Arriving in Guatemala City Without My Backpack

Broken Bottles for Burglar Protection
Central American Burglar Alarm System>

The baggage claim conveyor belt finally stopped, and my backpack was nowhere to be seen. I had just arrived in Guatemala City (aka “Guate”) to start my official year around the world. But now I didn’t have any belongings.

Well, that isn’t entirely true. I did have the clothes on my back, a light jacket, and a daypack with my laptop and camera in it. Talk about traveling light!

Initially, my plan had been to jump on a shuttle to a small town called San Pedro and start 3 weeks of intensive Spanish classes.

But the town was hours away, and I wanted to be near the airport for when my travel backpack finally arrived, 3 or 4 days later.

Old Pickup Truck
Old Beaten-Up Pickup Truck

So I found a guesthouse a short walk away from the airport and checked in. The broken glass you see in the photo above is cemented into the perimeter walls of the guesthouse. I saw this in Mexico too, it’s a cheap way to protect your property from robbers.

All the homes and business in the area are protected by 10 foot high walls, razor wire, and gates. It looks like a prison complex, but rather than keep people in, it’s meant to keep people out. I had to walk through a military checkpoint to get to the guesthouse as well. Welcome to Guatemala City!

Local Guate Family
Guatemalan Family That I Met On My Walk

The air was colder than I was expecting, around 60 degrees at night. After spending one night in the guesthouse, I walked back to the airport to fill out a new lost baggage claim form, because the one the airline gave me contained wrong information.

Along the walk, I passed a local family heading to the airport too. I was photographing the neighborhood, and they asked to be in the photo. Looks better with them in it!

Since I was going to be in Guate for a few more days, I decided to leave the expensive guesthouse ($30 a night) and move into a hostel dormitory ($15 a night) in the city center to save money. Now all I have to do is wait. My travel adventures have officially begun!

Travel Planning Resources for Guatemala City

Packing Guide

Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip. Pick up a travel backpack, camera gear, and other useful travel accessories.

Book Your Flight

Book cheap flights on Skyscanner, my favorite airline search engine to find deals. Also read my tips for how I find the cheapest flights.

Rent A Car

Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal. They search both local & international rental companies.

Book Accommodation is my favorite hotel search engine. Or rent local apartments on Airbnb ($35 discount!). Read my post for tips on booking cheap hotels.

Protect Your Trip

Don’t forget travel insurance! I’m a big fan of World Nomads for short-term trips. Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read more about why you should always carry travel insurance.


Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:


Hi, I’m Matthew Karsten — I’ve been traveling around the world for the last 10 years as a blogger, photographer, and digital nomad. Adventure travel & photography are my passions. Let me inspire you to travel with crazy stories, beautiful photos, and money-saving travel tips.
Matthew Karsten
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Comments (11)

  1. It took that many days to get your bag back? Anytime they lose anyone I know’s bags, they have them the next morning! (I’m an American, living in Guatemala for the past 9 years.)

  2. I had to laugh the first time I saw broken glass wedged in cement on the top of a fence as a version of “barbed wire.” I kinda thought it was an ingenious way to recycle glass into another purpose.

    Gotta love the cultural differences… it’s what makes travel interesting.