WHAT IS NEW TO
TAKE IN COUNT
2010. The Agatha storm has pass
and some bridges still under repair but all touristic destinations are
open including the Pacaya volcano, the only place that is closed is the
Fuentes Georginas hot springs in Zunil, Quetzaltenango.
The "Comite de Seguridad y
Turismo del Centro Historico" Make arrangements to make possible that 420
National Civil Police agents that
covers the historical center (zone 1) and other areas of Guatemala city graduated in August 2004 in tourist security, tourist
Culture, First Aid and
Crime Fighting Laws also finally thanks to this historical center tourist
and security committee the central market and surrounding areas are now being
guard by POLITUR (National Civil Police Specialized in protect Tourists) also a new police force in horses is watching the
Historical Center area...
Started in Feb 2005.
SO...DOES ANYTHING LIKE TOTAL SAFETY REALLY EXIST?
Statistically you have 99.97% chances in
Guatemala of have a
great time and no problems at all, however like anywhere else in the
world there is a
few rotten apples in the basket.
SEE THE STATISTICAL FACTS, COMPARE YOUR COUNTRY CRIME
STATISTICS WITH OURS CLICK HERE
Guatemala is a bit lower than El Salvador.
Lately the Historical Center (Zone 1)
crime against foreigners is statistically lower than
zone 10 or 9 in Guatemala City (including zone 10 night clubs and
business class hotels area call Zona Viva and the same as in Antigua
that the consular sheet is very out of date (see the old phone 7 digits
numbers for an example) and are clearly written in favor of protecting the
business of the big transnational hotel chains in Zone 10.. because in
this warning they do not say zone 1 is dangerous they say hotels in zone
1 are...this is similar to say that all buildings in New York are
dangerous because they can get destroy by terrorist planes...so do not
go to any New York building.
RECENT CRIME EVENTS IN GUATEMALA AGAINST FOREIGNERS REPORTED
BY THE US EMBASSY
This info is FROM the US embassy
recent crime events web page (3 years of history) against
All Zone 1 has less events reported than Zone 10 or Antigua areas, Zone 13 in the airport area has
one of the highest in the city due to fake taxis and shuttles, this shows evidence of the late tourist security improves at the
Historical Center, Zone 1 since 2006
of the US Peace Corp volunteers and US citizens DO stay at
zone 1 hotels depicting what this
VERY outdate US travel warning
mentions in their 15 years old consulate sheet which was
generated by a consul with economic interest in the big hotels chain in
in general this warning is like
seeing a big white wall with a small black spot in the center, they only
show you the small black spot not the big wall, relax and enjoy your travel.
With over 1.6 million tourist traveling to Guatemala in 2007 (and
raising) you will note that crime rate is similar to other parts of the
world the main factor to avoid is to carry large sums of cash with you,
be specially careful when taking money from banks and never resist to an
assault if it happens.
It has being reported by local papers that
the US consulate or embassy pays for the US immigrants their lodging in
zone 1hotels, this means the use of hotels by the US embassy in the area is
back, the US embassy actually do not forbids to visit the historic
center just talk bad about the hotels, but... can all the 250 hotels in
zone 1 be that bad? the answer is NO, there are many hotels that are
safe and inexpensive, some are
beautiful historic colonial style buildings like
Posada Belen. and the US
embassy puts usˇNo.1 at their embassy hotels list..see
In Zone 1 problems are pickpockets by the other side in Zone
10, 9 and 13, most problems have to deal with arm robberies, drug dealers, drunks fighting
and air shooting from
the many noisy bars and discos (in 2006 a disco located in the hearth of Zona Vival was taked by gangs and kill various
persons in a drugs related episode)street car racing, kidnapping, street
shooting and arm car thief than
the much larger Zone 1 (3 times bigger),
In fact in the smaller Centro Historico of zone 1 the biggest schools concentration,
museums, government offices, cultural activities, libraries and local tourist of the country occurs, in the
Historic Center 40,000 students go there every school day, 20,000
Central American and Guatemalan tourists, sleeps, takes buses or buy
goods, why will thousands of Guatemalan families send their
beloved children to study in the big 19th century houses transformed
into bilingual private schools. 20,000 local tourists
visit every day the historical center of Guatemala city and 500,000
people sees their old style houses walls and beatiful
iron works every day.
