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Home » Central America » Guatemala » Travel Safety

Is Guatemala Safe for Travel? (Insider Tips for 2024)

So you want to go to Guatemala… We’re all for it! 

There’s a whole lot of amazing nature to explore here – and history too. From the colonial buildings of Antigua to ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, you’ll be in a wonderland full of archaeological sites and steamy jungles.

But Guatemala hasn’t always been the safest place in Central America and it still necessarily isn’t. Scams, petty crime, robberies, gang violence, and volcanic eruptions combine for a melting pot of intimidation.

So, of course, you may want to know – is Guatemala safe? We totally get it. 

Which is why we’ve written this guide on safety in Guatemala . We’re all about smart travel and we want you to be able to explore this INCREDIBLE country and stay safe at the same time!

This guide is packed full of useful information regarding your Guatemala safety concerns. Is it safe to visit Guatemala right now after the recent volcanic activity?

Whether you’ve concerns on if it’s safe to drive in Guatemala, how safe it is for American tourists, and if it’s is for solo female travellers in Guatemala; it’s all in here! Let the adventure begin.

welcome to guatemala sign

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There is no such thing as a perfect safety guide, as things change quickly. The question of “Is Guatemala Safe?” will ALWAYS have a different answer depending on who you ask.

The information in this safety guide was accurate at the time of writing. If you use our guide, do your own research, and practice common sense, you will probably have a wonderful and safe trip to Guatemala.

If you see any outdated information, we would really appreciate it if you could reach out in the comments below. Otherwise, stay safe friends!

Updated December 2023

Is Guatemala Safe to Visit Right Now?

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The United States Foreign Agriculture Service reported that Guatemala had 1,844,739 tourists last 2022. Travellers had generally safe travels in the country.

Yes, Guatemala is safe to visit right now. Though you must know some crutial safety information. Natural disasters, jungles, history, public transport, and violent crime all play a part in the safety of Guatemala today.

For a long time, Guatemala wasn’t necessarily safe – but that never stopped us. Like the rest of Latin America, Guatemala has problems that just require a fair bit of savviness.

Guatemala is another jewel on the Central American trail . There’s trekking, exploring ancient Mayan history, kicking back on a beach on the Pacific or Caribbean Coast, and so much more.

You have heard the rumours and are thinking why is Guatemala so dangerous? Well, the truth is there are high crime rates in Guatemala, however, this generally doesn’t involve tourists. But travel warnings and stats don’t paint a true picture of what it’s actually like. 

Most violent crime is gang-related i.e. only affects locals in certain areas. Tourists and toutist areas are rarely affected . That doesn’t mean you can travel around without a care in the world, however. 

You also have to understand how the civil war still affects the county . For a long time, violence was the norm in Guatemala. 

As is often the story in Latin America, corruption and political trouble never seem to be too far off. Guatemala is also still a developing country . 

Tikal Ruins through the trees

Natural disasters are also something to be vigilant about. Rainy season, volcanoes, tsunamis, and flooding all affect safety in Guatemala.

That said, Guatemalans are warm, friendly people and often welcome travellers with open arms. Many people will aid you on your journey through this amazing country.

Tourism is one of the main forces behind the Guatemalan economy. The local authorities and Tourist Police will help you out – and the Guatemalan government will help to make sure you are safe.

Guatemala is cleaning up its act and has become much more stable since the end of the civil war. So you CAN have safe travels in Guatemala.

Check out our detailed where to stay guide for Antigua so you can start your trip right!

There are awesome places to visit when you travel to Guatemala . Like everywhere, some places are safer than others. 

Tourist areas are generally a sign that the area is safe. Of course, tourists don’t eliminate risk from natural disasters and petty crime. But these tourist destinations have few travel warnings because you are more protected by local authorities from anything serious happening to you. 

This doesn’t mean they’re 100% safe; you should still actively pay attention to your safety all the time – but the risk is much lower here. Plus, there is an endless list of incredible things to explore. 

  • Antigua Guatemala – a classic colonial town with beautiful neighbourhoods. Kick back or wander around the cobblestone streets. There are great hostels in Antigua as well, which makes it a great spot for backpackers. It’s smaller, but not as crime-prone as Guatemala City and one of the safest places in Guatemala.
  • Quetzaltenango – commonly referred to as Xela (pronounced Shela ), is a bustling mountain town to organize treks or base yourself for Spanish lessons! Xela isn’t as clean or extravagant as Antigua, but it’s also not as expensive. Locals here are generally very welcoming and kind. You’ll be well looked after! 
  • Lake Atitlán – A number of villages surround this lake with completely different atmospheres and many things to do in Lake Atitlán . Most require a boat to reach them but they are generally pretty safe. You can summit Volcano Atitlán – the tallest of the three volcanoes – but opt for a guide for this adventure.

Dangerous Places in Guatemala

There are many amazing places in Guatemala however you might be wondering how dangerous is Guatemala? Whenever you get to a new destination, ask your accommodation if there are any areas or neighbourhoods to avoid. To help you plan a successful trip, we’ve listed some no-go areas below: 

acatenango and fuego volcano at sunrise in guatemala

  • ANYWHERE after dark – whether it’s in the countryside or in the city, avoid being on the street at night. Most violent crimes, kidnapping, and mugging happen at night. If you want to stay safe, stay inside. Avoid using public transport at night too. 
  • Zones 1, 3, 6, 18, and 21 – these zones are in Guatemala City and are hotspots for all sorts of crimes. If possible, avoid them! 
  • The Agua Volcano – you don’t need to avoid it, but there has been armed robbery recorded of tourists that just wanted to go on a peaceful hike. If possible get a guide. That’ll add a significant level of safety to your trip. 
  • Huehuetenango Department – Tourists have been coaxed into ferrying drugs here with bad results. Don’t get involved. 

And of course, always stay away from the dodgy side streets, shortcuts, and areas where you can’t find another tourist. You don’t want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, so stick to the busy streets or get yourself a local guide to explore the area further.

Keeping Your Money Safe in Guatemala

One of the most common things to happen to you whilst travelling is losing your money. And let’s face it: the most annoying way for this to actually occur is when it’s stolen from you.

Petty crime is pretty much a problem all over the world.

The best solution? Get a money belt.

Active Roots Security Belt

Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

It looks exactly like a normal belt  except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)

There are some scary government warnings, but Guatemala can be visited safely. Following travel safety protocol is detrimental to that statement being upheld. Here are some top tips for keeping safe.

Cahabón River at Semuc Champey, Guatemala

  • Travel during the daytime – if you can help it. 
  • Don’t walk at nighttime – always take an official or hotel taxis. 
  • Ask about any local areas to avoid – There will be nothing to see here anyway. 
  • Check volcanic activity – This local news is vital.
  • Learn some Spanish…and Mayan – it helps a lot to speak some of their language .
  • Warm clothing and waterproofs are essential – At high altitudes, the weather gets very dangerous.
  • Use GOOD bus companies – The more reputable the better.
  • Ask permission if you want to take photos of people – especially children (always do this anyway!)
  • Don’t look rich – keep your valuables out of sight, or even better, at home. Keep some money hidden in a money belt.
  • Always keep an emergency stash of cash – Never keep all your cards/ currency in one place. And hide it all from thieves with a hidden money belt .
  • Beware of scams – more on this to come. 
  • Practice safe sex while travelling – goes without saying. But there’s a relatively high rate of HIV.
  • Take a good medical kit with you – you never know when you might need it!
  • Avoid drugs – you won’t all listen to this but know that it is illegal.
  • Cross at designated border crossings – I hope I don’t need to tell you why.
  • Keep away from political demonstrations – It’s actually illegal for foreigners to get involved anyway.
  • Take care in the rainy season – June to November roads can get swept away; landslides also happen. The National Route 14 takes a particular beating during this season.
  • Use ATMs inside banks, shops, etc – and be cautious when you do.
  • Hand over the goods – if someone wants to rob you, let them. Your life is worth more.
  • Be aware of risks – but don’t get consumed by danger. Stay rational.
  • Get travel insurance – and that the travel insurance covers your type of adventure.

Lake Atitlan man on deck

Guatemala is safe for solo travellers. Though, like anywhere you travel alone, there are some extra precautions to take. I’ll give some special points for solo female travellers a little further down. 

Solo travel is an amazing way to see the world. But Guatemala is not ALWAYS the safest of places. 

Travelling solo in Central America is always going to pose more problems than if you were in a group. But many people do take the plunge to Guatemala and have the time of their lives!

For safety in Guatemala, there are a few things to keep in mind…

  • Make friends – There’s safety in numbers. 
  • Avoid walking at night – This puts you at a much higher risk of a robbery or worse. Use public transport or a taxi.
  • DO NOT go hiking by yourself – If you get into trouble you have nobody to lean on.
  • Avoid travelling to remote areas alone – You’re just generally safer in tourist areas.
  • Don’t party TOO hard – Keep your wits about you when you’re backpacking in Guatemala.
  • Do your research – Get online and look up tourist destinations. You should also ask locals about current travel safety.
  • Get a sim card – keep track of where you are and keep in touch with your friends and family. 
  • Let people know where you are – hostel staff, other travellers, and people back home.
  • Don’t skimp on accommodation – A well-reviewed, decently located hotel or hostel saves a lot of stress too.
  • Know your limits. 

So whilst it’s not what we’d call the safest place in the world, Guatemala is awesome . What’s going to make it even better is staying safe the whole time. 

Remember: travelling solo doesn’t mean you have to be a hero and do EVERYTHING by yourself. Make friends, keep in touch, and take minimal risks!

Yes! It is possible to travel to Guatemala as a solo woman safely. But, as with most places, solo female travellers in Guatemala need to take some crucial extra precautions.

Girl daydreaming in the back of a truck as she hitchhike's through Mexico.

Here are some solo female travel tips for Guatemala:

  • Trust your spidey senses ! – if your gut says something is wrong then it probably is. 
  • Check out good hostels for women – read reviews, make friends, and share experiences and tips. Use female-only dorms if you prefer.
  • Dress accordingly –  skirts below the knee work well. Shorts scream TOURIST. Guatemala is still pretty conservative. Plus you don’t need unnecessary attention.
  • Speak up – If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, make it clear the MOMENT it gets weird. 
  • You don’t have to be polite – or answer questions, or tell the truth. Saying “no” is always okay too!
  • Walk confidently – even if you’re not. 
  • Likewise, don’t be overconfident – you’re not a hero. You can ask for help when you need it. 
  • Don’t give too much information away – if someone seems too interested that’s a red flag. 
  • Join a group tour! Make friends and see a new side of Guatemala. 
  • Avoid chicken buses – They may be cheap but that’s for good reason. Solo female travellers need not increase the risk more.
  • Guatemala is still a macho society . Ignore catcalling – It’s not worth the stress.
  • DON’T walk alone at night .

Tourists aren’t usually the target of problems in Guatemala. A lot of female travellers DO go to Guatemala and have an awesome time . Take some extra safety precautions and have a blast!

visiting antigua guatemala

Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala is a colonial gem, filled with narrow cobblestone streets, jacarandas, 16th-century ruins, and bright, infectious culture. It’s a historically significant town that’s UNESCO listed, and yet it lives firmly in the present.

Guatemala is safe for families to travel. Better yet, Guatemalan society loves children. But to be honest, you’re probably going to have to be an adventurous family to make the trip.

Guatemala is perfect for curious and mature kids. Though taking young children might be a bit stressful. If they’re not interested in history or scenery, they might not have a good time either.

a family of monkeys

To make sure you keep your family safe while travelling in Guatemala, there are a few things to bear in mind.

  • Take precautions for mosquitos – Dengue fever and malaria in Guatemala are a risk. Children are more susceptible than adults.
  • Don’t bring a pushchair – pavements aren’t much of a thing in Guatemala. It will be a burden. 
  • Roads in Guatemala are dangerous – make sure your children understand this and keep them away.
  • Keep away from strays – dogs (there are a lot of these) and cats may be carrying fleas and/or rabies. Your kids might want to pet them, so prep them for the dangers of going near potentially disease-carrying animals. Plus, you never know if they’re going to be aggressive.
  • Maybe most importantly, maximum sun protection – it’s hot and humid in Guatemala and you are at a high altitude. A good sun hat for everyone, plenty of sun cream, and a whole lot of water should keep off sunburn, sunstroke, and dehydration. Make sure you have a good water bottle with you.

To travel to Guatemala with children you have to be well-prepared. Remember, this is a developing country : it’s not always going to be easy.

BUT there’s a wealth of Guatemalan culture , history, and natural beauty to discover here. Your efforts will definitely pay off and travelling families get a whole different perspective on this amazing country!

Granted, it’s safe to drive in Guatemala , but for the hassle, it’s not really worth it. Now, why is Guatemala so dangerous if you’re driving? Great question here’s why:

  • Fraudulent car rental companies. 
  • Roads are dangerous especially rural roads. 
  • Drivers are reckless – to say the least. 
  • Armed bandits do linger.
  • Drink driving . 
  • People alert each other with bits of old trees in the road if there’s a broken-down car ahead. 

Note: vehicles coming UPhill have right-of-way.

If you choose to drive anyway, you’ll need an international driving permit and AVOID driving at night. Honestly, it’s safer to get a group together and hire a private driver . 

Taxis in Guatemala are generally safe but a little sketchy. Still, taxis are one of the safest ways to get around at night. 

Besides some areas in Guatemala City, they don’t use meters – so agree a price before you get in. Ask your accommodation where to take them or use hotel taxis. You can also use tuk-tuks . 

I DON’T recommend hailing taxis off the street. Fake taxi companies exist and using them puts you at high risk. If you find a good driver, take their card and use them again.

Better yet, Uber is safe in Guatemala . Uber operates in Guatemala City and other major cities.

The ubiquitous chicken bus is the primary mode of public transport in Guatemala. A lot of travellers use them. They make great adventures in Guatemala , but not exactly safe: hijackings, robberies, assaults, and road incidents happen. If you use the chicken bus, stay very vigilant. 

guatemala safe public transportation

Express buses go between Guatemala City and other destinations. These are much safer than chicken buses.

Inside Guatemala City, you have old red buses (which we don’t recommend) and newer TransMetro/TransUrbano ones. Most travellers get around on tourist shuttle services, which are basically minibuses . Just use a reputable company.

Everyone’s packing list is going to look a little different, but here are a few things I would never want to travel to Guatemala without…


Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Gifts for backpackers

A decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples, or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must.

Yesim eSIM

Yesim stands as a premier eSIM service provider, catering specifically to the mobile internet needs of travellers.


Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Pacsafe belt

This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing .

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

guatemala tourist safety

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Planning a safe trip to Guatemala can get quite overwhelming. Here are the questions I get asked the most about how safe is Guatemala.

What should you avoid in Guatemala?

Avoid these things while travelling in Guatemala: – Don’t resist when being robbed  – Don’t walk around at night outside tourist areas (only use public transport if you have to and only use a reputable company) – Avoid using ATMs that aren’t inside banks or supermarkets – Don’t walk down empty streets or alleys 

Is Guatemala safe at night?

This is a very clear no. Guatemala is not safe at night and you should avoid going out after dark. It’s even recommended to travel during daylight only.

Is it safe to walk in Guatemala?

Nope – unless you want traveller’s diarrhoea. Stick to purified water in Guatemala. This is widely available at every hostel and hotel, so bring a reliable refillable bottle .

Is Guatemala safe to live in?

Yes, Guatemala is actually safe to live in. Of course, you’ll have to pay attention to some new things if you’re planning on making the move to Guatemala. Namely, these are cultural differences and the weather like rainy season. Also gang violence, but mainly if you live in Guatemala City.

It’s not always had the best reputation when it comes to safety, but Guatemala IS generally a safe place to visit. Granted, there ARE crimes committed against tourists, like petty theft and robberies. As we always stress: travel smart – try not to LOOK like a tourist, avoid deserted streets, use public transportation smartly, do your research on the best companies to use, and you’ll most likely avoid trouble.

Also remember: the statistics for violent crimes in Guatemala are mainly down to gangs . Unless you get yourself into a really stupid situation involving drugs, you’re unlikely to be involved in anything to do with these elements.

Natural disasters and volcanic eruptions occur are potentially the biggest threat to your safety in Guatemala. Reading up on the news, what to do in an emergency, and then chatting with locals is going to help you stay safe.

At the end of the day, Guatemala does have safety issues. But as a tourist, you are valuable to the economy. Sticking to tourist areas, steering clear of sketchy ones, and keeping our travel tips in mind are really going to help you stay safe. Guatemala is awesome – and you should be able to see how awesome it is!

Rio Dulce Sunset

Looking for more info on traveling to Guatemala?

  • Let me help you choose where to stay in Antigua
  • Plan the rest of your trip with our fantastic backpacking Guatemala travel guide!
  • Get inspired by these EPIC bucket list adventures !
  • See exactly how to travel the world for a year , even if you’re broke
  • Take a look at my expert travel safety tips learned from 15+ years on the road

Disclaimer: Safety conditions change all over the world on a daily basis. We do our best to advise but this info may already be out of date. Do your own research. Enjoy your travels!

Made it this far? You get 15% OFF to book a place to stay ! Offer valid exclusively for Broke Backpackers 😉

guatemala tourist safety

Claire Martin

Is Guatemala Safe Pinterest Image

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Great post Clair, We have family who lives in Jutiapa and said pretty much the same thing. Thinking about moving there as a snowbird in the winter. Food as you say is very different for sure. However, you can get the pizza, burger KFC thing there as well. Thought I’d mention that since you avoided that.

How do I contact people who live/traveled Guat.Is there a web site such as facebook or something

Hi Byron, I would suggest looking up relevant groups on sites like facebook, reddit, Tripadvisor etc to connect with people who have travelled there previously.

FYI – Safety tip #15 is essentially blank. Thank you for tons of info here!

Thanks. We have fixed that!

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Things to know before visiting Guatemala

Doug Murray

Nov 2, 2023 • 7 min read

Hispanic woman on the pier of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala looking aside, full body

Guatemala is a fascinating country with so much to see – here are tips that will help you make the most out of your trip Fernanda Reyes / Getty Images

Guatemala has been my second home for nearly two decades, and the country still captivates me: the landscape with its volcanoes and coffee trees, the lakes and rivers and tropical beaches, Mayan ruins peeking out above the treetops. 

Mayan traditions are still alive and well, and the weather’s almost always fine in the Land of Eternal Spring. However, there's information travelers to Guatemala should know before visiting if you really want to enjoy all it has to offer. 

Get your shots before you leave

If you come in from a country where yellow fever is endemic, you’ll need to be vaccinated against this mosquito-borne disease. It’s also recommended that you’re up to date with your typhoid, hepatitis A and B, rabies, flu and TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough) shots. It’s best to visit a travel clinic at least a month before your trip if you need to get vaccinated so there’s enough time to give you full protection. Some vaccines, like hepatitis B and rabies, require follow-up doses.

Bring your own bug spray if you like it DEET free

Most of the things you may have forgotten at home are available in Guatemala, but some items are more difficult to find or very expensive. Bug spray is easy to find but usually contains DEET. The locally produced DEET-free repellents aren’t very effective, so you’ll want to bring a good brand from home. The mosquito-borne diseases of malaria, zika, dengue fever and chikungunya are all endemic in parts of Guatemala. 

Silhouette of a fisherman casting his net in Guatemala

Don't go without sunscreen

Sunburn is a real risk if you spend time outside. Some of the larger stores and pharmacies sell chemical sunscreens, but these generally don’t have an SPF higher than 25. The stronger stuff and natural mineral sunscreens are normally only available in a handful of specialty health stores, with limited options and much higher prices. Pack enough of your favorite sunscreen, and remember to use it.

Your preferred feminine hygiene products might be hard to find

In terms of feminine hygiene products, most shops stock pads only. Some larger stores and pharmacies stock tampons with applicators. You might find the kind without an applicator, as well as menstrual cups, in specialty health stores, but the price will reflect the fact that they’re imported.

Pack lightweight clothing

Because Guatemala’s weather is mainly warm and humid, light clothing that dries quickly is more useful than jeans, which are heavy, too warm for the climate and take forever to dry. For cooler days, a light sweater or jacket is generally sufficient. If you need more clothes than you brought or just a wardrobe revamp, most towns have a paca , a place where you can buy secondhand clothing for as little as Q5 (less than US$1). 

The Arco de Santa Catalina, in Antigua, is a remnant of a 17th-century convent; the arch enabled nuns to cross the street unseen.

When in doubt, cover up

Guatemalans tend to be religious: practicing Catholic, evangelical or, to a smaller extent, traditional Mayan belief systems. That deep-rooted faith also means that they are generally more socially conservative, especially in Maya-dominated communities. 

Men don’t go shirtless unless they’re at the beach. Women prefer knee-length shorts and oversized T-shirts to bathing suits. In the large cities and Ladino-dominated areas, people are more open to shorts, shorter skirts and tank tops. In the Maya communities, however, the women usually wear traditional clothing in public, and their cortes – a garment worn as a skirt – always fall below the knee.

If you’re not sure whether your clothing is appropriate, it’s best to cover up: put on a shirt and don’t wear anything shorter than mid-thigh. If you visit a church or other spiritual site, it’s respectful to cover your shoulders and arms.  

Avoid illegal drugs

Some bars and hostels turn a blind eye to the use of marijuana and other illegal drugs. However, police raids on bars and hostels aren’t uncommon, and if you’re found with any illegal substances in your possession, you will be arrested. 

Don’t drink the water

Tap water in Guatemala is not safe to drink. To reduce your risk of getting parasites, stick to purified water: bottled water is readily available everywhere. Hostels and restaurants will usually let you refill your water bottle, sometimes for a small fee. You may also want to skip the raw salad unless you’re sure that purified water was used for washing produce. 

If you do contract parasites, a trip to the pharmacy is often all you need to get the right treatment.

Guatemalans can get personal but don’t mean harm

It’s not unusual in Guatemalan culture to call people by some physical attribute. Being called guapo or guapa (attractive one) can feel uncomfortable at worst, but being called gordo or gorda (fat one) may sting. If you don’t like the nickname you’ve been given, try not to act offended; the trick is to let it slide and to tell the person your name instead. 

You may also find that Guatemalans like to ask personal questions: how old you are, how many children you have, where you are going. If you answer in the negative as to whether you have a spouse, this may even lead to questions about the status of your virginity, no matter your age. If you feel uncomfortable, remain polite, joke, and change the subject. 

Politeness goes a long way – most of the time

Guatemalans appreciate politeness. A friendly buenas  (good morning/afternoon/evening) or hola  (hello) creates a good first impression. Por favor  or simply porfa  (please) and gracias  (thank you) show that you were raised right. If you learn to say thank you in the Mayan dialect spoken at your destination, it’s guaranteed to elicit a smile. Ask locals how to say thank you in their language, repeat the phrase back to them and then use it for as long as you’re in that town.

One area where being too polite will do you no good, though, is standing in line. People will patiently wait in line in a more formal setting, such as at the clinic or a government office. At the market or in a neighborhood tienda (corner store)? If you don’t speak up, somebody may very well step in front of you as if it’s the most normal thing in the world – and in Guatemala, it is. 

A woman walking on a path surrounded by tropical greenery, seen from behind

The travel experience might be different for female visitors 

The culture of machismo is rife in Guatemala. Local women generally don’t frequent bars and cantinas on their own because of the risk of sexual harassment and violence. Even in pairs, women may face harassment. If you want to go out drinking, it’s best to do it in a mixed group: the presence of men in your group will deter those who won’t take no for an answer.

Women travelers may also encounter micro-aggressions like being talked over or ignored in favor of the men in their group. They’re also held to a higher standard than male travelers when it comes to dress or how they behave in bars and at parties. Sexual harassment and violence are real risks, and the conviction rate for offenders is low. 

However, as a woman traveler, you may find real solidarity – local women tend to be protective of female tourists traveling on their own. If a situation makes you feel uncomfortable, try to move closer to groups of other women. And who knows: you might make some real connections and make some new friends!

The LGBTQI+ scene is small   

Same-sex relationships are legal in Guatemala but frowned upon. The LGBTIQ+ scene in the country is small and mostly confined to the largest cities and tourist areas. While violence against LGBTIQ+ tourists is rare, local activists have been attacked. Take your cues from your surroundings and watch how the local community behaves towards transgender people or public displays of affection between same-sex couples, for instance. If you’re unsure, err on the side of caution. 

Hiker with panorama view of Lake Atitlan and volcano San Pedro and Toliman early in the morning from peak of volcano Atitlan, Guatemala. Hiking and climbing on Vulcano Atitlan

Always hike with a local guide

Some tourists who come to Guatemala climb volcanoes on their own with no issues. However, hiking alone is not a good idea because of the risk of getting robbed, injured or lost. Use local guides and follow their instructions: if they say they’re not going any farther, turn around with them. Guides know what the risks are, and the risks are very real – Guatemala has seen several high-profile deaths of hikers in recent years. Rescue teams are normally made up of volunteers using donated gear. When they have to risk their lives to rescue you, the decent thing to do is to reimburse them for their trouble.   

To stay safe, don't take unnecessary chances

Is Guatemala safe? As a tourist, you’re unlikely to run into serious trouble. That said, listen to local advice about areas to avoid, always be aware of your surroundings and never leave your belongings or your drinks unattended. 

