cubes made with bottled water.
The pharmacies in San Pedro are not well stocked. I would advise you to bring:
Ibuprofin, Tylenol, Benadryl Cream (for insect & flea bites), and 1% Cortisone Cream. You should bring enough of whatever prescription medicine to last your entire stay. Aspirin is readily available in Guatemala as is a generic pink Pepto Bismo, but there are other common medicines which are not.