U.S. and other countries consular & embassy employees can get a maximum
of 25% for working in dangerous countries, unfortunately for the
ones working in Guatemala this is only 5% to compensate higher cost of
communications, health expenses and lack of facilities in Guatemala NOT
for security and there is over 150,000 US citizens living in Guatemala
and most are in Guatemala city, unfortunately to Guatemala one way of
get a better payment for diplomatic or business employees is to make
Guatemala look insecure, exaggerating the consular travel warnings
is an easy way to achieve better salaries for them.
In general Guatemala is much safer than New York City, Los Angeles,
London, Miami, Chicago, Washington
or many other tourist or big city of the US and most of the World's big
cities like Madrid or Rome (In august 2004 The singer Thalia lost 1 Million
USD in a Rome 5 star hotel room), Jordan or Paris where
thousands of cars have being destroyed by fire and street shooting.
In the ended 36 years old Civil War in Guatemala NEVER was a single car
bomb place to kill innocent people NO mass suicides, organized racial,
religious or immigrants hate groups, school kids shootings or any of the
more commonly occurring terrorist/criminal acts in the "civilized",
world, no legal crimes like stop feeding ill people because the courts
allow husbands to legally kill wives, you will see nothing of this in
Guatemala is a perfect good place to come and forget this
world terrorism madness, to relax and visit incredible beautiful little
known places, fantastic lake volcanoes colorful dresses
forget about the rest of the World Wars and the harassing TV news.
A group of security officers from the tourism civil police (POLITUR) since June/03,
had increase the security in the tourist zone 1 among others like Pacaya
volcano (No robberies in 4 years),
this group of specially trained officials cover most of the tourist
attractions and tourist routes in prevention of crime.
countries of the world in North America or Europe, people do have many
guns at home or carry them openly in the back window of their trucks and
security is everywhere too but often you can't see them, one thing you
will notice is that after 36 years of civil war in Guatemala people has
got used to see guns and security people everywhere, sometimes you may
see that some licensed citizens carries small guns visible like old
cowboys times, this is a cultural fact that may shock some inexperienced
travelers. But seeing the TV. news lately about how things are going in
the rest of the World after September 11 and the second Gulf War, Guatemala is now ranking lower
in the presence of arm security on the streets.
So please always use common
sense and to enjoy your trip better and help us make Guatemala safer
please NEVER TAKE ANY KIND OF JEWELRY ON YOU, we need to destroy the
idea that all tourists carry expensive and costly jewels with them.
Travel General Recommendations
IMPORTANT Airport Tax
and Security Tax
Always remember that there is a $30 USD airport exit tax (sorry). plus Q20 (USD $3) Security tax
(since October/03) be at the
airport 3 hours before flight departure for International
flights, 2 hours for local flights.
It is risky to arrive to the airport from Antigua if
you have a morning flight, it is better to sleep in
Guatemala City the night before and avoid the lose of time and money.
For local flights there is a 5 Quetzales airport tax
For local flights to/from Flores. The
early flight is more recommendable, unfortunately INTER (TACA) is not
reliable in the afternoon Guate to Flores flights they often
cancel without a warning or oversell.
Safety On The Street
Use the same common sense traveling
overseas that you would at home. Be especially cautious in or avoid
areas where you are likely to be victimized. These include crowded
markets, bus stations, elevators, crowded tourist sites, festivals and marginal
areas of cities.