Guatemala has a reputation for corruption and poor enforcement of laws. You may hear of travelers who bribed officials and got away with it. You may also hear of travelers who weren’t so lucky, so just don’t do it. 

This article was first published Mar 3, 2022 and updated Nov 2, 2023.

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Is It Safe in Guatemala?

guatemala tourist safety

Despite Guatemala's high crime rates, the vast majority of travelers do enjoy worry-free vacations without incident. Most crime in Guatemala is concentrated in Guatemala City, which has high levels of theft, armed robbery, and gang activity. Although crime does happen frequently outside the city and in main tourist centers like Antigua and Tikal, most tourists experience no issues. In Guatemala, the most dangerous criminals are interested in targeting local business owners, not tourists.   Although the rates of crime are high, the odds of having a crime-free trip to Guatemala are in the average traveler's favor and you can increase those odds by practicing common sense and staying vigilant.

Travel Advisories

  • Guatemala closed its borders at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but has since reopened for all travelers, including U.S. citizens. However, the State Department is still advising against any international travel.  
  • Before COVID-19, the State Department also advised American citizens to reconsider travel to Guatemala due to reports of widespread violent crime, gang activity, and drug trafficking in the Guatemala, Escuintla, Chiquimula, Quetzaltenango, Izabal, and Petén departments.  

Is Guatemala Dangerous?

Guatemala can be a very dangerous country, but crimes against tourists occur less frequently and are less likely to be violent. According to the State Department, there were 176 recorded instances of crime against tourists in 2019 out of 2.6 million registered tourists.  

Tourists are most at risk for petty crimes, like pickpocketing and bag-snatching , which typically occur in crowded areas or on public transportation. In Guatemala City, Zone 1 is notorious for being a very dangerous neighborhood with many robberies happening near the bus terminal and Central Market. ATM crime and bankcard scamming are also common in Guatemala, so it's best to avoid using ATMs in main tourist centers whenever you're traveling in Guatemala. Although cities are the most dangerous, any area that attracts a high volume of tourists will also attract crime, even when you're trekking in the middle of the jungle. No matter where they are, travelers should remain vigilant at all times.

The police force in Guatemala is young and under-funded, and the judicial system is overcrowded and inefficient.   Be on your guard if you ever get stopped by a police officer, but remain polite. Corruption does occur, but many officers can be helpful too. Security escorts and emergency services are available through the Tourist Assistance Office of INGUAT.

Is Guatemala Safe for Solo Travelers?

Although tourists are less likely to become victims of crimes in Guatemala, traveling alone does increase your risk and solo travelers should be cognizant of that. You can reduce your risk as a solo traveler in Guatemala by not going out at night alone and teaming up with other travelers you meet along the way to visit popular attractions.

If you want to get out and enjoy nature, explore the forests, hike volcanoes , or go searching for waterfalls, you should always go with a tour group rather than venturing out on your own. Avoid taking tours from individuals and use a reputable company with good reviews. Tour companies usually know where they need a police escort and have connections with the locals that can warn them about potential dangers.

Is Guatemala Safe for Female Travelers?

Most female travelers in Guatemala report feeling just as safe as male travelers while visiting Guatemala. Women should heed general safety advice like avoiding public transportation and not walking around alone at night, but should also be aware that Guatemalan culture has a history of misogyny and one of the highest rates of violence against women worldwide. Although most of the crimes against women occur within domestic spheres and female tourists are not usually the target of these offenses, it is still something to bear in mind when interacting with men in Guatemala.

Safety Tips for LGBTQ+ Travelers

Guatemala comes in at 131 out of 202 on the Gay Travel Index , a ranking that measures the legal situations and living conditions of the LGBTQ+ community in countries across the world. The country is largely Catholic and conservative and while homophobia is still prevalent in the culture, things are starting to change. In 2020 the country's first openly gay politician was elected to parliament and small gay pride celebrations take place annually in Guatemala City, Antigua, and Quetzaltenango. LGBTQ+ travelers may want to be discreet while traveling in Guatemala, especially if they find themselves outside the main tourist zones. The government is still struggling to address acts of violence that target members of the LGBTQ+ community, and tolerance is still an ongoing issue that Guatemalan LGBTQ+ rights activists are fighting for.

Safety Tips for BIPOC Travelers

In highly-trafficked tourist corridors, BIPOC travelers are usually treated like every other foreigner and face few issues, however, it's important for all travelers, but especially indigenous travelers, to be aware of the country's brutal history of racism. During the Guatemalan Civil War, which took place from 1960 to 1996, 200,000 Mayans were massacred in genocide and the community still suffers acts of violence today. While this is an ongoing issue in Guatemala, BIPOC travelers generally do not experience racially-motivated crimes, however, they may notice some racial tension during their travels.

Safety Tips for Travelers

Crime is an issue in Guatemala, but travelers can take the following precautions to lower their chances of becoming a victim:

  • In Guatemala City and Antigua , avoid traveling at night at all costs. Even if your destination is only a couple of blocks away, take a cab or ride-share.
  • Don’t flash any signs of wealth and leave valuable jewelry at home. Keep your camera in a discreet case whenever you're not using it.
  • Resisting a robbery or mugging can be very dangerous, so if you are held up, cooperate fully.
  • Travelers should be vigilant, not paranoid. Robbers tend to target those who appear nervous because it insinuates that you have something of high value to protect.
  • Never leave your valuables unattended at restaurants and keep your phone put away at all times when it's not in use.

Overseas Security Advisory Council, U.S. Department of State. " Guatemala 2020 Crime & Safety Report ." March 31, 2020.

U.S. Department of State. " COVID-19 Traveler Information ." August 6, 2020.

U.S. Department of State. " Guatemala Travel Advisory ." September 28, 2020.

Overseas Security Advisory Council, U.S. Department of State. " Guatemala 2019 Crime & Safety Report ." February 28, 2019.

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Travel Advisory July 17, 2023

Guatemala - level 3: reconsider travel.

Reissued with obsolete COVID-19 page links removed.

Reconsider travel to Guatemala due to  crime . Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory.

Do not travel to:

  • San Marcos Department (except the city of San Marcos) due to  crime .
  • Huehuetenango Department (except the city of Huehuetenango) due to  crime .
  • Zone 18 and the city of Villa Nueva in Guatemala City due to  crime .

Country Summary:  Violent crime such as extortion, murder, armed robbery, carjacking, narcotics trafficking and gang activity are common in Guatemala. Local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to criminal incidents resulting in a low arrest and conviction rate. Guatemala’s National Tourist Assistance Program ( PROATUR ) provides 24-hour emergency assistance and routine guidance to tourists. PROATUR also provide additional security in locations frequented by tourists. The call center is staffed with Spanish and English speakers and can be reached 24/7 by calling 1500 or +502-2290-2800.

U.S. government personnel and family members are prohibited from traveling to/throughout the above-mentioned areas for personal travel but are permitted to travel throughout the rest of Guatemala, including tourist destinations such as Tikal, Antigua, Lake Atitlán, and Pacific coast areas in the Santa Rosa and Escuintla Departments.

Read the  country information page  for additional information on travel to Guatemala.

If you decide to travel to Guatemala:

  • When traveling to Lake Atitlán, use certified tourist providers and travel between villages on the lakeshore by chartered boat, as perimeter paths pose a serious crime risk and are not easily accessible by emergency services. Hiking in the area, while popular, is best undertaken with the assistance of a local guide to ensure safety, as criminals are known to target some routes.
  • When visiting Pacific coast beaches and resorts in the Santa Rosa and Escuintla Departments, arrange travel through hotel, resort, or charter agents. We recommend traveling to and from hotels, resorts, and fishing charters via road from Guatemala City during daylight hours only.
  • Visitors are strongly advised to avoid swimming in the Pacific Ocean, since currents and undertows are strong, and beaches lack adequate lifeguards or emergency response.
  • Visitors should not leave drinks unattended in bars and restaurants and are advised to decline invitations from strangers to private parties or gatherings.
  • Consider staying in hotels or other lodging facilities that offer secure parking, doormen, and a dedicated and professional security staff.
  • Request security escorts, which are available for tourist groups, from the Guatemalan Tourism Institute ( INGUAT ).
  • Be aware of your surroundings and avoid walking or driving at night.
  • Do take radio-dispatched taxis (Taxi Amarillo), INGUAT-approved taxis from the “SAFE” stand at the airport, hotel taxis, vetted private drivers, and/or Uber.
  • Do not take public transportation, including white car taxis. U.S. government personnel and their family members are prohibited from using these forms of transportation.
  • Do not attempt to hike walking trails or volcanoes without the services of a qualified local guide. Robberies are commonplace, and emergency response is lacking.
  • Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
  • Do not use public ATMs.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry, and avoid using mobile devices in public.
  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)  to receive Alerts while in Guatemala and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
  • Follow the Department of State on  Facebook  and  Twitter .
  • Review the  Country Security Report  for Guatemala.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the  Traveler’s Checklist .
  • Visit the CDC page for the latest  Travel Health Information  related to your travel.

San Marcos Department – Level 4: Do Not Travel

All U.S. government personnel and family members are prohibited from traveling to San Marcos Department for personal travel, except for the city of San Marcos. Narcotics trafficking is widespread, and large portions of the department are under the influence of drug trafficking organizations. Several municipalities lack police presence, and local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Avoid areas outside of major roads and highways. Visit our website for  Travel to High-Risk Areas .

Huehuetenango Department – Level 4: Do Not Travel

All U.S. government personnel and family members are prohibited from traveling to Huehuetenango Department for personal travel, except for the city of Huehuetenango. Narcotics trafficking is widespread, and large portions of the department are under the influence of drug trafficking organizations. Several municipalities lack police presence, and local police may lack the resources to respond effectively to serious criminal incidents. Avoid areas outside of major roads and highways.

Visit our website for  Travel to High-Risk Areas .

Zone 18 and Villa Nueva within the Guatemala Department – Level 4: Do Not Travel

U.S. government personnel and family members are free to travel within Guatemala City except for zone 18 and the municipality of Villa Nueva. The following zones in Guatemala City are of elevated concern due to crime: 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 17, 19, 21, and 24. U.S. citizens should take appropriate security measures when traveling to and from the airport such as only using vetted transportation services, not displaying valuables or other signs of wealth, refraining from using mobile devices in public, and not lingering outside the airport. U.S. citizens are advised not to hail white-car taxis on the street in Guatemala City. Use radio-dispatched taxis (Taxi Amarillo), INGUAT-approved taxis from the “SAFE” stand at the airport, hotel taxis, vetted private drivers, or Uber.

Embassy Messages

View Alerts and Messages Archive

Quick Facts

Passport must be valid at the time of entry.

One page per stamp.

A visa is not required.

There are no restrictions, but if the passenger is carrying $10,000 or more, s/he will need to justify the income and the purpose

Embassies and Consulates

U.S. Embassy Guatemala City

Boulevard Austriaco 11-51, Zone 16 Guatemala City, Guatemala Telephone: +(502) 2354-0000 Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(502) 2354-0000 [email protected]

Destination Description

Learn about the U.S. relationship to countries around the world.

Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements

To enter Guatemala, you will need a U.S. passport that is valid at the time of entry. There is no minimum validity period for a U.S. passport. U.S. citizens do not need a visa and are admitted to Guatemala for 90 days. Some airlines require that passengers complete the  electronic Guatemalan immigration form  prior to check-in Although you may select to fill out the form in English, in drop down menus, United States is listed as “Estados Unidos.”

If your passport is lost or stolen while you are in Guatemala, please obtain a new passport at the U.S. Embassy as soon as possible. In order to be permitted to depart Guatemala, you will present the new passport together with a police or Ministerio Publico report regarding the loss/theft to the Guatemalan Immigration Agency ( Dirección de Migración ).

Visit the  Ministry of Foreign Affairs website  (Spanish only) or  contact the Guatemalan Embassy  for the most current visa information. If a U.S. citizen exceeds the period of authorized stay, a fine of 15 Guatemalan quetzals (GTQ) per day is imposed, and this fine must be paid to be permitted to depart Guatemala.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Guatemala.

Find information on  dual nationality ,  prevention of international child abduction , and  customs regulations  on our websites.

Safety and Security

Guatemala has a dedicated tourism assistance program (called  PROATUR ) whose sole mission is to assist and protect foreign tourists in Guatemala. Their emergency assistance call center – staffed with Spanish and English speakers – may be contacted 24/7 by calling 1500 or +502-2290-2810. You may also contact PROATUR by WhatsApp at +502-5188-1819.

Crime:  Theft, armed robbery, and carjacking are the most common crimes against U.S. citizens.

Travelers have experienced carjackings and armed robberies upon leaving the airport.  Victims have been violently assaulted when they resisted an attack or refused to give up money or valuables. Pickpockets and purse-snatchers are prevalent in major cities and tourist sites, especially the central market and other parts of Zone 1 in Guatemala City. In a common scenario, an accomplice distracts the victim while an assailant slashes a bag or backpack or simply steals it.

Reports of sexual assault remain high. Support for victims of sexual assault is lacking.

The Guatemalan border with Mexico, in particular the northwestern corner of Petén, is a high-risk area due to large scale drug and alien smuggling.  There have been instances of narco-related homicides in this area, especially along CA-13. Visitors are encouraged to fly to nearby Flores when visiting Tikal. Travelers should remain in groups, stay on principal trails leading to the Central Plaza and the Temple IV complex, and avoid remote areas of the park.

Due to heightened risk of crime, U.S. Embassy personnel are not permitted to go to Zone 18 in Guatemala City, Huehuetenango Department (except the city of Huehuetenango), and San Marcos Department (except the city of San Marcos).  For more detailed information, please see the  Guatemala Travel Advisory .

To decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim:

  • Be aware of your surroundings. Report any crime incidents promptly to the police.
  • Carry a photocopy of your passport in case you lose your passport.
  • Do not use public ATMs.  Only use ATMs inside secure bank lobbies or hotels. Scams involving attempts to acquire a victim’s ATM card and personal identification number (PIN) are common. U.S. citizens have been victims of credit card scams where the card is copied and used improperly.
  • Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive jewelry or watches. Refrain from using a cell phone on the street. A common crime against foreign citizens in Guatemala is robbery of cell phones.
  • Do not use local public buses . U.S. Embassy personnel are not permitted to use any local buses. Avoid low-priced public inter-city buses (often recognizable as recycled and repainted U.S. school buses). Travelers also have been attacked on first-class buses on highway CA-2 near the border areas with both Mexico and El Salvador, on highways CA-1 and CA-9 near the border with El Salvador, and in the highlands between Quetzaltenango and Sololá.  Public buses are subject to frequent attacks by armed robbers, and often are poorly maintained and dangerously driven.
  • Do not hail taxis on the street in Guatemala City, instead use radio-dispatched taxis (Taxi Amarillo), INGUAT-approved taxis from the “SAFE” stand at the Guatemala City airport, or hotel taxis. Uber is also considered safe to use in Guatemala City and Antigua.

Tourist groups are advised to request security escorts.  Security escorts for tourist groups are available from INGUAT and may be requested by calling 1500 or +502-2290-2800.

  • Requests should be directed to the attention of the Coordinator of the  National Tourist Assistance Program , and should provide the itinerary, names of travelers, and model and color of the vehicle in which they will be traveling.
  • The request should be submitted by mail, fax, or  e-mail , and should arrive at INGUAT at least three business days in advance of the proposed travel.
  • INGUAT may not be able to accommodate all requests.
  • Visit  INGUAT’s web site .

Demonstrations  occur frequently. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events. 

  • Demonstrations can be unpredictable. Avoid areas around protests and demonstrations 
  • Past demonstrations have turned violent.
  • Check local media for updates and traffic advisories. 

International Financial Scams:  See the  Department of State  and the  FBI  pages for information.  

Internet romance and financial scams are prevalent in Guatemala. Scams are often initiated through Internet postings/profiles or by unsolicited emails and letters. Scammers almost always pose as U.S. citizens who have no one else to turn to for help. Common scams include:  

  • Romance/Online dating
  • Money transfers
  • Lucrative sales
  • Contracts with promises of large commissions
  • Grandparent/Relative targeting
  • Free Trip/Luggage
  • Inheritance notices
  • Work permits/job offers
  • Bank overpayments

Victims of Crime:   U.S. citizen victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance. Report crimes to the police through the tourist assistance program ( PROATUR ) at 1500 or +502-2290-2800 and contact the U.S. Embassy at+502-2354-0000. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime.

See our webpage on  help for U.S. victims of crime overseas .

The U.S. Embassy can:

  • help you find appropriate medical care.
  • assist you in reporting a crime to the police.
  • contact relatives or friends with your written consent.
  • provide general information regarding the victim’s role during the local investigation and following its conclusion. 
  • provide a list of local attorneys
  • provide our information on  victim’s compensation programs in the United States.
  • provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution.
  • help you find accommodations and arrange flights home.
  • replace a stolen or lost passport.

Domestic Violence:  U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.

Tourism:  The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, appropriate basic medical treatment is typically available only in/near major cities. First responders may encounter obstacles to accessing areas outside of major cities, and/or be unable to provide urgent medical treatment. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more  information on insurance providers for overseas coverage .

Water Safety:  Basic safety measures and precautions for swimming, boating, and other outdoor activities may not be observed in Guatemala.

  • Beware of strong currents, riptides, and undertows along Guatemala's Pacific coast beaches, as well as at Lake Atitlan.  Lifeguards are rarely present.
  • Signs that warn of treacherous surf are rare and confined mostly to private beaches owned by hotels.

Potential for Natural Disasters:

  • There are  four active volcanoes  in Guatemala: Fuego, Pacaya, Tacaná, and Santiaguito. Volcanic activity has forced evacuations of nearby villages. U.S. Embassy personnel are not permitted to visit the Agua volcano due to the high incidence of robberies on the volcano.
  • Be aware of the possibility of  earthquakes  at any time and make contingency plans.  Consult Guatemala’s National Seismic Institute ( INSIVUMEH ) for updates on earthquakes and seismic activity.
  • Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Guatemala are vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms from mid-May through November.
  • Mudslides and flooding during the May to November rainy season often kill dozens of people and close roads.
  • Consult Guatemala’s  National Disaster Reduction Coordination Office   (CONRED)  for updates on natural disasters or tropical storms and hurricanes.

Indigenous Areas:   Be mindful of local traditional practices when visiting indigenous Maya communities as tensions can rise quickly and locals occasionally take the law into their own hands.

  • Particularly in small villages, residents are often wary and suspicious of outsiders.
  • Avoid activities that might unintentionally violate a cultural or religious belief.
  • In the past, Guatemalan citizens have been lynched for suspicion of child abduction. Maintain distance from local children and refrain from actions that could fuel such suspicions.

Local Laws & Special Circumstances

Criminal Penalties:   You are subject to local laws.  If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.  Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business. 

Furthermore, some violations of law that occur in Guatemala are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law.  For examples, see our websites on  crimes against minors abroad  and the  Department of Justice  website.

Arrest Notification:   If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy immediately.  See our  webpage  for further information.

Counterfeit and Pirated Goods:  Although counterfeit and pirated goods are prevalent in many countries, they may still be illegal according to local laws.  You may also pay fines or have to give them up if you bring them back to the United States.  See the U.S. Department of Justice website for more information. 

Faith-Based Travelers:  See the following webpages for details:

  • Faith-Based Travel Information
  • International Religious Freedom Report  – see country reports
  • Human Rights Report  – see country reports
  • Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
  • Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad

LGBTI Travelers:   There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTQI+ events in Guatemala.  While there is no legal recognition of same-sex partnerships or marriages, private same-sex sexual activity between consenting adults is legal.

  • Antidiscrimination laws exist, but do not include specific protections based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • There is general societal discrimination against LGBTI persons in relation to their access to education, health care, employment, and housing.
  • According to LGBTI rights groups, gay and transgender individuals often experience police abuse.  LGBTI rights groups allege that police officers regularly engage in extortion by waiting outside clubs and bars frequented by LGBTI persons to demand protection money or payment to avoid jail.
  • A lack of trust in the judicial system and a fear of further harassment or social recrimination discourages victims from filing complaints.

See   our  LGBTI Travel Information   page and section 6 of our  Human Rights report  for further details.

Travelers with Disabilities:   The law in Guatemala prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, , intellectual or mental disabilities, and the law is enforced.  Social acceptance of persons with disabilities in public is not as prevalent as in the United States.  The most common types of accessibility may include accessible facilities, information, and communication.  Expect accessibility to be limited in public transportation, information, and general infrastructure, and common in lodging and communication. There is a significant difference between Guatemala City and the rest of the country. 

Students:  See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips .  

Women Travelers:   See our travel tips for Women Travelers .

Customs:   Guatemalan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Guatemala of items such as antiquities and other cultural property.

When traveling to Guatemala for temporary work related to your profession, if you bring in any technical equipment or tools, you must declare this equipment/these tools upon entry.  The equipment/tools must be of a personal, not commercial, quantity.  You must take the equipment/tools with you when you depart.  If, upon entry, you intend to leave any equipment/tools in Guatemala, you are required to report that to customs authorities and pay import taxes.

Contact the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington, D.C . ion. (phone: 202-745-4953) or one of Guatemala’s consulates in the United States for specific information.

The full range of medical care is available in Guatemala City, but medical care outside of the city is limited. Guatemala’s public hospitals frequently experience serious shortages of even the most basic medicines and equipment. Care in private hospitals is generally adequate for most common illnesses and injuries, and many of the medical specialists working in them are U.S.-trained and -certified. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of  medical providers and hospitals  on our website. We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.

Many hospitals in Guatemala require payment prior to treating patients, even if personal insurance will cover the treatment. They do not typically enter into payment plan agreements, and they may decline to discharge you from the hospital if you owe money for treatment.

For emergency services in Guatemala, dial 110.

Ambulance services are not present throughout the country or are unreliable in most areas except urbanized areas.

We do not pay medical bills . Be aware that U.S. Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept U.S. health insurance.

Medical Insurance:  Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See  our webpage  for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage. Visit the  U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  for more information on type of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.

We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.

Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Check with the  Guatemalan Public Health Ministry  to ensure the medication is legal in Guatemala.

Vaccinations:   Be up to date on all  vaccinations  recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Further health information:

  • World Health Organization
  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC)

Air Quality:  Visit  AirNow Department of State  for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.

Travel and Transportation

Road Conditions and Safety:   Road hazards are common.  Secondary and rural roads have little to no illumination.  U.S. Embassy employees are prohibited from traveling outside the capital city at night.  Be vigilant of motorcyclists who weave unexpectedly across lanes of traffic and pedestrians who unexpectedly dart across roads due to the lack of defined crosswalks.

Robberies of occupied vehicles are common in Guatemala City, often by two assailants on motorcycles who pull up alongside a car stopped at a traffic light.  There have also been numerous reports of violent criminal activity along Guatemala’s main highways, including the Carretera a El Salvador (Inter-American Highway CA-2).

Armed attacks have occurred in various places in Guatemala, including:

  • On roads between Guatemala City and the Petén region;

Between Tikal and the Belize border; and

  • On tThe Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and the road from Guatemala City to the Caribbean coast (CA-9), due to heavy traffic, including large trucks and trailers.

U.S. Embassy employees are prohibited from driving from or through Mexico to Guatemala.

Stay on main roads when traveling to and from Antigua and Lake Atitlan.  Secondary roads in those areas are poorly maintained and have experienced higher incidents of robbery, rape, and armed assault.

PROVIAL, a roadside assistance force, patrols most of the major highways in the country.  PROVIAL can be contacted by calling +502-2422-7800.  Travelers may also call the police for roadside assistance by dialing 110 or 120, or the fire department by dialing 122 or 123; however, patrols are sporadic.

Traffic Laws:   Valid U.S. driver’s licenses are accepted for the first 30 days of a visit, and international driving permits are accepted for extended stays.  Laws and speed limits are often ignored, turn signals are rarely used, and passing on dangerous stretches of highway is common.

It is against the law for drivers to operate cellular phones while driving.

People found driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs will be arrested and may serve jail time.

All drivers involved in accidents resulting in injury may be detained and held in protective custody pending investigation and/or payment of alleged damages.

Public Transportation:   The most common form of public transportation is the system of brightly-painted recycled school buses.  Criminal activity and frequent fatal accidents, however, make these low-priced local and inter-city buses particularly dangerous.  U.S. Embassy employees are not permitted to use these public buses.

Use of radio-dispatched taxis or Uber is far safer than hailing taxis on the street.  In Guatemala City, there are several radio taxi companies in operation:

  • Taxi Seguro can be reached at +502-2312-4243.
  • Taxi Amarillo Express (yellow taxis) is a radio-dispatch taxi service reached by dialing 1766.
  • A Green Cab radio dispatch service operates in the suburbs near zone 15 and the Cayalá entertainment and shopping destination.
  • To use Uber, download their app or go to https://www.uber.com .

U.S. Embassy employees are prohibited from using the white taxis.  The Guatemalan Tourist Assistance Program, PROATUR , may be able to provide additional information and can be reached by dialing 1500 or +502-2290-2800.

See our  Road Safety page  for more information.  Visit the website of Guatemala’s  national tourist office  and national authority responsible for road safety, or contact them via  e-mail .

