Traveling to Guam, USA
Although Guam is a United States possession, visiting the island is very different from visiting any other US state or possession. Because of its proximity to East Asia, Guam sees more tourists from Japan, Korea, China, and its other neighbors than it does from the continental United States. Most visitors from the continental US are either in the military or visiting someone who is because it is a very out of the way destination for your average vacation. Whether you are planning a vacation to the tropical island purely for leisure or are traveling with someone in the military, there are a few things you should learn about Guam prior to your arrival. These tips for visiting Guam will help minimize your culture shock and help you make the most of your trip.
The first important thing you need to realize about Guam is that is isn't the world's most family-friendly destination. Yes, there are things to do with kids, but I would categorize Guam as a primarily adult destination. The main recreational activities on the island either involve the ocean, high-end shopping, or adult establishments of one kind or another. There are water slides, playgrounds, and an aquarium, but the heart of the tourist district consists of a weird mixture of Gucci and Prada-type stores and strip clubs. The Micronesia Mall has a large indoor arcade with a merry go round, small roller coaster, and a few other rides, but it is not particularly well-maintained and you shouldn't count on everything being operational. If you're just visiting Guam for a tropical island getaway and you live in the continental United States, you might want to consider taking your kids somewhere a little more friendly and closer to home!
Cell Phones on Guam
Guam is a US possession, but your US phone may not work there. Even if it does, you can expect some steep roaming fees. Most mainland US carriers charge multiple dollars a minute for cell phone calls placed in Guam! If your life depends on having a cell phone, you can actually rent phones and mobile Internet devices on the island. In fact, you can rent a cell phone before you even leave the airport. Pay as you go, disposable phones are also pretty cheap 'on island,' so it is easy to stay connected if you want to. My advice is just to just let go of your electronic leash for a while, unless it is absolutely critical that you have a phone at all times during your vacation. The thought of living essentially without my iPhone almost caused me to panic until I realized that I backpacked in New Zealand for five weeks once without ever using a phone. For many of us, cell phones really aren't as essential as we've led ourselves to believe.
How Expensive is Guam?
Guam is an island. Obviously. This is important because it means many things there cost a little bit more than other places. For example, in the 'lower 48' Subway advertises the five dollar foot long sub, but it is the six dollar foot long on Guam. Plus, you can expect hefty accommodations taxes on your hotel and service charges on meals eaten at hotel restaurants.
You can avoid some of these extra costs by seeking out delicious, fresh tropical fruits at roadside stands and leaving the hotel/Tumon for your shopping. Just like in most tourist destinations, prices go down and quality generally goes up when you leave the tourist area. For example, a shot of adequate espresso at the hotel might cost $3.50 and a simple sandwich $9, but making the a short drive to a local Infusions coffee shop will get you a tasty $2.75 cup of coffee and a $8 freshly-made sandwich with pickle spears. Grocery stores have a mixture of Asian and American foods, as well as tasty fresh baked goods from local Guam bakeries.
Because Guam is small, chances are really good everything you'll need to find, even out of the way spots, are on the tourist map. It's durable, easy to read, and very easy to use!
Driving in Guam
Guam's island nature also means the roads can get a little exciting. They are wide and well-maintained in the core tourist areas, but the outer roads are definitely 'island roads.' It may seem like overkill for a small island, but if you are planning to go hiking or visit outlying sites, you may want to go ahead and rent an SUV instead of a car. Short distances and low speed limits mean you'll probably use less gas than you anticipate, even with a larger vehicle.
Along with these island roads there seems to be a sense that traffic regulations are more guidelines than laws. I've seen worse drivers, but you should exercise caution when driving in Guam. I witnessed lots of people running red lights and blasting straight through stop signs, and I think I'm the only person I saw use a turn signal on the whole island. Also, don't be surprised if you see people going way over the speed limit and frustrated if you travel the posted speed. Fifty miles an hour seems pretty much expected in 35 mph zones, for example. Just make sure to stay alert while driving in Guam and don't assume that the other car will stop simply because it is supposed to!
