"GUATEMALA - SECURITY" Top 5 Page for this destination Guatemala by vaticanus

Guatemala Travel Guide: 3,011 reviews and 8,579 photos


Guatemala is comparable only to itself...
a land of dreamscapes...
mysterious presences
and absences

Miguel Asturias
. . . . . .

Tourists visit Guatemala for its unforgettable beauty,
the colonial architecture of Antigua Guatemala,
the Mayan villages of the Highlands,
the volcanoes of Lago Atitlan,
Caribbean Livingston,
Lago Izabal

On main roads to/from Guatemala City may cause delays.

CREDIT CARD fee: $6. DEBIT CARD fee: $3. Day Limit: ONE THOUSAND QUETZALES ($125-127 US)

NOTIFY YOUR BANKS you are overseas. When you return change your PIN.


Guatemalans or tourists asking for money -displaying bandaged limbs-
Notify ASISTUR (DIAL 1500 nationwide)


Be vague and indefinite about your destinations and schedules.

Up to date report
http://www.rightsaction.org/ ,



1) Use express (PRIMERA CLASS) buses where possible. Locally, Shuttle vans (uninsured and unregulated) and taxis or three wheeled red TUK-TUCS in cities that allow them.

First Class Buses are Air Conditioned and are FRIGID!!! -especially overnight runs.

2) Moor boats at marinas. Do not anchor at night on Lake Izabal.

3) Before visiting waterfalls, isolated ruins etc ask store owners about incidents. Hire a local guide and hear about the fauna and flora- Guatemalans are astonishingly knowledgeable about herbs, flowers, birds etc

4) In rural areas do not disturb Mayan altars (stones covered with candle wax and soot).

5) Taking photos in rural areas of Mayan children has led to problems- Make sure EVERYBODY is OK about photography.

6) Do not wander around after dark when streets are deserted. This is also true in rural areas. NOTE: by rural areas I mean non-Mayan areas that are experiencing new settlements attracting transients and migrants. In cities and towns with evening activities it's time to leave when you hear the loud rattling of closing metal store front shutters - streets empty quickly! If you feel unsafe in a remote area find a pastor/evangelical minister for a place to pass the night.

7) When discussing travel plans, assume what you say will be repeated.

8) Driving a car is a challenge. The two lane highways are narrow and congested with cargo trucks, buses, motorbikes, and cars jockeying to pass one another on hills and curves. Night driving is easier but watch for pedestrians, animals, bicycles, and speed bumps. On chilly nights people sit and socialize along side the roadways which radiate heat from the daytime- BE ALERT FOR DANGEROUS UNMARKED SPEED BUMPS.

See DRIVING IN GUATEMALA under Transportation Tips

9) In remote rural and newly settled districts (forests are disappearing fast) pickup trucks provide transport. Ask around for where to sleep which should be arranged first thing. After sunset, all doors are bolted against "mala gente". Personally, I feel rural and frontier areas are as equally creepy and dangerous as cities at night. Getting lost in either in the dark is a full adrenalin rush.


The crime rate for tourists is 1:1500- the high end for Central America.

If (A) you are robbed AND you have insurance AND you wish to file a claim OR (B) you lost your passport, you MUST file a report which will be needed to file a claim or to replace travel documents.

Call the tourist police- ASISTUR (DIAL 1500 nationwide)

For routine problems consult your hotel or a tourist agency for advice.



Sixty percent of crimes occur in Guatemala City- home to 1/4 of Guatemala's 13 million people. Most crime occurs in the "zonas" that tourists only see flying into the new Aurora Airport.

Commercial downtown daytime walking is safe but a dozen robberies a month of residents and tourists is normal. Conference attendees and high-end shoppers will find La Reforma and the Zona 10 district are safe (day & early evening), lively and clean but are not crime free.

AVOID accidents, arguments etc.

Vans at the airport can take you to Antigua. Staying in Guatemala City the night before a flight out avoids an AM rush hour drive from Antigua. YOU MUST ARRIVE NO LESS THAN ONE HOUR BEFORE YOUR FLIGHT. You need to clear Customs, to Check In and go through Security to reach your gate. ONE HOUR!!

The new TRANSMETRO (bright green buses) are very safe Try the CENTRO HISTORICO route. FARE ONE QUETZAL

If you do lose your way stop in a farmacia (drug store) for directions- the employees are educated and they sell many items useful to travelers.

(in Spanish):

Click Map* and select Safety and Security

FOREIGN CURRENCY: If you bring currency to exchange at banks for Guatemalan Quetzales make certain your notes are in Very Good condition without ANY marks, tears, ink marks or stains.


At the top is an extremely wealthy elite of European ancestry who occupy the top tiers of society, government, law, and finance. This group may be no larger than 300 families.

Next are the Ladinos who share a dual heritage of Spanish and Indian ancestry. They constitute both the middle and working class. Many are well established as businessmen, government employees and supervisors, workers, store owners and merchants.

