Solo Travel in Guatemala

Traveling alone has long been touted as one of the most rewarding experiences a person can have. There are few better ways to meet new people, explore different cultures, and learn a WHOLE LOT about yourself than while trekking solo. 

However, when setting off to a country like Guatemala, a country with “murder” topping the list of things it is internationally recognized for, anyone might start asking some difficult questions about the prudence of their choices. Is it even safe to go to Guatemala at all? Much less by oneself? 

As with many things when it comes to safety, the answer is complicated. Though there are ways to mitigate the risks involved in traveling by oneself, it is impossible to guarantee that one will not fall victim to mugging or other forms of harm. That said, most people who travel to Guatemala each year do emerge unscathed, though that is not a reason to let your guard down or sacrifice your safety in the name of experience. 

Is it safe to travel to Guatemala solo? 

We’ve compiled a list of tips to keep in mind during your solo trekking adventure to help keep you as safe as possible and give you peace of mind. Though this is not an exhaustive guide, you can think of it as a jumping off point for your research. 

  1. Make friends. This is usually the easiest part about traveling alone, since it’s always simpler to meet new people when you’re not held down by travel companions. Friends who you get to know and trust can help keep you safe by sharing their own tips and tricks, and offering a helping hand if you need one. They’re also an essential component of our next tip: 
  2. Don’t isolate yourself. When it comes to the targets of thieves and muggers, it is 100% simpler to go for someone by themselves than someone in a group or a crowd. Stay in crowded, touristy areas as much as you can, and if you must walk somewhere a bit more deserted, do so in broad daylight and with other people. 
  3. Watch the partying. Many people traveling by themselves want to party hard, feeling unencumbered by the watchful eyes of others. However, this will leave you more vulnerable in the event that you drink too much or lose control. Plus, drink spiking is common all over Latin America to take advantage of inebriated tourists. Unless you’re in a group of people you absolutely trust, take it easy and keep your wits about you. 
  4. Do not travel at night alone. This one is pretty universal. After dark is without a doubt the most dangerous time to be out. Try not to walk at all, going instead for an authorized taxi, or an Uber if you’re in Guatemala City or Antigua. Speaking of which, 
  5. Avoid Guatemala City if you can. You’ll probably need to be in the capital for some time, as chances are this is where you’ll fly in. However, the biggest city in Central America is also one of the most dangerous. Limit your time, use extra caution, and stay in well-reviewed hotels/hostels in busy areas. 
  6. Do not go hiking alone. There are a couple reasons for this – first, it’s easy to get a bit delirious at those higher elevations, and you’ll want someone there to help with the judgement of when to rest vs. when to keep going. Almost more importantly however, bandits and robbers frequent hiking trails, and going alone will leave you very vulnerable to mugging. If you don’t have someone to hike with, consider hiring a Guatemalan guide for a richer and safer experience, or join a tour group. 
  7. Learn some Spanish. While there are English speakers in Guatemala, it can’t be guaranteed that you’ll find one when you really need one. Knowing the key phrases and carrying a small phrase book will keep you in good shape, and even get you on the side of the locals (which can be an invaluable tool in and of itself).
  8. Keep in touch. It can be tempting to disappear and disconnect from your friends and family back home, but the reality is that you want people knowing where you are in case something goes wrong. It doesn’t matter your preferred method of communication – WhatsApp, email, video calling, however you want to reach someone every couple of days, or every time you change destinations. Designate someone back home, let them know what you’re doing, give them your itinerary if you have one, and set off. And to keep in touch, you’ll need to-
  9. Get a SIM card. Trust us, you want the internet while you’re on the road. As soon as you get in the country, even while at the airport, find a good company to get a SIM with so that you can do things like make local calls, use WhatsApp, call an Uber, etc. You can be extra secure by taking a cheap, unlocked phone instead of your usual phone, in case it gets stolen. 
  10. Purchase travel insurance. The concept of insurance is that hopefully you won’t need it, but if you do, it’s a life-saver. Travel insurance is no different. It’s not something for the scared, or the unadventurous. It’s for those who understand that bad things happen, and who have enough respect for their own well-being to bring a safety net along for the ride. 
  11. Research. It’s common for solo travelers to not do any research at all, considering it extra adventurous to set foot in a new country and feel their way around. Unfortunately, it’s not recommended. It’s important to know in advance where it is safe and where it isn’t, and what resources are available to you. A little bit of planning goes a long way towards keeping you on a path of safety. 