Aviation Safety Oversight:   The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Guatemala’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Guatemala’s air carrier operations.  Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page .

Maritime Travel:  Mariners planning travel to Guatemala should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts .  Information may also be posted to the  U.S. Coast Guard homeport website , and the  NGA broadcast warnings .

For additional travel information

  • Enroll in the  Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)  to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
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  • See the  State Department’s travel website  for the  Worldwide Caution  and  Travel Advisories .
  • Follow us on  Twitter  and  Facebook .
  • See  traveling safely abroad  for useful travel tips.

Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Guatemala . For additional IPCA-related information, please see the  International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act ( ICAPRA )  report.”

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COVID-19: travel health notice for all travellers

Guatemala travel advice

Latest updates: The Health section was updated - travel health information (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Last updated: July 15, 2024 12:32 ET

On this page

Safety and security, entry and exit requirements, laws and culture, natural disasters and climate, guatemala - exercise a high degree of caution.

Exercise a high degree of caution in Guatemala due to high levels of violent crime, roadblocks, strikes and demonstrations that occur throughout the country.

Regional advisories - Avoid non-essential travel

Within Guatemala City:


  • Amatitlán
  • San José del Golfo
  • San Raymundo
  • Villa Nueva


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Violent crime

Violent crime, including homicides, is common in Guatemala. Due to a lack of resources within the police force, arrest and detention rates are quite low. There have been incidents involving deceptive police officers who commit petty crimes, while other officers have reportedly been involved in sexual assault cases.

Most incidents are drug- and gang-related. They occur throughout the country, including in tourist destinations. Travellers have been attacked when visiting volcanoes and other tourist sites. Rifles and handguns are very common.

Criminals perceive foreigners as wealthy. As a result, travellers are often victims of robbery and carjacking. They have also been subject to armed assault and sexual assault, including rape.

Incidents of armed robbery occur daily on public buses. Buses are frequently targeted by gangs, who may hurl grenades or fire shots as a way of ensuring compliance with their demands or to settle accounts. Criminals have attacked drivers, fare collectors and passengers.

Due to very high levels of violent crime, you should avoid non-essential travel to certain:

  • zones in Guatemala City
  • municipalities in Guatemala and Escuintla departments
  • departments along the borders with El Salvador and Honduras
  • highways throughout the country

Crimes that occur in these areas include:

  • kidnappings
  • sexual assaults

Petty crime

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, is prevalent in urban and tourist areas, especially in:

  • national parks
  • other crowded places

Crime tends to increase during the holiday seasons.

Schemes often involve some form of distraction. Criminals frequently operate in groups and, increasingly, on motorcycles. Typically, two men on a motorcycle accost a pedestrian or driver stuck in traffic and demand valuables.

Some criminals also pose as police officers. They may tell you they are drug enforcement officers and then take you to a side road where they steal everything from you. Victims who have resisted have been injured or killed.

If travelling to Guatemala:

  • don’t display signs of affluence, especially upon arrival at the airport, where travellers have been followed and robbed or carjacked en route to Guatemala City and Antigua
  • keep laptop computers, mobile phones and other personal electronic devices out of sight, and refrain from using them in public
  • ensure that your belongings, including passports and other travel documents, are secure at all times
  • carry only a copy of the identification page of your passport and enough money for the day
  • if threatened by robbers, do not resist: hand over your valuables and cash immediately

Express kidnappings

Express kidnappings have occurred. The kidnappers usually force their victims to withdraw funds from an ATM or to arrange for family or friends to pay the ransom. Criminal taxi drivers often use this ploy. They first pick up the victim and then stop to pick up associates.

  • Be cautious of strangers
  • Avoid travelling alone, especially at night
  • Avoid isolated areas and secondary roads
  • Avoid low-cost hotels with poor security
  • Avoid excessive alcohol and narcotic consumption, as it can make you a more vulnerable target for criminals

Border areas

Border areas often see higher levels of criminal activity and violence. Crime rates are high near all border crossings in Guatemala, but are worse near unofficial ones.

Drug-related armed attacks occur in departments close to all borders. The southwestern department of San Marcos at the Guatemala-Mexico border and the zone at the border with Belize are especially affected.

There is a heightened security presence at the official Guatemala-Mexico border points due to increased migration flows. Military and police forces conduct random vehicle searches along all borders. Wait times may be long.

Many border posts close for lunch and at dusk.

  • Travel only through official border crossings
  • Allow enough time for border formalities
  • Cross only during the daytime and allow enough time to reach your destination or a major city before dark

Credit card and ATM fraud occurs.

When using debit or credit cards:

  • pay careful attention when others are handling your cards
  • use ATMs located in public areas or inside a bank or business
  • avoid using card readers with an irregular or unusual feature
  • cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
  • check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements

Overseas fraud


Demonstrations take place frequently. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.

If you participate in demonstrations as a foreigner, you may face detention, deportation, and the denial of future entry into Guatemala.

  • Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities
  • Monitor local media for up-to-date information on the situation

Useful links

  • Mass gatherings (large-scale events)
  • Protests and blockades listed by date  – Government of Guatemala (in Spanish)
  • Tourist assistance website  – Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo (INGUAT)

Vigilante justice

Vigilante justice has increased in rural areas, resulting in lynchings of suspected child abductors, extortionists and other criminals.


Many people in Guatemala fear that children are being kidnapped for illegal adoption or sexual abuse. Photographing children and women, especially in areas with Indigenous presence, may result in exacerbating this fear. Violent incidents involving foreigners taking photos have occurred.

Avoid approaching or photographing children and women, especially in Indigenous communities.

Women’s safety

Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse.

Incidents of sexual assault have also occurred, including on buses. Some tourist service-providers build trusting relationships with female tourists and then sexually assault them.

  • Avoid travelling alone, with informal guides or with strangers, even if they appear friendly and helpful
  • Use only reputable tour guides or buses
  • Ensure the tour guide has a name tag with the name of the tour company

Advice for women travellers

Spiked food and drinks

The spiking of drinks is a problem in tourist areas, especially in Antigua. Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers. Be wary of accepting snacks, beverages, gum or cigarettes from new acquaintances, including taxi drivers. These items may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.

Mountain activities, such as hiking, can be dangerous, especially if they are not well-organized. Trails are not always marked and weather conditions can change rapidly, even in summer.

Some volcanoes are at high altitude, with sub-zero temperatures at night. Warm and waterproof attire is essential. Local tour companies might underestimate the risk of hypothermia.

There is no mountain rescue service in Guatemala.

If you intend on hiking, including on volcanoes:

  • never do so alone and always hire an experienced guide from a reputable company
  • buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
  • ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
  • ensure that you’re properly equipped
  • stay informed about weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
  • inform a family member or friend of your itinerary
  • know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
  • obtain detailed information on hiking routes before setting out and do not venture off marked trails

Water activities

Coastal waters can be dangerous. Riptides are common.

Not all beaches have lifeguards or warning flags.

  • Exercise caution when swimming
  • Don’t swim alone, after hours or outside marked areas
  • Consult residents and tour operators for information on possible hazards and safe swimming areas

Water safety abroad

Adventure tourism

Tour operators may not adhere to international standards.

If you participate in adventure activities, such as zip-lining, diving and whitewater rafting:

  • choose a well-established and reputable company that has insurance
  • make sure safety equipment, such as helmets and life jackets, are available and in good condition
  • make sure your travel insurance covers the recreational activities you choose
  • avoid challenging rivers, such as the Cahabón, Los Esclavos, Nahualate and Naranjo rivers, if you don’t have previous rafting experience

If in doubt concerning the safety of the facilities or equipment, don’t use them.

Road travel

Road conditions.

Road safety and road conditions can vary greatly throughout the country. While most roads in urban areas are in fair condition, travel on secondary streets and rural roads can be hazardous due to:

  • poor maintenance and lighting
  • poorly maintained vehicles
  • lack of road signs
  • pedestrians on the road
  • steep and winding mountain roads
  • mudslides and rock slides during the rainy season, which can also affect main highways in mountainous regions

Road safety

Local drivers generally don’t respect traffic laws. They are often reckless. Driving under the influence of alcohol is also common.

There is heavy traffic on:

  • the Pan-American Highway (CA-1)
  • the road from Guatemala City to the Atlantic Ocean (CA-9)

Police presence is scarce on:

  • the isolated dirt roads near Lake Atitlan
  • the road from Godínez to Panajachel

Seek advice from a registered travel agency if you plan off-road travel in the remote highlands of Petén to ensure you’re prepared and properly equipped.

Roadblocks erected because of roadwork are common, particularly in the following northern and western departments:

  • Alta Verapaz
  • Huehuetenango
  • Petén
  • Quiché

These roadblocks may cause substantial delays.

Illegal roadblocks are also frequent. They can occur on the main roads leading to Guatemala City’s La Aurora International Airport.

Throughout Guatemala:

  • avoid travelling at night
  • drive with car windows closed and doors locked at all times
  • be prepared to change your travel plans in case of roadblocks
  • don’t go through roadblocks without stopping, even if they appear unattended

PROVIAL, the government roadside assistance agency, patrols most of the major highways and provides updates on roads conditions.

PROVIAL   - Directorate General of Road Safety and Protection (in Spanish)

Public transportation

Local public buses, known as “chicken buses”, are not safe. Most of the time, they are recycled school buses mechanically unreliable. They are often overcrowded. Unlicensed drivers often drive at excessive speeds. They are frequently involved in major road accidents, and serious crimes occur on board.

Avoid using chicken buses.

Privately owned bus lines, including Transmetro and Transurbano in Guatemala City, are safer, but passengers have been subject to attacks at stations. If you travel by bus:

  • travel only during daylight hours
  • make sure the transportation provider is reputable and reliable before booking
  • confirm your drop-off location, because Guatemala City Council no longer allows some intercity buses to enter the city centre

Hotel-associated taxis and yellow cabs ( taxis amarillos ), which operate in Guatemala City, are considered safe. White taxis operate independently and are considered dangerous. They have been involved in cases of extortion, petty theft and other crimes.

  • Avoid boarding taxis at taxi stands or flagging taxis in the street
  • Avoid using white taxis
  • If using hotel taxis, request the service at the front desk and always look for the hotel logo on the car
  • When travelling by air, pre-arrange your pickup with your hotel prior to your arrival or use authorized airport taxis
  • Note the driver's name on the picture identification badges, as well as the licence number
  • Never share a taxi with strangers
  • Make sure the driver doesn’t pick up other passengers along the way to your destination
  • Negotiate the fare in advance
  • Have small bills available for payment

Ridesharing services

Several ridesharing services are also available but safety varies depending on the company.

Ridesharing services drivers are sometimes targets of taxi drivers who oppose these services. As a result, some may ask you to sit in the front seat to hide the fact that they are providing a rideshare service.

  • Use ridesharing services from a trusted app only
  • Confirm the driver’s identity and the licence plate before getting in the car

Tuk-tuks / rickshaw taxis / moto taxis

These two- or three-wheeled motorcycles with passenger cabins are unsafe. While they operate with taxi licences, they are not regulated and are frequently involved in accidents.

Avoid riding in tuk-tuks, rickshaw taxis or moto taxis.

Illegal drug traders may operate vessels in Guatemalan waters. Boaters in the Rio Dulce area of Izabal have been the victim of violent armed attacks.

  • Avoid boating at night
  • Enter Guatemala only through official ports of entry staffed by Guatemalan immigration officers
  • Use officially recognized docking and berthing facilities only

We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.

Information about foreign domestic airlines

Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.

We have obtained the information on this page from the Guatemalan authorities. It can, however, change at any time.

Verify this information with the  Foreign Representatives in Canada .

Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.

Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.

Regular Canadian passport

Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date you expect to leave Guatemala.

Passport for official travel

Different entry rules may apply.

Official travel

Passport with “X” gender identifier

While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

Other travel documents

Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.

  • Foreign Representatives in Canada
  • Canadian passports

Tourist visa: not required for stays of up to 90 days Business visa: not required for stays of up to 90 days Student visa: required

You may request an extension of up to 90 days from the Guatemala Directorate General of Migration. If you wish to conduct business or stay in Guatemala for a period exceeding 6 months, you require a visa.

Guatemala Directorate General of Migration  – Government of Guatemala (in Spanish)

Entry stamp

When entering Guatemala by land or sea, you must obtain an entry stamp in your passport.

If you fail to present your entry stamp when departing Guatemala, you may be fined and experience delays.

If you enter Guatemala with a vehicle, you must comply with the deadline for leaving the country, which is indicated on the temporary importation form provided by Guatemalan customs at the port of entry. If you fail to leave Guatemala with your vehicle by the expiry date, you will be subject to a fine for the extra days.

Electronic declaration form

You must complete an electronic declaration form before arriving and leaving Guatemala. You will then receive a QR code. Keep your QR code in order to present it to authorities upon your arrival or departure.

Electronic declaration form  - Government of Guatemala

Central America-4 Border Control Agreement

Under the terms of the Central America-4 Border Control Agreement (CA-4), Canadian tourists may travel freely within any of the following CA-4 countries:

  • El Salvador

You can travel between these countries for up to 90 days without having to undergo entry and exit formalities at border immigration checkpoints.

You must still check in at immigration counters when you enter or exit these checkpoints.

The 90-day period begins at the first point of entry to any of the CA-4 countries. You will be fined if you exceed the 90-day limit.

You may request an extension of up to 90 days once a year. You must request this extension and pay the required fee at the Guatemala Directorate General of Migration before your first 90-day limit expires. Immigration authorities will determine the length of the extension.

Guatemala Directorate General of Migration (in Spanish)

  • Children and travel

Children travelling with only one parent or with a third party must travel with a notarized letter of consent from the other parent, both parents or their guardian.

  • Immigration exit requirements – Government of Guatemala (in Spanish)
  • Recommended consent letter for children travelling abroad
  • Travel with children

Yellow fever

Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).

Relevant Travel Health Notices

  • Global Measles Notice - 13 March, 2024
  • Zika virus: Advice for travellers - 31 August, 2023
  • COVID-19 and International Travel - 13 March, 2024
  • Dengue: Advice for travellers - 2 July, 2024

This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.

Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.

Routine vaccines

Be sure that your  routine vaccinations , as per your province or territory , are up-to-date before travelling, regardless of your destination.

Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.

Pre-travel vaccines and medications

You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary. 

Yellow fever   is a disease caused by a flavivirus from the bite of an infected mosquito.

Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.

  • There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.

Country Entry Requirement*

  • Proof of vaccination is required if you are coming from or have transited through an airport of a country   where yellow fever occurs.


  • Vaccination is not recommended.
  • Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care professional.
  • Contact a designated  Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre  well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.

About Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada * It is important to note that  country entry requirements  may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest  diplomatic or consular office  of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.

There is a risk of hepatitis A in this destination. It is a disease of the liver. People can get hepatitis A if they ingest contaminated food or water, eat foods prepared by an infectious person, or if they have close physical contact (such as oral-anal sex) with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.

Practise  safe food and water precautions and wash your hands often. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers to areas where hepatitis A is present.

Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.

Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.

  Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus.  Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.

Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.

It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.

Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.

 The best way to protect yourself from seasonal influenza (flu) is to get vaccinated every year. Get the flu shot at least 2 weeks before travelling.  

 The flu occurs worldwide. 

  •  In the Northern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs from November to   April.
  •  In the Southern Hemisphere, the flu season usually runs between April and   October.
  •  In the tropics, there is flu activity year round. 

The flu vaccine available in one hemisphere may only offer partial protection against the flu in the other hemisphere.

The flu virus spreads from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Clean your hands often and wear a mask if you have a fever or respiratory symptoms.

Malaria  is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is caused by parasites spread through the bites of mosquitoes.   There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this destination. 

Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic before travelling to discuss your options. It is recommended to do this 6 weeks before travel, however, it is still a good idea any time before leaving.    Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times:  • Cover your skin and use an approved insect repellent on uncovered skin.  • Exclude mosquitoes from your living area with screening and/or closed, well-sealed doors and windows. • Use insecticide-treated bed nets if mosquitoes cannot be excluded from your living area.  • Wear permethrin-treated clothing.    If you develop symptoms similar to malaria when you are travelling or up to a year after you return home, see a health care professional immediately. Tell them where you have been travelling or living. 

In this destination, rabies is commonly carried by dogs and some wildlife, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. While travelling, take precautions , including keeping your distance from animals (including free-roaming dogs), and closely supervising children.

If you are bitten or scratched by a dog or other animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. In this destination, rabies treatment may be limited or may not be available, therefore you may need to return to Canada for treatment.  

Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who are at high risk of exposure (e.g., occupational risk such as veterinarians and wildlife workers, children, adventure travellers and spelunkers, and others in close contact with animals). 

Safe food and water precautions

Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.

  • Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
  • Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
  • Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs. 

Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.

Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.

The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.

Typhoid   is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.

Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.  

Insect bite prevention

Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:

  • Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
  • Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
  • Minimize exposure to insects
  • Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed

To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.

Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.

There is a risk of chikungunya in this country.  The risk may vary between regions of a country.  Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.

Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.

  • In this country,   dengue  is a risk to travellers. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
  • Dengue can cause flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.
  • The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. The level of risk also varies between regions in a country and can depend on the elevation in the region.
  • Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
  • Protect yourself from mosquito bites . There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue.

Zika virus is a risk in this country. 

Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be sexually transmitted. Zika virus can cause serious birth defects.

During your trip:

  • Prevent mosquito bites at all times.
  • Use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact, particularly if you are pregnant.

If you are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, you should discuss the potential risks of travelling to this destination with your health care provider. You may choose to avoid or postpone travel. 

For more information, see Zika virus: Pregnant or planning a pregnancy.

American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease)   is a risk in this country. It is caused by a parasite spread by infected triatomine bugs. The infection can be inactive for decades, but humans can eventually develop complications causing disability and even death.

Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from triatomine bugs, which are active at night, by using mosquito nets if staying in poorly-constructed housing. There is no vaccine available for Chagas disease.

Animal precautions

Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.

Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.

Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.

Person-to-person infections

Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette , which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:

  •   washing your hands often
  • avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
  • avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness 

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) , HIV , and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.  

Tuberculosis is an infection caused by bacteria and usually affects the lungs.

For most travellers the risk of tuberculosis is low.

Travellers who may be at high risk while travelling in regions with risk of tuberculosis should discuss pre- and post-travel options with a health care professional.

High-risk travellers include those visiting or working in prisons, refugee camps, homeless shelters, or hospitals, or travellers visiting friends and relatives.

Medical services and facilities

Good health care is limited to private hospitals and clinics in urban areas. Quality of care varies greatly throughout public or rural facilities.

Public facilities are often understaffed and experience shortages of basic supplies and medication.

Physicians and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for medical care, though most private hospitals also accept credit cards.

Medical evacuation can be very expensive and you may need it in case of serious illness or injury.

Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.

Travel health and safety


If you take prescription medications, you’re responsible for determining their legality in Guatemala.

  • Bring sufficient quantities of your medication with you
  • Always keep your medication in the original container
  • Pack them in your carry-on luggage
  • Carry a copy of your prescriptions

Keep in Mind...

The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.

Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a   travel health kit , especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.

You must abide by local laws.

Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad .

Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect lengthy prison sentences.

Drugs, alcohol and travel

Dual citizenship

Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Guatemala.

If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Guatemala, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements .

Travellers with dual citizenship

International Child Abduction

The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. It does not apply between Canada and Guatemala.

If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Guatemala by an abducting parent:

  • act as quickly as you can
  • consult a lawyer in Canada and in Guatemala to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
  • report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children's Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre

If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.

Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country's judicial affairs.

  • International Child Abductions: A guide for affected parents
  • Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
  • Request emergency assistance

2SLGBTQI+ travellers

Guatemalan law doesn’t criminalize sexual acts or relationships between individuals of the same sex.

However, outside urban areas, 2SLGBTQI+ travellers could be discriminated based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, or sex characteristics.

Travel and your sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and sex characteristics


If you plan on buying property, or making other investments in Guatemala, seek legal advice in Canada and in Guatemala. Do so before making commitments. Related disputes could take time and be costly to resolve.

Dress and behaviour

Guatemala has many different and firmly held local beliefs and customs.

To avoid offending local sensitivities:

  • dress conservatively
  • behave discreetly
  • respect religious and social traditions

Imports and exports

Customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning import or export of items such as antiquities and artefacts.

It is illegal to photograph:

  • government buildings
  • military installations and establishments
  • the Presidential Palace

Don’t photograph children and women, especially in areas with Indigenous presence.

You can drive in Guatemala with your valid Canadian driver’s licence. You should carry an international driving permit.

If you are involved in a driving accident that results in injury or death, you may be taken into custody until responsibility for the accident is determined.

International Driving Permit

The currency in Guatemala is the Guatemalan quetzal (GTQ).

You cannot exchange Canadian dollars in Guatemala. Some ATMs will accept Canadian debit cards with a four-digit PIN. Canadian debit cards with a five-digit PIN are not accepted.

U.S. dollars may be exchanged for local currency at most major banks.

Wildfires are currently affecting multiple areas of Guatemala, including:

  • Antigua Guatemala

There are reports of heavy smoke i n southern Guatemala City.

If you are in Guatemala:

  • stay away from the affected areas, particularly if you suffer from respiratory ailments
  • always follow the instructions of local authorities, including evacuation orders
  • monitor local media for up-to-date information on the situation

Forest fires occur between November and June. They can happen throughout the country, but the Petén area is usually the most affected.

The air quality in areas near active fires may deteriorate due to heavy smoke.

In case of a major fire:

  • stay away from affected areas, particularly if you suffer from respiratory ailments
  • follow the advice of local emergency services personnel

Hurricane season

Hurricanes usually occur from mid-May to the end of November. During this period, even small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes.

These severe storms can put you at risk and hamper the provision of essential services. You could face serious safety risks during a hurricane.

If you decide to travel to a coastal area during the hurricane season:

  • be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
  • stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
  • carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
  • follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
  • Tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons and monsoons
  • Large-scale emergencies abroad
  • Active storm tracking and hurricane watches and warnings – U.S. National Hurricane Center

Rainy season

The rainy season extends from mid-May to mid-November. Seasonal flooding can hamper overland travel and reduce the provision of essential services.

Flash floods and landslides are common. Roads may become impassable and bridges may be damaged.

Weather bulletins  - National Institute of Volcanology and Meteorology (in Spanish)

Seismic activity

Earthquakes and tsunamis.

Guatemala is located in an active seismic zone. Earthquakes and tsunamis can occur.

A tsunami can occur within minutes of a nearby earthquake. However, the risk of tsunami can remain for several hours following the first tremor. If you’re staying on the coast, familiarize yourself with the region’s evacuation plans in the event of a tsunami warning.

There are four active volcanoes in Guatemala.

Eruptions may occur at any time. Series of tremors sometimes lead to evacuations of surrounding areas. Falling ash may also disrupt flights at La Aurora International Airport.

In the event of an earthquake or volcanic eruption:

  • monitor local media to stay informed of the evolving situation
  • follow the instructions of local authorities, including evacuation orders 
  • CONRED – National Coordinator for Disaster Reduction (in Spanish)
  • Earthquakes – What to Do?
  • Tsunami warning system - U.S. National Weather Service
  • Latest earthquakes - U.S. Geological Survey

Local services

Emergency services exist but may be subject to certain limitations. In case of emergency, dial:

  • police: 110 / 120
  • medical assistance: 122 / 123
  • firefighters: 122 / 123

Tourist assistance

Guatemalan authorities provide information and assistance to tourists via their ASISTUR and DISETUR programs. They may arrange security escorts for road travel or organized hiking activities.

INGUAT - The Guatemalan Tourist Institute

Consular assistance

For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Guatemala, in Guatemala City, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.

The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.

The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.

If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.

Learn more about consular services .

Risk Levels

  take normal security precautions.

Take similar precautions to those you would take in Canada.

  Exercise a high degree of caution

There are certain safety and security concerns or the situation could change quickly. Be very cautious at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.

IMPORTANT: The two levels below are official Government of Canada Travel Advisories and are issued when the safety and security of Canadians travelling or living in the country or region may be at risk.

  Avoid non-essential travel

Your safety and security could be at risk. You should think about your need to travel to this country, territory or region based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with the region, and other factors. If you are already there, think about whether you really need to be there. If you do not need to be there, you should think about leaving.

  Avoid all travel

You should not travel to this country, territory or region. Your personal safety and security are at great risk. If you are already there, you should think about leaving if it is safe to do so.

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Exercise a high degree of caution in Guatemala due to the threat of violent crime.


Guatemala (PDF 237.86 KB)

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Local emergency contacts

Fire and rescue services, medical emergencies.

Call 123 or go to the nearest hospital.

Call 110 or visit the nearest police station.

Advice levels

Exercise a high degree of caution in Guatemala.

  • Demonstrations are continuing in Guatemala. Avoid demonstrations and public gatherings. Leave affected areas as soon as it's safe to. (see 'Civil unrest and political tension').
  • Violent crime, including murder, carjacking and kidnapping, is common. It increases at night. Take extra care after dark. Only use ATMs during daylight.
  • Border crossings have a high crime rate. Only cross during daylight hours. Allow enough time to reach a major city before dark.
  • Criminals target travellers at the airport and driving to hotels. Use only pre-paid or radio taxis. Don't flag taxis on the street or use taxi stands. Always keep vehicle windows and doors locked, even when moving.
  • Guatemala has 4 active volcanoes. Know where your nearest shelter is. Know how to protect yourself in the event of an eruption. If you climb a volcano, use experienced guides and follow local advice.