Below both of these groups are "Los Indios" - mostly rural they endure a precarious marginal status. The photo gives one view of the historical relationship between the Ladinos and Los Indios. Land once rented to the Indios to grow corn/maize is now used to grow palms on vast plantations for PALM OI. Evictions are sometimes brutal. The price of corn has risen beyond the means of many of the poor in Central America.

Guatemala has the highest population growth in South America. Half of the population is under the age of 18. Half of Guatemala's children are chronically undernourished. One fifth of the population accounts for half of consumption


Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Beautiful Tranquil Alegre
  • Cons:Poverty Inequality Violence
  • In a nutshell:Guatemala is friendly, enchanting and unforgetable.
  • Last visit to Guatemala: Jan 2013
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (46)

Comments (35)

  • dantes2's Profile Photo
    Jan 30, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    A veritable primer on travel safety.

    • vaticanus's Profile Photo
      Jan 30, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      Thanks. I'm planning a short visit later this year to Guatemala. It's been 25 years since my first visit and I keep going back to see it again.

  • atufft's Profile Photo
    Jan 16, 2012 at 9:39 PM

    Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala have had increased violence in recent years, but most of this is not aimed a tourists. Venezuela and Haiti are much more dangerous that any of these nations, and no Latin American nation is particularly dangerous in rural areas. Cities world-wide are where the vast majority of armed robberies and murders occur, with the USA ranking very high on this list. The safest way to travel outside the city is not the tourist bus, or even the scheduled pullman buses, but the minivans that load up depart direct to their destination. Tourists should dress in a conservative manner, and frankly "backpacking" adds to the risk. Use hard-sided luggage and tip help to move it around like middle class Guatemalans do. Couples and families are safer than individuals. Guatemala and Honduras are wonderful countries that pose a small but significant additional risk for robbery and violence, but are for the most part safe and hospitable to visitors. Study the specifics of the places you plan to travel, rather than depend upon blanket State Department Advisories.

    • vaticanus's Profile Photo
      Nov 26, 2012 at 4:38 PM

      I have had several close calls in rural areas- particularly in newly settled areas (districts characterized by massive deforestation) and also near international borders on either side. I like your tips - especially the one about hard sided luggage. I look forward to trying the idea out this winter. I appreciate your comments. Thank you.

    • atufft's Profile Photo
      Nov 27, 2012 at 10:55 PM

      I agree with Vaticanus comments for the most part. He's shown awareness of surroundings and avoided trouble in places that one should be cautious about. Solo travelers--either men or women--are definitely at greater risk than couples or families. Most societies have extra respect and admiration for couples or families with children going about their business via public transportation. Plus, there's always greater safety in numbers, even if this means help from your ambulatory elementary or middle school aged kids. Almost any family can help watch baggage or fetch help in an emergency.

  • CatherineReichardt's Profile Photo
    Jan 16, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    Your expert guidance on dealing with botflies makes for a truly remarkable tip! I think I need to read more of your pages!

  • conejita71's Profile Photo
    Jun 3, 2009 at 5:00 PM

    Hi bob, if you want information about my country El Salvador, in Central America you can visit: www.elsalvador.travel

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Nov 2, 2008 at 10:09 AM

    Hi, Bob! Nice to read about those customs and read your travel stories! Thanks

  • shelnlin's Profile Photo
    Jul 13, 2008 at 11:11 PM

    Hello Bob! I have come back to this page again and gave it the big thumbs up. It is well written and informative and makes me appreciate how lucky I am to be living in a country that is alot safer than this. I count my blessings! Have a great birthday.

  • LuisGuimaraes's Profile Photo
    May 27, 2007 at 2:08 PM

    very good and important information. ill be in Guatemala in July. thank you!

  • Apr 14, 2007 at 6:55 PM

    This worked on a cat. Try irrigating the hole with a syringe of hydrogen peroxide. Our bot fly shot itself out a good 3 feet trying to evade the solution.

    • vaticanus's Profile Photo
      Nov 26, 2012 at 4:44 PM

      ZOUNDS! I MUST COMMUNICATE WITH VIENNA ABOUT THIS. Seriously it's possible that the medical literature hasn't caught up with this treatment. You are the only source i've found for this cure.

  • mongo2's Profile Photo
    Sep 13, 2006 at 5:33 AM

    Heres a news flash.How can you possibly say there's practically a zero percent probabillity of being victimized here in Guat.,when during the last Semana Santa[the not so holy-week] at LEAST 47 foreign tourists were robbed here in Antigua alone!

    • vaticanus's Profile Photo
      Sep 20, 2015 at 12:23 PM

      Crowds are dangerous with pickpockets. The same goes for border crossings, bus transfers and as you point out - festivals. Avoid city busses (except the Metro) and use taxis whenever available- TAPACHULA (MEX) is very corrupt.

  • elgin99's Profile Photo
    Sep 8, 2006 at 7:27 AM

    Hi Bob, very interesting informations, thanks. A friend is planning a visit, so your pages helps very much.

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