Safety in Guatemala
  • How safe is Gautemala these days? I traveled there 20+ years ago, but I have found all the crime statistics on the web disturbing. Flying into Guatemala City seems extremely scarey! I am flying in next Thursday for 8 days in Antigua...just concerned. Anyone out there have any thoughts on this?

  • While the vast majority of travelers to Guatemala have worry-free vacations, crime is indeed on the rise in Guatemala, especially in Guatemala City and Antigua. Theft is common on public transportation, especially between major cities. Armed robbery and rape are also on the rise.

    Areas to Avoid:
    Guatemala City’s Zone 1, where most bus terminals and discount hotels are located, is a particularly dangerous area of the capital. The Central Market is also target to more than its share of theft.

    There have been reports of attacks on tourists on the Pacaya volcano in Antigua. If possible, accompany tour group or a tourist police escort. Attacks have also been reported on the trails between Lake Atitlan’s villages—once again, find a guided tour, or take a boat.

    Safety and the Police:
    According to WCities, in Guatemala “the police force is young, inexperienced, and under-funded, and the judicial system is weak, overcrowded, and inefficient.” Unfortunately, criminals are aware that they’re unlikely to be punished for their crimes.
    Tips on Staying Safe:
    # In Guatemala City and Antigua, avoid traveling at night at all costs. Even if your destination is only a couple blocks away, take a cab or tuk-tuk.
    # Don’t flash any signs of wealth. Leave your jewelry at home.
    # Keep all important documents and large sums of money in an underclothes money belt, or your hotel safe.
    # Do not resist a mugging—that’s how most victims are injured or killed. If you are held up, cooperate fully.

    Important contacts:
    Security escorts and emergency services are available through the Tourist Assistance Office of INGUAT; dial 1500.
    Hear current updates on Guatemala safety and security by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S and Canada, or 1-202-501-4444 elsewhere.
    To contact the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City, dial (502) 2-326-4000 or (502) 2-331-2354 after hours.

    Here is a list of incidents against foreigners (not that many considering this for entire 2008)
  • Guest, thanks for your help and thoroughness...this is all very helpful. B
  • I am planning my travel through guatemala starting middle of december, my flight arrive, 8.30 p.m.
    whats the best, search a shuttle to antigua for the night.
    Thanks for a answer
  • Susan,

    I would check the hotel that you are staying in to see if they can set-up a shuttle service to pick you up. If that doesn't work, hail a taxi outside the door where you pick-up your baggage. The rate for a taxi is around $30.00 USD, but you will need to work out a rate before you leave. I would not take a bus or anything bigger than a taxi due to security. I just got back from eight days in Antigua. My wife and I felt very safe in our surroundings there...I don't think it is quite as safe in Guatemala City, so be careful around the airport.

    Have a great time! Antigua is one of the most beautiful foreign towns I have ever traveled to.
  • My 13 yr old girl wants to go with her church group to Guatemala City in March. Although they will be chaparoned, I am concerned with what I read about that country's violence. PLEASE give me some input on this. You many email me at

    I will be extremely grateful.
  • I'm travelling with my family from New Jersey. Would you suggest that I exchange currency in advance of my arrival? Also at restaurants - do they take Quetzels or dollars. How about at markets??? Chichi? The price for the minibus that the hotels have arranged are in dollars. I assume that I can pay in dollars?

    Let me know your thoughts.
  • Also are there any safety issues when visiting the Peten Region?
  • I am now in Guatemala City's Zone 10, a.k.a. Zona Viva. In broad daylight on a street in this zone with just houses, two guys jumped me and my friend today. They were sitting in a car next to the sidewalk waiting for us. We got away from them, luckily, but it was sure scary! Do NOT have anything on you that you don't want to lose in this city when sightseeing, and definitely STAY ON BUSY STREETS WITH MANY PEOPLE. Do not explore side streets, even in the fancy part of Guatemala City, which is Zone 10. Lucky for us, the thieves seemed like scared amateurs, so we got away clean. But don't take chances.
  • Hi there, I was just reading some of the comments and I would like to add some of my own.