Full travel advice: Safety

  • Zika virus is widespread. If you're pregnant, discuss your travel plans with your doctor.
  • Malaria occurs year-round. Consider taking anti-malarial medication if you're travelling to these areas. Other insect-borne diseases include dengue, Chagas disease, river blindness and leishmaniasis. Ensure your accommodation is insect-proof. Use insect repellent.
  • HIV/AIDS is a significant risk. Take precautions if you're taking part in high-risk activities.
  • Medical facilities in Guatemala City are adequate. They're limited elsewhere. If you're seriously ill or injured, you may need medical evacuation. Ensure your travel insurance covers this.

Full travel advice: Health

  • Check with local officials before taking photos. Photographing government buildings, military sites, the Presidential Palace and airports is illegal.
  • Ask permission before taking photos of women and children.
  • All male Guatemalan citizens aged between 18 and 50 must complete military service, including dual nationals. If you're a male dual citizen, contact the  Embassy of Guatemala  before you travel.
  • Same-sex relationships are mostly accepted in Guatemala City. In other parts of Guatemala, this may not be the case. Consider avoiding public displays of affection if you're outside the capital.

Full travel advice: Local laws

  • Demonstrations are having a significant impact on road transport networks and affecting travel throughout the country. Monitor the media for updates.

You'll need to purchase a tourist card at the airport. This permits you to visit Guatemala for up to 90 days.

  • Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. You should contact the nearest embassy or consulate of Guatemala for the latest details.

Full travel advice: Travel

Local contacts

  • The Consular Services Charter  details what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
  • Australia has a consulate in Guatemala City.  This consulate provides limited assistance to Australians in Guatemala.
  • You can get full consular help from the  Australian Embassy in Mexico City .
  • To stay up to date with local information, follow the embassy’s social media accounts.

Full travel advice: Local contacts

Full advice

Violent crime is common in Guatemala, particularly in tourist destinations. This includes:

Crime often involves guns. Violent crime increases at night.

Areas at risk for violent crime, assault and robbery include:

  • Guatemala City, 
  • volcanoes and other tourist sites
  • borders with El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico
  • land border crossings, where travellers exchange large amounts of cash

Express kidnappings happen. These are where criminals force you to withdraw funds from ATMs. This can occur at petrol stations and shopping centres.

If you're attacked or robbed, don't resist. If criminals have guns or weapons, they may injure or kill you.

To protect yourself from violent crime:

  • always be aware of your surroundings
  • take extra care after dark
  • only use ATMs during daylight hours
  • only change money in hotels or banks
  • get updates on regional security conditions

Be careful when crossing land borders. Only cross the border during daylight hours. Allow enough time to arrive in a major town before dark.

Other crime

Criminals may target you when arriving at international airports or travelling to hotels in Guatemala City and Antigua. 

Using an unofficial taxi increases your risk of robbery and assault. Safe options include:

  • buying prepaid taxi vouchers from the Tourist Office at the airport
  • using radio-dispatched taxis
  • using taxis from hotels

Don't flag taxis or use taxi stands.

You can use an escort from the state-run tourist service  PROATUR  to reduce your travel risk.

To protect yourself while travelling by road:

  • plan to arrive at La Aurora Airport (Guatemala City) during the day or early evening
  • be aware of your surroundings
  • travel in a group
  • choose a reputable tour company
  • never hitchhike or accept rides from strangers

To protect yourself if you're driving:

  • keep doors locked and windows up, even when driving
  • keep your valuables out of sight

Theft happens at budget hotels, particularly in Antigua.

Scams and fraud

Scammers target travellers.  Scams  can involve tourist vehicles. 

To protect yourself from scams:

  • be wary of strangers offering a service you didn't ask for or making unusual requests
  • always be aware of your money and other possessions

Cyber security 

You may be at risk of cyber-based threats during overseas travel to any country. Digital identity theft is a growing concern. Your devices and personal data can be compromised, especially if you're connecting to Wi-Fi, using or connecting to shared or public computers, or to Bluetooth. 

Social media can also be risky in destinations where there are social or political tensions or laws that may seem unreasonable by Australian standards. Travellers have been arrested for things they have said on social media. Don't comment on local or political events on your social media. 

More information:  

  • Cyber security when travelling overseas  

Civil unrest and political tension

The government may make state of emergency or state of prevention declarations without notice.

Expect an increased police presence in many areas during the state of emergency or state of prevention declarations.

  • Follow instructions issued by local authorities on any restrictions.
  • Carry your identification at all times.

Demonstrations and protests

Strikes, protests, demonstrations and large public gatherings can happen suddenly and turn violent.

To protect yourself during periods of civil unrest:

  • avoid protests, demonstrations and public gatherings
  • monitor the media for reports of potential unrest, and avoid those areas
  • leave an affected area as soon as it's safe
  • follow the advice of local authorities

More information:

Demonstrations and civil unrest

Terrorism is a threat worldwide.

Climate and natural disasters

Guatemala experiences  natural disasters  and  severe weather , such as:

  • earthquakes
  • volcanic eruptions

To protect yourself in case of a natural disaster:

  • secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location
  • monitor local media and other sources
  • keep in contact with your friends and family
  • get local advice before visiting natural disaster-affected areas

Register with the  Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System  for alerts.

·         Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency

Hurricanes and severe weather

The hurricane season is from June to November, although tropical storms and hurricanes can happen in other months.

The wet season is from May to November, when landslides, mudslides, and flooding may occur.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change suddenly.

If there's a hurricane or severe storm:

  • you may get stuck in the area
  • your airline may delay or suspend your flight
  • available flights may fill quickly
  • adequate shelter may not be available

Severe weather may also affect:

  • access to ports
  • road travel
  • essential services, such as electricity and water

To protect yourself if a hurricane is approaching:

  • know the evacuation plan for your hotel or cruise ship
  • identify your local shelter
  • closely monitor alerts and advice from authorities

Monitor weather reports if you're travelling to Guatemala during hurricane season or after a natural disaster.

  • National Hurricane and Tropical Prediction Center
  • Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency


Guatemala is in an active earthquake zone.  Earthquakes  and  tsunamis  can occur.

Get to know the earthquake safety measures for each place you visit.

Guatemala has 4 active volcanoes:

  • Volcan de Fuego
  • Santiaguito

Volcan de Fuego, Pacaya, and Santiaguito volcanoes are very active. Levels of activity may increase at any time. La Aurora International Airport (Guatemala City) can be subject to closures at short notice due to volcanic ash affecting airport operations.

After a volcanic eruption, falling ash can spread over a wide area. Ash, dust and toxic fumes are a significant health risk. If you have a respiratory condition, take particular care.

To protect yourself if there's a volcanic eruption:

  • stay inside with the windows and doors shut
  • place damp towels under doors and windows if ash is falling
  • monitor advice and alerts from authorities

If you go outside, wear a disposable face mask, goggles and long clothing to avoid contact with ash.

To reduce your risks if you climb a volcano:

  • only climb with a group
  • use experienced guides and a reputable tour company

Travel insurance

Get comprehensive  travel insurance  before you leave.

Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won't pay for these costs.

If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.

If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.

  • what activities and care your policy covers
  • that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away

Physical and mental health

Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.

See your doctor or travel clinic to:

  • have a basic health check-up
  • ask if your travel plans may affect your health
  • plan any vaccinations you need

Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.

If you have immediate concerns for your welfare or the welfare of another Australian, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or contact your  nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate  to discuss counselling hotlines and services available in your location.

  • General health advice
  • Healthy holiday tips  (Healthdirect Australia)

Not all medications available over the counter or by prescription in Australia are available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.

Medications containing pseudoephedrine are banned in Guatemala.

If you plan to take medication, check if it's legal in Guatemala. Take enough legal medication for your trip.

Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:

  • what the medication is, including its generic name
  • your required dosage
  • that it's for personal use
  • Embassy of Guatemala  in Canberra

Health risks

Insect-borne diseases.

Zika virus is widespread in Guatemala.

If you're pregnant, the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care recommends that you:

  • discuss travel plans with your doctor
  • consider deferring non-essential travel to affected areas

Malaria  is a year-round risk in rural areas below 1500m elevation.

Other insect-borne diseases occur in Guatemala. These include:

  • Chagas disease
  • river blindness
  • leishmaniasis

To protect yourself from disease:

  • make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
  • use insect repellent
  • wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing

Consider taking medicine to prevent malaria.

Get medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash, bleeding nose or gums, or severe headache.

Infectious diseases

HIV/AIDS is a significant risk in Guatemala.

Take steps to protect yourself if you're at risk of infection.

Other health risks

Waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases are common. These include:

  • tuberculosis

Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.

Medical care

Medical facilities.

Medical facilities in Guatemala City are adequate. Outside the capital, facilities are limited.

Expect to pay cash before doctors and hospitals will treat you, even in an emergency.

If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to a place with better facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.

Respect local laws and regulations at all times. Follow directions from local authorities.

You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.

If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter . But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy prison sentences in local jails.

Carrying or using drugs

Guatemala has the death penalty for aggravated murder and political crimes.

Photographing government buildings, military sites and areas like the Presidential Palace and airports is illegal. Check with local authorities before taking photos.

Australian laws

Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you’re overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.

Staying within the law and respecting customs

Dual citizenship

Guatemalan males, including dual nationals, must complete compulsory military service.

If you're a male dual citizen aged between 18 and 50 years, contact the  Embassy of Guatemala  in Canberra before you travel.

Dual nationals

Local customs

Get permission before photographing anyone, especially women and children.

LGBTI information

Same-sex relationships are mostly accepted in Guatemala City. In other parts of Guatemala, this may not be the case.

Advice for LGBTI travellers

Visas and border measures

Every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. For specific information about the evidence you'll need to enter a foreign destination, check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you're entering. 

Guatemala is a member country of the Central American Border Control Agreement (CA-4), along with:

  • El Salvador

With a CA-4 tourist visa, you can travel freely by land between member countries within the 90-day period.

Your tourist card is dated from the first entry into any member country.

You can apply to extend the CA-4 visa before it expires at the local immigration office.

If you're not a tourist or you plan to stay longer, you'll need a visa.

Entry and exit conditions can change. Contact the  Embassy of Guatemala  in Canberra for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.

Border measures

To enter the country, you'll need:

  • a valid passport
  • a return or onward ticket
  • evidence you have enough money for your visit

You'll need to pay an airport and security tax in cash on departure at the airport.

You'll also need to pay an exit tax if your ticket price doesn't include it.

Follow the entry requirements set out by  Guatemalan authorities  (in Spanish).

Other formalities

Travel via the united states .

If you're  travelling through the US , ensure you meet all current US entry or transit requirements, including if you're transiting through Hawaii.

Travel via Canada

If you're travelling via  Canada , ensure you meet all entry and transit requirements. 

Travel via Chile

If you’re travelling via Chile , ensure you meet all current entry or transit requirements.

Yellow fever vaccination

You'll need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter Guatemala. Some airlines may want to see one when you leave.

Find out about returning to Australia  after exposure to yellow fever .

·         Countries with a risk of yellow fever (PDF 151KB)

Travel with Children

A child travelling to Guatemala without both parents must have  notarised written consent  from both parents. A child travelling with at least 1 parent won't need this letter.

These documents must be in Spanish and approved by the Guatemalan mission closest to the child's home.

  • Embassy of Guatemala
  • Advice for people travelling with children

Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you’re just transiting or stopping over.

Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.

You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.

The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport’s expiry date before you travel. If you’re not sure it’ll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport .

Lost or stolen passport

Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.

Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.

If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:

  • In Australia, contact the Australian Passport Information Service .
  • If you're overseas, contact the nearest Australian Embassy or Consulate .

Passport with ‘X’ gender identifier

Although Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, we can’t guarantee that a passport showing 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country. Contact the nearest  embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination  before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers. 

LGBTI travellers  

The local currency is the Guatemala Quetzal (GTQ).

You can't import or export the Quetzal. You can only exchange US dollars in Guatemala.

ATMs aren't always reliable. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Contact your bank to make sure your cards will work.

Using ATMs on the street puts you at high risk of robbery  or express kidnapping.

Local travel

B order crossings.

Strict security controls are in place at Guatemalan borders due to high levels of drug-related criminal activity.

Military personnel are stationed along the border between Guatemala and Mexico. They may want to check your documents.

Only use recognised border crossings, particularly between Guatemala and Belize. There is an ongoing border dispute between the two countries.

The Mexican government has recently increased security at border crossings into Mexico in response to a large number of migrants seeking to travel to the US. Take extra care when using these border crossings and follow the direction of authorities.

Driving permit

To drive in Guatemala, you need both:

  • an International Driving Permit (IDP)
  • an Australian driver's licence

You must get the IDP before arriving in Guatemala.

Road travel

Demonstrations are having a significant impact on road transport networks and affecting road travel throughout the country. Monitor the media for updates. (see 'Civil unrest and political tension').

You're more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident in Guatemala than in Australia.

Driving in Guatemala can be dangerous. Hazards include:

  • aggressive local drivers
  • poorly maintained vehicles
  • roads in poor condition
  • drivers ignoring traffic laws

In rural areas, extra road travel risks include:

  • poor lighting and street signs
  • people and animals on roads

Mudslides and road collapses caused by heavy rains are common. Roads may be closed at short notice.

Inter-city travel after dark anywhere in Guatemala is dangerous. Violent carjackings occur, particularly on poorly maintained roads and main highways.

Dangerous roads include:

  • the Pan-American Highway (CA-1)
  • the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-2)
  • the Atlantic Highway (CA-9)

Criminals have violently attacked motorists between El Salvador and Guatemala, particularly on the Guatemalan side of the border.

Armed gangs often build roadblocks in:

  • the northern and western Departments of San Marcos
  • Huehuetenango
  • Alta Verapaz

Other dangerous areas for road travel include:

  • the route between Cocales (Suchitepequez) and San Lucas Toliman (Atitlan)
  • the isolated dirt roads near Lake Atitlan
  • the Godinez bypass via Patzun between Guatemala City and Panajachel

An alternative route to the Godinez bypass is the main Pan-American highway to Solola.

Criminals sometimes pose as police officers.

It's illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Authorities may arrest or detain you.

If you plan to drive in Guatemala:

  • check your travel insurance cover
  • learn local traffic laws and practices
  • don't travel alone, at night or through dangerous areas
  • keep doors locked and windows up, even when moving
  • don't drink or use drugs

Before you drive:

  • get local advice on road conditions, including security risks
  • know your travel options in advance
  • be prepared for a change in plans if any security issues come up
  • Driving or riding


Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorbike, quad bike or similar vehicle.

Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles.

Always wear a helmet.

Travelling by taxi can be dangerous.

Book airport taxis and regular taxis through a reputable taxi company. These are safer than taxis flagged from the street or at taxi stands.

If you use a taxi:

  • arrange transport through your hotel or a radio dispatcher to avoid unlicensed operators
  • buy vouchers from the airport Tourist Office for airport taxis
  • book in advance if travelling at night

Public transport

Public buses and chicken buses (converted school buses) are often unsafe. Armed robberies are common.

Bus travel can be dangerous. Gangs have targeted, robbed and sexually assaulted passengers on:

  • inter-city buses
  • luxury coaches

Gangs have also detonated bombs targeting buses. In 2016, gangs killed 5 people in a bomb blast on an inter-city bus in San Jose Pinula, near Guatemala City.

Dangerous areas for bus attacks include:

  • border crossings
  • tourist areas like Panajachel and Antigua
  • the roads from the El Salvador border to Cuilapa
  • from the Belize border to El Cruce

If you need to use public transport:

  • avoid travelling on public buses or chicken buses (converted school buses)
  • only travel on tour buses and inter-city buses with good security arrangements
  • do not stow your bag in the overhead bin or under your seat
  • check security arrangements before you book

If you plan to travel by bus from Guatemala to southern Mexico, see our  travel advice for Mexico .

Boat travel

Criminals may attack you on motorised or sailing boats in Rio Dulce and Livingston.

Check there are good security measures in place before booking any  boat travel .

Strong currents and tides on Guatemala's Pacific coast are dangerous for swimmers.

You often won't find beach patrols, lifeguards or warning and advisory signs.

DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.

Check  Guatemala's air safety profile  with the Aviation Safety Network.


Depending on what you need, contact your:

  • family and friends
  • travel agent
  • insurance provider

PROATUR, the tourist assistance unit, provides 24-hour help:

email [email protected]

Emergency telephone operators may not speak English.

Always get a police report when you report a crime.

Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.

Consular contacts

Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.

Australia has a consulate in Guatemala City, headed by an Honorary Consul. The consulate provides limited consular assistance to Australians in Guatemala. The Consulate can conduct passport interviews and provide provisional travel documents for emergency travel to the nearest Australian embassy.  The Consulate can’t issue Australian passports. You can get full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Mexico City.

Australian Consulate - Guatemala

Avenida 5 16-62, Zona 10

Edificio Platina, office 102

Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala

Phone: (+502) 4210 9805

E-mail:  [email protected]

Australian Embassy, Mexico City

Ruben Dario #55 Corner of Campos Eliseos, Polanco Colonia Bosque de Chapultepec 11580 CDMX Mexico

Phone: (+52 55) 1101 2200 Email:  [email protected] Website:  mexico.embassy.gov.au

Facebook:  Australian Embassy Mexico

X (Twitter):  AusEmbMex

24-hour Consular Emergency Centre

In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:

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Warnings and insurance

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The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office ( FCDO ) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice .

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Areas where FCDO advises against all but essential travel

FCDO  advises against all but essential travel to: 

  • within 5km of the Mexican border from the Pacific Coast up to and including the Gracias a Dios crossing
  • to the towns of Santa Ana Huista, San Antonio Huista and La Democracia in the department of Huehuetenango

Find out more about  why FCDO advises against travel to these areas .

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Guatemala Safety Guide: What You Need to Know Before You Go

America , Blog - Chrystelle Garcia - July 19, 2023

Guatemala Safety

Guatemala is a beautiful country known for its vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and rich history. However, like any other travel destination, safety is crucial to consider before embarking on your adventure. The country has had its fair share of safety concerns, but with the proper knowledge and precautions, you can enjoy your trip to Guatemala without any worries. In this safety guide, we’ll look closer at the essential things you need to know before you go. From common scams and crimes to natural hazards and health concerns, we’ll cover everything you need to stay safe and enjoy your time in this incredible country. So, whether you’re planning a solo trip , a romantic getaway, or a family vacation, keep reading to learn how to make the most of your time in Guatemala while staying safe and secure.

Understanding the Safety Situation in Guatemala

Guatemala is a beautiful country in Central America, bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize to the northeast, Honduras to the east, and El Salvador to the southeast. The country has over 17 million people, with Spanish being the official language. The currency used in Guatemala is the Quetzal (GTQ), and the country is known for its rich Mayan history and culture.

While Guatemala is a beautiful and vibrant country, it does have its share of safety concerns. In recent years, Guatemala has had high levels of violent crime, including armed robbery, assault, and murder. There have also been reports of kidnappings, particularly in rural areas. Additionally, the country is prone to natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides.

Common Safety Risks in Guatemala

One of the most significant safety risks in Guatemala is crime. Armed robbery, assault, and murder are prevalent in some areas of the country, particularly in urban areas like Guatemala City. Pickpocketing and theft are also common, especially in tourist areas. Tourists are often targeted because they are perceived as wealthy and vulnerable. Another safety risk in Guatemala is the prevalence of natural disasters. The country is located in an area prone to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides. The rainy season, which runs from May to October, can also lead to flooding and mudslides.

Health concerns are another potential safety risk in Guatemala. The country has a high prevalence of mosquito-borne illnesses like dengue fever and Zika virus. Additionally, tap water in Guatemala is unsafe to drink, and travelers should only consume bottled water.

Crime and Safety Precautions to Take

To stay safe in Guatemala, it’s important to take certain precautions to avoid becoming a victim of crime. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

– Avoid walking alone at night, particularly in urban areas.

– Be aware of your surroundings and watch for suspicious behavior.

– Don’t carry large amounts of cash or valuables with you.

– Keep your belongings close to you and avoid leaving them unattended.

– Use only licensed taxis or transportation services recommended by your hotel.

– If driving, keep your doors locked and windows up, especially in traffic.

– Be cautious when using ATMs and avoid using them at night.

– Stay in reputable hotels or accommodations recommended by a trusted source.

Health and Safety in Guatemala

To stay healthy in Guatemala, taking certain precautions to avoid illness is important. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

– Only drink bottled water, even when brushing your teeth.

– Avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, seafood, or eggs.

– Wash your hands frequently, especially before eating.

– Use insect repellent to avoid mosquito bites.

– Wear long sleeves and long pants to protect against mosquito bites.

– Get vaccinated before traveling to Guatemala.

– Seek medical attention if you experience symptoms of illness.

Natural Disasters and Safety Preparedness

Guatemala is located in an area prone to natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and landslides. It’s important to be prepared and know what to do in an emergency. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

– Familiarize yourself with the emergency procedures at your hotel or accommodations.

– Have a plan in case of an earthquake, including identifying safe places to take cover.

– Stay informed about weather conditions and potential hazards.

– Know the location of the nearest embassy or consulate.

– Keep important documents like your passport and travel insurance in a secure location.

Cultural Considerations for Safety in Guatemala

Guatemala has a rich Mayan history and culture, and it’s important to be aware of cultural differences and customs to avoid offending locals or putting yourself in potentially dangerous situations. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

– Dress conservatively, especially when visiting churches or religious sites.

– Respect local customs and traditions, including asking for permission before taking photos.

– Avoid discussing politics or controversial topics with locals.

– Learn some basic Spanish phrases to help you communicate with locals.

– Be aware of the potential for scams or tourist traps.

Tips for Staying Safe While Traveling in Guatemala

To stay safe while traveling in Guatemala, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take certain precautions to avoid becoming a victim of crime or illness. Here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

– Be cautious when using public transportation, especially buses.

– Keep a low profile and avoid drawing attention to yourself.

– Don’t trust strangers, especially those approaching you on the street.

– Use a money belt or hidden wallet to keep your valuables safe.

– Stay in touch with family and friends back home and let them know your travel plans.

Resources for Staying Informed About Safety in Guatemala

To stay informed about safety in Guatemala, there are several resources you can use to get up-to-date information. Here are some valuable resources to keep in mind:

– The US State Department website provides travel advisories and safety information for US citizens traveling to Guatemala.

– The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information about health risks and vaccinations for travelers to Guatemala.

– Local news sources can provide information about safety concerns in specific areas of the country.

Conclusion: Enjoying Guatemala Safely

Guatemala is a beautiful country with a rich history and culture, and with the proper knowledge and precautions, it can be enjoyed safely. By being aware of potential safety risks, taking certain precautions, and staying informed, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip to this incredible country. Remember always to be aware of your surroundings, keep your valuables safe, and take care of your health to ensure a memorable trip to Guatemala.

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Is Guatemala Safe? 60+ Practical Tips For Safe Travel In Guatemala

guatemala tourist safety

Written by BELLA FALK

Is Guatemala safe? Three men in front of a colourful chicken bus in Xela, Guatemala

How dangerous is Guatemala really? It’s a question that bothered me endlessly before I went there.

Far more than planning routes or researching hotels, the one thing I obsessed about was safety. Is Guatemala safe for solo travellers? Is it safe for women? What about solo women? What about solo women with expensive camera gear? !

Contents (click to view)

I’m an overthinker, and with that comes a lot of anxiety. I’m not one of those people who can be chill about things, or who can just put fears aside with a relaxed ‘Well I can’t do anything about that, so I won’t worry about it. Que será, será…”

A woman backpacking solo in Guatemala

Instead, I wrestle, and analyse, and worry, and have sleepless nights; my busy brain incapable of letting the problem lie.

So when I booked my 3-month trip to Guatemala , I was only excited for a nanosecond, because almost immediately the realisation set in that I had just committed to go off to a country that I knew very little about, on my own, as a woman, and, to top it all off, carrying a backpack full of camera gear, a Macbook Pro, and an iPhone.

Stupid, right? And most likely, dangerous…

Is Guatemala safe to travel? Pinterest Pin

Is Guatemala safe for tourists?

The first thing I want to remind you of is that nowhere is 100% safe. Not that I wish to scare you, but bad things can happen anywhere.

Given the demographics of my audience, it’s likely you may be from the UK or the USA. So is Guatemala safe for American tourists? Or British travellers?

Well let me ask you this: how safe is the place you live in? You could be in a car accident a mile from your house. People get stabbed on the streets of London, and don’t get me started on gun crime in the US. If you were planning a trip to Paris or New York and googled safety there, what do you think you would find?

My point is that I don’t think you should let the fear of something bad happening stop you from visiting Guatemala. Yes, it has its problems. There is extreme poverty, and high levels of gun and gang violence. But, this stuff does not normally involve tourists, and as the UK Foreign Office advice says, “Despite the high levels of crime, most visits to Guatemala are trouble-free.”

Travelling by boat from Rio Dulce to Livingston

You can’t let the fear of something bad happening stop you from taking calculated risks and having adventures. Life is for living!