Is solo female travel in Guatemala safe? 

It’s no secret that women face a different set of circumstances while traveling. We’re not happy about it either – obviously women should be able to have the same enriching experiences as anyone else  when setting out on their own. It is still possible for women to travel solo to Guatemala and be perfectly fine, but you’ll want to be extra vigilant and bear a few more things in mind to keep you as safe as possible. Along with the advice above: 

  1. Female-only dorms are your friend. If staying in a hostel, you should be diligently reading reviews to ensure that women who have stayed there felt comfortable, and staying in a room with only other women can help the sense of security. That said-
  2. If you feel uncomfortable for any reason, check out. It doesn’t matter if the place had good reviews all over the internet, or if you’ve planned to stay there for weeks. Your gut instinct should be trusted, and if it is possible for you to find an alternative, don’t be afraid to go to the front desk, ask for a refund, and set off to an accommodation you feel good about. Speaking of gut instinct-
  3. Leave uncomfortable situations asap. This could be anything – a conversation, a restaurant, a bar crawl with people from your hostel. If you don’t feel good about what’s happening, say so, and then walk away if you can to keep things from escalating. 
  4. Fake it till you make it. The is the #1 rule of showing confidence. If you look like you know where you’re going, what you’re doing, and what you’re going to do next, you will automatically be less of a target for scammers or thieves who are preying on the most vulnerable people (ie, those who look confused or lost). 
  5. Blend in. You don’t need to look Guatemalan (after all, if you’re reading this, chances are good that you are NOT Guatemalan or even Central American), but you should aim to mimic local fashion, or at least not stand out as a tourist. Extra tip: classic tourist garb includes shorts and flip flops or sandals, so avoid these at all costs. Instead, opt for conservative fashion (skirts should fall below the knee and shoulders are best covered while in rural areas). Your goal should be to pass, if not for a local, than at least a confident long-term resident. 
  6. Ignore the cat callers. They’re going to be everywhere, it’s bound to happen. Best plan of attack is none at all – do not engage. 
  7. Don’t do the chicken buses. Some women have taken the infamous Guatemalan chicken buses by themselves to get from place to place, but the more cautious option is to avoid these and either seek private transport or a shuttle. 
  8. Stay away from the remote areas. You will be more vulnerable the more rural you travel. Unfortunately, we just don’t recommend it if you’re on your own. 

If it brings any comfort, remember that simply knowing the risks and being aware of your surroundings will arguably do more to keep you safe than many of the tips we’ve shared. All of these ideas are important to keep in mind, but vigilance is key. 

Looking for more information? Check out our other articles on Guatemala: 

Safety in Guatemala

Food and Water Safety in Guatemala

Scams in Guatemala

Getting Around in Guatemala


Getting Around: Guatemala Transportation

You’ll be pleased to know that when it comes time to pack up and head to your next destination in Guatemala, you will have quite a few options from which to choose. The caveat: choosing one which is safest and most guaranteed to get you there is the hard part. You may or may not have heard of “chicken buses,” and if you haven’t, you’re in luck – we’ll cover those beasts, and more. 

Guatemala By Bus

Buses are probably the most popular method locals (and often travelers) use to get around the country, but not all buses are created equal. Let’s break it down a bit: 

Pullmans/First Class

Used specifically for travel on major routes connecting larger towns with Guatemala City, these large coaches can be compared to a Greyhound bus in US terms, but are pretty much the closest you will get to luxury public travel in Guatemala. It is possible to purchase tickets in advance, and most buses will charge by the hour of transport – they will be more expensive, but remember that you’re paying for air conditioning, space, comfort, and maybe even the possibility of an on-board bathroom. Typically, Pullmans will depart from the main office of the bus company, or perhaps the main bus terminal of a town if one exists. Look for the buses and bus companies labeled “Pullman,” “Primera Clase,” or “Especial.” 