    I currently live in Guatemala and have done so for many many years. It is true that the crime rate has been ascending quite a lot in the past years but it is still possible to have an uneventful vacation, you just have to rely heavily on common sense. If you feel you are exposed, unsafe or else, you are probably right, so try to avoid it. Also avoid carrying large sums of money or really important documents with you, try traveling in large groups and do your homework (investigate the areas that you are visiting, the places where you are staying, the transportation you will use, etc). But I strongly suggest visiting Guatemala (Atitlt
  • I have all arrangements made for my two weeks in Guatemal except for the final night in Guatemala City before I fly out. ANy suggestions for a safe hotel that provides shuttles to the airport? Thanks.
  • Portal Antigua is very nice and the shuttle was $20.00 US.
  • Thanks, but I was thinking of something in Guatelala City. Any other suggestions?
  • Sorry...I assumed you were talking about where I stayed...not so sure about where to stay there.
  • Can anyone tell me about Chichicastenango? A friend and I are trying to find a place to stay there and are having trouble contacting any hotels. Aventuros Vacacionales has several listed but does not respond with any information. I have tried calling and faxing, but none of the calls go through. We want to be there Palm Sunday weekend and know that is a popular time for tourists. Any help or advice will be appreciated.
  • Hi, I've explored most of South America and am very keen to spend some time in Guatemala. The safety related to crime doesn't concern me as much as it might others because I come from South Africa and am used to being on guard. I would however be traveling with my husband and 3 year old child and I'm more nervous about the health risks of traveling with a child. So far I've read of dengue, malaria, hepatitis and a whole host of serious digestive illnesses. Does anyone have any advice on whether it is in fact safe to travel with a young child? Thanks
  • I was worried with this as well...I had a tenenus, malaria and a whole host of other shots updated before I left to vacation their last year. My wife did not and hasn't seen any effects for not doing so. A lot of the tourist locations in Guatemala are above 3-4000 ft, so malaria and such diseases won't be common. As far as traveling with a child, I saw many tourists with small children...I don't think you will have any issues. Hope this helps.
  • Windy,
    I have been to Guatemala 2 times, the last time this past August. I will be returning in August 2009. You will love Chichicastenango if you love to shop.
    The market is open on Thursday and Sunday. You will see the most beautiful artisan pieces from all over the country. I hope you plans include being in Antigua during that time. There are many parades and festivities for the Easter season. The trip from airport in Gua City to Chich is long, about 5 hours. The most famous hotel in Chichi is Hotel Santos Tomas which you can find if you Google. I do have an friend there who is an interpeter and guide if you need one. Good luck you will love Guatemala!
  • Tanz, thanks for your reply. We will spend two nights in Antigua, two in Jaibalito on Lake Atitlan, three in Chichi, and two in Guat. City. We will be in Chichi on Palm Sunday. Do you know if the market will be open on Palm Sunday? We did read about Hotel Santo Tomas, but we wanted something less expensive. I think I finally made online reservations at Hotel Casa del Rey, further from the center than I wanted, but the only place I got an online response from. How would we contact your guide friend? Again, thanks for the reply.
  • Hi my husband and i are driving fro the airport to lake atitlan. i was wondering is this a safe venture for us to make? The statistics are very alarming and i really want to avoid problems if i can.
    Also does anyone know how long the drive takes?
    thank you
  • I went as a group in a minivan to Lake Atitlan from will take about 2.5 hours from Guatemala City I think. The road was very curvy, but decent...I didn't feel unsafe besides the driver going 90 mph. The surrounding towns were economically challenged, but the drive seemed safe regardless. There wasn't any road blocks, etc. The lake itself seemed very touristee with everyone wanting to take you on a boat ride for $40 US...that seemed a little unsafe. You may want to ride in a group on one of the bigger boats, etc. Anyway, it should be a fun trip...I am planning on going back next year.
  • Windy,
    If you would like, Email me at and I will give you the email of my friend who is a guide/interp. The market will be open on Palm Sunday I am sure. I will check to make sure.
    I am happy to help. You will love Guatemala.
  • Hi there

    We will soon be travelling to Guatemala with our 1 year old son and am wondering if anybody else has any thoughts on any pit falls , tips & tricks etc that go with travelling with a 1 year old.

  • There are a couple of places to stay a few minutes from Guatemala airport that are reasonable 1- Airport Inn B & B and 2- 2Lunas B&B. They provide shuttle service.
  • Hi! About important documents: I’ve read on some sites that they can stop you and ask for your passport and if you don’t have it on you, you can even be sent to jail. Would photocopies of the passport be fine or should I risk carrying around my passport at all times? Thanks!

  • Hi,
    I am flying into Guatemala City, arriving alone around 9.30 pm in mid-July, then hoping to go to Antigua. By the time I leave the airport, will it be too late (or unsafe) to get a shuttle/taxi to Antigua? Do any of the hotels offer free and reliable transport? Or would it be safer to stay in a hotel near the airport? I would be very grateful if anyone can help!
  • all of your posts have been very informative. I am travelling there for business in early May. I am a 28 year old woman who will be arriving alone. Any tips or guidelines I need to know? Also I am not spanish speaking at all, will this be a problem in terms of getting around?
  • oh, and I'll be staying in what my company is calling "the good part" of Guatemala City...
  • Two of my daughters (18 & 21)want to go to Guatemala to a Spanish Immersion School in Antigua. I am concerned about the safety issue of two young women traveling. Does anyone have any comments, suggestions or warnings.
  • I may travel to Guatemala City sometime next year. Of course, I will be sending postcards to friends. Are there letterboxes to drop cards/letters off, like there are in the States, or does one have to go to a postoffice?
  • Hi
    I am from Guatemala, I am very upset about all the bad comments about my lovely Guatemala.
    Of course I know we have to be very careful and avoid all kind of unsafe areas but...please, in all the countries in the world, are the same: nice people - bad people, safe and unsafe areas, but thanks God we have always nice people coming to visit Guatemala and return safe and happy.