So to answer the question, ‘How safe is Guatemala?’ The short answer is: it can be safe or dangerous. Like anywhere, it has its good and bad guys, its risks and problems. As well as crime, you also need to consider other risks like wildlife, earthquakes and floods during rainy season.

But it isn’t as dangerous as some reports (or your anxious brain) would have you believe. The vast majority of people in Guatemala are welcoming, kind and friendly locals who just want you to have a great time, spend some money, and leave with a positive impression of their country.

A woman weaver with her daughter in Santa Catarina Palopo, Guatemala

Is Guatemala dangerous for solo female travellers?

Of course, whatever risks there may be, they become harder when you’re travelling alone – and even more if you’re a woman. There’s no one to watch your back, no one to walk home from the bar with, no one to guard your stuff while you go to the loo.

Travel is inherently riskier when you are alone, but it also has so many positives, and for me those massively outweigh the downsides.

Of course, I was sensible, and took precautions. So now I want to share with you my top practical advice for safety in Guatemala. Obviously I can’t guarantee that something bad won’t happen while you’re there, but hopefully you will have as fabulous a time in Guatemala as I did.

This post is long, and there’s loads of information in it. You might find it overwhelming, but please don’t be freaked out!

If it helps, remember that I spent three whole months as a solo female traveller in Guatemala, met scores of wonderful people, and had a great time!  

A solo female traveller standing on a colourful pier in El Remate Guatemala

Personal safety in Guatemala

To make sure nothing bad happens to you while backpacking in Guatemala (especially if you are a solo traveller or a solo female traveller), follow these tips:

  • Avoid going out late, getting too drunk, or walking alone at night. Guatemala isn’t that much of a party country anyway, and it’s better to get up early, make the most of the day, and then hang out in your hotel or a nearby bar after it gets dark. When I did go out, I went with friends I had met in the same hostel, and we walked back together, or I got an Uber.
  • Just as you would anywhere in the world, don’t accept drinks from strangers and keep an eye on your glass at all times to avoid getting spiked. Don’t accept invitations from randoms to go to private houses or parties.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. Never walk with headphones on or looking at your phone.
  • When arriving in Guatemala City at night, make sure you have a shuttle or pickup pre-booked to collect you from the airport and take you to your hotel.
  • Some robberies involve the use of motorbikes. Try to walk close to the wall and away from the road to avoid being an easy target. If someone does try to snatch your bag, let it go. If you struggle, you could be pulled into the road and hit by a car.
  • Keep a colour photocopy of your passport with you at all times but leave the real thing locked in your hotel room.
  • Always have good travel insurance that covers you for medical treatment, personal possessions, and emergency repatriation if needed.

Read more: A Perfect Guatemala Itinerary In 10 Days, 2 Weeks Or 3 Weeks

Guatemala safety: Three friends on a boat on Lake Peten Itza in Guatemala.

Keeping your money and possessions safe in Guatemala

While your personal safety is the most important thing, none of us want to get robbed on holiday! Here’s some advice about how to look after your gear while you’re away.

  • Try not to travel with too many valuables. Expensive jewellery and watches are best left at home. That said, I’m a hypocrite because I took my DSLR, several lenses, iPhone and laptop (about which, more below).
  • If, like me, you want to do this, then make sure you have good gear insurance!
  • When leaving valuables in your hotel room, lock them away in your suitcase or cupboard.
  • Never leave your stuff unattended in public.
  • Don’t put valuables in outer pockets that can be easily opened.
  • Bring a cable lock so you can lock your luggage to a table, bed, or other fixed object.
  • Don’t carry loads of cash with you. Leave most of it in the hotel safe or locked in your suitcase. It’s a good idea to separate it into several stashes, so that if some of it gets nicked, you won’t lose the whole lot.
  • Only use the ATMs located inside banks; put your money and card away properly before you exit and keep an eye on who may be watching as you leave.

Staying safe in Guatemala: Working on a laptop in a hostel

  • Check your online bank statements regularly in case of fraudulent activity on your card.
  • You might want to wear a hidden money belt – though personally I find these annoying and prefer just to keep my money in an inner pocket in my backpack which I carry in front of me.
  • Be aware of who is watching you. If you see someone notice you, stare back so they know you’ve seen them.
  • If you do need to look at your phone, for example to check directions, walk a little away from the main drag and do it subtly.
  • In crowds, it’s better to put your backpack or bag your front, and put your hands on it.
  • I also had padlocks for all my luggage, and I attached a carabiner clip to the zip on my satchel bag so it was much harder to open. You can also buy suitcases with built in locks if that’s something you prefer.
  • Be extra cautious on market days and during holidays and festivals , when crime rates tend to increase.
  • If someone does try to rob you, hand over your stuff immediately. It’s not worth getting injured or worse for, and if you have good insurance you’ll be covered anyway.

Read more: Travel Photography On The Road – My Photo Editing Workflow Tips

A bag full of camera equipment. It's important to have good travel insurance so you can stay safe in Guatemala.

Hiking safety in Guatemala

One of the top activities in Guatemala is hiking. There are some stunning landscapes, including 37 magnificent volcanos (of which I hiked seven). But most of the trails are remote with few people around. Robbers have been known to lie in wait for tourists and take their phones, cameras, and even shoes!

In addition, the weather can be unpredictable, and the terrain can be challenging. If you’re unfamiliar, you might get lost or injured.

So here’s how to stay safe while hiking in Guatemala.

  • Never hike alone. The rare exceptions are the very popular, short, touristy routes close to cities and only if you do it at peak times when there are lots of other people about.
  • Keep your ear to the ground, ask for advice in your hotel, or check the news for local information. When I was in Quetzaltenango , there had been recent reports of gang violence at the Tajumulco volcano and so I decided not to go.
  • Where possible, go with a group or tour guide. For all the hikes in Xela including the Santa Maria Volcano , I went with lovely local guide Rony Turnil . For Acatenango , Pacaya and San Pedro volcanos, I joined a tour group. On other occasions I met people in my hostel and hiked with them. I know joining a tour is more expensive, but what price are you willing to pay for safety?

Read more: The Thrilling Volcan De Acatenango Hike In Antigua Guatemala

It's dangerous to hike in Guatemala without a guide. I joined a group to hike to Acatenango and Fuego volcanos

  • Avoid hiking Volcan de Agua in Antigua – it’s notorious for robberies.
  • Definitely don’t hike Volcan San Pedro at Lake Atitlan without a group or a guide.
  • Leave your valuables at home. Though you will probably want to take your phone and camera – and it was worth joining a group to be able to do this.
  • Tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to be back.
  • Take plenty of sun cream, water, snacks, a waterproof jacket and layers.
  • Do not leave the marked paths.
  • Keep away from cliffs and edges, even if you find the BEST photo spot EVER!

Read more: A Sunrise Hike Up Volcan Santa Maria In Xela, Guatemala

A solo female hiker at the top of Santa Maria Volcano in Guatemala

Staying safe in Guatemala while taking photos

The whole purpose of my visit to Guatemala was to do travel photography , so I knew I wanted to take my DSLR, lenses and laptop. Of course this made me extra anxious, especially given all the warnings about not taking valuables or getting them out on the street. How are you supposed to take photos if you’re too terrified to get your camera out of the bag?!

At first, this is what happened. I imagined that the streets were full of evil men just waiting for their chance to pounce and rob me. But after a while I realised that I had to feel the fear and do it anyway – otherwise what was the point of me being there?

Read more: The Colourful Market In Solola Guatemala: A Photo Guide

Two men in traditional Guatemalan dress, Solola Guatemala

So here’s how I stayed safe while taking photos in Guatemala:

  • I had good gear insurance. It wasn’t cheap but having the peace of mind knowing my camera and laptop were covered was invaluable. Good companies include Towergate, Eversure, and Photoguard.
  • I backed up my laptop before leaving for Guatemala, and backed up my images on 2 separate portable hard drives every day.
  • I never left my backpack unattended. If I left gear in my room, I locked the bag with a padlock.
  • I only walked around with the camera out while I was actively taking photos. On the way to and from places, I put it back in the bag.
  • I kept my kit to a minimum and avoided changing lenses in public where possible.
  • In busy places where I felt safe to have the camera out, like tourist areas and markets, I hung it round my neck so people could see clearly what I was doing and I didn’t look furtive or suspicious.
  • I asked permission before taking photos of people to avoid causing offence.
  • I never took photos of children without asking their parents’ permission. I heard stories of tourists getting beaten up for doing this, so definitely only take pictures of kids if you are 100% certain you have consent.
  • Even though I was a solo traveller, I rarely travelled alone. Instead I used tourist shuttles, joined tour groups, and made friends in the hostels so I could take photos with the safety of other people around – which was also great for having someone to take photos of me!

Read more: Yaxha Guatemala: The Magical Mayan Ruins You Need To Visit

A woman poses at the Maya ruins of Yaxha in Guatemala

Crime in Guatemala: how to avoid scams

As with all tourist destinations, sometimes people will try to scam you. Here are a few common scams and how to avoid them in Guatemala.

  • Ticket scams are common. One way is that ticket touts will accost you as you get off the bus in a new destination – and later you find out the tickets they sell you are worthless. Only buy from reputable ticket agencies – either through your hotel or hostel, or well-reviewed ones with high street offices in Antigua and Flores . In Flores, I recommend using the booking office at Amigos Hostel for Tikal and any other tours.
  • Negotiate prices for tours and travel in advance, make sure you have written confirmation of what is included (take a photo of the sign or brochure), and get receipts where possible.
  • Another common scam is for one person to distract you while an accomplice robs you. If someone says you have bird shit on you, or ‘accidentally’ spills something on you, grab your bag and walk away. You can sort the mess out later.
  • The photography scam is where someone in the street asks you take their photo, so you kindly oblige, but when you give the camera back they drop it, blame you, and ask for money. It’s sad, but to avoid this one, only agree to take photos for other tourists or members of your tour groups.

Read more: A Colourful Guide To Flores Guatemala: Gateway To The Maya World

Two women and a child on a bench in Antigua's Parque Central

How dangerous is travelling around Guatemala?

While getting around the country is normally trouble-free (apart from traffic jams!), there are a few things you can do increase your chances of arriving safely at your destination.

  • While it is possible to use public buses between cities in Guatemala, most tourists opt to use the dedicated tourist shuttles that run daily between the most popular destinations. I almost always used these and found them to be more reliable and comfortable than other forms of transport – and they’re a great way to meet new people if you’re travelling solo. I recommend Adrenalina Tours or Monte Verde tours .
  • If you do decide to use the chicken buses, keep your valuables close to you at all times and watch your surroundings. Pickpockets operate on the buses. Never use the chicken buses at night.
  • Where possible, only travel during the day.
  • If you see an accident, call Inguat on +502 2421-2810 but do not stop to help as it may be a setup.
  • When travelling around Lake Atitlan, it’s much better to use the public boats across the lake than drive round the narrow, windy roads.
  • Uber is reliable and safe in Xela, Antigua and Guatemala City. In other places if you need a taxi, get your hotel to call you one. Don’t pick up a taxi on the street.
  • Use extra caution in Guatemala City. The safest zones are Zonas 10, 15, 9 and 13. But you still need to be careful and follow all the other advice listed in this article.

Read more: Backpacking in Guatemala: All You Need To Know Before You Go

Tourist shuttle from Rio Dulce to Antigua

Guatemala safety: natural disasters

I’ve covered a lot about personal safety so far, but don’t forget that there are also a fair few natural dangers in Guatemala. From wild animals to biting insects to floods, earthquakes and volcanos, here’s how to stay as safe as possible when faced with the unpredictability of the natural world.

Volcanos and earthquakes

  • Volcanic eruptions and earthquakes can happen at any time. When checking into your accommodation, make sure you know where the exits are in case you need to get out in a hurry.
  • If you’re planning to visit any of the volcanos – especially active ones like Fuego and Pacaya, check local news or current volcanic activity reports from the  Global Volcanism Program ; and talk to your hotel or tour company before you go.
  • It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with this advice about what to do during an earthquake before you travel.

Volcan de Fuego erupting. Guatemala has 37 volcanos, some of them active

Water: the ocean, lakes, floods

  • At the Pacific coast beaches like Monterrico, the currents can be strong and there are no lifeguards. Take extra care when swimming and pay attention to beach safety flags.
  • Lake Atitlan can get very windy and choppy, especially in the afternoons. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and don’t travel if the weather is too bad.
  • During rainy season, extreme heavy rainfall can cause flash flooding and landslides. Again, check the forecast and the news before you travel and if in doubt, stay put.

Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Wildlife dangers in Guatemala

While you might be thinking of scary wild animals like jaguars and howler monkeys, the most dangerous animals in Guatemala are a lot more commonplace: dogs and mosquitoes.

  • Guatemala has a huge street dog problem and some of them carry rabies. Although they may look cute, street dogs are feral and unpredictable. Do not approach or pet them. If you see a large pack of street dogs, it’s best to avoid them and find another route.
  • If you do get bitten, rabies is not a joke and can cause serious harm and even death if left untreated. Get medical attention and a rabies jab immediately – even if this means cutting short your trip and going home.
  • Mosquitoes can transmit Dengue Fever and Zika – both are common in the jungles, beaches and lowlands of Central America. Make sure you wear long sleeves and long trousers as much as possible and use plenty of insect repellent.  
  • Make sure your vaccines are up to date and check with your local travel clinic for advice on what additional vaccines you may need to get for Guatemala.
  • Other wild animals will normally run away from you, so are not too much of a concern. But note that there may be crocodiles in the lagoons and lakes in the Peten, so don’t swim unless told it’s safe to do so.

Street dog in Santa Catarina Palopo, Guatemala

What to do if something bad happens to you in Guatemala

Public hospitals are underfunded, understaffed and under-resourced. If you are injured, take a taxi to the nearest private hospital. If necessary, this may mean heading to Antigua or Guatemala City.

You should call your travel insurance provider as soon as possible to let them know you need assistance. They will be able to advise you what to do next. I strongly advise you to store their number in your phone right now.

Guatemala has a National Tourist Assistance Program (PROATUR) which offers round-the-clock emergency support for tourists. There are extra PROATUR security officers on the beat in tourist areas. If you need to call them, they speak English; the number is 1500 or +502-2290-2800. Another number it’s a good idea to save right now!

For general tourist assistance, you can also contact INGUAT , the Guatemalan Tourist Board. They can coordinate security for tourist groups and can also be contacted in case of emergencies.

If you need emergency assistance (for example, you’ve been attacked, arrested or someone has died) and are a UK citizen, the British Embassy’s emergency number is +502 2380-7300.

Friendly woman weaver with a spinning wheel, Guatemala

My favourite safety gadgets to travel with

Here are some of the tools and gadgets I like to travel with, to help keep me and my stuff safe while travelling

  • Luggage tags – because sometimes bags just go missing, so you want your details on them, but not showing on the outside so anyone can see your personal information.
  • Luggage padlocks – good for making sure airline baggage handlers don’t raid your bag, and for extra security in your hotel room.
  • Carabiners – to help hold zips closed or for attaching stuff to your backpack.
  • Small packable backpack – I use these all the time when I don’t want to take my huge camera backpack out with me
  • Money belt – for keeping your cards and cash hidden on your person.
  • Cable lock – can be used for locking your bag to a fixed object.
  • Apple Air Tags – I bought these specially before going to Guatemala and they were great for keeping track of my bags and the peace of mind of knowing where things were. And if yours goes walkabout, you can use them to find out where it’s gone. However, if your bag does get nicked, I really don’t recommend you go after it unless it’s in a public place and you’re certain you can retrieve it safely and without getting hurt.

Don’t forget travel insurance!

And – it’s not a gadget – but the most important safety thing of all is Travel Insurance! I recommend World Nomads for flexible insurance that you can extend while you’re away. Or head over to my Travel Resources page for more companies I’d recommend.

Guatemala safety: I always travel with a padlock on my luggage

Is Guatemala safe to visit now? 

At the time of writing, the US State Department classes Guatemala as ‘Level 3: Reconsider Travel’. Travel is not recommended to:

  • San Marcos Department (except the city of San Marcos).
  • Huehuetenango Department (except the city of Huehuetenango).
  • Zone 18 and the city of Villa Nueva in Guatemala City.

However things can change rapidly and this information may soon be out of date! If you’re wondering, is it safe to travel to Guatemala right now, check for the latest safety advice and travel warnings for Guatemala on the UK FCO Advice pages or the US State Department website .

You can also ask for tips, and make travel buddies, in the Expats in Guatemala Facebook group.

If you’re on Twitter, you can follow the National Police (Policía Nacional Civil) at  @ PNCdeGuatemala and the disaster agency @ ConRED (Coordinadora Nacional para la Reducción de Desastres) for updates on crime and natural disasters. 

Solo travel in Guatemala: I took this photo using a small portable tripod

A final word on dangers in Guatemala

Look, I know this is a LOT! And if you’ve read it all, you’re probably starting to panic. ‘How the hell am I going to do all that?!”

So I want you to remember that a lot of this is common sense, and stuff I’m sure you would normally do anyway. And to be completely honest, I didn’t do all of it, not all the time anyway.

I often walked around by myself with a backpack on and my camera round my neck, a noticeable, blonde, solo female traveller by herself. I chatted to lots of strangers. Sometimes I didn’t wear insect repellant!

And… I was fine.

I went on my own to Semuc Champey, a popular tourist destination in Guatemala

The most important thing is to do the best you can and trust your instincts. If something feels sketchy, give it a swerve. And if in doubt, spend a bit more money to take that Uber, join that group, or stay in the more central hotel. Think of it as additional insurance to ensure your holiday passes without incident.

If you’re sensible and take precautions, there’s no reason why you can’t have the same trouble-free trip as most of the other travellers who have visited Guatemala before you.

And finally, I want to leave you with something someone said to me when I was in the middle of my pre-trip panic spiral:

“I travelled the length of Central America, on my own. If I listened to all the nightmare stories I would have never gone. Which would have meant I would have never had all those incredible experience and met all these amazing people.”

So go to Guatemala, stay safe, and have fun!

Solo female traveller selfie at Mayan ruins in Guatemala

Where to next?

If you’re planning a trip to Guatemala, I have tonnes of posts here to help you. Head to my main Guatemala page or try some of these for size!

  • How To See The Resplendent Quetzal Bird In Guatemala
  • Santa Catarina Palopo: The Colourful Painted Town In Guatemala
  • Alfombras In Guatemala: A Guide To The Colourful Sawdust Carpets
  • Rio Dulce Guatemala: Is The ‘Sweet River’ Worth It?
  • Guatemala People: 30 Portraits Of Guatemalans That Show Their Rich Culture

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Is Guatemala Safe? A Comprehensive Guide for Travelers


Guatemala is a place that has a lot of different sides to it. It is a gorgeous country with breathtaking natural beauty and a vibrant cultural heritage , and the locals are just so friendly. However, it’s a place that draws in a lot of adventurous travelers but also brings up a bunch of questions and worries: Is Guatemala a safe place to visit? So, what kinds of risks and challenges do travelers typically encounter?

I lived several years in Guatemala and can completely and sincerely answer some of these questions.

After reading this article, you’ll have a good idea of what to expect and how to get ready for your t rip to Guatemala .

view of volcano lake atitlan guatemala

Table of Contents

Is Guatemala Safe?

Yes, it’s safe, but it depends a lot on the area. As a tourist, your chances of facing something sketchy if you practice common sense are reduced.

Guatemala has a reputation for crime and violence; some areas indeed have their own challenges, but we shouldn’t generalize and apply those challenges to the entire country.

Explorers who go beyond the news stories find a welcoming atmosphere, vibrant customs, and awe-inspiring scenery.

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Why is Guatemala labeled “high risk”?

Guatemala is a country that has been through a lot. It suffered a brutal civil war that lasted from 1960 to 1996, and it has also faced natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, and volcanic eruptions. It has struggled with political instability, corruption, and human rights violations.

And it has endured social and economic problems like poverty, inequality, crime, and migration.

All these factors have contributed to the perception that Guatemala is a dangerous and unstable country, and to some extent, this perception is true.

Guatemala is not a haven for travelers. It has high levels of violence, and it has widespread gang activity, drug trafficking, and extortion, as well as frequent protests, roadblocks, and strikes that can disrupt travel and services.

And it has potential threats from natural disasters such as earthquakes, landslides, floods, and volcanic eruptions.

These are some of the realities that travelers may encounter when visiting Guatemala. But they are not the whole story.

What are the main safety concerns in Guatemala?

Guatemala can be a bit risky, so travelers need to be aware of the potential dangers and difficulties they might encounter.

Here are a few safety concerns in Guatemala:

Crime rates in Guatemala are quite high, particularly in urban areas and on public transportation. Travelers often encounter crimes like petty theft, pickpocketing , mugging, and robbery.

Travelers need to stay alert and be careful, especially during the evening, in busy locations, and in remote areas.

One effective approach to preventing crime in Guatemala is to stay alert, well-informed, and considerate.

Despite this, you might not come across any crimes or scams during your trips, but it’s a good idea to keep a few crime tips and precautions in mind.

Here are some of them:

  • Do not carry large amounts of cash or flash your money or valuables.
  • Do not walk alone, especially at night or in unfamiliar areas.
  • Do not participate in illegal activities, such as gambling, prostitution, or drug trafficking.
  • Do not resist or argue with armed criminals, and cooperate with their demands.
  • Do not leave your belongings unattended or lose sight of your cards or documents.
  • Report any crime or incident to the local authorities, and contact your embassy or consulate.
  • Respect the local culture, laws, and customs, and avoid any conflict or offense.

guatemala local market indoors

There are a few scammers out there who like to target travelers and foreigners and pull sneaky tricks to get their hands on money or valuables.

You need to stay alert. Some common scams you should be aware of are: fake police officers, fake tour guides, fake taxis, counterfeit money, and fraudulent charities. Travelers should approach their journey with caution and be mindful of any questionable or unexpected offers or requests.

Here are some useful tips to avoid scams:

  • Do not accept rides, drinks, or gifts from strangers.
  • Do not trust anyone who offers you a deal that sounds too good to be true.
  • Do not give out your personal or financial information, or use public or unsecured Wi-Fi.
  • Try to walk with someone you trust or in a group, and stick to well-lit and busy streets.

If you want to stay healthy in Guatemala , it’s important to prioritize both your physical and mental well-being.

You may encounter a few health risks and challenges along the way, and those include food poisoning, water contamination, mosquito-borne diseases, altitude sickness, sunburn, or stress.

If you want to avoid or address these problems, just stick to some simple health tips and take the necessary precautions.

  • Get vaccinated; it is one of the most important and effective ways to prevent some of the diseases that are prevalent in Guatemala.
  • You should consult your doctor at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip and get recommendations for your destination and activities.
  • Don’t forget any medicine you take regularly, and bring any certificates or medical receipts.
  • Drinking bottled water is another essential and easy way to avoid getting sick from contaminated water.
  • You should avoid eating raw or undercooked meat, seafood, or anything that looks “unhealthy,”  since they can have bacteria or parasites that can cause gastrointestinal problems.

viewpoint green rush guatemala

Natural Disasters

One of the key things to keep in mind when it comes to preparing for natural disasters in Guatemala is to stay aware, informed, and ready.

Since you might encounter various natural disasters like earthquakes, landslides, floods, or volcanic eruptions.

They aren’t common, but you should be prepared for these situations. It’s a good idea to keep in mind some simple disaster tips and precautions.

  • You should wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, socks, and shoes, and apply insect repellent to your exposed skin, especially during dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Sleep under a mosquito net or in a room with screens, fans, or air conditioning, and avoid areas with stagnant water where mosquitoes breed.
  • Prepare for altitude sickness, ascend gradually, and give yourself time to acclimatize to the lower oxygen levels.
  • Have an emergency kit ready with you, containing items such as water, food, a flashlight, a radio, batteries, a phone, a charger, cash, documents, and medication.
  • Think about an emergency plan with a meeting point, a contact person, and an evacuation route.
  • Follow the local news and weather and the advice of the authorities, and stay away from any affected areas.

Now let’s take a look at other issues you should keep in mind:

Safety by Region and Destination

Guatemala is divided into 22 departments , each with its features and challenges. The departments are further subdivided into municipalities.

The level of safety in Guatemala varies by region and destination. Some regions and destinations are safer than others.

In general, the regions and destinations that are safer for tourists are those that are more developed, more visited, and more protected by the authorities.

The regions and destinations that are more dangerous for tourists are those that are more remote, more neglected, and more affected by violence and poverty.

Petén is the northernmost and largest region of Guatemala, covering about one-third of the country’s territory. It is also the most sparsely populated and least developed region, with vast areas of tropical rainforest, wetlands, and savanna.

It is home to some of the most impressive and important Mayan archaeological sites in the world, like Tikal , Yaxhá, Uaxactún, and El Mirador . It is also a biodiversity hotspot, with numerous national parks, reserves, and wildlife sanctuaries, like Petén Itzá Lake .