The Infamous “Chicken Buses”

It’s the closest you will get to a literal carnival ride while on the road. The backstory: old school buses from the US, after a certain period of time in use, are auctioned off and towed down to Central America for a new life. They are refitted (with more powerful engines, new seats, luggage racks, etc) and then decked out in psychedelic paint jobs and chrome trim. Fully formed into their new identity, they set off on a new existence of carting locals from place to place and terrifying foreigners with the drivers’ death-defying driving practices. 

These crazy caravans are ubiquitous throughout the country as being the most common way to travel between towns, and sometimes inner-city. The name Chicken Bus also comes from the common sight of chickens and other fowl sharing the cabin for the ride, but they are more often than not crammed with humans from top to bottom, with many people sitting or standing in the aisles for the entirety of the ride. There is essentially no such thing as a maximum capacity. Typically you will see the bus operated by two people – the driver, who always operates the  vehicle like some kind of high speed chase, and the helper (ayudante) who collects money, throws around luggage, and calls out the next stop. 

As far as getting on and off, you can essentially be picked up anywhere along the bus route – by holding your arm out horizontally, you signal to the bus driver you’d like a pick up. For drop offs, you’ll need to listen hard for that call out, and it is best to ask the ayudante before you pay up where the bus is going and if it is going where you need to be. Travelers pay by the hour, and be sure to ask locals about the average prices in your area, or you risk being ripped off (knowing a bit of Spanish will help you here, too). 

The thing about chicken buses is this – there is a mixed bag of opinions out there from people who hold firm that these are an excellent way to both get around and experience a taste of real, authentic Guatemalan culture. And there are those who point to the news headlines of buses which crash or produce fatalities due to extremely reckless driving, not to mention their sheer unpredictability and fact of being unregulated. Both are true – if you choose to use a chicken bus, you are taking a certain amount of risk for your safety. Weigh your options, and if you have doubts, pay a bit extra for a mainstream choice, such as a Pullman or private transfer. 

Alternatives: Pick Up Trucks and  Microbuses

For some shorter routes, chicken buses are not available. In this case, you will see minibuses (or microbuses) replacing them. These are as they are described, smaller buses, but packed just as tightly as their large and colorful counterparts. 

However, if you find yourself far off the beaten tourist path, there will come a point where buses of any sort are no longer available. The option then is local drivers with pickup trucks (picop), which you can simply flag down, climb in the back, and hang on for the ride. Because they are providing the same service as a regular bus, they are treated the same, and charge approximately the same rate. 

Warning on Night Travel: It is not recommended for anyone to travel after dark. You are vulnerable to thieves, muggers, and bandits who wander the roadways at night. 

Guatemala by Car

Driving yourself

Some travelers will enjoy the freedom which can come via making your own way through the country by car, not risking the craziness of the chicken bus drivers, and only being beholden to your own schedule. But you’ll want to take a few considerations into account before you get behind the wheel. 

As long as you have a valid driver’s license, you should be able to drive in Guatemala for the first 30 days of your stay. But refer to your relevant department of foreign affairs to check the requirements for your home country. Bringing your own car to the country is a nightmare of bureaucracy, so you would do better to rent a car while you’re in Guatemala. 

Renting a car per day in Guatemala is relatively inexpensive, but be sure to purchase the most complete insurance plan possible, and read the fine print of what the plan and your contract entails. Also, choose a 4 wheel drive vehicle where possible to be prepared for Guatemala’s often bumpy and unkempt roads. 

The risks involved in the rental option are typically driving at night (which is recommended to NOT do), but also keep in mind that banditry can happen anywhere. In addition, Guatemalan drivers have a reputation for driving in insane and terrifying ways (overtaking people on blind curves, not using turn signals, etc). Avoid driving during high traffic times, and again, not at night. 