Never leave anything inside cars parked on the
street, leave the stuff in the trunk ONLY, always use a private parking
PLEASE AVOID TO TRAVEL BY NIGHT, if
you are coming to Guatemala airport after 6:30 PM do not GO to Antigua, stay at
Guatemala City, the same IF TAKING A PLANE IN THE MORNING,
BETTER NOT DRIVE TO THE AIRPORT FROM ANTIGUA BEFORE 6 AM.....this is
night driving and is NOT a good idea considering that the sun comes out in
Guatemala at 6AM and sunset is at 6PM. On early flights also consider
that your transportation
to Guate city airport
a delay like a flat tire, traffic jam,
road closing for demostrations, iven small accidents can jam the
easily, when taking a shuttle always someone does not come out from
their hotel and delays all the group and you have to
pass trough the most heavily transited streets or rush hours and you can
end losing your expensive flight, please note that due to the traffic the Guate -
Antigua trip usually takes 2 hours (not 1 as advertised).. You
better stay the night before in Guatemala city and sleep 2 hours more
and enjoy a night life at the NEW and safer cultural spot of the historical center
call 4 GRADOS NORTE, ZONA VIVA or the CIEN PUERTAS BARS AREA and always use a taxi after dark, is best if the hotel or restaurant call
Avoid public demonstrations and other
civil disturbances unless you like the adrenaline.
Keep a low profile and avoid loud
conversations or arguments with locals. Do not discuss travel plans or other
personal matters with strangers. If
you are Gay please keep a low profile in public as respect act towards
the local conservative community, public demonstrations of gay affect
are not well accepted.
Avoid scam artists. Beware of strangers
who approach you, offering bargains or to be your guide.
Beware of pickpockets. They often have an
accomplice who will:
-- Jostle you or drop money to get your
-- ask you for directions or the time,
-- point to something spilled on your
clothing or pour ketchup or similar on you.
-- or distract you by creating a
-- A child or even a woman carrying a baby
can be a pickpocket. Beware of groups of vagrant children who create a
distraction while picking your pocket.
Wear the shoulder strap of your bag
across your chest and walk with the bag away from the curb to avoid
drive-by purse snatchers.
Try to seem purposeful when you move
about. Even if you are lost, act as if you know where you are going.
When possible, ask directions only from individuals in authority or
Know how to use a pay telephone and have
the proper phone card on hand.
Learn a few phrases in the local language
so you can signal your need for help, the police, or a doctor. Make a
note of emergency telephone numbers you may need: police, fire, your
hotel, and your country nearest embassy or consulate.
VERY, VERY IMPORTANT:
If you are confronted, don't fight back. Give
up your valuables.
Your money and passport can be replaced, but you cannot. Do not think
that because they are small they are no dangerous if confronted...this
is number one cause of problems.
Never Think.... they are small people, so they are harmless
1. Use only the
authorized taxis, those clearly identified and take note of
their number just in case you forget something. Or better, use
our Posada Belen special safe airport pick up service ($13 to
2. Never leave your
personal belongings unattended specially in the airport, hotel lobbies,
markets or restaurants.
3. Always try to carry a
legalized photocopy of your passport, showing your photograph and the date
you entered the country. Leave the original in the safety
deposit box of the hotel and try to register it at your
4. Keep your airline
ticket and important documents safe (better yet leave them at your
hotel's safe box during all your trip, is VERY expensive to
solve a loss ticket problem and remember there is a $30 airport
departure tax, get a photocopy or better buy a electronic
INTERNET here), leave extra cash and travel checks in the hotel
safety box and only carry them in a travel belt or chest safety
bag NEVER in a hand bag or your luggage, big travel checks
($500+) or NON US money are VERY.. VERY difficult to change, EUROS
can be change at the UNO bank here in other places you may get
lower exchange rates. Write the numbers of your travel checks
(AMEX brand Travel Checks are better accepted and the only ones
in some places)
bring the original purchase receipt and credit cards in a
separate safe place along with the important phone numbers to be used
in case of losses. TO
GET TRAVEL INSURANCE ON LINE, travel Insurance is a small
valuable investment try this rates compare site
on high season 80% of the flights are suffering delays
and you may loose a connection and the insurance will cover the
expenses. About 10% of the luggage may also get delay for a day
or two so is a good idea to have a hand bag with some spare.