The safety of Petén depends largely on where you go and what you do. The safest and best places to visit in Petén are the main tourist attractions, like Tikal, Flores , and El Remate , which are well-guarded and well-maintained by the authorities and the tourism industry.

woman in front of tikal temple guatemala

Alta Verapaz

Alta Verapaz is a region located in the central-northern part of the country. It shares borders with Petén, Izabal, Baja Verapaz, and El Quiché . This region of Guatemala is incredibly diverse and beautiful, offering a wide range of landscapes, climates, and ecosystems.

You’ll find everything from mountains and valleys to rivers, lakes, caves, and forests. Alta Verapaz has some amazing natural attractions like Semuc Champey , Biotopo del Quetzal, Lanquín Caves , and Cobán.

The safety of Alta Verapaz depends mainly on how you travel and who you interact with. The safest and best places to visit in Alta Verapaz are the natural and cultural attractions, like Semuc Champey , Lanquín Caves, Cobán , and Biotopo del Quetzal , which are relatively safe and well-managed and taken care of.

views of the pools of semuc champey from lookout in guatemala

Izabal shares borders with Petén, Alta Verapaz, Zacapa, Honduras, and the beautiful Caribbean Sea . This region of Guatemala is incredibly diverse and full of exotic wonders. From stunning coastlines and islands to majestic mountains and lush jungles, it offers a wide range of landscapes, climates, and cultures to explore.

It has some pretty awesome natural attractions like Río Dulce , Livingston, Quiriguá , and Punta de Manabique.

If you’re looking for safe spots to check out in Izabal, you’ll want to visit Río Dulce, Izabal Lake , and Livingston . These places are not only beautiful, but they’re also well-protected and safe thanks to the authorities.

Some areas in Izabal, like Puerto Barrios, Morales, and Santo Tomás de Castilla, can be quite risky to visit due to higher crime rates and violence.

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Central Highlands

The Central Highlands are situated in the central part of Guatemala; this region is pretty crowded and well-developed. It has all sorts of landscapes, climates, and cultures to offer, like volcanoes, valleys, lakes, plateaus, and forests.

The Highlands are famous for their stunning natural attractions, including Lake Atitlán , Pacaya Volcano , Chichicastenango Market , and others.

It’s got some interesting cultural attractions to check out too, like the Maya communities, the Feria de Santiago Atitlán, and the UNESCO Site of Antigua, a colonial town .

The Central Highlands is a chill and laid-back area where folks and communities live together and work together, making it a pretty safe and stable region of Guatemala, especially in the rural and tourist areas. Crime and violence are low, and there’s a good level of security and development.

Some safe places to check out in the Central Highlands are the natural and cultural attractions. You’ve got Acatenango , Lake Atitlán, Pacaya Volcano , and Chichicastenango Market . These places are pretty safe, and the authorities and tourism keep things running smoothly.

street on a village lake atitlan

Pacific Coast

The Pacific Coast is known for its scorching temperatures and arid conditions. It offers a diverse range of landscapes, climates, and cultures, including stunning beaches , lush mangroves, towering volcanoes, vast deserts, and farms.

It’s home to some awesome natural attractions like Monterrico , Xocomil , and Xetelul (water and amusement parks), El Paredon Beach, and Takalik Abaj, a Mayan site.

The safest and best places to visit on the Pacific Coast are the touristic places, like Monterrico and El Paredon , which are relatively safe and well-protected.

el paredon sign guatemala

Is Guatemala City safe?

Guatemala City is the capital and largest city of the country, and it’s also the most populous and developed urban area in Central America. A city bustling with government institutions, businesses, industries, universities, museums, and monuments.

It is the main transportation hub, boasting the La Aurora International Airport , the Central Railway Station, and the convenient Transmetro bus system.

Guatemala City can be quite a challenging place to travel to, particularly in certain areas where there is a high level of gang activity, drug trafficking, and crime.

It depends on where you go and what you do in the city when it comes to safety. If you’re looking for the safest spots in Guatemala City, you can’t go wrong with zones 4, 9, 10, 13, and 14 (Make sure to visit Ciudad Cayala in Zone 16)

These areas are packed with tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants, and shops .

On the other hand, it has some areas that are known for higher crime rates and should be approached with caution. These areas include zones 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 12, 18, and 21. They are usually not very safe and tend to be overlooked by authorities and the tourism industry.

staycation in guatemala woman walking a dog in guatemala city

How to stay safe in Guatemala

Traveling to Guatemala can be a safe and enjoyable experience, as long as you follow some general tips for travel safety.

Here are some of the best practices to keep in mind:

It’s a good idea to do some research on your destination before you travel. Look into the culture, laws, security situation, and any potential risks.

This will help you plan your trip smoothly, avoid any unexpected hiccups, and show respect for the local customs and norms.

Make sure you grab yourself some travel insurance before you head out. It’s always a good idea to have coverage for your health, belongings, and activities.

This will provide you with a sense of security and safeguard you in the event of any unexpected situations or accidents.

Don’t forget to make copies of your important documents before you travel. This includes your passport, visa, insurance, and itinerary.

It’s always a good idea to have backups! Just make sure you have one set with you and give another set to someone you trust.

This can come in handy if you ever experience any loss or theft.

Before your trip, make sure to convert some money into the local currency, the Guatemalan quetzal. It’s also a good idea to have a mix of cash and cards on hand.

Try using ATMs that are found in safe and well-known locations, like banks, hotels, or shopping centers.

It’s a good idea to avoid carrying around a bunch of cash. Instead, keep your money and cards in a safe and hidden spot, like a money belt or a lockable bag.

quetzales coin and bills guatemalan currency


Make sure to grab a local SIM card or a roaming plan for your phone before you hit the road. It’s always a good idea to have a way to stay connected while you’re out and about.

Stay connected with your loved ones, buddies, or emergency contacts, and easily access helpful information like maps, directions, or translations.


It’s always a good idea to go for safe and reliable accommodation choices like hotels, hostels, or VRBO.

It’s best to steer clear of inexpensive or sketchy accommodations, as well as locations that have a reputation for being unsafe or secluded.

Make sure to always lock your door and keep your valuables in a safe or locker.

When traveling, just keep an eye out for what’s going on around you and go with your gut. If you ever get a bad vibe, feel like you’re in danger, or feel uneasy, it’s best to get out of that situation or ask for assistance.

Just keep a low profile and don’t flaunt your wealth or possessions. Remember to be polite and friendly to the locals, but also keep an eye out for any unfamiliar faces or offers.


Public buses can be crowded and occasionally targeted by pickpockets. Taxis are a safer option, especially those arranged by hotels. It’s always a good idea to stick with trustworthy and authorized transportation choices like official taxis, buses, or shuttles .

It’s best to steer clear of hitchhiking, driving after dark, or getting into vehicles that aren’t marked or authorized.

If driving, be prepared for narrow roads and aggressive drivers, and make sure to buckle up and keep your windows and doors locked at all times.

woman sitting on a tuk tuk in guatemala

Tips for Staying Safe in Guatemala

Urban areas and tourist zones.

Guatemala City , the capital, has its share of crime, but Antigua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site , offers a safer alternative.

You should exercise caution, avoid isolated areas, and stay informed about local conditions.

Cultural Etiquette

Respect local customs by dressing modestly and learning a few basic phrases in Spanish.

Engage with locals; they’ll appreciate your effort, and you’ll learn much more about their culture. Guatemala has a strong Mayan presence, and you should respect that.

Adventure with Caution

Some amazing hiking trails will take you to hidden waterfalls, and you can also explore ancient Mayan ruins.

While many hikes or attractions can be visited without a guide, I highly recommend that you consider hiring local guides to enhance your experience and ensure your safety.

Connect with locals

Guatemalans are friendly and take a lot of pride in their heritage.

Have a chat, check out the nearby festivals, and get into the local culture.

Carpet made during the Holy Week in Guatemala

Conclusion: Should you travel to Guatemala?

Guatemala is safe to travel to if you stick to the tourist areas, but that doesn’t mean you should not be cautious or alert; it has its fair share of issues and risks. But it has its fair share of beauty and joy, too.

There’s a little something for everyone in this country; it’s a place you should check out and discover. It’s not about whether Guatemala is safe or not; it’s about whether you are ready or not.

If you’re up for it, then you’re all set to head to Guatemala, and I guarantee you won’t regret it. Guatemala is an amazing country that will have a profound impact on your life.

Looking for More Inspiration?

I have been traveling and living in Guatemala for over 25 years Check out these Hand-Tested GUIDES

If you want to travel without the hassle and confusion – check out a complete guide for traveling to Guatemala .

For more travel ideas to add to your bucket list, check out a complete guide to all the best places to visit in Guatemala .

Guatemala has a huge variety of food, check out the guide to the top 15 Guatemalan Food and Dishes .

Disclosure: This blog post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission for any purchases made through the links. Your trust is important to us, and we ensure that all products or services we recommend meet or exceed our editorial standards .

Last Updated on March 7, 2024

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Is it safe to travel to Guatemala? [TIPS FROM LOCALS]

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Note: Some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. More details are  here .

UPDATE November 2018:  Like many of you, I was heartbroken to hear the news of the eruption of Volcán de Fuego that occurred in June of this year. While volcanic eruptions and earthquakes are not unusual in this seismically active region, this eruption was particularly devastating.  Please note that the below post is about general travel safety in Guatemala, not about volcanoes.  However, I traveled back to Guatemala in October and can affirm that for travelers to Antigua, things are back to business as usual. As of October, there was a portion of a road still being rebuilt, and of course families who lost their homes and loved ones are still recovering.

Questions about travel safety in Guatemala pop up on a frequent basis in online travel groups that I’m a part of. With the stories about Central America that tend to make news headlines, it’s understandable. Guatemala has some tourist draws like Antigua, Tikal, and Lake Atitlan, but it’s also part of the Northern Triangle of Central America, which has gained infamy for its high rates of violent crime. It’s easy to see why a solo female traveler, independent backpacker, or worried mom of a college student would have hesitations about safety.

If you’re considering a trip to Guatemala and are feeling apprehensive, this post is for you.  I’m going to share my concern about an answer I frequently see to this question, my own thoughts, and responses from six Guatemalans, Guatemalan-Americans, expats, and others who are way more knowledgeable than I am on the topic.

I love seeing that  interest in Guatemala is increasing and that more people are discovering this beautiful Central American country. I’ve loved Guate since my first trip there thirteen years ago, and I’ll gladly talk your ear off (preferably over a good cup of coffee) about its history, diversity, and natural beauty. I’ll sing its praises and wholeheartedly encourage you to go.

However, one of the responses I’ve seen in these discussions about travel safety concerns me. It boils down to this: “I backpacked in Guatemala for 2 weeks, and I felt totally safe! Nothing bad happened to me.” This is not actually answering the question, “Is it safe to travel to Guatemala?” How safe someone  felt while traveling is supplementary information and highly subjective. While your level of comfort is relevant to the conversation, it’s not always indicative of what is happening in the country and what you should be aware of.

So we should look at the objective facts, then, right?

Take a few minutes to read up on Guatemalan news, and you’ll see reports of mob vigilante justice, drug trafficking, and gang violence. And though the homicide rate is lower than in Honduras and El Salvador, it’s higher than tourism-heavy countries like Costa Rica. The U.S. State Department  rates the threat of violent crime in Guatemala as “critical,” though there is not currently an alert or warning issued.

When you step back and put this information into the world context—reading news from cities like Philadelphia or London or comparing gun homicide statistics in countries around the world to U.S. cities —it sometimes feels like these travel warnings are over-the-top. We all know from watching the news for five minutes that crazy things can happen  anywhere , even in our own hometowns.

So there’s a risk in looking only at statistics and travel warnings because they don’t tell the whole story.   I assume this is why so many people ask about the personal experiences of others. But we also can’t rely solely on personal anecdotes when asking questions about travel safety in any destination.

So, how  should we research these questions? And… is Guatemala dangerous for travelers? Here’s my take.

Preparing for a Trip to Guatemala: 2 Essential Tips

I’ve been to Guatemala five times and have traveled to many areas of the country—from Guatemala City to Mayan ruins in Petén, from hiking up a mountain to a rural indigenous village, to working on a coffee farm on the Pacific Coast, and various places in between. I’ve studied Guatemala’s history and current events in a college course and independently. I’ve traveled solo and as part of groups ranging in size from about 6 or 7 to more than 50.

My answer to the question of whether Guatemala is safe? It’s possible to travel to Guatemala safely.  Going in blindly based on personal experiences from a few travelers isn’t the best idea. But neither is letting news headlines stop you from traveling.

In my opinion, it’s important to prepare by doing two things:

1. Learn the facts.

While I’m not a fan of throwing scary statistics around or fearful knee-jerk reactions, I believe it’s also paramount to do your research first. Those travel warnings  are based on factual information, and learning about commonplace crimes is helpful in staying informed and preparing to travel.  Information and facts can give you the confidence to prepare and the wisdom to make a decision that’s right for you.

In Guatemala, I try to stay informed about some of the major issues–red zones in the capital, certain public “chicken bus” routes that are prone to robberies, and the regions of the country that see the most violence.

I recommend getting an overview of Guatemala’s history and reading up on current events before traveling. Not only does learning about the places you travel prepare you in terms of logistics and safety, it also enriches your travel experience and allows you to engage more deeply with the people you meet.

This isn’t about highlighting the risks and making the world sound terrifying . I don’t want to perpetuate a fear mindset, but the truth is that there  are  dangers, and it’s important to be honest about them—without letting them paralyze you. For me, being informed helps me know what to be aware of, gives me confidence to prepare, and puts my mind at ease.

2. Talk to locals and people who have lived there.

Asking locals is the best way to find out if a specific area is safe and what places to avoid (one of the tips below expands on this idea with an important caveat). Go beyond talking to someone who has traveled in Guatemala for a week or two, even if they are a savvy traveler.

(Which means you shouldn’t just listen to me, and that’s exactly why I asked others to weigh in on the topic…keep reading for their tips!)

Travel Safety Tips from Locals & People Who’ve Lived There

My knowledge is limited since I haven’t lived in Guatemala. So I’ve reached out to some friends who are either from Guatemala or have lived there for an extended period of time (in other words, they’re way smarter than I am) to share their thoughts and tips to help you have a safe visit.

I asked them two questions:

—If someone asked you, “Is it safe to travel to Guatemala?” what would your response be?

—Do you have any other thoughts, tips, or advice about the topic of travel safety in Guatemala that you’d like to add?

Take Smart Precautions

Yes, it’s safe! My husband is Guatemalan and grew up in Guatemala City. I lived in Xela, Guatemala for a month, and we travel back to the capital and Antigua regularly with our two small kids. While we believe there is no reason to fear Guatemala, it is important to take smart precautions.

Night travel is not always recommended. And while we still allow our children to move freely in public, we do keep our eyes on them and stay close. We also try to use reasonable precautions about keeping electronics, cash, or other valuables out of sight in public. Of course, as with all international travel, it’s important to keep your passport in a safe place, and we don’t typically carry it on us when we’re out and about unless it’s needed.

It’s Generally Safe

It is quite safe to travel in Guatemala under the right conditions. Some regions are safer than others, but in general it is safe.

  • As a foreigner, never travel alone.
  • Ideally, you want to travel with someone local who knows the area and current safety climate.
  • Never travel after dark.
  • Always have someone you know pick you up at the airport.
  • If using public transportation or walking in public in Guatemala City, keep your money/valuables as secure as possible. I put my wallet in my pants front pocket.

Nathan Tillotson is U.S. Citizen and OB/GYN physician born and raised in Guatemala. Head here to view his signature book, The Art of Decision , available in both English & Spanish.

News Headlines Aren’t Everything

Yes, it is safe if you’re smart about it. Just as in any city or country, there are places and situations you’d do well to avoid, but with basic precautions and street smarts you’ll most likely be fine.

Violent crime is a tragic reality in Guatemala that overwhelmingly, though not exclusively, affects the poor and vulnerable. News reports about gang and cartel activity are terrifying, and petty crime is real, but remember that millions of Guatemalans go about their daily lives–going to school, to work, to church, to the lake–without living in constant fear of violence. Like anywhere else, daily life in Guatemala looks different than the headlines would lead you to believe.

Also, Guatemalans are great, so when you visit, spend as much time with them as you possibly can. Ask them (or hire them!) to show you around their beautiful country.

RELATED: 7 Unique Things to Do in Guatemala That Benefit the Local Community

Yes, But Use Caution Traveling Alone

Yes it is. It also depends the places you will be visiting and if you are traveling alone. It’s always good to be careful. If it’s your first time traveling to Guatemala, I would suggest that you either travel with someone else or have people inside the country whom you trust if you are traveling by yourself.

Linda Rodríguez was born in United States but has lived outside Guatemala City all her life. She is currently studying auditing and CPA in Universidad Francisco Marroquin in Guatemala.

Travel Safety Changes

Yes, if you take some precautions. Travel safety is very fluid, so it’s difficult to make hard and fast rules. I would share some general guidelines like avoid traveling at night, avoid wearing flashy jewelry or carrying expensive equipment, and travel with at least one other person if you can.

Since safety is a topic that is always changing, my best advice is to ask locals. And not just one. Ask a few people. Be clear that you’re asking if going to such and such place is safe for you as a foreigner. Most Guatemalans or local expats will be able to tell you basic advice like to avoid a certain route because there have been assaults or to be sure to take a Guatemalan guide for the hike you’re planning to do.

Some people will tell you to avoid chicken buses entirely. I don’t necessary agree with that. I have ridden dozens of them, but I am careful to make sure to ask about the route. Also, know that the drivers can be reckless. I am proud to say I lived in Guatemala on multiple occasions and never had a bad experience, but I was also careful and cautious when necessary. Sometimes that meant spending more money, like taking a taxi home instead of walking because it was dark out.

Rachel K. is a non-profit professional who lived and worked in Guatemala City and the Western Guatemalan Highlands.

Yes, Overall—But It’s Not the Same as Travel in the U.S.

It depends where and how you’re traveling. Go with someone who has done it before, or through a travel agency in a town like Antigua that has reviews and a good reputation. I wouldn’t take a chicken bus unless I were traveling with someone who lives there and was confident about the place I was getting on/off the bus.

In a tourist city like Antigua, you can always find an English speaker, but that’s not always the case in some of the more remote (but super awesome) places worth seeing. Be aware of your surroundings and do some research before traveling—it will pay off. The coolest places in Guatemala are a tad remote, so you’d want to book a hotel and micro (vans that you wouldn’t believe can fit 15 people) at least a day in advance, and get proof of payment.

The people are so kind and generous and helpful overall, but there is a risk, especially when it is so obvious that you are an outsider and most likely have more cash on you than those around you. While I was never robbed, there were situations that could have ended differently if I didn’t plan my travel ahead of time, travel lightly, or seek advice from people who have taken the same trip(s).

Finally, cash is king, especially in remote areas where credit cards may not be accepted. So the short answer to the question about travel safety in Guatemala is that overall, yes, it’s safe, but it doesn’t mean that you can treat it the same as you would travel in the USA.

Val was a missionary and volunteer in Guatemala for 2 years, but has carried the place in her heart for the past 16 years, since her first visit to Guate.

Have you been to Guatemala or is it a place you’d like to visit? How much of a concern is safety when planning your travels? I’d love to hear your feedback & additional tips in the comments!

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Guatemala Travel Guide

Last Updated: September 1, 2023

A volcano view in Guatemala with a small town nestled in the valley between the mountains

The rugged mountains and jungles offer adventurous travelers a chance to get off the beaten path and explore pristine landscapes for a fraction of what you’d pay elsewhere in the world. And the ruins are underrated and a must-see for history buffs, including the impressive Tikal, an ancient Mayan city and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I love this country and have always had an incredible time here. (One of my favorite memories involves camping in Tikal National Park)

In this travel guide to Guatemala, I’ll show you how to make the most of your trip, save money, and stay safe in one of Central America’s most popular destinations!

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Guatemala

Top 5 Things to See and Do in Guatemala

volcano view in Guatemala

1. Visit Lake Atitlán

This spectacular lake is actually a massive volcanic crater. The lake sits 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) above sea level and is also one of the deepest lakes in Central America. It should come as no surprise that it’s one of the best spots to watch the sunset in Guatemala. On the northern coast of the lake lies the tourist village of Panajachel, a good base to arrange lake and volcano tours (there are two volcanoes here you can explore, Toliman and San Pedro). The village offers incredible views of the surrounding volcanoes and you can also enjoy restaurants, bars, and nightlife in a rustic lakeside setting here too. Boat tours are available as well.

2. Head to Antigua

Antigua is a picturesque colonial city in a highland valley between three volcanoes. It’s full of colonial Spanish architecture, including cobbled streets, what’s left of the centuries-old San Francisco church, houses, and ruins. There’s a vibrant market with colorful Guatemalan blankets and fabrics as well as lots of crafts and souvenirs. Head to the Plaza Mayor to take in the city’s amazing garden and don’t miss a hike up the Fuego volcano (which is active). There are two routes to choose from: La Soledad and the super high, extremely steep Alotenango Route. Conversely, you can hike the difficult (yet super popular) Acatenango volcano, which offers well-earned views of Fuego spitting lava, fire, and ash into the air. The best time for these hikes is during the dry season from the end of November to early April.

3. Explore Tikal National Park

Tikal is home to the most popular Mayan ruins in the country . Located in Petén Province in the north of Guatemala, this enormous national park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and spans nearly 600 square meters (6,500 square feet), housing centuries of Mayan history and archeology covered in lush vegetation. It is famous for rare animals like pumas, toucans, snakes, monkeys, and many species of birds. Arrive early and stay late as the park empties out in the afternoon when tour groups leave. I also recommend sleeping over in the park to catch the sunrise. You will need to pay extra for a guided tour if you want to see the sunrise or sunset. Ticket prices vary depending on if you buy day tickets, sunrise tickets, or sunset tickets. Admission is 150 GTQ for day hiking before sunset. You can reach Tikal from Flores by shuttle bus or even from neighboring Belize .

4.Visit Semuc Champey

This natural attraction outside the town of Lanquin near Coban consists of 300 meters (984 feet) of limestone bridges over the Cahabòn River that form natural lagoon-like pools. Take a candlelit tour through the Kamba caves, go tubing down the Cahabòn, or swim in the turquoise pools along the bridge. Keep in mind that the caves can only be visited with a guide. It’s possible to get here with local transport, private shuttles, or on a day trip. Go early in the morning to beat the crowds. To avoid getting rained on or risk that the area is flooded, visit during the dry season (December-April). Day trips cost 250-300 GTQ.

5. Explore the Chichicastenango Market

Most people who come to Guatemala visit Chichicastenango, the largest indigenous market in North America. Every Thursday and Sunday, thousands of Quiché Mayans come to town to buy and sell handicrafts, flowers, poetry, trinkets, pottery, and colorful textiles. There are plenty of places to eat tasty street food and buy local fruits and veggies, try fresh juices or Guatemalan coffee, and buy delicious handmade tortillas. Don’t forget to bring smaller bills and remember to bargain for the things you buy. Go early in the morning to beat the crowds.

Other Things to See and Do in Guatemala

1. visit the national museum of archaeology and ethnology.

Located in Guatemala City, this museum houses the many artifacts uncovered from the Mayan archaeological sites around the country. Created in 1898, the museum holds over 20,000 items and artifacts and is a good place to visit so you can learn more about the Mayan culture. Admission is 60 GTQ.

2. See the Yaxha ruins

If Tikal is too touristy for you, consider the more secluded Yaxha ruins. Like Tikal, Yaxha is a massive Mesoamerican archaeological site. Located in the northeast, it was the third-largest Mayan city in the region. Home to several huge stone pyramids, the site was “discovered” in 1904 and dates to 250-600 CE. Spend a few hours looking at ancient drawings and intricately carved hieroglyphs. Admission is 80 GTQ.

3. Explore Quirigua

The archaeological site of Quirigua, located in the southeastern corner of the country near the border with Honduras, contains the largest stelae (upright stone columns covered in drawings or carved into shapes) ever discovered in the Mayan world. Nine stelae are arranged around a central plaza, accompanied by altars carved into zoomorphic shapes that date from the 2nd-8th centuries CE. Although the stelae are unrestored, they are a magnificent sight; the largest of these is a whopping 25 feet tall! Admission is 80 GTQ.

4. Hike the Volcán de Pacaya

This active volcano frequently erupts ash clouds over Antigua, however, it makes for a fun day hike (don’t worry, it’s safe). The trail is relatively easy (it’s not that steep) and takes around two hours to hike, giving you lots of time to admire the view before you actually get a chance to peer into the volcano’s cone. Pacaya can only be accessed with an authorized guide so you will need to book a tour. Be aware the cheap tours often just offer transportation and a Spanish-speaking guide. If you don’t speak Spanish you will need to ask for an English-speaking guide. Guided hikes start at 250 GTQ . Some of the tours also include a visit to a thermal spa where you can soak in the naturally warm waters as well as a chance to roast marshmallows over the volcano.

5. Wander Flores

A small island, Flores sits on Lake Peten Itza, a large lake in the north and the second-largest lake in the country. A narrow man-made causeway connects the island to the mainland and the region is perfect for hiking, swimming, and spotting wildlife. From here, you’re just a short drive away from some of the most untamed jungles in the country (it makes for a good base for exploring the nearby jungles). It’s also close to the ruins at Tikal.

