Is it Safe to Travel in Guatemala?

We Traveled Through Guatemala, and Here's What We Found Out About Safety

Like many travelers, I had concerns about safety before traveling to Central America. Even before we decided that Guatemala would be our adventure destination, I was researching online about the dangers of traveling in an area that is so notoriously portrayed in the headlines as a drug-filled, dangerous crime zone.
And while I did find many stories of people being scammed or robbed, one thing I tried to keep in mind was this: For every story of petty theft or robbery that a traveler writes about online, there are hundreds of people who did not have a bad experience. People naturally tend to share their bad experiences online in order to warn people, and I think that's good. But those of us who have traveled without incident don't even think about sharing it online. 
Cobblestone Streets in Guatemala
Even at home, we tend to only write a review or express a passionate feeling about a retail store or service if we've had a bad experience. When we've had a good one, our reaction is to continue patronizing that store or service provider... not necessarily to go online and share our good feelings about it. I feel that it's the same thing with travel. So the question remains, is it safe to travel in Guatemala? Here's what we found.
Is it safe to travel in Guatemala?

Being Prepared Will Help You To Travel Safely in Guatemala

While I didn't have any bad experiences with feeling in danger or being robbed, that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. Petty theft is common in large, crowded marketplaces and on isolated hiking trails. And while it's not in the same league as being stabbed or kidnapped, it would still really piss me off if someone took my expensive camera from me. So it's best to be prepared.
Travel safety in Guatemala
In my view, I would advise taking the same safety precautions that I would take when traveling to any large city in any country in the world. Every place, including the USA, has areas where people are poor and desperate. Every place, even the smallest towns, have criminals and thieves. Use common sense. Here are some tips.
Traveling in Guatemala Safely

Tips for Staying Safe While Traveling in Guatemala

  • Only carry what you need. Leave valuables and extra cash and credit cards in the safe in your hotel room. Better yet, leave them back at home. There's no need to travel to another country with extra, unnecessary valuables. That includes jewelry. 
  • Spend a little extra money before you travel on things such as anti-theft wallets and passport wallets.
  • Don't flaunt big wads of cash or expensive jewelry. It's just common sense. Why make yourself a target if there is someone who is looking for one? 
  • While you're traveling on buses, shuttles or through airports, keep your belongings close to you.
  • When you need extra cash, use an ATM that is attached to a bank. ATMs, even in America that are in random spots like convenience stores or malls are easily accessible to identity thieves and robbers.  When we travel, we use a bank account that is separate from our regular accounts. This way, if the worst happens, the perpetrator only has access to a small amount of our money, and not our entire bank account.
  • Don't try and fight back or flee if you are confronted with someone trying to rob you. Yes, it's frustrating to have to hand over your expensive camera or your wallet, but it's not going to cause you to be injured or worse. It's better to have to deal with being robbed than it is to deal with being physically hurt or traumatized.
  • Ask questions about any hiking trails in Guatemala that you intend to explore. Robbers tend to target a certain area where they know people will be hiking and that there won't be witnesses around. Consider hiring a guide if you're hiking one of the volcanoes or heading into the jungle. These guides know the areas to avoid, and can also identify locals who may try and grab your stuff.
  • Spend a few extra bucks on travel clothing and baggage that will help you avoid incident.  Pick-pocket-proof travel clothing is available, like these little cuties from Clothing Arts. Retailers like Pacsafe offer a variety of luggage and backpacks that with slash-proof straps and travel security measures that can avert thieves.
  • Most of all, use common sense. Keep your eyes open. Don't walk down a deserted, dark alleyway by yourself. Hike in groups or with a guide. Ask questions. Don't flaunt your cash or jewelry. Keep your valuables on you and your bags closed tightly. Adding a TSA-approved lock to your backpack doesn't hurt. 

Is it safe to travel to Guatemala

The closest we got to witnessing any illegal behavior in Guatemala was when a polite young man sat next to us and offered to sell us some marijuana and magic mushrooms. We declined, and he chatted with us for a while about how we were enjoying his country. Then moved on and we had a good giggle about it.

Traveling in Guatemala is Safe. Just Use Your Noodle.

Traveling in Guatemala, when you take common-sense measures to keep yourself and your belongings accounted for, is safe. Take the same safety precautions in Guatemala that you would in any major city in the world. And remember that for every story of something bad happening, there are hundreds of travel stores that occur without any incident at all. 

Safety tips for traveling in Guatemala

Want to Know More about Traveling to Guatemala?

We recently spent two weeks in this beautiful country and had the time of our lives. Whether we were hiking at Lake Atitlan, eating tacos in San Marcos La Laguna, shopping in Panajachel, or lounging at the rooftop pool at the Isla de Flores Hotel, we had a fulfilling and safe adventure in this beautiful, friendly country. Here's how you can have a wonderful time during your vacation in Guatemala.

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