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safety in guatemala

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boston
posts: 6
reviews: 1
safety in guatemala

People from other central american countries and the US State Dept. are sayng things about increased violence and crime against tourists. We really wanted to take a spanish immersion class in February but this info makes us pause and check on safety. We were thinking of Antigual, Quetzeltenango, the lake area and of course, Tikal. Any opinions out there? Thanks.

Gaithersburg, MD
posts: 3
reviews: 2
1. Re: safety in guatemala

JI just returned from a vacation with my mother and sister in Antigua, Guatemala. We felt very safe in the city and walked everywhere. It can't hurt to be carful, but everyone we met was super nice, friendly and non-threatening. We did a spanish immersion program with Instituto Antig��e��o de Espa��ol (http://www.spanish-iae.com/) and loved every minute of it!

Gaithersburg, MD
posts: 3
reviews: 2
2. Re: safety in guatemala

JI just returned from a vacation with my mother and sister in Antigua, Guatemala. We felt very safe in the city and walked everywhere. It can't hurt to be carful, but everyone we met was super nice, friendly and non-threatening. We did a spanish immersion program with Instituto Antig��e��o de Espa��ol (http://www.spanish-iae.com/) and loved every minute of it!

boston
posts: 6
reviews: 1
3. Re: safety in guatemala

Dear "Z" -Thanks so much for your encouraging report. Did you read those state dept. warnings before you went? How long was your language program? Did you sign up for it before you left U>S>.Did you go to other areas in Guatemala? Obviously, we would love to talk more with you re: your experience. Thanks for your help. C&M

NY
posts: 5
4. Re: safety in guatemala

I am from the United States (not white but brown) and I have been to Guatemala two times, the first one travelling from the capital to Chichicastenango, Panajachel, Solola, Antigua and then to Tikal. As in any other city in the world, one will find crooks and perhaps encounter bad incidences but on the whole, Guatemala is a safe place. One, of course, should not venture out at night in places like Zona Vieja but limit oneself to Zona Viva in the city. Even a remote place like Tikal is easy to enjoy with the people very warm and accommodating. Knowledge of the Spanish language is, of course, a major asset in this country but one can communicate with a lot of people who know English. The truth is, I was more afraid of walking in Florence where there were so many gypsies and in Rome where you encounter a lot of pickpockets in the trains. So if I were you, go ahead and do immersion classes. Antigua is the best in terms of cultural and language immersion.

Santa Ana, El...
posts: 1
5. Re: safety in guatemala

The problems have been taken place in highways between El Salvador and Guatemala, the thieves have robbed only to salvadoran cars. Our goverment is working hard to solve this problem, becuse we feel completely unprotected.

We supossed that Guatemala's police department is involved in that situation and they can't resolve this problem that is very ancient.

huntsville, AL
posts: 3
6. Re: safety in guatemala

Check the State Department website for starters, i.e., the consular warnings. Guatemala is not safe! Avoid the downtown area. Also do not drive after dark or deviate from the major highways. Twenty-two cars a day are being carjacked on average according to a recent article in La Prensa Libre, one of Guatemala's major newspapers. Bus passengers are also being assaulted and robbed. Drugs are a serious problem in Guatemala along with graft and corruption. My mother-in-law just arrived from Guatemala a week ago, and she attests to the fact that the general population is very concerned about the breakdown of law and order. Many of those involved in the civil war are now just thugs and highwaymen. They show no remorse about killing for a few dollars or quetzales in this case. If you go, be careful. Do not place yourself in a position that makes you vulnerable. Try to fit in by wearing subdued or drab clothing and watch what goes on. I know from experience from being an intelligence specialist in Vietnam and working international programs for the U.S. Army for the past 20 years.