6. Visit the ruins at El Mirador

El Mirador is one of the most undiscovered Mayan sites in Guatemala. Located near the border with Mexico in the northeast, the majority of its complexes lie in the depths of the jungle and remain relatively inaccessible to tourists. It’s the largest of all the Mayan ruins, rivaling even the pyramids in Egypt in size. Though discovered in 1926, researchers didn’t start studying it until 2003! Multi-day tours cost around 2,300-3,100 GTQ since it’s so remote.

7. Explore Rio Dulce

Rio Dulce is a gorgeous river and popular backpacker destination in eastern Guatemala. Two towns, El Relleno and Fronteras, lie on either side of the river and are connected by one of the largest bridges in Central America. The area is famous for its trekking and water activities, including the Finca Paraiso hike, which leads to a hot spring and a waterfall. The Quiriguá ruins (mentioned above) are also nearby and worth a visit.

8. Visit the Antigua Market

This sprawling market is colorful and somewhat chaotic. It’s open-air and filled with everything from fruits and vegetables to handmade crafts and poultry to fake DVDs and knock-off jeans. Come here to buy souvenirs, people watch, and take in the bustling chaos!

9. Relax at Monterrico

This is the most popular beach in the country. Located close to Guatemala City and Antigua, this laid-back beach town is a relaxing place to catch some sun and hit the waves. Between June-December, you can also see giant leatherback, green sea, and smaller olive ridley turtles. There are also lots of tours of the nearby mangroves.

10. Hike Acatenango

Located near Antigua, Acatenango is a stratovolcano standing almost 4,000 meters (13,000 feet). It’s the third-highest volcano in Central America and last erupted in 1972. It offers a strenuous 7-8-hour hike up to a campsite, where you camp overnight before summiting to watch the sunrise. Overnight hiking tours cost around 600-800 GTQ and include cold-weather gear, an English-speaking guide, and park admission.

11. Watch the sunrise from Indian Nose

The sunrise from the Indian Nose volcano is quite possibly one of the most magical sunrises you will ever experience. Located next to Lake Atitlan, you’ll get to look out across the water and the magnificent volcanoes before you (including the Atitlán and San Pedro volcanoes). You can do this hike alone but it is difficult finding the path in the dark so it is much better to go with a guide. Expect to pay around 465 GTQ.

12. Learn to surf

Guatemala isn’t known for its beaches but the small coastal town of El Paredon is a well-kept secret where you can hit the waves. The black sand beach is beautiful and the surf is great. A board rental is around 100-125 GTQ per day and surf lessons cost around 120 GTQ for a private class, including a board.

Guatemala Travel Costs

Pyramids and other ruins in the jungle at the Mayan site of Tikal in Guatemala

Budget hotels are plentiful in Guatemala and rooms cost as little as 235-250 GTQ for a double or twin bed with basic amenities. For a mid-range hotel with free breakfast, expect to pay closer to 500 GTQ

Airbnb is available around the country, with private rooms starting at 200 GTQ per night. For an entire home or apartment, prices begin around 300 GTQ per night though they average closer to 800 GTQ. Book early to find the best deals.

For those traveling with a tent, camping is not common and not recommended. You can camp in the parks of El Paredon and Tikal though. Camping there costs around 50 GTQ per night.

Food – Guatemalan cuisine leans heavily on traditional Mayan foods with a strong influence from Spain (the Spanish arrived here in 1524). Traditional foods use a lot of corn, chilies, avocados, and beans. Popular dishes include tamales, seafood soup, and meat stews (usually chicken or beef), which are readily available and usually quite affordable. Gallo en perro (spicy stew), tapado (seafood soup with green plantain and coconut milk), and fried rice are other popular dishes.

If you’re on a budget, you can get a large meal of beans, rice, corn, and meat for around 40 GTQ from a comedor (local eateries that usually offer large portions). Another local favorite is a tortilla with beans and eggs with sour cream and fried plantain on the side, which usually cost the equivalent of just a couple of dollars.

Lunch is the main meal of the day here, and many restaurants offer affordable set menus. These usually include soup and grilled meat.

Pre-made plates of food (usually chicken or beef, rice, and tortillas) are often sold on the buses during stops for about 25-30 GTQ. Street food, like hot dogs or tamales, can be found for less than 15 GTQ.

A three-course meal in a mid-range restaurant with a drink costs around 250 GTQ. Mexican-style dishes like tacos or enchiladas are a popular evening choice (since dinner is usually a lighter meal).

Fast food like McDonald’s costs around 45 GTQ for a combo meal. For a meal at a Western restaurant (think burger and fries or pizza), expect to pay at least 100 GTQ.

A beer costs 15 GTQ, bottled water is 6 GTQ, and a cappuccino/latte costs around 19 GTQ.

If you plan on buying your own groceries, expect to pay around 200 GTQ per week for staples like vegetables, rice, seasonal produce, and some meat.

Backpacking Guatemala Suggested Budgets

As a budget backpacker in Guatemala, expect to pay around 250 GTQ per day. This assumes you’re staying in a hostel dorm, cooking most of your meals, sticking to free activities (like hiking and the beach), limiting your drinking, and using public transportation to get around.

On a mid-range budget of 650 GTQ, you can stay in an Airbnb, eat out for all your meals, enjoy a few drinks, take some guided tours, use taxis here and there, and visit more attractions such as museums or ruins.

On a “luxury” budget of 1,750 GTQ per day, you can stay in a hotel, take taxis everywhere, book higher-end tours (including private tours and day tours), and eat out every meal at nicer restaurants. This is just the ground floor for luxury though. The sky is the limit!

You can use the chart below to get some idea of how much you need to budget daily, depending on your travel style. Keep in mind these are daily averages — some days you’ll spend more, some days you’ll spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in GTQ.

Guatemala Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

It’s easy to save money while traveling in Guatemala since the country isn’t that expensive. However, a good budget traveler always looks for ways to maximize value. Here are some of the best ways to save money in Guatemala:

  • Take a free walking tour – In some of the larger cities (like Antigua) you can find free walking tours. They’re the best way to get introduced to a new destination. Freetour.com has options you can choose from. Just be sure to tip your guide at the end!
  • Stay with a local – While accommodation is cheap here, staying with a local via Couchsurfing makes it free. Not only will you save some money, but you’ll get firsthand knowledge from a local!
  • Visit the Mercado – Although eating out is cheap in Guatemala, it makes sense to shop at the markets for your food to take on day trips or to prepare at your hostel. Fruit costs mere pennies and everything is always fresh.
  • Eat street food – The local street food is the cheapest food you can eat — and the tastiest. Stick to street food when it comes to eating out.
  • Avoid flying – Bus rides are longer, but if you are trying to see the country on a budget you shouldn’t fly. An hour-long flight can cost hundreds of dollars. Avoid flying as much as possible!
  • Avoid drinking – Sure, the beer here is cheap but a couple of beers every day will add up. Watch your drinking to keep your budget intact!

Where to Stay in Guatemala

Guatemala has plenty of hostels in all the major cities. Here are some of my suggested places to stay:

  • Maya Papaya (Antigua)
  • Barbara’s Boutique Hostel (Antigua)
  • La Iguana Perdida (Santa Cruz, Lake Atitlan)
  • Casa de Grethel (Flores)
  • Hostal Los Lagos (Guatemala City)
  • Hostal Guatefriends (Guatemala City)

How to Get Around Guatemala

Cobblestone-lined street with brightly colored low buildings on both sides, with a yellow archway going over the street in Guatemala

Public transportation – The main method of transportation in Guatemala is las camionetas (“chicken buses”). They are old school buses from North America and are the most inexpensive way to get around. Expect to pay around 10 GTQ for a 1-2 hour journey. Shorter journeys can cost as little as 5 GTQ.

If you are traveling between places like Antigua and Lake Atitlan, shuttle buses are the most common form of transport for backpackers. Travel between Antigua and Guatemala City costs around 150 GTQ on a shuttle bus. On a chicken bus, it costs considerably less.

Train – There are no trains in Guatemala.

Bus – Because of the poor condition of the roads in Guatemala large coach buses aren’t available on many routes. You can find night buses between Guatemala City and Flores to take you to countries like Mexico , Belize , and Nicaragua . For most other places, you have to rely on shuttle buses.

You have two options for booking: asking in your hostel to call and book for you and pay in cash, or booking online through guatego.com. Unfortunately, websites like Busbud don’t operate in Guatemala as their transport infrastructure is still developing.

Keep in mind the shuttles are pretty basic. Most don’t have working AC and are not very spacious. Plan for delays as well.

Flying – There are regular flights from Guatemala City to Flores, usually costing around 1,000-1,400 GTQ per person for the one-hour flight. If you are short on time and have plenty of money to spend, I suggest flying. But for most travelers, the bus is the best option.

Car rental – Renting a car costs around 175 GTQ per day. Do take care if you decide to drive in Guatemala as the roads aren’t the best and landslides are common during the rainy season (which can often result in both accidents and road closures). Make sure you have an International Driving Permit (IDP) — you’ll need one for any car rental.

For the best car rental prices, use Discover Cars .

When to Go to Guatemala

Guatemala is a fantastic place to visit at any time of the year because of its spring-like climate. As many places are at altitude, you can expect cool mornings and evenings and warm days. Expect temperatures to sit between 18-28°C (65-82°F).

Many choose to avoid Guatemala during the rainy season (May-September) as the rain can be a bit disruptive, especially if you want to do things like hiking. That said, it is during these months that Guatemala is at its most beautiful as the country turns green and the flowers bloom. Prices also drop significantly during the rainy season.

To beat the crowds, visit in the shoulder season (the start or end of the rainy season). You’ll see fewer people and things will be a little cheaper. The weather won’t be perfect but it will still be sunny and warm most days so you’ll still be able to hike.

How to Stay Safe in Guatemala

While Guatemala is generally safe, there’s no denying that certain precautions should be taken as there is a lot of petty crime (and other safety issues) in the country. Avoid isolated areas, especially at night and in big cities. Keep your personal belongings on you while using public transit (especially chicken buses) and night buses.

Additionally, don’t wear flashy jewelry or leave your valuables out in the open. Petty theft is common here so you must be vigilant.

Violent attacks against tourists are rare. Most of the time it’s because the tourist was involved in something drug-related or was where they shouldn’t be at night.

Scams are common in the larger cities so be wary of any overly friendly strangers. You can read about common travel scams to avoid right here.

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here, however, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.). Whenever possible, share a taxi with friends and avoid walking around alone just to be safe.

Guatemala is home to 37 volcanoes so volcanic activity isn’t uncommon. Be sure to check for warnings before you embark on any hikes/activities (especially ones on or around volcanoes).

Additionally, due to its political instability, protests and demonstrations are common. If one is occurring near you, simply head back to your accommodation and avoid taking part.

If you experience an emergency, dial 110 for assistance.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

Guatemala Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!

Guatemala Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on backpacking/traveling Central America and continue planning your trip:

Do You Need Travel Insurance for Costa Rica?

Do You Need Travel Insurance for Costa Rica?

The Best Tour Companies in Costa Rica

The Best Tour Companies in Costa Rica

The 6 Best Hostels in Panama City, Panama

The 6 Best Hostels in Panama City, Panama

Is Belize Safe to Visit?

Is Belize Safe to Visit?

Is Central America Safe to Visit?

Is Central America Safe to Visit?

How to Get Around Central America on a Budget

How to Get Around Central America on a Budget

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Is Guatemala City Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Guatemala : Safety by City

  • Guatemala City

Guatemala City is the capital city of Guatemala, Central America.

It is the largest and most populous city here, with around 3 million people.

It can be interesting to visit it due to its modernity, plenty of attractions and nice restaurants.

One of the greatest experiences when visiting Guate, as it is called by its citizens, is Sunday evening gatherings when hundreds of local people come and meet at the main plaza.

As opposed to the size of the whole county, Guatemala City has numerous activities to offer to a craving tourist, starting from the antique churches, like Catedral Metropolitana, Calvario, and Iglesia de Santo Domingo, special historic and architectural buildings, to various adventurous happenings.

  • Warnings & Dangers in Guatemala City


When the overall crime risk in Guatemala City is in question, it reaches the highest level. There have been reports of recent crimes against foreigners. The possible criminal acts include carjackings, robberies, and assaults of tourists, especially in public buses. Nevertheless, most visits to Guatemala are trouble-free, because tourists know where they come and are well prepared to act properly.


Traveling on public buses is not advisable for security reasons. Armed attacks on bus drivers and conductors, ending with serious injury or even death, often happen in Guatemala City. The attacks are usually performed by local gangs. Buses might be the cheapest but are the least safe way to travel within the city. The best solution to get around the city is by taxi. One type is the metered taxi, while in the other ones you have to negotiate a price and be prepared to pay higher prices.


The best way to avoid becoming the prey of pickpockets, which usually operate in markets, is to have as little cash as possible with you and not to boast with the latest technological gadgets in public. Volcan de Agua and Volcan de Pacaya are areas famous for robberies. Being in a group during the day might decrease the risk of being attacked, but that is not always the case.


Of all the possible natural hazards, Guatemala is prone to volcanic eruptions, hurricanes and occasional earthquakes.


Taking into consideration the fact that Guatemala is the most violent city in Latin America, kidnapping and mugging are possible and frequent. The best advice, if you happen to be the victim, is to give the criminals what they want, since they are usually after money, credit card or passports. Tourist guides often advise staying inside during the night, since there is no part of Guatemala City that is not dangerous.


The recent history does not record terrorist attacks in Guatemala City, but that can never be predicted. British nationals might be attacked by groups or individuals motivated by the situation in Iraq and Syria. Travelers should avoid being part of demonstrations.


The most common scam is when renting a car in Guatemala. Rent-a-car companies tend to accuse foreigners of damaging the vehicle and ask for money. Before you rent it, you should carefully check the car. Fake police officers are operating in Guatemala City and tourists became victims of theft and even sexual assault by people pretending to be the police.


Over the last year, there have been reports on female tourists becoming victims of brutal sexual assaults, where victims have been killed or seriously injured. Such attacks can occur at any time of the day, so women are not advised to travel alone.

  • So... How Safe Is Guatemala City Really?

Like any other big city, crime in Guatemala City is a great problem.

No parts of it are free from crime, and that is a big concern for travelers that are eager to visit this city.

Due to the fact that the city is popular among tourists and many of the visits pass without any issues, the best advice is to avoid areas known for the drug activity, use common sense when choosing a hotel, since there are cheaper hotels in more dangerous zones of Guatemala, which must be avoided, and not to use buses at night.

If you are an experienced traveler who is vigilant enough, you can still enjoy this beautiful city and what it has to offer.

  • How Does Guatemala City Compare?
  • Useful Information

Whether you need a visa when coming to Guatemala or not is based on your nationality. Valid passports are required for all the counties, except for Central America. In case you want to extend your visa, apply to the Migration Directorate in Guatemala City.

The official currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal. When you want to exchange your money in a bank, a passport is obligatory. ATMs are available in most cities and Visa credit card is accepted. Debit cards might be rejected by ATMs. The safest place to use ATM is inside one of the Dispensa Familiar stores.

The weather is characterized by warm days and cool nights. The rainy season in Guatemala starts in June and usually lasts up to November. The highest temperatures are in March and April.

Guatemala’s largest and busiest airport is La Aurora International Airport, in Zona 13 of Guatemala City. It is a modern airport with lots of facilities. An alternative airport when coming to Guatemala is situated in Flores, Petén.

Travel Insurance

Due to all the possible risks in this city, make sure you have adequate travel health insurance which will cover the cost of any medical treatment, as well as probable loss of your valuables.

Guatemala City Weather Averages (Temperatures)

  • Average High/Low Temperature

Guatemala - Safety by City

  • Where to Next?


2 Reviews on Guatemala City

What I love most about Guatemala is the fascinating Mayan culture. Unfortunately, cities this size give me anxiety so I don’t think I’ll be visiting any time soon.

Prep yourself for busy streets and curious eyes

Guatemala isn’t known for its tight grip on individual safety so I highly recommend being on alert when you’re out exploring. Use a mobile phone only if necessary, don’t scroll Insta as you mindlessly walk around the city, you might find yourself without it soon.

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Article Contents

  • Guatemala City : Safety by City
  • Overall Risk
  • Transport & Taxis Risk
  • Pickpockets Risk
  • Natural Disasters Risk
  • Mugging Risk
  • Terrorism Risk
  • Women Travelers Risk
  • Weather Averages (Temperatures)
  • User Reviews
  • Share Your Experience

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Is Guatemala Safe? One Solo Female Traveler’s Experience

04/14/2023 by Emily Becker 2 Comments

After having visited it a few times, Guatemala became one of my favorite countries in Latin America, because of its rich culture, friendly atmosphere, and insane natural beauty. Being a super affordable destination, it’s quite popular among backpackers, and it’s easy to stretch your dollar far here.

That being said, Guatemala has a difficult historical past, which is where many present-day issues stem from. Many travelers avoid the country because of frequent reports of violent crime, natural disasters, and corruption. So, is Guatemala safe? And what about solo female travelers in particular?

Based on my own experience, these are the things to consider before going to Guatemala and some tips for staying safe once you arrive:

Table of Contents

Things to Consider Before Traveling to Guatemala

is Guatemala safe

Check the Guatemala Travel Advisory before going.

At the time of my last trip to Guatemala, there was a level 3 travel advisory for the country, which says to reconsider travel, specifically citing crime as the main reason. However, it also names specific areas of Guatemala that are deemed unsafe for travelers, none of which are particularly touristy.

These travel advisories are helpful because they tell you specific areas to avoid, so don’t leave for Guatemala without checking them first.

Although the “reconsider travel” suggestion was intended for the entirety of Guatemala, it isn’t to say that the entire country is dangerous. There were many other foreign travelers at both Lake Atitlán and Antigua, and I felt completely safe in those two areas, despite the advisory.

Know what areas you’ll be traveling to.

Guatemala isn’t a country where it’s particularly safe to book a one-way ticket with no plan. As I said above, there are specific areas that are under travel advisories because of violent crime and gang activity. You don’t want to end up in one of these areas, especially if you don’t have a plan about where to go and where to stay.

The most popular places to travel to in Guatemala are Lake Atitlán, Antigua, Semuc Champey, El Paredón, the Tikal ruins, and Flores, to name a few. Most of these have a strong tourism infrastructure and reliable transportation between them. However, if you love to travel off the beaten path, Guatemala isn’t a great place to do so unless you’re very familiar with the area.

Pick the right season.

Natural disasters are unfortunately very common in Guatemala, and the country doesn’t have very strong resources to aid people impacted. Take special precautions if you visit during the rainy season (June through August), as flash floods are common. Guatemala also experiences many earthquakes, which can happen at any time of year of course, but can be more devastating during the rainy season, when they can trigger mudslides.

Mudslides, landslides, and heavy rains can cause road closures and make getting around the country very difficult and potentially dangerous. This isn’t to say that it’s bad to visit Guatemala during the rainy season, but I would avoid it.

Practice caution if you’re crossing a land border.

Guatemala borders Mexico, El Salvador, Belize, and Honduras. If you’ll arrive in Guatemala by land, practice extra caution. I’ve crossed from Mexico to Guatemala at La Mesilla a handful of times and didn’t have any horrible experiences, though many travelers do. These land crossings have a decent amount of crime and numerous scams, and it’s best to get through them as quickly as possible. Don’t stick around in any of the border towns if you can help it, and never exchange your currency there.

How to Stay Safe in Guatemala

is guatemala safe

Only use bank ATMs.

You might see stand-alone ATMs around Guatemala, especially in bigger cities. Avoid them if possible, as it’s pretty common for thieves to hang around them and wait for an opportunity to rob distracted tourists. Always use ATMs inside banks. These are much safer, because there are security cameras, and many have doors that you can lock behind you. Some small villages, especially around Lake Atitlán, don’t have banks (some don’t even have ATMs). In this case, you’ll have to take a boat to a larger town (like Panajachel, San Pedro, or Santiago) where there are banks.

Plan your travel carefully.

I mentioned above that Guatemala isn’t a safe place for willy-nilly travel plans. Make sure you know which places you want to visit and how you’ll be traveling there before you arrive in the country. I wish I would have known this before the first time I visited, because I thought I could just wing it on public transportation like I always did in Mexico. I ended up getting lost in Huehuetenango (which is specifically on the advisory as a place you shouldn’t travel to), and thankfully a nice lady helped me find the bus I needed to take to where I was going.

You don’t need to have a strict itinerary or all of your accommodations booked, but at least have a route planned and make sure you know how you’ll be getting from place to place.

Opt for shuttles instead of public transportation…

That said, shuttles are your best friend in Guatemala. In every touristy place, you’ll find affordable shuttles to take you to other popular destinations throughout the country. I had great experiences traveling from Mexico to Guatemala and then between Antigua and Panajachel on shuttles. They were all comfortable, quick, and super cheap (if you choose a shared option).

I have also traveled through Guatemala on public transportation and had quite a wild adventure. Though I have some interesting stories about hopping from one “chicken bus” to the next, I would not recommend doing this, because they take much longer and I didn’t feel as safe on these. Guatemala is very mountainous, and the drivers on the chicken buses go quite fast around the curves. Not only was it a lot for my queasy stomach, but it felt like the bus could just roll down a cliff at every turn.

…but if you want to try a chicken bus, do a shorter trip.

If you definitely want to tick riding a chicken bus off your bucket list, though, do it. They’re very cheap, and you can take them between villages or within the same city for a much safer experience. I recommend doing this in Antigua, where you can catch one in the Mercado Municipal. The routes are written on the front windows of each bus; I recommend taking one from Antigua to San Antonio Aguascalientes, which is just a 15-minute ride. This way, you’ll have the fun experience of a tricked-out school bus without the imminent danger or car sickness.

If you rent a car, always have somewhere safe to park overnight.

I didn’t see a reason to rent a car in Guatemala, but if your travel plans require one, you do you. Keep in mind that carjackings are common throughout the country, and you don’t want to get slapped with a several-thousand-dollar bill from the rental agency if this happens to you. Make sure that all of your accommodations have safe parking, preferably including a guard. Most hotels do, though Airbnbs can be trickier, so always ask the host before booking.

Do not travel at night.

This applies to almost any country. Don’t travel at night in Guatemala, especially because there are common scams in which thieves block the road or pretend to be hurt in order to make cars stop, so they can rob them. Just avoid this by traveling in the daytime.

Learn some Spanish before arriving.

Although most locals who work in tourism speak great English, it’s helpful to know some Spanish before arriving in Guatemala, just in case. There were moments when I realized how much easier it is to travel here being a fluent Spanish speaker, although knowing a few basic phrases should be enough to get you by. Even being able to say, “Necesito ayuda” (I need help) can be a game-changer for your safety.

Guatemala is also a stellar place to learn Spanish, and there are language schools throughout the country. Foreigners particularly like learning here, because Guatemalans speak much more slowly and clearly than people from other Spanish-speaking countries.

solo female travel

First Name:

Never leave your drinks unattended.

I know I sound like a broken record, especially for women reading this. You shouldn’t leave your drink unattended anywhere in the world, and it’s common in Guatemala for predators to spike drinks. I didn’t go to any clubs there, but I was warned by a guide that they’re full of men that prey on foreign women. It’s gross and made me not want to ever go to a club there anyway, but if you do, just make sure you put a napkin over your drink at all times, even if it’s in your hand, and never leave it unattended.

Avoid public demonstrations and protests.

In big cities, demonstrations and protests are fairly common and can turn violent quickly. If you see one happening, try to stay indoors until it’s over.

Always hike with a guide.

Guatemala is a fantastic place to hike, especially if you’re up for the adventure of climbing a volcano. Acatenango is the most famous, closely followed by Pacayá and Agua. Unfortunately, these hikes can be dangerous if you don’t have a guide with you. Many people without a guide on Pacayá and Agua Volcanoes have been robbed at gunpoint or knifepoint. You can avoid this by joining a guided tour or hiring a guide privately, as thieves are less likely to target groups.

Be aware of common scams.

There are a variety of scams in Guatemala, and some are more obvious than others to spot. One that I noticed everywhere was the fake charity, in which people approached me on the street asking if I would donate to an orphanage or some other organization that didn’t seem to exist. They usually hold a sign with pictures of children or sick people. There’s also a common scam where thieves dress like police officers, though I didn’t see this one in action.

Only take official taxis, Ubers, or tuk-tuks.

Never take an unofficial taxi in Guatemala. A few times I was offered a ride by someone in an unmarked car in Guatemala, so it appears to common, though it felt sketchy to me. I also don’t recommend hitchhiking. Uber is used in big cities and is actually much cheaper than taxis and tuk-tuks, though all three are safe options. When taking taxis or tuk-tuks, make sure you agree on a price before you get in the vehicle or else they might try to scam you.

Leave your flashy jewelry at home.

This is applicable in most places, but don’t wear expensive jewelry in Guatemala. It attracts unwanted attention and is just not worth it, in my opinion. I also recommend keeping your phone and electronics in your pocket or bag to avoid unwanted attention.

Don’t drink the tap water.

The tap water is not safe to drink in Guatemala. Ice is usually fine, though, since the water is boiled before making it at restaurants. If you have any doubts, just ask for your drinks without ice and avoid things like smoothies that have ice blended in.