Taxis in Guatemala

Taxis are certainly an option, though outside of Guatemala City you will not find metered taxis, so be sure that if there is a meter, it is running, or set a price with the driver before you get in the vehicle. Many drivers are willing also to negotiate a price to take tourists on excursions to nearby towns, if this is something that interests you. 

As far as getting that taxi, it is best not to hail one off of the street, as there is always the possibility that it will be an illegal/unauthorized taxi. Always call a taxi dispatch ahead of time – if you are unsure of what company to call, the tourist assistance agency PROATUR can offer help and can be reached by dialing 1500. 

Alternative: Private Car Transfer

If you are not interested in engaging with public transportation, there are various shuttle services which can take you from hotel to hotel, allowing you to evade the hassle of buses altogether. Many of these are public shuttles, which can be arranged through your travel agency if you happen to be using one. 

Many travelers alternatively prefer the security, comfort, and luxury of a private car transfer, in which they are able to choose what time specifically to be picked up, and they can be taken directly between their accommodations by a professional, local driver, minimizing the stress of getting from A to B. Some companies, such as Daytrip, even have an option built into the service for sightseeing, so that you can choose popular locations along the route to stop, have lunch, take photos, and do as you please. You can visit their homepage at the link above to view possible routes within Guatemala. 

Looking for more information? Check out our other articles on Guatemala: 

Safety in Guatemala

Food and Water Safety in Guatemala

Scams in Guatemala

Solo Travel in Guatemala


Scams in Guatemala

They’re hard to avoid – tourism is a bigger industry than ever, and where there are vulnerable people, there will also be those looking to take advantage of them financially. Scams run rampant, and Guatemala is no exception. 

The good news is this: scammers are extremely easy to avoid if you know where to look and who to watch out for. Suspicion is an excellent skill to develop, as many scams work by feeding off of the ignorance, generosity, and compassion of travelers. If you can grow a healthy sense of suspicion, without becoming cynical in the process, you’ve struck gold. 

To give you an idea of your biggest threats and the common strategies used by the exploiters roaming about, here is a (not comprehensive) list of typical scams you might encounter during your travels in Guatemala: 

  1. Good ol’ spilled ketchup trick: Many people who are scamming or pick-pocketing work in teams, using distraction to their advantage. In this scam, someone random will spill something on you – sauce, ketchup, whatever it may be. Another “random” passerby will be kind and compassionate and assist you to clean up the spill, probably chastising the culprit for their rudeness at the same time. However, while you’re distracted by the mess, they’re reaching into your pockets and bags and robbing you. 
  2. Help our failing school: If someone approaches you with unsolicited information or a request, it is almost always a good idea to walk the other way. In this example, someone might approach asking for donations for a school or organization which is closing and needs financial support. The problem? It doesn’t exist. 
  3. “Priests”: Similar to the above, someone dressed as a priest may run up to you while you’re out, claiming that something terrible has happened – his wife has suffered an accident, and he needs help to get transportation home, help in the form of money (first tip: priests can’t marry). There are police and embassies for that – walk away. 
  4. Entry and exit fees: Sometimes at the borders, corrupt officials will demand fees from you to either enter or leave. If you call them out in the form of either asking for a receipt, or offering to pay by card, they will be more likely to drop the act and let you through. 
  5. Fake police: It’s not uncommon for locals to dress up as police in order to scam or get information from tourists. For example, they might ask to check your passport or other travel document for legitimacy, and then extort a fee from you in order for it to be returned. This is where carrying only a photocopy of your passport can come in handy, so you don’t risk losing the real thing. 
  6. Carjacking: Valid only for those who will be driving during their time in Guatemala – those same fake police might  set up a roadblock, ask you to leave your car, and then rob you. Or, while your car is parked, someone may slash your tires and wait for you to return. When you get in and start driving, they will flag you down for a mechanical problem, coax you out of your car, and then…rob you. Always make sure to inspect your car before getting in, keep the doors locked, and the windows up. 

Financial Safety in Guatemala 

When it comes to keeping your money in your pocket, there are certainly a few more things you can do to help make yourself more financially secure while you move around. 

