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How long in Guatemala and what's this I hear about safety concerns?

How long in Guatemala and what's this I hear about safety concerns?

Old Mar 9th, 2009, 09:38 PM
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How long in Guatemala and what's this I hear about safety concerns?

Rather what are the safety concerns? We went to Mexico about 9 months ago, and despite the drug wars, felt perfectly safe there, though we were in Central Mexico and not a border town.

I heard Guatemala has the run of the mill pick pockets, petty theft, and better not leave your luggage or car unattended, but what country doesn't have those concerns? Anything else to be concerned about? I'm more worried about food safety I think.

Does anyone have other thoughts on the matter?

We just booked flight to Guatemala and plan to hang around Antigua and the lake for about 11 days. Is that too long?
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 06:55 AM
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Hi Karbose,

I too had been worried about safety when I went to Guatemala for the first time a few weeks ago. Especially since I am a photographer and I was concerned about my camera gear getting stolen. Traveling without my SLR was not an option for me even though people tried to tell me to leave it at home. I decided to travel as light as I could and as inconspicuous as I could. I even left my wedding bands at home.

I have to say, not once did I feel unsafe or threatened in any way. I did spend some time in Guatemala City and that was probably where I felt the most cautious. There, and in the market in Antigua. Of course, there are basic guidelines that you need to follow, such as knowing where you are at all times, being very aware of your surroundings, keeping your belongings close to your body, taking cabs at night (even in the smaller towns), and having some knowledge of Spanish was really helpful as well. With that being said, Guatemala is still very much a third world country. As long as you are aware of the risks associated with traveling to such an environment, and you keep your travel wits about you, you should be okay.

I was in Antigua for three full days and I feel like I could have easily spent another day there. Unfortunately, I did not get to Lake Atitlan, but from what I hear, you could easily spend a few days there as well. If you have even a slight interest in Mayan civilization, you should definitely go up to the Peten region for at least 2 nights.

You're going to have a wonderful time in Guatemala no matter what! I wish I was going back sooner rather than later!
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 07:06 AM
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You might have time for a visit to Tikal, too - highly recommended. My photos and recommendations are linked below if you want to check them out (an additional Tikal set in the Belize collection).

http://flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

There are some very real safety concerns in all Central American countries. I take extra precautions but will continue to visit year after year for as far into the future as I can see. I've pasted my precautions list from a previous post. Have a wonderful trip and be sure to tell us all about it. Happy trails!

I'm heading back to CA for my 8th visit this summer, splitting 5-6 weeks between Guatemala and Belize.

Sometimes I travel alone, sometimes with one of my grown kids or my husband, sometimes with a group in tow. I don't feel overly paranoid but have never had a problem and would like to keep it that way.

Here are my concessions to safety when I travel in Central America:
:: I avoid the big cities as much as possible
:: I don't "party"
:: Where recommended I take specific transportation (Hedman Alas in Honduras, for example, or avoiding chicken buses on the mountain runs in Guatemala, taxis after dark)
:: I know where I am and where I'm headed
:: I don't wear jewelry (not even my wedding band) and try not to flash camera equipment or money around
:: Some trips I carry a “throw down wallet” with an expired card or 2 and the day’s cash in it
:: I keep important documents and cash under my clothes (except what I need for shopping, buses, etc. for that time period)
:: I ask locals about safety in an area - evenings, hiking, etc.
:: I travel really light so I don't feel vulnerable getting my bag off and on buses, shuttles, etc.
:: I continue to build skills in Spanish
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 07:59 AM
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Thanks for your replies. I am excited about the trip and although I do sometimes worry about my safety in Central America, I could as easily have worries in the U. S. Anyone know about the flights to Tikal? Small planes? Big planes? Modern or chicken planes?
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 09:10 AM
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I agree - I can just as easily be mugged or attacked in my fine city of Boston. My husband alone has been the victim of muggings four times here, yet I would not call Boston an unsafe city by any means.

The flight to Tikal is in a smaller plane. It leaves out of Guatemala city and is only about an hour. I booked a flight directly with TACA airlines online and the cost was $235 for each ticket. It's a lot of money, but well worth it compared to taking a 13+ hour bus (IMHO). I was with two people who have a very real fear of flying (and motion sickness issues) and both of them turned out fine for the trip.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 11:31 AM
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In two trips to guatemala I never felt really unsafe. I was always on the alert as I am anywhere I travel. I wouldn't hesitate to go back and most likely will. As hopefulist mentioned, asking locally really helps and avoid wandering around in the cities at night although we were fine walking the streets of Antigua after dinner. We watched the Super Bowl at a bar in Panajachel and the bartender actually walked down the street and arranged for a taxi to come directly to the door so we wouldn't have to walk the block or so. It is a very interesting country and I am so glad I got over my fears of going there.

We live in Costa Rica and if you read the papers here regularly you might be cautious about coming here too and yet we are very happy to be here full time.
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Old Mar 10th, 2009, 03:06 PM
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Our family was in Guatemala for 8 days recently and I agree with what others have said about safety. We didn't spend time in G. City other than the suburban area near the airport, which was fine.
We read that some trips during the day in some cities are not safe w/o guides or tourist police escort. Our Fodors guidebook said this was true of the walk to the fairly remote Temple VI at Tikal which our family took w/o incident (and before I read that cautionary entry in the guidebook)

We were concerned about the rental car and had to take safety for the car into account in planning hotel stays.

As for Tikal, it was an absolute must-see for our family because we are extremely interested in Mayan ruins and this is one of the most impressive. There are quite a few recent trip reports describing it. If you do decide to go you would also have to decide about whether to take anti-malaria medication (we did)
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