Travel tip #4: Eat ice cream beans

Guatemala ice cream bean

Ice cream beans in Guatemala can be bought for around Q1 ($0.13) per pod. It's possible to find a better price if you're purchasing many pods, but it can be difficult to find them in quantity. Ice cream beans (called paterna in Guatemala) aren't generally mass-cultivated for consumption. Women and children collect and sell them as a minor income supplement.

Ice cream beans in Guatemala are big, but not as big as in some other countries. Pods are around 8" to 12" (length of your forearm), sometimes more. Each "bean" in the pod is surrounded with a white, pulpy flesh with a sweet, refreshing taste and soft texture. Some people say the flavor is similar to vanilla ice cream -- hence the name.

You can eat the green beans, too, but the beans themselves must be thoroughly cooked before eating them. The beans have a woody flavor and texture like water-chestnuts, and are high in protein. When raw they contain a mild toxin that prevents proper digestion; it can be deactivated by cooking.

More travel tips

The Livingston to Punta Gorda, Belize boat leaves from Livingston on Wednesdays and Fridays for Q

If you plan on using hair conditioner while traveling in Guatemala, you'll want to bring your own

Haggling over prices in Guatemala is normal.

Settle prices with taxis, tuk-tuks, motorcycles and boats before getting in (or onboard).

The chicken bus from Xela to Zunil costs Q4.95 ($0.66) and takes about forty min

Guatemala is a well known coffee exporter, and yet there are many local eateries and restaurants

Need a taxi in Guatemala City?

The Litegua bus from Río Dulce to Guatemala City takes about six and a half hours and costs Q80 (