Road and roadside signage are fairly basic in Guam, and parking for attractions can be something of a free for all. Even popular sites listed on the tourist map may have magazine-sized signs and roadside parking. My best advice is that if you're where your directions and map say you should be, you're probably in the correct spot, no matter how unlikely it seems. Just because you're parking in someone's neighborhood and walking down their driveway to get to the trailhead doesn't mean you're in wrong place! The good news is that Guam is pretty small so, even if you do miss something, you can only go so far before you realize it's time to turn around.
Most people in the United States are accustomed to hotel rooms that include basic amenities like Internet and breakfast. In many parts of the world, free Internet and free breakfast are not considered a given when you book a hotel room. Some hotels in Guam do include these features, but virtually all of the resort hotels charge extra for in- room Internet and a continental breakfast. While it it is not as convenient as in-room Internet, you can avoid these charges by using the hotel's business center, hanging out in common areas with free wifi, and visiting local spots, like McDonalds or coffee houses, that do have free wifi. To avoid breaking your meal budget on hotel breakfasts, stop by a local grocery store or Kmart to pick up basics like milk, cereal, and fruit. When you're searching for a store to purchase these basics, do not overlook the popular ABC chain. If you're like me, you probably associate those initials with a place to buy alcohol, but the Guam ABCs are more like a Rite Aid or Walgreens.
Guam Travel Guide
Guam is certainly beautiful, and a great place for hiking, beautiful views, and spectacular snorkeling, but it is a bit different from anywhere else in the United States. If you're planning a visit to the remote tropical island, I hope these warnings and snippets of advice help you make the most of your trip! I am more than happy to answer your questions to the best of my ability, so please let me know if I can be of assistance.
Sonny on August 09, 2020:
No mention of the snakes there're everywhere!
Barbara on March 07, 2018:
Thank you. any tips on the best/cheapest flights to Guam from the East Coast of US?
Chuong Tran on March 06, 2018:
Thank you for your detail information.
Natasha (author) from Hawaii on April 20, 2013:
Elias Zanetti from Athens, Greece on April 20, 2013:
Very nice guide and great presentation. Guam seems as a fantastic destination!
Natasha (author) from Hawaii on April 20, 2013:
I didn't know much about Guam before I showed up and I wanted to make sure others were a bit better informed! Thanks for stopping by.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 19, 2013:
Thanks for this useful information and for the lovely photos, Natasha. I didn't know much about Guam before I read your hub. It sounds like an interesting place!
Natasha (author) from Hawaii on April 19, 2013:
Thank you! You put a smile on my face first thing in the morning =)
Dil Vil from India on April 18, 2013:
Simply awesome. Very well written and the pics are beautiful. Overall the hub was organized in an amazing way, i like it.
Natasha (author) from Hawaii on April 18, 2013:
Thanks so much! I find with a lot of destinations people have this idea that a vacation has to be expensive. There is a certain amount of expense involved with going anywhere, but there are ways to save some money!
I'm glad you enjoyed and thanks for stopping by.
Hawaiian Odysseus from Southeast Washington state on April 18, 2013:
Natasha, this is a tightly-written article with fantastic photography. You present your travel advice in a wonderful reader-friendly fashion, offering a nice balance of pros and cons, and offering frugal alternatives to certain things we here in America take for granted. Thanks so much for sharing these ideas and your personal take on the island of Guam! Aloha!
Natasha (author) from Hawaii on April 18, 2013:
Guam was actually my man's first choice and I have to say I'm glad he got Hawaii! After being in port for a while in Guam, I think he's glad he got Hawaii, too. Thanks for stopping in!
Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on April 18, 2013:
You have very useful information here Natashalh. A friend of mine was stationed in Guam for a while and did talk a lot about how beautiful it is over there. But it's was good getting another view from your hub.
Voted up and useful.