How to stay safe in Guatemala
Guatemala is one of the friendliest and most accessible countries in Latin America for tourists. Guatemalans are naturally hospitable and are deeply proud of their rich culture and complex heritage.
But more often than not we also hear about the dark side of the country –
whether it is over the decades of civil war, or the high rates of violent crime in some of the bigger cities. It would be easy to imagine that this is a country that is too dangerous to visit safely.
And that would be a real tragedy – and not just for the millions of Guatemalans who depend on the tourist trade for their income. It would also mean missing out on one of the most fascinating destinations on the planet.
Staying safe in Guatemala
Travelling safely in Guatemala is straightforward, but as with any country it is always worth bearing in mind a few important guidelines. Here are just a few tips on staying safe in the country.
Don’t travel at night if you can avoid it
As in any country, the risks of any crime – violent or otherwise – tend to rise at night. So, be aware of when and where you are traveling, and if it is likely that you are going to be traveling at night then at least don’t do it alone.
Only change money in your hotel or in a bank
Cash machines are generally best avoided in Guatemala. They tend to be a magnet for thieves, of course, but there are also high rates of machine that have been tampered with. So, avoid them if you can, and if you need money then go to a bank or change money where you are staying.
Be respectful and careful with your own valuables
Clearly, wearing obviously valuable jewellery, or using an expensive phone is likely to make you a potential target in some situations. Be aware and respectful of your surroundings at all times.
Be careful on walking trails
Once again, our basic advice is never to walk alone. But beyond this, it is also worth remembering that robberies in Guatemala are not always in the tough areas of the big cities.
Some of the most frequently reported crimes actually take place in more rural areas, often on hiking trails in isolated areas. So, be aware of where you are and who is around you, and be prepared in higher risk areas. And again, always walk in a large group if at all possible.
Finally, knowledge really is your best protection against crime of any kind, wherever you go in the world. Know which parts of Guatemala City are more dangerous than others for example, and avoid taking a bus through them or walking alone at night. Know the most popular scams, and be aware of them before they happen to you.
Ultimately, it always pays to research the areas you are visiting, and to understand the potential risks you might face before you go. And in the end, it means that once you are there, you can really enjoy this wonderful country safely.