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Introduction to Guam

Guam doesn't fit the stereotype of tribal villages and ancient cultures untouched by the modern world. This highly-developed strategic US territory is no postcard 'Tropical Paradise'. Sure there's sun, sand and wilderness. But for travellers Guam - really - is all about the duty free shopping.

Even the most cursory glance at a map of Guam will give the observer a sense of the island's place in the world: it has an obvious geopolitical significance, primarily intended to boost US dominance of the Pacific. But this is merely to scratch the surface - look deeper and a different kind of place emerges.

The indigenous Chamorro culture is a unique blend of the influences that have shaped the island in recent centuries: Spanish, Micronesian, Asian, Spanish and Western. And there's more to visiting Guam than just shopping. Sporting and recreational activities play a big role in island life, including rugby, triathlons, diving and golf.

Full country name: Territory of Guam

Area: 541 sq km

Population: 150,000

Capital City: Hagåtņa

People: 47% Chamorro, 25% Filipino, 10% Caucasian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and 18% other

Language: English, Chamorro

Religion: 98% Roman Catholic, 2% other

Government: Colonial

Head of State: President George W. Bush

Head of Government: Governor Felix Camacho

GDP: US$200 million

GDP per capita: US$20,000

Inflation: 4%

Major Industries: Petroleum products, tourism, construction materials, fish.

Major Trading Partners: USA, Japan

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Traveler Facts

Visas: US citizens don't need a visa to visit Guam, or any other Micronesian islands. Anyone else (except Canadians and those travelling on a visa waiver) must obtain a US visa in advance. Under Guam's visa waiver programme, citizens of certain countries may enter Guam for up to 15 days for business or pleasure without a US visa. Those countries include Australia, Japan, New Zealand and Great Britain.

Health risks: sunburn, fungal infestions

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +10

Dialling Code: 671

Electricity: 110V ,60Hz

Weights & measures: Imperial

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Guam's grandest holiday celebrations happen on July 21 - Liberation Day, when the entire population seems to hit the streets for a parade, followed by fireworks in the evening. Also in July is the island carnival at Y'pao Beach Park. From April all the way through to October the villages of southern Guam hold their yearly fiestas, which turn sleepy hollows into wild 'block parties', food and beer is on the house, and everybody's welcome. One of the best known of these is the three-day Malojloj Fiesta, starting May 16, in the historic town of Inarajan.

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Best time to Visit

Go to Guam whenever the boss gives you time off. The temperature hovers around a balmy 27°C (81°F) all year, so don't worry about the weather. If it's a little more humid between July and November, at least you're never far from a cooling dip in the ocean. The only time you should really avoid Guam is during Japanese holiday seasons: Christmas, Golden Week (the last week of April and the first week of May), and Obon, in August.

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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: US dollar


Budget: US$3-10

Mid-range: US$10-15

High: US$15-25

Deluxe: US$25+


Budget: US$25-60

Mid-range: US$60-120

High: US$120-200

Deluxe: US$200+

A recent building boom has left Guam with many new hotel rooms, but most of these places are very much aimed at the over-stuffed wallet. At the cheapest end of things, you're still looking at USD40.00-USD50.00 a night for a half-way decent bed. There are camping grounds on Guam and permits are cheap, so if you're prepared to rough it you could do Guam on as little as USD15.00 per day if you're happy subsisting on shellfish - getting from your tent to one of the downtown fast-food joints is bound to be tricky. Hagatņa's public market is a fun place to get a cheap local meal and kiosks sell fixed-plate lunches for around USD5.00.

The Bank of Guam and the Bank of Hawaii are the island's biggest dosh emporiums and combined they have about 20 branches around Guam. Foreign currencies are exchanged only at the Tumon and Hagatņa branches of the Bank of Guam. Major credit cards are widely accepted and there are Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) in the larger towns.

There's not much in the way of bargaining in Guam, mainly because most of your shopping will be done in western-style malls. A tip of around 10-15% is expected in Guam's restaurants.

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Hagatņa (Agaņa)

Hagatņa (formerly Agaņa) has been the centre of Guam ever since the Spanish first set about remodelling the island on behalf of God. The town is small enough to explore on foot in an afternoon and there are plenty of parks and historic buildings, among them is Casa Gobierno, the Governor's Palace.

Don't miss the revolving statue of Pope John Paul II on the site where the man himself held mass in 1981; it puts the miniature Statue of Liberty to shame. In the southeast of the park, a statue of Chief Quipuha is condemned to survey the congested traffic of the main thoroughfare, Marine Drive.


A sleepy village with a smattering of Spanish-era influence and some of the island's richest Chamorro flavours, Inarajan is perched on Guam's scenic southeast coast. Along the waterfront is the Chamorro Cultural Village, a bamboo and thatch complex where traditional Chamorro crafts are demonstrated.

Salugula, a natural saltwater pool, has diving platforms and arched bridges. There are nearby ruins of a concrete Baptist church and a bronze sculpture of a Chamorro battle. In the cliffs across the bay from Inarajan is Gadao's Cave, which has ancient pictographs said to be drawn by Gadao himself.

Tumon Bay

The tourist centre of Guam is just up the beach from Hagatņa. Called Tumon Bay, it's essentially a one-road-deep resort strip fuelled by hotels, clubs and restaurants. It's also geared towards Japanese package tourists, which translates into high prices.

Tumon Bay itself is quite shallow and at low tide it's possible to wade right out to the reef for a look around. Y'pao Beach Park is on the bay's southwest side and was once home to an ancient Chamorro village, as well as a leper and penal colony. These days it's a popular fiesta site.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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