Is Guatemala Safe? My Verdict:

is Guatemala safe

If you stick to touristy areas (I know, I love offbeat locations just as much as the next gal) and follow these guidelines, I think Guatemala is much safer than the media portrays it to be. For instance, I generally feel much less safe in a place where there’s a lot of catcalling, and I’ve never once been catcalled in Guatemala.

That isn’t to say that it’s always 100% safe for any woman, and the experiences of local women are completely different than those of foreigners. Guatemala also has a very high rate of femicide and domestic violence. However unfortunate and heartbreaking that is, the violence is almost entirely exclusive to local women, and there are very sparse reports of female travelers experiencing it.

I can only speak to my experience, and I didn’t feel unsafe in Guatemala at any moment while traveling there. All of the Guatemalan people I met in the villages around Lake Atitlán and in Antigua were warm, hospitable, and kind. Due to that, they’re a big part of why I love traveling there so much.

Guatemala is a magical, beautiful place and not worth skipping out of fear of what you see in the media. As with any destination, there are specific safety precautions to keep in mind, and this list is solely based on my own experiences.

So, will your next adventure be to Guatemala?

About Emily Becker

Emily Becker is a digital nomad based in Costa Rica. She's been traveling on and off since 2014 and has visited 15 countries—planning to tick many more off her bucket list. In addition to writing for BMTM, she works as a copywriter and project manager.

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04/18/2023 at 11:39 am

The travel warnings are redicolus, and extremely exagerated, the flash floods are every 40 years or so if they happen, ive been here for 25 years and never seen a gang member, never ben mugged or had any problems and there are while retierement comunities of people from the US and Europe that live here and love it, like anywhre else dont go to the bad places there are fewer bad places than good ones, Im from NYC and i can tell you its safer here than there.

04/19/2023 at 9:45 am

The travel advisories are clear on which areas to avoid. I said in the article that where I visited felt quite safe to me, which is likely because I avoided those areas. No one country is a monolith when it comes to safety.

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  • Section 2 - Interactions Between Travel Vaccines & Drugs
  • Section 2 - Travelers’ Diarrhea

Yellow Fever Vaccine & Malaria Prevention Information, by Country

Cdc yellow book 2024.

Author(s): Mark Gershman, Rhett Stoney (Yellow Fever) Holly Biggs, Kathrine Tan (Malaria)

The following pages present country-specific information on yellow fever (YF) vaccine requirements and recommendations, and malaria transmission information and prevention recommendations. Country-specific maps are included to aid in interpreting the information. The information in this chapter was accurate at the time of publication; however, it is subject to change at any time due to changes in disease transmission or, in the case of YF, changing entry requirements for travelers. Updated information reflecting changes since publication can be found in the online version of this book and on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers’ Health website. Recommendations for prevention of other travel-associated illnesses can also be found on the CDC Travelers’ Health website .

Yellow Fever Vaccine

Entry requirements.

Entry requirements for proof of YF vaccination under the International Health Regulations (IHR) differ from CDC’s YF vaccination recommendations. Under the IHR, countries are permitted to establish YF vaccine entry requirements to prevent the importation and transmission of YF virus within their boundaries. Certain countries require proof of vaccination from travelers arriving from all countries ( Table 5-25 ); some countries require proof of vaccination only for travelers above a certain age coming from countries with risk for YF virus transmission. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines areas with risk for YF virus transmission as countries or areas where YF virus activity has been reported currently or in the past, and where vectors and animal reservoirs exist.

Unless issued a medical waiver by a yellow fever vaccine provider, travelers must comply with entry requirements for proof of vaccination against YF.

WHO publishes a list of YF vaccine country entry requirements and recommendations for international travelers approximately annually. But because entry requirements are subject to change at any time, health care professionals and travelers should refer to the online version of this book and the CDC Travelers’ Health website for any updates before departure.

CDC Recommendations

CDC’s YF vaccine recommendations are guidance intended to protect travelers from acquiring YF virus infections during international travel. These recommendations are based on a classification system for destination-specific risk for YF virus transmission: endemic, transitional, low potential for exposure, and no risk ( Table 2-08 ). CDC recommends YF vaccination for travel to areas classified as having endemic or transitional risk (Maps 5-10 and 5-11 ). Because of changes in YF virus circulation, however, recommendations can change; therefore, before departure, travelers and clinicians should check CDC’s destination pages for up-to-date YF vaccine information.

Duration of Protection

In 2015, the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices published a recommendation that 1 dose of YF vaccine provides long-lasting protection and is adequate for most travelers. The recommendation also identifies specific groups of travelers who should receive additional doses, and others for whom additional doses should be considered (see Sec. 5, Part 2, Ch. 26, Yellow Fever ). In July 2016, WHO officially amended the IHR to stipulate that a completed International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis is valid for the lifetime of the vaccinee, and YF vaccine booster doses are not necessary. Moreover, countries cannot require proof of revaccination (booster) against YF as a condition of entry, even if the traveler’s last vaccination was >10 years ago.

Ultimately, when deciding whether to vaccinate travelers, clinicians should take into account destination-specific risks for YF virus infection, and individual risk factors (e.g., age, immune status) for serious YF vaccine–associated adverse events, in the context of the entry requirements. See Sec. 5, Part 2, Ch. 26, Yellow Fever , for a full discussion of YF disease and vaccination guidance.

Table 2-08 Yellow fever (YF) vaccine recommendation categories 1

Malaria prevention.

The following recommendations to protect travelers from malaria were developed using the best available data from multiple sources. Countries are not required to submit malaria surveillance data to CDC. On an ongoing basis, CDC actively solicits data from multiple sources, including WHO (main and regional offices); national malaria control programs; international organizations; CDC overseas offices; US military; academic, research, and aid organizations; and the published scientific literature. The reliability and accuracy of those data are also assessed.

If the information is available, trends in malaria incidence and other data are considered in the context of malaria control activities within a given country or other mitigating factors (e.g., natural disasters, wars, the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic) that can affect the ability to control malaria or accurately count and report it. Factors such as the volume of travel to that country and the number of acquired cases reported in the US surveillance system are also examined. In developing its recommendations, CDC considers areas within countries where malaria transmission occurs, substantial occurrences of antimalarial drug resistance, the proportions of species present, and the available malaria prophylaxis options.

Clinicians should use these recommendations in conjunction with an individual risk assessment and consider not only the destination but also the detailed itinerary, including specific cities, types of accommodations, season, and style of travel, as well as special health conditions (e.g., pregnancy). Several medications are available for malaria prophylaxis. When deciding which drug to use, consider the itinerary and length of trip, travelers’ previous adverse reactions to antimalarials, drug allergies, medical history, and drug costs. For a thorough discussion of malaria and guidance for prophylaxis, see Sec. 5, Part 3, Ch. 16, Malaria .

Entry requirements : Required for travelers ≥1 year old arriving from countries with risk for YF virus transmission; this includes >12-hour airport transits or layovers in countries with risk for YF virus transmission. 1

CDC recommendations : Not recommended

  • Primarily in the departments of Alta Verapaz, Escuintla, Izabal, Petén, and Suchitapéquez
  • Few cases reported in other departments
  • No malaria transmission in the cities of Antigua or Guatemala City (the capital)
  • No malaria transmission at Lake Atitlán
  • P. vivax (99%)
  • P. falciparum  (1%)
  • Departments of Alta Verapaz, Escuintla, Izabal, Petén, and Suchitapéquez: Atovaquone-proguanil, chloroquine, doxycycline, mefloquine, primaquine 5 , tafenoquine 3
  • Other areas with reported malaria transmission: No chemoprophylaxis recommended (insect bite precautions and mosquito avoidance only) 4

Other Vaccines to Consider

See Health Information for Travelers to Guatemala .

1 Current as of November 2022. This is an update of the 2010 map created by the Informal WHO Working Group on the Geographic Risk of Yellow Fever.

2 Refers to Plasmodium falciparum malaria, unless otherwise noted.

3 Tafenoquine can cause potentially life-threatening hemolysis in people with glucose-6-phosphate-dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency. Rule out G6PD deficiency with a quantitative laboratory test before prescribing tafenoquine to patients.

4 Mosquito avoidance includes applying topical mosquito repellant, sleeping under an insecticide-treated mosquito net, and wearing protective clothing (e.g., long pants and socks, long-sleeve shirt). For additional details on insect bite precautions, see Sec. 4, Ch. 6, Mosquitoes, Ticks & Other Arthropods.

5 Primaquine can cause potentially life-threatening hemolysis in people with G6PD deficiency. Rule out G6PD deficiency with a quantitative laboratory test before prescribing primaquine to patients.

6 P. knowlesi is a malaria species with a simian (macaque) host. Human cases have been reported from most countries in Southwest Asia and are associated with activities in forest or forest-fringe areas. P. knowlesi has no known resistance to antimalarials.

Yellow Fever Maps

2 In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expanded its YF vaccination recommendations for travelers going to Brazil because of a large YF outbreak in multiple states in that country. Please refer to the CDC  Travelers’ Health website for more information and updated recommendations.

3 YF vaccination is generally not recommended for travel to areas where the potential for YF virus exposure is low. Vaccination might be considered, however, for a small subset of travelers going to these areas who are at increased risk for exposure to YF virus due to prolonged travel, heavy exposure to mosquitoes, or inability to avoid mosquito bites. Factors to consider when deciding whether to vaccinate a traveler include destination-specific and travel-associated risks for YF virus infection; individual, underlying risk factors for having a serious YF vaccine–associated adverse event; and destination entry requirements.

The following authors contributed to the previous version of this chapter: Mark D. Gershman, Emily S. Jentes, Rhett J. Stoney (Yellow Fever) Kathrine R. Tan, Paul M. Arguin (Malaria)

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Cruise or vacation to Caribbean or Mexico ahead? These travel advisories may change your mind

Heading to a level 4 destination write a will and leave a dna sample.

Portrait of Cheryl McCloud

There's nothing like a vacation to get away from work or just the normal day-to-day grind.

There is plenty to do in Florida — after all, tourists flock here for once-in-a-lifetime getaways. And for Florida residents, there are hidden gems , plenty of road trip opportunities, and places for a romantic weekend when we get tired of the main attractions.

But sometimes even Florida residents just have to leave the state. What's nice is that some prime vacation spots are just a hop, skip and jump away. Or should we say boat ride, flight and cruise stop away?

Yes, we're talking about a vacation to the Bahamas, one or more of the Caribbean islands, or even the eastern coast of Mexico.

But nothing spoils a vacation like being a victim of a crime or feeling unsafe. Here's the current list of travel advisories issued for several popular vacation spots close to Florida that have been issued by the U.S. Department of State.

But first, here's what the levels of travel advisories mean.

What are the travel advisory alert levels and what do they mean for your vacation?

The U.S. Department of State has four levels of alerts when it comes to travel. The alerts tell U.S. citizens about specific safety concerns in a country, which include demonstrations, crime, and weather. Here is how the State Department defines each level:

  • This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time.      
  • Be aware of heightened risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides more advice for travelers to these areas in the travel advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
  • Reconsider travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the travel advisory. Conditions in any country may change at any time.
  • This is the highest advisory level due to greater likelihood of life-threatening risks. The U.S. government may have very limited ability to provide assistance, including during an emergency. The Department of State advises that U.S. citizens not travel to the country or to leave as soon as it is safe to do so. The State Department advises travelers heading to those countries despite the alert level write a will prior to traveling and leave DNA samples in case of worst-case scenarios.

Interactive map: See latest travel advisories at a glance

➤ View the interactive map.

The Bahamas under Level 2 travel advisory, use increased caution

  • Alert level: Level 2, exercise increased caution.
  • Date issued: Jan. 26, 2024.
  • Reason: Exercise increased caution in The Bahamas due to crime.   Violent crime, such as burglaries, armed robberies, and sexual assaults, occur in both tourist and non-tourist areas.
  • More details can be found here.

Cuba under Level 2 travel advisory, use increased caution

  • Date issued: Jan. 5, 2024.
  • Reason: Exercise increased caution in Cuba due to crime.  Petty crime is a threat for tourists in Cuba. Also, violent crime, including armed robbery and homicide, sometimes occurs in Cuba.

Turks and Caicos Islands under Level 2 travel advisory, use increased caution

  • Date issued: July 17, 2023.
  • Reason: Exercise increased caution in the Turks and Caicos Islands due to crime. Local medical care and criminal investigative capabilities are limited.

Cayman Islands under Level 1 travel advisory, use normal precautions

  • Alert level: Level 1, exercise normal precautions.
  • Reason: Exercise normal precautions in the Cayman Islands.

Jamaica under Level 3 travel advisory, reconsider travel

  • Alert level: Level 3, reconsider travel
  • Date issued: Jan. 23, 2024 (even before Hurricane Beryl brushed by the island)
  • Reason: Reconsider travel to Jamaica due to crime and medical services.  Violent crimes, such as home invasions, armed robberies, sexual assaults, and homicides, are common. Sexual assaults occur frequently, including at all-inclusive resorts.

Haiti under Level 4 travel advisory, do not travel

  • Alert level: Level 4, do not travel
  • Date issued: July 27, 2023
  • Reason: Do not travel to Haiti due to kidnapping, crime, civil unrest, and poor health care infrastructure.  Kidnapping is widespread, and victims regularly include U.S. citizens. Even convoys have been attacked. Kidnapping cases often involve ransom negotiations and U.S. citizen victims have been physically harmed during kidnappings. Violent crime, including armed robbery, carjackings, and kidnappings for ransom that include U.S. citizens are common. Protests, demonstrations, tire burning, and roadblocks are frequent, unpredictable, and can turn violent. The U.S. government is extremely limited in its ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Haiti.

Dominican Republic under Level 2 travel advisory, use increased caution

  • Date issued: June 18, 2024
  • Reason: Exercise increased caution in the Dominican Republic due to crime. Violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide, and sexual assault, is a concern throughout the Dominican Republic. The development of a professional tourist police corps, institution of a 911 system in many parts of the country, and a concentration of resources in resort areas means these tend to be better policed than urban areas like Santo Domingo. 

Grenada under Level 1 travel advisory, use normal precautions

  • Alert level: Level 1, exercise normal precautions (well before Hurricane Beryl made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane)
  • Date issued: July 17, 2023
  • Reason: Exercise normal precautions in Grenada.

Trinidad and Tobago under Level 3 travel advisory, reconsider travel

  • Date issued: July 2, 2024
  • Reason: Reconsider travel to Trinidad and Tobago due to crime. Exercise increased caution in Trinidad and Tobago due to terrorism and kidnapping. Violent crime, such as murder, robbery, assault, sexual assault, home invasion, and kidnapping is common. Gang activity, such as narcotics trafficking, is common. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, local government facilities, hotels, clubs, restaurants, places of worship, parks, major sporting and cultural events, educational institutions, airports, and other public areas.

Popular Mexico locations travel advisories range from Level 1 to Level 4

  • Alert level: Level 2, exercise increased caution
  • Date issued: Aug. 22, 2023
  • Reason : Exercise increased caution due to crime. Criminal activity and violence may occur in any location, at any time, including in popular tourist destinations.
  • Reason : Exercise increased caution due to crime. Violent crime and gang activity occur with increasing frequency in Veracruz, particularly in the center and south near Cordoba and Coatzacoalcos. While most gang-related violence is targeted, violence perpetrated by criminal organizations can affect bystanders. Impromptu roadblocks requiring payment to pass are common.
  • Reason : Do not travel due to crime. Crime and violence are widespread. Armed groups frequently maintain roadblocks and may use violence towards travelers. U.S. government employees may not travel to even to tourist areas in Acapulco, Zihuatanejo, and Ixtapa.
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Hate Speech and Political Polarization Threaten Costa Rica’s Free Press

Costa rica on the brink of a garbage crisis, tragic plane crash in costa rica claims two lives, costa rica remains central america’s safest nation despite global peace index drop, no damage reported after 5.4 earthquake hits panama-costa rica border, guanacaste’s tourism paradise faces security challenges.

Tico Times

Guanacaste is one of the most visited provinces by tourists every year. With its own airport, a wide range of luxury hotels, magnificent beaches, national parks, as well as diverse flora and fauna, many choose it as their favorite vacation spot. However, this province is no stranger to the crime and violence the country is facing. According to business owners and chamber representatives, the main problem in the province is the small-scale sale of drugs, which has been on the rise.

“We need the government to continue to be concerned about security because there is no place that functions as a tourist destination if there is no security. It is clear that it is being fought throughout the country, and the key for us is that we all work together with public-private alliances,” said Hernán Imhoff, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Tourism of Tamarindo.

Five months ago, in February, to improve the security of businesses and tourists, 320 video protection cameras were installed to reinforce surveillance at strategic points in Hojancha, Nicoya, Santa Cruz, and Carrillo. This has helped contain crime.

However, Guanacaste’s business owners highlight that the main security issues in Guanacaste require immediate attention. The Chambers of Tourism and Commerce assure that they continue working to make the province a safe and attractive place for both residents and visitors.

“Many years ago, when I walked around San Jose, I saw bars on all the houses. Now I see them in our town of Sámara, and it is very unfortunate to see how far we have come. If the Executive and the deputies invest in security, it would be very beneficial for us and for the whole country,” added Xavi Palomar, president of the Chamber of Tourism of Sámara.

He also pointed out that locals have already learned how to take care of themselves when it comes to ordinary crime, but there is nothing they can do to against organized crime.

The chambers agree and state that the lack of personnel (police), patrols, and economic resources are the main problems they face daily. They urged the government to allocate more resources and work together to safeguard a destination that boosts the national economy and provides jobs for countless families.

Tico Times

Weekly Recap

Costa rica weekly recap news recap for july 14, 2024.

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  1. Guatemala Travel Advisory

    Read the entire Travel Advisory. Do not travel to: San Marcos Department (except the city of San Marcos) due to crime. Huehuetenango Department (except the city of Huehuetenango) due to crime. Zone 18 and the city of Villa Nueva in Guatemala City due to crime. Country Summary: Violent crime such as extortion, murder, armed robbery, carjacking ...

  2. Is Guatemala Safe? (2024 Safety Guide)

    The United States Foreign Agriculture Service reported that Guatemala had 1,844,739 tourists last 2022. Travellers had generally safe travels in the country. Yes, Guatemala is safe to visit right now.Though you must know some crutial safety information.

  3. Guatemala Travel Advisory, Level 3: Reconsider Travel

    Reconsider travel to Guatemala due to crime and COVID-19. Some areas have increased risk. Read the entire Travel Advisory. ... services. Hiking in the area, while popular, is best undertaken with the assistance of a local guide to ensure safety, as criminals are known to target some routes. When visiting Pacific coast beaches and resorts in the ...

  4. Things to know before going to Guatemala

    Things to know before visiting Guatemala. Guatemala has been my second home for nearly two decades, and the country still captivates me: the landscape with its volcanoes and coffee trees, the lakes and rivers and tropical beaches, Mayan ruins peeking out above the treetops. Mayan traditions are still alive and well, and the weather's almost ...

  5. Is It Safe to Travel to Guatemala?

    Guatemala can be a very dangerous country, but crimes against tourists occur less frequently and are less likely to be violent. According to the State Department, there were 176 recorded instances of crime against tourists in 2019 out of 2.6 million registered tourists.

  6. Guatemala

    If your travel plans in Guatemala include outdoor activities, take these steps to stay safe and healthy during your trip. ... For information traffic safety and road conditions in Guatemala, see Travel and Transportation on US Department of State's country-specific information for Guatemala. Hide. Maintain personal security.

  7. Guatemala International Travel Information

    Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). See the State Department's travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories.

  8. Safety and security

    Driving rules and safety. In Guatemala: it is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving. speed limits are strictly enforced. motorcyclists must wear an orange vest and helmet with the ...

  9. Travel advice and advisories for Guatemala

    Water safety abroad. Adventure tourism. Tour operators may not adhere to international standards. If you participate in adventure activities, such as zip-lining, diving and whitewater rafting: choose a well-established and reputable company that has insurance; make sure safety equipment, such as helmets and life jackets, are available and in ...

  10. Guatemala Travel Advice & Safety

    Allow enough time to reach a major city before dark. Criminals target travellers at the airport and driving to hotels. Use only pre-paid or radio taxis. Don't flag taxis on the street or use taxi stands. Always keep vehicle windows and doors locked, even when moving. Guatemala has 4 active volcanoes.

  11. Is Guatemala Safe for Travel RIGHT NOW? (2024 Safety Rating)

    Guatemala is somewhat safe to visit. Markets, public transport, and other crowded places are best to be avoided because tourists are easy targets in big crowds and Guatemala is a country of skilled pickpockets.

  12. Guatemala travel advice

    Travelling to Guatemala. FCDO travel advice for Guatemala. Includes safety and security, insurance, entry requirements and legal differences.

  13. Guatemala Safety Guide: What You Need to Know Before You Go

    Common Safety Risks in Guatemala. One of the most significant safety risks in Guatemala is crime. Armed robbery, assault, and murder are prevalent in some areas of the country, particularly in urban areas like Guatemala City. Pickpocketing and theft are also common, especially in tourist areas.

  14. Is Guatemala Safe? 60+ Tips For Safe Travel In Guatemala

    Guatemala tourism safety: making friends with other travellers is a good way to stay safe (and have someone take your photo!) Personal safety in Guatemala. To make sure nothing bad happens to you while backpacking in Guatemala (especially if you are a solo traveller or a solo female traveller), follow these tips:

  15. Is Guatemala Safe? A Comprehensive Guide for Travelers

    Yes, it's safe, but it depends a lot on the area. As a tourist, your chances of facing something sketchy if you practice common sense are reduced. Guatemala has a reputation for crime and violence; some areas indeed have their own challenges, but we shouldn't generalize and apply those challenges to the entire country.

  16. Updated Guatemala Travel Advisory (July 5, 2022)

    The Department of State updated the Travel Advisory for Guatemala on July 5, 2022. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) increased Guatemala's health indicator rating from moderate (Level 2) to high (Level 3) due to increased COVID-19 infections in Guatemala. The overall Travel Advisory for Guatemala remains unchanged at Level 3. Actions to Take:

  17. Is it safe to travel to Guatemala? [TIPS FROM LOCALS]

    It's Generally Safe. It is quite safe to travel in Guatemala under the right conditions. Some regions are safer than others, but in general it is safe. As a foreigner, never travel alone. Ideally, you want to travel with someone local who knows the area and current safety climate. Never travel after dark.

  18. Is Guatemala Safe? 25 Tips for Safe Travel in Guatemala

    If you see an emergency call 1-500 0 2421-2810. Avoid public transport. Use only authorized taxis (get your hotel to call a taxi), private transport or the TransMetro rapid transit system. Avoid public buses as they can be targets for gang extortion in many parts of Guatemala and Latin America.

  19. Guatemala Travel Guide (Updated 2024)

    Expect to pay around 10 GTQ for a 1-2 hour journey. Shorter journeys can cost as little as 5 GTQ. If you are traveling between places like Antigua and Lake Atitlan, shuttle buses are the most common form of transport for backpackers. Travel between Antigua and Guatemala City costs around 150 GTQ on a shuttle bus.

  20. Is Guatemala City Safe for Travel RIGHT NOW? (2024 Safety Rating)

    When the overall crime risk in Guatemala City is in question, it reaches the highest level. There have been reports of recent crimes against foreigners. The possible criminal acts include carjackings, robberies, and assaults of tourists, especially in public buses. Nevertheless, most visits to Guatemala are trouble-free, because tourists know ...

  21. Is Guatemala Safe? One Solo Female Traveler's Experience

    Guatemala isn't a country where it's particularly safe to book a one-way ticket with no plan. As I said above, there are specific areas that are under travel advisories because of violent crime and gang activity. You don't want to end up in one of these areas, especially if you don't have a plan about where to go and where to stay.

  22. Yellow Fever Vaccine & Malaria Prevention Information, by Country

    Guatemala Yellow Fever Vaccine. Entry requirements: Required for travelers ≥1 year old arriving from countries with risk for YF virus transmission; this includes >12-hour airport transits or layovers in countries with risk for YF virus transmission. 1. CDC recommendations: Not recommended. Malaria Prevention. Transmission areas

  23. Updated Guatemala Travel Advisory (September 21, 2022)

    U.S. Embassy Guatemala City Website: https://gt.usembassy.gov/ Phone: +502 2326-4000 Email: [email protected] State Department - Consular Affairs 888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444 Guatemala Country Information and Travel Advisory Page

  24. Mexico, Jamaica vacation spots have travel advisories for violence

    Reconsider travel due to serious risks to safety and security. The Department of State provides additional advice for travelers in these areas in the travel advisory. Conditions in any country may ...

  25. Guanacaste's Tourism Paradise Faces Security Challenges

    The Chambers of Tourism and Commerce assure that they continue working to make the province a safe and attractive place for both residents and visitors. "Many years ago, when I walked around San Jose, I saw bars on all the houses. Now I see them in our town of Sámara, and it is very unfortunate to see how far we have come.

  26. Health Alert

    U.S. Embassy Guatemala City, Guatemala. Website: https://gt.usembassy.gov/ Phone: (502) 2326-4000. Email: [email protected]. State Department - Consular Affairs. 888-407-4747 or 202-501-4444. Guatemala Country Information and Travel Advisory Page. Enroll in Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security updates