Gatineau, Canada
posts: 34
reviews: 2
7. Re: safety in guatemala

I spent 5 weeks in Antigua, Guatemala in 2003 in a Spanish immersion program, living with a local family. I feel I received excellent value for money and would go back again. However, I always felt uneasy, was afraid to walk alone, always wore a personal alarm, carried little money, etc. There were uniformed and armed men everywhere, various army, police and paramilitary, and private guards all armed to the teeth, even on Coca-Cola delivery trucks. They were there for a reason. Several of the other students were robbed, one right in church. I ended up mistrusting everyone. The Guatemalan mother where I was staying was mugged in broad daylight of several hundred dollars having just come from the bank and the newspapers were full of stories of a vigilante group in northern Guatemala who had burned alive 3 local criminals whom they refused to turn over to the police because the police were so open to bribes, the population felt the criminals would not be punished. Once after dark, I decided to take a taxi home rather than walk, but all the taxi drivers were very drunk, so I took my chances walking. Getting into and out of a bank was worse than going through American airport security these days. Better to go with a friend so that you are not walking around alone.

Washington DC
posts: 6
8. Re: safety in guatemala

Hi, I just returned from a two week stay in GT, I visited the capital and also Antigua, and the area around Amatique Bay. I went to the Mayan ruins, took a taxi and bus (luxury for $10 USD) and a water taxi all over the Bay, including a trip up and down the Rio Dulce. Spent a night in Livingston and had a fine Lobstre dinner there near the wharf. I do not speak Spanish, except for some small phrases. I never encountered anyone threatening, nor any signs of trouble. Even the highways were clear day and night. The people were hospitable and friendly.

Traffic in the Cap City is nightmare and althourough drivabale, it looks like the Daytona 500 with tiny cars racing everywhere.

Never saw a single trafiic accident. Enjoyed Livingston for its very Jamaican atmosphere, Puerto Barrios, beacuse it is a real non-tourist place, although there are 15 international cruise ships coming in there during 2005. Many are going to the Mayan ruins, others are seeling bay with its huge banana boats.

While water-taxi-ing on Amatique Bay, I saw four dolphins, which swam alongside to keep us company in two pais, one pair on each side of the craft, Manatees and the Manatee Isle where the mate, and also one small whale took a head first dive right in front of us but I mostly saw only his huge tail fin.

There were virtually no one visiting the Mayan ruins and we had the whole place to ourselves, swam in thge cool waterfalls of the rain forest and fished on the Rio Dulce. I ate the local foods, drank the beer (Gatto?) and vegetables and the fruits without any health problems. I did read the US Consular site and was fearful before this trip, but now, I'd go back anytime and walk Antigua, the Cap City or Puerto Barrios! The people were most welcoming everywhere and we met virually NO American tourists of any kind, except those visiting or living in Antigua. I am very impressed with the whole country! Ciao!

huntsville, AL
posts: 3
9. Re: safety in guatemala

Jeffrey, Looks like you were very lucky! I do speak Spanish and have been married to a wonderful Guatemalan woman (now American) for 30 years so I know how warm and loving the people can be. My in-laws, their relatives, and friends have all told me that the situation in Guatemala has deteriorated immensely over time. I used to go every year but have not been in over 5 years for that reason. My mother-in-law told me a month ago about an Australian couple that was recently killed after witnessing a drug-related murder. One of my wife's friends was killed about three years ago after being assaulted going to his finca with his son the son was shot and critically injured). My in-laws were faced with an attempted home invasion about six months ago but the men were chased off by guardians with machetes. I stand by my earlier post that Guatemala is extremely dangerous. The federal police and other law agencies try to keep Anitgua safe, but they can be suspect themselves. Hope your luck holds should you decide to return.

New Mexico
posts: 1
10. Re: safety in guatemala

My opinion is that Guatemala is not that dangerous. I went in late 1999 and lived with a family in Guatemala City. I am 6'1'', blond, male, and not well built. I walked all over the city at night, took cabs, busses and all sorts of transportation throughout the country. I learned Spanish while I was there, in passing, and found the entire country quite safe. As with any place, it is best not to walk in unfamilar areas at night, to watch your posessions, and to be alert. I plan to go again this summer and think that if you dress plainly, wear no jewelry, and are aware of when to pull out the camera and act the tourist, i.e. have some common sense, your chances of encountering serious trouble there is about the same as in any metropolitan area of the United States.