First, keep in mind that card skimming and cloning is a common practice. Cash is still king in Guatemala, so keep small bills in your pocket and use cash as often as possible, and only take your card out for large and reputable vendors whom you trust. When you need to take cash out, use only ATMs in bank lobbies so that you can be assured they have not been tampered with. 

Have you ever considered a money belt for keeping said cash safe? You can invest in a small belt (which looks like an actual belt!) in which you can store cash, keeping it hidden and inaccessible. If you also want to use it to keep larger documents like your passport, full-sized money belts exist which can be worn under the clothes. These will make it nearly impossible for the infamous pickpockets to do their worst. 

The take-away? Anyone traveling anywhere in the world needs to be aware of tourist scams and thieves, as they exist practically everywhere. With a discerning eye and a little know-how, you can keep your money, and yourself, protected. 

Looking for more information? Check out our other articles on Guatemala: 

Safety in Guatemala

Food and Water Safety in Guatemala

Getting Around in Guatemala

Solo Travel in Guatemala


Food and Water Safety in Guatemala

It is arguable that one of the best parts about traveling anywhere new is experiencing a different food culture. After all, a country’s cuisine is usually a central part of its identity, and there are few better places to meet and connect with new and interesting people than at the table over a delicious and amazing meal. 

What to do, then, when you can’t always be sure that you can eat that food without getting sick? Or even drink the water without gastrointestinal distress? Would-be travelers each year are put off from visiting Central America because of the possibility of food and water-borne illnesses, and while these concerns are certainly justified, there are precautions anyone can take to reduce their risk of contracting much-feared traveler’s diarrhea.

Though even the most cautious traveler cannot always guarantee they won’t pick up something nasty, remember that many foreigners visit Guatemala and, through practicing good food and water hygiene, come back completely unscathed. Read further for a good idea of how to do just that: 

Can you drink the tap water in Guatemala? 

We’ll save you some time: no, the tap water is never safe for foreigners. Some locals do drink the tap water, but this tends to be more necessity than choice. When it comes to your much-needed hydration, heed this advice: 

Drink: Sealed, bottled water, sealed carbonated beverages, pasteurized milk, water that has been disinfected. 

Do not drink: Tap water, well water, ice made from tap or well water, unpasteurized milk. 

Disinfecting tap water may be your only option if you don’t have access to the bottled stuff, or if you want to save a bit of plastic. You can disinfect by boiling the water for 1-3 minutes (depending on your elevation), or there are safe ways to disinfect chemically. Take a look at this page from the CDC for a complete guide to safely disinfecting water when you need it. 

While technically, ice in Guatemala should only be made from purified water, it is almost impossible to guarantee this is the case at every restaurant, and even one cube of the stuff can be enough to contaminate your beverage. Your best bet is to avoid drinks with ice in them altogether, make the ice yourself with purified water, or only take ice at upscale restaurants which cater to tourists (like those at your hotel, resorts, etc) and check with them first about their water practices. 

In the case of hygiene, it’s best not to risk brushing your teeth with tap water either, even if you don’t swallow any of it. Better to keep a bottle of purified water by the sink, so you can be sure you don’t forget! You don’t need to worry about showering, just make sure to keep your mouth closed during the process. 

Is the food in Guatemala safe to eat? 

Food in Guatemala is delicious and deserves to be enjoyed to its absolute fullest. When it comes to being cautious to avoid stomach bugs and other nasties, many of the steps you can take involve common sense and basic food safety precautions. And keep in mind, many of the risks involved in eating the food are around how that food interacts with water. 

When eating in Guatemalan restaurants, look for those venues which have more business (indicating a good reputation) and try to go during high meal time hours, so you have a greater chance of the food being fresh. Stick to hot food as much as possible (food needs to be thoroughly heated to kill harmful microbes). If something should be hot, but isn’t, don’t hesitate to walk away, as there is a higher risk that bad bacteria will have had time to proliferate in the food. 

