Guatemala : Safety by City
Guatemala is a country located in the Central American region. It shares borders with Mexico to the north/northwest, with Belize to the northeast, with Honduras to the southeast, and El Salvador to the south. It boasts two coastlines: a Pacific coastline in the southwest and a tiny patch of Caribbean coastline in the east, so apart from historically-motivated tourists, Guatemala is the perfect place for summer lovers. Its rich and culture and history stemming from the from Spain and the native Maya people are what calls for hordes of tourists each year. No other country has a history like that.
But apart from Maya ruins that are the main attractions of this gorgeous country (the most memorable of which are El Mirador, considered to be the cradle of Maya civilization, and Tikal), this country is rich in natural diversity and beauty. Guatemala is popular for having a lot of volcanoes, many of them over 3,000 meters high. For example, volcán de Pacaya (2500m) is an active volcano about 30 minutes outside of Antigua, and sometimes it is not even accessible as the volcano may be too active to observe safely.
Warnings & Dangers in Guatemala
OVERALL RISK : HIGH
Guatemala is not the safest country to visit. It has extremely high crime rates, of both violent and petty crime. You should be vigilant and take all possible precaution measures in order to minimize the risk of something wrong happening.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
It is advised that you avoid public transport in Guatemala due to high levels of crime and armed robberies in crowded places such as bus or train stations, and on public transport as well. Always opt for calling a taxi from a reputable company instead of hailing one on the streets.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
There is an extreme threat of petty crime. Pickpockets are an everyday occurrence, so you should be extremely careful when handling your valuables and never carry your money in a purse or a pocket. Never carry all your money in the same place, and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
When it comes to natural disasters, there are threats from forest fires from November to June. Then from May to November there is the risk of flooding that is caused by the rainy season. The volcanoes Fuego, Pacaya and Santiaguito have a moderate activity. Hurricanes and earthquakes also occasionally hit this country.
MUGGING RISK : HIGH
Violent crime is common in Guatemala so be extremely careful when handling money. One of the biggest risks in Guatemala is having your child kidnapped and then sold for adoption on the black market. Places to avoid are Volcan de Agua, trails around Lago de Atitlan, and Volcan de Pacaya.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There haven't been any recent terrorist attacks in Guatemala's recent history, but they shouldn't be ruled out. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
As in any country there's a risk of getting scammed. Be wary of people trying to distract you in order to steal from you and of taxi drivers overcharging you for a ride. We advise you to be extremely careful when handling money and around ATMs.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Guatemala isn't the safest place for a woman to be visiting alone. If you do, be sure to avoid remote streets, both during day and night, and do not flash your belongings or handle money in public. Stay out of the streets at night and be vigilant for any possible dangers at all times.
So... How Safe Is Guatemala Really?
Guatemala is somewhat safe to visit. Markets, public transport, and other crowded places are best to be avoided because tourists are easy targets in big crowds and Guatemala is country of skilled pickpockets.
Areas such as the famous market of Chichicastenango are notorious for this, where pickpockets just discreetly razor-cut your clothes until they reach your wallet pocket. Solola markets are also places where you should watch out for pickpockets. It’s advised to avoid showing any wealth, so dress modestly and leave the jewelry and valuables at home.
If you think it would be safer to leave your things in your car – wrong again. Guatemala has had many reports of car break-ins, and some tourist have had their car broken into while parked at the gas station. Everything inside was stolen. As you can see, petty crime is a serious issue in this country and you are advised to watch over your things very closely.
But Guatemala is known for violent crime, too. As a tourist, you could easily encounter threats of weapons such as guns, knives and even grenades. There have been several reports of tourists being robbed at gunpoint while climbing the volcano at Volcan de Agua, and a mother and daughter were shot at in July 2010 when they ran from their attackers, but they were, luckily, not injured. Watch out when in public transport, as tourist buses and shuttle buses are places where many have been robbed at gunpoint.
- Visas - Many countries such as the U.S.A do not need a visa to enter Guatemala for any stays shorter than 90 days. Make sure your passport is valid for more than 6 months past the date of your arrival. If you are not sure about your visa status, visit www.doyouneedvisa.com which will let you know whether or not you need visa based on your nationality and the country you want to visit.
- Currency - Guatemalan quetzal is the official currency in Guatemala. ATMs for Visa/Plus System cards are available in all but the rural towns and avoid the ones that are left unguarded at night. Always look for ones located in a secure environment and when entering your PIN, cover it with your hand.
- Weather - Weather in Guatemala varies from region to region depending on the altitude and the climate zone. For such a small country, it has many climate zones, and two "seasons": the dry season, lasting from November to May and the rainy season. The Guatemala mountains alter the weather though everyone assumes it has tropical climate.
- Airports - La Aurora International Airport is the busiest international airport serving Guatemala City, Guatemala. It is located 6.4 km south of Guatemala City's center.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Guatemala, since it covers not only the costs medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.