    And, by the way I live in USA and just in case somebody don't remember just watch forensic files or/and and check the list of sex offenders and child molester (including pictures) in the website.... to see how safe we are!

    So my advice, try to enjoy always in safe areas and keep your mind very positive and trust in God!
  • Please have a look at a friend’s website for general information about safety and security in Guatemala:
    Most tourists have a great experience in Guatemala and don’t encounter any problems. However, like anywhere else in the world, there are a few rotten apples in the basket.


    If you would like to have more information about GUATEMALA ... i am running a tour operator far away in the Western Highlands with focus on sustainable tourism in the area of Totonicapan , Huehuetenango , Quetzaltenango and San Marcos !
    Write to or 24/7 phone 53081489
  • My husband and I (seniors) are leaving for Guatemala on 7/20. We will be staying in Panajachel, Lake Atitlan and Antigua. We are going with our daughter-in-law's family. Her father was born in Guatemala. However, I have been reading a lot of information and find some of it very confusing and conflicting. Some questions include:
    Do we bring US dollars in cash or travelers check? If travelers checks, where is the best place to exchange and what demonination should they be?
    What is the average cost of meals?
    Should we keep our passport with us at all times? Or, should we be only carrying a picture of our passport?
    Any suggestions, help would be greatly appreciated! thanks, Barbara
  • Hello Barbara,

    I would take cash and have it converted at your hotel for a small fee. Be careful flashing it around though. Average cost per meal is probably 90-100Q or about 12-14 dollars depending on where and what you want to eat. I always keep paper copies of my passport on me in case of someone stealing them...pickpockets, etc.

    I have been to all three places in the past and they are all beautiful especially Antigua. Have a great time.

  • I have travelled a fair bit and Antigua in Guatemala is one of my all time favourite spots, the atmosphere, architecture, history, people, cafes....very fond memories... and it felt like a real haven for travellers - somewhere to stop a while and gaze at the volcanoes on the horizon or do something more constructive such as take some spanish lessons. I hope you (seniors) got there safely and had a great time. I took travellers cheques and cash with me, but this was a few years back now. Have ATM's appeared in Antigua yet as I am interested to know when I head back in that direction maybe next year?
  • Best way to obtain cash in Guatemala is from the ATM's which are now eveywhere, including Antigua! They may not all except all types of card...but one will, somewhere. Travellers checks are a hassle to change and can take hours and waste valuable sightseeing time. Take some cash, us dollars is fine and can be used to pay for your taxi or shuttle from airport to Antigua. I would not advise to stay in Guat city under any circum,stances. Even if you arrive late at night, take a taxi. Just take a few crads incase one doesnt work. I advise to use local currency as much as possible, after all it is their currency and when in Rome, plus if you pay in dollars you are always losing out on the exchjange rate and causinga hassle for waiters etc with change.
    A friend once arrived to meet me in Antigua and realsied that he had left his day bag on the shuttle to Antigua fromn airport, we got cab back there, asked the other drivers hanging about about a driver in a white van and described him, and the ever so friendly and helpful Guatemalans managed to locate him through process of illimination using their mobile phones. The driver who had returned home by then and was sleeping went to look in the van and found my mates rucksack , complete with camera, ipod etc under the seat and waited in the middle of the night whilst our taxi navigated the streets to find his house. Some tips were distributed but i can vouch that they were all very happy to have helped, though what they must have thought of the silly, careless gringos i dont know! We are quick to judge and Guatemala does have a bad reputation, but you should go and meet for yoursleves this friendly nation. Ther are bad people everywhere, most people want to help. Tka ecare and enjoy Guatemala. Antigua is a home from home for me :)
  • Hello!

    I´m a scandinavian 26 years old woman and going to Guatemala with a friend, also female. We are pretty concerned about the safety matters. My friend has to go alone from Lago de Atitlan to Tapachula and I will have to continue alone to east Guatemala to Rio Dulce or Puerto Barrios. Any advices about these routes? Is it really a big risk travel alone for some days?
  • continuig...

    I´m pretty expereinced traveller but what really scares me is that these robberies and rapes seem to happen everywhere and there are no "safe" routes.

    What kind of buses should we pick - are there really difference between these chicken and tourist buses?

    I´d be very very happy about every comment and tip!
  • I have read all these comments with interest and a bit of concern. My 12 yr old has the opportunity to attend a fantastic program somewhere in Guatemala City this summer, for 2 weeks...a fantastic, trustworthy program, but I am concerned about all the things I am reading, not just on this site, re safety issues, including highjackings from the airport. I know that there is crime in the USA, too, etc., and I have researched many countries over the years, before traveling, but I have never researched a country that has as much scary information. We need to make an immediate decision re what to do. I am interested in any current information people may have re safety, crime and travel to Guatemala City. Thank you.

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