Street food: is a contentious subject. The more adventurous travel types will tout its merits and glory whereas the more cautious among us tend to steer clear altogether. There are perfectly safe ways to enjoy street food in Guatemala, but the key is to be picky, watch how they make the food, and be discerning about which stalls you visit. In general, here are the best tips for indulging in street food: 

  • Always make sure you WASH YOUR HANDS. It’s the easiest way to kill the bad stuff. Carry hand sanitizer as well, since you can’t always be sure you’ll have access to hot water and soap. 
  • Choose stalls which are the most popular. That long line will be worth it if it means proven quality. 
  • Choose an item off the menu  which they will make fresh right before your eyes. Don’t eat the meat that’s been sitting out in the sun – you don’t know how long it’s been there. 
  • Don’t be afraid to be a lurker to watch how they make the food, and check out how clean the inside of that stand looks. 

Salads and fresh fruit: While everyone craves a refreshing or light salad every once in a while, you might be surprised to learn that salads should, in general, be avoided. It’s hard to know whether the greens have been properly washed, and even if they have, it’s always possible that they were washed in tap water – enough of which could still be lurking in the leaves to make you ill. We would still only recommend eating salads at upscale restaurants or venues marketed specifically towards tourist comfort and safety, and then only if you want to take the risk. 

Enjoy the fruit, but try only to indulge in fruits which have a peel you can peel yourself (bananas, oranges, etc) to avoid contamination. Otherwise, ensure you can wash and disinfect the produce yourself before consuming. 

It may seem like a lot of rules, but don’t let it deter you – once you adopt the practices necessary to keep yourself healthy as a foreigner in Guatemala, you will be able to enjoy the beloved food and beverage of the country to its fullest! 

Looking for more information? Check out our other articles on Guatemala: 

Safety in Guatemala

Scams in Guatemala

Getting around in Guatemala

Solo travel in Guatemala


Is it safe to travel in Guatemala?

Each country in Central America has a reputation of some sort, and it’s nothing short of tragic for a country so beautiful and vibrant as Guatemala that its reputation is steeped in a history of violence. Though this is certainly  not without reason – Guatemala has a history of interference from outside political entities (largely the USA), resulting in the formation of various paramilitary and guerilla resistance forces, military juntas, and coups which have shifted its political leadership to and fro for decades. The country has been volcanic, both literally and politically, for most of our recent, collective memory. 

Though Guatemala’s  devastating civil war ended in 1996, like all conflicts, it has left lasting impacts on the cultural and political sphere of the country. Today, most people’s knowledge of what happens in Guatemala is informed by gruesome news articles which tend to circulate more than any other news story, usually revolving around the death or murder of foreigners who had the gall to visit the country in the first place (by the way, there are many many more non-violent  news articles, if one takes the time to look). 

Such headlines could make even the most experienced traveler among us wonder, “is it safe to travel in Guatemala? If I choose to go, will I regret it?”

The honest answer to the question is complicated – it cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no,” as no area of the country is considered absolutely safe and safety itself is relative. It also depends who you are, the risks you take, where you go, etc. It is more accurate to say that it is possible to visit Guatemala and be completely safe, as approximately 2 million tourists visit Guatemala each year without incident. That said, always prepare for the worst, while hoping for the best. And the best way to prepare? Research, research, research. Know the risks and possibilities, and then plan your actions accordingly. 

We’ve compiled a list of considerations and tips for staying safe during your visit to Guatemala. Keep in mind that the list is not exhaustive, and we encourage anyone and everyone to do extensive research prior to visiting any new country. That said, you can consider this a good jumping-off point in your travel journey. Take notes! 

