What is the difference between an International Driving Permit (IDP) and an International Driver’s License (IDL)?
An International Driving Permit is a small grey booklet marginally larger than a passport containing a translation of your original driving license in 10 languages, including English, French, Russian, Chinese, Arabic, and Spanish. It is recognized by 141 countries worldwide and is valid for one year.
In comparison, an International Driving License is not a legal document and cannot be used to drive in foreign countries or instead of an IDP.
How does an International Driving Permit work in Guatemala?
An International Driver’s License is not a legally accepted driver’s license in Guatemala. A tourist who wishes to drive in this country must have a driver’s license and an IDP.
A tourist can drive for 30 days in Guatemala without an IDP, but anyone staying longer than that must have an IDP on them at all times. For tourists visiting for 30 days or longer, getting an IDP before traveling is best to avoid any issues. Even if an IDP is not mandatory in Guatemala, it is highly recommended.
How do I get an International Driving Permit for Guatemala?
The process for getting an IDP is pain-free! Anyone who wishes to apply for an IDP can do so on our website – “insert website link,” and it is a quick and easy application process. The driver will be required to fill out an application form and submit the following documents:
- Application form
- Domestic license
- ID, such as passport
- Debit/credit card
It’s important to know that a person without a driver’s license from their home country is not eligible to apply for an International Driving Permit.
How long does it take to get an IDP?
How long it will take for an IDP to be delivered varies greatly depending on where you get it. Ordering from our website means that a digital IDP will be in your email in 2 hours, and your physical IDP will arrive in the mail between 2 and 30 days, depending on the chosen delivery method.
Our website offers an express service for anyone who doesn’t have time to wait before their trip. Choosing an express service will have your digital IDP in your email after only 20 minutes. We also offer an express shipping option for an added fee, reducing the delivery time to just 2 – 14 days.
It is essential to ensure the application form is completed, and all valid documents have been sent in. Otherwise, the waiting period for an IDP will be more extended while we wait for updated documents to be resubmitted before an IDP can be obtained.
United Nations agreement on road traffic
The UN Road Traffic Agreement is an agreement that took place over a series of 3 UN conventions. These conventions were held in Geneva in 1926, then Paris in 1949, and the last in Vienna in 1968. The main points discussed were allowing the usage of International Driving Permits in countries worldwide.
Another main topic of discussion was allowing governments to authorize other automotive organizations to issue IDPs to people on the government’s behalf. This ensures that all IDPs being issued are authorized for use by the UN.
Benefits Of Carrying An IDP In Guatemala
Although foreign drivers can drive in Guatemala with their driver’s license for 30 days, obtaining an IDP is still highly recommended. Any person staying longer than 30 days legally must acquire an IDP or a Guatemalan driving license.
International Form of Identification
Another huge side benefit to having an IDP in a foreign country where there may be a language barrier is its ability to act as an international form of Identification. This can be particularly beneficial if you need to communicate with the Guatemalan national civil police at any point.
Rental car companies
All rental car companies will require international drivers to have a valid IDP before they allow you to rent cars in a foreign country. This rule also applies in Guatemala. Rental car companies will also require drivers to have other essential documents during their visit.
Driving Requirements For Noncitizens
Short-term visitors vs. long-term stay
Short-term visitors staying in Guatemala for 30 days or less are permitted to drive as long as they have a valid driving license from their home country.
If a tourist wishes to stay in Guatemala longer than 30 days, getting an IDP or a Guatemala driver’s license is legally required.
When Do I Need To Get A Driver’s License in Guatemala
Any person staying longer than three months without obtaining an IDP must get a Guatemalan driver’s license. If a tourist has an IDP and is driving in Guatemala with one, they will need to get a local license once the IDP is no longer valid.
In Guatemala, an international driver can exchange their driver’s license for a Guatemalan driver’s license by completing the following steps:
- The driver must visit the Traffic Department located at Calzada Aguilar Batres, Centro Comercial Galeras del Sur.
- The driver can get an application form and be informed of what documents are required depending on your current license. Typically, expect to be requested to provide a domestic driver’s license, certificate of authenticity from home country, passport, visa, residence card, and possibly other documents.
- Any other requirements are discussed case-by-case basis, as it depends mainly on the country the application’s driver’s license was issued from. Sometimes drivers may be required to sit a theory exam or practical driving test to get a Guatemalan Driver’s License.
Getting a driver’s license in Guatemala is a little more complex than in other countries, so having an IDP in Guatemala is a great idea.
Renewing your IDP or Driving license in Guatemala
Suppose a person needs to renew an IDP while in Guatemala to continue driving or possibly drive in another country. In that case, they can contact the original IDP issuer and request a renewal. They may require documents such as the out-of-date IDP.
If a driving license expires while in Guatemala, contact the license issuer in the home country to get a renewal sent to the address in Guatemala.
Vehicle Rental In Guatemala
Any tourist who wishes to explore everything in Guatemala will need a rental car. Public transport runs in the cities and is affordable and reliable. Still, someone looking to explore some of Guatemala’s natural beauty will want to get out of the cities.
Shopping around online and reserving a car in advance wherever possible is always recommended. This will help ensure the type of car the driver requires for the best price.
Renting vehicles in Guatemala
Renting a car is easy and convenient, with most rental companies being set up in the main cities and airports, making it easy for a tourist to collect and drop off a rental car. Some large rental companies are based here, with Europcar, Hertz, Alamo, and Avis stationed in Guatemala.
The minimum driving age in Guatemala is 18, and most rental companies require a driver to be a minimum of 21 to rent a car. With that said, most companies will charge a driver aged between 21-25, known as a young driver’s fee. Depending on the company, this can be pretty expensive.