5. Always change
money at bank or hotel. Never on the streets. There is a bank at
the airport that is usually open at the time the planes comes
and leaves, also a ATM machine that sells Quetzals or US Dollars
can be find at the airport. Is a very good idea to bring
several 1$US bills for tips and taxis. (The last ones never have
change and they may usually suggest you hotels where they get a
commission, so always insist to see the Posada Belen
before you believe them)
IMPORTANTE: Don't bring or
wear any valuable jewelry or imitations and carry only the amount of money you'll need
for each day in your money belt or similar, ALWAYS in your money belt never in hand bags
or pockets, but always keep some $40 small cash in your pocket
fake wallet, have some old credit cards in it and use this fake
wallet to give up in case you are confronted... At
night don't walk if you don't know the area, take a taxi and always ask
first about places to
avoid. Never try to pick up or to take pictures of children
without the parents permission FIRST; This is VERY
important specially in the country side where a rumors about
children being stolen for organs extraction for transplants is
7. Guard valuable
items you carrying, such expensive cameras and video cameras in
low profile lunch
bag or in any other low eye catching way, avoid using expensive
looking photo equipment on the busy streets. Try low
small cameras better, use it in some places to take pictures of the
natives who don't like their pictures to be take openly, this is the
only way, if they see you... some may charge a fee ($1-5) for
the privilege for let you take
their picture. Put your
wallet in your front pocket and carry your purse crosswise. Be
aware of the old trick of pouring a liquid or mustard into your
pants,. so when they "clean you"...they
will clean you of your wallet too.
8. When renting a
vehicle it is very important to become familiar with driving
rules and regulations of the country and please note that most
rental cars have stick shift transmissions in Guatemala. Avoid
driving at night, always carry a map since most of the roads are
not well marked. But people will always be happy to help you
find the right direction.
9. For safety inside
national parks or at the beach, follow these tips:
* Read the safety
rules posted inside the parks. To ensure a safe and pleasant
visit, walk along he marked trails. It is best to explore the
trails in groups of two or more.
* Don not touch the plants or attempt to pet the animals. At
the beach, before entering the water, find out which are the
* Request information about tides and undertows with your
* When climbing a volcano always go with a LOCAL guide or a
reputable specialist tour operator and do
not take valuable heavy photo equipment with you or excessive
10. If you want to
extend your stay in our country, you must request the
necessary permission from the Immigration Authorities at the
INGUAT and pay a small tax fee.
11. Any problems can
be reported to the nearest National Police or Ministerio Publico
delegation, where you
should receive a written copy of your report. In general
Guatemalan National Civil Policemen are very helpful and there
is nothing to fear of them, unfortunately they are not very good
catching criminals due to their poor training and equipment and
also because the new human rights oriented laws makes very hard
to fulfill all the paperwork and proofs need for finish a
trial. There is a new special tourism police section whose
only job is to ensure tourists safety.
If you want to
present a suggestion to the Tourism National Office use this
(You may get lucky and get a reply).
Guatemala is a primitive country with a big illiterate
population and many old costumes and believes strongly
preserved, this is also a country that recently (1999) got out
of 36 years of civil war and its democracy is only a few
years old, the Mayas are very friendly but as anyone else they
don't enjoy being treat like a tourist show objects, they are
real people and their world is very different from our
occidental conception, please be respectful with your
camera on their religious rites they are not performing for
tourists amusement....they are really communicating with God.
You will find that the ladino people
is also very, very friendly and helpful but in general there is a lack of
knowledge of the Maya civilization among us, you as tourist are
very important to bring and keep the Maya proud of their culture
and make the general Guatemalan interested in learn more about
us and keep this country values alive, you are very important to
us and we welcome you to come and visit this VERY complex and
beautiful land in peace now.
THE PREVIOUS RECOMMENDATIONS ARE SUGGESTED AND ACCEPTED
TO INTERNATIONAL LEVEL. CONSIDER THESE ADVICE AND RETURN TO YOUR
COUNTRY WITH THE BETTER OF THE MEMORIES,
REMMEMBER YOU HAVE 99.97% CHANCES OF HAVE
A GREAT TIME!
To Contact Tourist Security Office to request preventive security
assistance for your groups
If you has any problem, or need to find out about local
security updates please call POLITUR
to the telephone: 2361 6052 or the
24hr POLICE EMERGENCY PHONE: 110
INGUAT INFORMATION CENTERS
Central 7ave, Civic Center zone 4.
23318893 y 23322881
In working days
(Monday to Friday 8 to 4 P.M.)