Staying Safe in Guatemala

  1. Stay on guard in the capital city. Guatemala City is the biggest city in Central America, and while it has its charm and is slowly cracking down on violence, it is still a criminal haven in light of drug trafficking and gang violence. There are no zones which are considered completely safe for tourists, and you will want to exercise your utmost caution while visiting – that means not traveling at night, staying in groups where possible, and being extra vigilant at protecting your belongings from theft, pick pocketing, bag snatching/slitting, etc. 
  2. Avoid traveling at night. And certainly, do not walk around at night, lest you become an easy target for mugging and attack. If you must travel at night, use only first class buses for long distances, or call a taxi/Uber for even short distances. 
  3. Talking to children is not recommended, especially in rural areas.  Guatemala has a history of lynching those suspected of child abduction and are fiercely protective of children. Doing things such as talking to children without supervision or taking their photo without parental permission can be easily misinterpreted, and it is best to avoid this behavior altogether. 
  4. Check the  latest volcanic activity. There are four active volcanoes in the country, and a recent eruption in 2018 killed nearly 200 people. Know the threat before you go, and especially before you decide to climb one. 
  5. Take a Guatemalan guide on your hike. It’s not a good idea to go hiking alone – to start, this is a mountainous country, the thinner air can leave you in poor shape after physical exertion, so having a companion can help to assist you if you need support or guidance in your delirium. In addition, it is common for thieves to take advantage of hikers who are alone. Hiring a local guide will be a huge help in ensuring your safety during the trek. 
  6. Stay far away from political demonstrations. Demonstration in Guatemala is common and spontaneous, and while they tend to be peaceful, violence can always erupt without warning. Best for foreigners to steer clear rather than be caught in the fray. 
  7. Use caution on chicken buses. These are school buses donated from the US government, painted crazy colors, and widely used by locals to move around the country. However, they are unpredictable and unregulated. If you do use one, keep close watch over your belongings, but to be honest, we don’t recommend using a chicken bus unless you’re with a local who knows the system – it’s hard to be sure of where you’ll end up otherwise!
  8. Use caution at borders. The borders with Belize and Mexico are hot spots for smuggling of drugs and aliens. Only use designated border crossings, and only during the day. 
  9. Contact one of the local tourism authorities. In order to counter its violent reputation and attract more tourism, there are many resources for tourists, which range from trip planning services, to providing individuals and groups with guides, support in the event of criminal activity, and more. Check out either INGUAT or PROATUR for more information. 

General Safety Tips

The above were largely specific to travel in Guatemala. However, if you’re new to travel and you need some more general advice about how to keep your wits about you and your money in your pocket, see below: 

  • Don’t hail a taxi off the street. Always call a taxi from a reputable company (you can ask your accommodation to do this on your behalf). You can also find official taxi stands outside many hotels and malls, where you can find real taxis. The alternative would be climbing into an illegal taxi, and risk being robbed or worse. 
  • Don’t be flashy. This means not wearing jewelry, not taking out your phone in public, keeping your cash in your pocket while on the street. If you show what you have, the thieves will know what they can take. 
  • Learn some Spanish. It can’t be guaranteed that you will meet English speakers in all of the places that you need them to be. Knowing the most vital phrases will seriously help you when it’s most necessary. 
  • Don’t isolate yourself. Walking alone in empty streets makes you an excellent target for mugging and attacks. 
  • Only use ATMs inside banks, malls, etc. Card-skimming is common, and unmonitored, outdoor ATMs are the ones to look out for. 
  • Split your cash up, and take only what you need out that day. It’s better to carry your valuables in different places on your person, so that if the thieves get you, they don’t get everything. And remember, the amount of cash you have on you is what you risk losing. 
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport. It’s preferable to keep your vital identification locked in your hotel/hostel safe, and carry photocopies, so that you don’t risk losing them. 
  • Be aware of scammers. These can take many forms – a “priest” who runs up to you requesting assistance, or someone who approaches you asking for money for a cause that doesn’t exist, or someone spills something on you while another stranger helps you clean up, then pick-pockets you in the process. Don’t fall for it, and be suspicious of any stranger approaching you. 

Like we said before: to be absolutely safe in Guatemala is an ideal, but not a reality. There are plenty of ways to greatly reduce your risk of encountering danger or misfortune. Guatemala is a beautiful country which deserves to be seen, and we don’t recommend letting the fear overcome or overwhelm your desire to travel. Learning how to travel smart and safely is the best way to enjoy your trip without much stress! 

Looking for more information? Check out our other articles on Guatemala: 

Food and Water Safety in Guatemala

Scams in Guatemala

Getting around in Guatemala 

Solo Travel in Guatemala