All rental car companies will require a driver to bring requested documents before allowing a driver to rent a car. The documents that are usually asked are :
- Drivers license from home country
- International Driving Permit
- Id, such as a passport
- Debit/Credit card for payment
Vehicle rental costs
The cost of renting a car varies from country to country. In Guatemala, it is highly affordable, with vehicles available from as little as $10 per day up to $60 per day. The cost of a rental car will vary depending on the type of car required, the size of the vehicle, any insurance needed, the driver’s age (young driver’s fee), and any add-ons such as GPS wifi or car seats.
Insurance on a car is mandatory in Guatemala, and all motorists must carry insurance documents at all times when driving, as police may request to see insurance proof.
Some vehicle rental companies will have the minimum required insurance depending on the company. Still, many request a driver to add on LDW (loss/damage waiver) and CDW (collision/damage waiver). This will protect the rental car in the case of an accident or theft and help the driver avoid paying hefty fees.
Hire car driving tips
- Always shop around with different companies to get the best value for money, and check each company’s insurance policy to get the best deal.
- Inspect the car inside and outside in case of any damages that were previously done. Inform the company of this and take note so that the driver cant be held liable for damages they didn’t incur.
- Before driving the rental car, ensure all components are working at a good standard, such as the lights, seatbelts, tires, and oil. If there are any issues, report them to the company as soon as possible.
Driving And Safety In Guatemala
Driving standards in Guatemala vary depending on the area. The main city roads are usually in good condition and are safe to drive on. Outside the cities, the road conditions are not always excellent, with many unpaved or unmarked roads, little to no signage, and poor lighting.
Driving outside the main cities also poses a risk of robbery, so international drivers are urged to be cautious, drive with locked doors, and don’t pull over for strangers.
Guatemala does have one of the highest rates of crime in Latin America, so it is necessary to exercise caution while traveling. Often travel is restricted in some areas so keep up to date with local travel advice in the country. Some of the crime risks to tourists would be theft, carjacking, sexual assaults, or kidnapping.
Avoid driving on roads towards the borders such as Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador, and Belize, as these are crime hot spots. There is some tension on the Mexico/Guatemala border, so avoid driving in this area, especially at night. Political protests are common in the city, but tourists must be aware that taking part in a protest without being a Guatemalan citizen can get them detained or even imprisoned.
Essential safety awareness will help make your visit to Guatemala stress-free and without accident. Don’t carry around large amounts of cash, avoid driving down dimly lit streets at night, avoid wearing jewelry, and keep doors locked at all times.
Road rules in Guatemala
As with any time you drive in a different country, it is mandatory to follow all road rules.
A few things to remember are:
- All front-seat passengers to have a seat belt on while driving
- Driving under the influence of drink or drugs is against the law in Guatemala
- The speed is 50km/h in urban areas, 80km/h in rural areas, and a maximum speed of 110km/h on highways or freeways.
- You must carry your passport, IDP, license, and insurance documents with you at all times.
Top 3 Places to Visit in Guatemala
Exploring Guatemala gives any tourist much to do, with plenty of rainforests, ancient Mayan sites, and volcanoes. Guatemala is full of untouched natural beauty and history that dates back 2000 years, thanks to the Mayan settlers there.
Guatemala has something to offer everyone. Whether looking for a sunny vacation on the Monterrico beach, exploring natural beauty in the Volcan de Fuego volcanoes, or wanting to learn some Mayan history, there is plenty to do.
Guatemala has a tropical climate. Depending on where you are in the country, the climate can vary. Typically, it has a warm sunny period for half the year and a warm but rainy season for the rest of the year.
Guatemala is the capital of Guatemala and has a little bit of everything. Its made famous for its Mayan history, metropolitan cathedral full of religious paintings and carvings, and its proximity to a volcano.
This city is a must-see location when visiting Guatemala. Walking trails will take you to the famous and active Pacaya Volcano, or visit the National Palace of Culture, where visitors can view the volcano from afar.
Volcan de Fuego
Guatemala’s most active volcano, volcanic eruptions, can be dated back to as early as 1520 and still happen very often. This volcano can erupt from every 20 minutes to every few hours! Hiking up a neighboring inactive volcano – Acatenango offers impressive views of the dramatic eruptions and is one of South America’s biggest tourist attractions.
Mayan Ruins of Tikal
History buffs around the world adore Guatemala for its vast Mayan history enriched throughout the country. The Mayan Ruins of Tikal are located in the humid jungle in northern Guatemala and are one of South America’s most significant archaeological sites.
Dating back to 600BC- 900 AD, this site is excellently preserved and is home to more than 3,000 structures, including pyramids, temples, plazas, and an acropolis. Known as one of the most important Mayan sites to date, the Mayan Ruins of Tikal are sure to offer a breathtaking trip.
What should I do if I lose my International Driving Permit in Guatemala?
If you lose your IDP while traveling in Guatemala, you need to contact your IDP issuer to have a replacement sent as soon as possible. If you have been in the country less than 30 days, you can continue driving as usual with your driver’s license. If you have been in the country longer than 30 days, you cannot drive vehicles until your IDP is replaced.
Is it safe to drive during the rainy season in Guatemala?
Driving during the rainy season in Guatemala can pose hazardous for inexperienced drivers, particularly outside the main cities where roads are unpaved and can turn into sludge in heavy rainfalls.
Are police stops common in Guatemala?
Police stops are common in Guatemala, and you are best to remain calm and polite. Ensure you have all documents with you when driving, such as a driver’s license, IDP, a valid form of ids such as a passport, visa, rental car documents, and proof of insurance.