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Guatemala Safe?

NYC
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Guatemala Safe?

My husband & I are planning a trip to Guatemala this April 2012, but our adult daughter who travels widely expressed concern for our safety given violence in Peten area & Guatemala in general: kidnappings, etc. We plan to visit Tikal, Antigua & Chichicastenango. We speak only a few phrases of Spanish, another big disadvantage. We are tall Anglos in our 60's, going on our own (no tour group). Any info welcome - should we take this trip??

Guatemalan Adventure Day Tour
Sightseeing Tours, Day Trips
Gray Line Guatemala
Sightseeing Tours, Archaeology Tours, City Tours, Cultural Tours, Day Trips
97 replies to this topic
Bethesda, MD
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2,826 posts
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11. Re: Guatemala Safe?

Julia, the Zetas have not been any problem in the main tourist areas. As for the Marines, they were in San Marcos, where few tourists ever go.

california
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12. Re: Guatemala Safe?

If we see two tall Anglos, late 60s, we will say 'Hello!'

SF
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13. Re: Guatemala Safe?

Hi Hopefulist, I am planning a trip to Guatemala City next week and would like to take some cooking classes. I love the photos of your cooking classes, could you let me know where I can take cooking classes in Guatemala City? Thanks.

The Dalles, Oregon
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for Guatemala, Belize
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14. Re: Guatemala Safe?

I have no idea about cooking classes in Guatemala City, but here are 2 in Antigua plus a cool chocolate class in case that's of interest:

http://www.donquijotecruisers.com/

http://www.frijolfeliz.com/

http://www.chocomuseo.com/

Happy trails!

Central America
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30 reviews
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15. Re: Guatemala Safe?

I've lived in Guate for many years and traveled extensively in the country. Here's my take on "safety" in Guate.

If you are not in the drug trade, part of a gang, participating in political activities, or involved in a land dispute then I don't think you have any more risk of crime in Guate than you do anywhere else. I've not run the numbers on this, but in my personal experience this seems to be the case. This assumes of course that you exercise common sense too.

The Zeta's etc have absolutely no interest in you. Stay out of their business and they will stay out of yours.

The only place where I have ever been robbed at gun point was in an upscale neighborhood in the USA....because I did not expect it and I was careless.

Unlike in the USA , where random mass killings often make headline news., we don't have these here in Guate. When people get shot in Guate there is a specific reason for it. I view most of these shootings, and there are a lot here, as "occupational hazards".

While Guate does have some wide spread crime and security issues, these crimes do not typically effect foreign visitors. It does happen, but I think if you exercise common sense and stay out of situations you should not be in in the first place, then the odds of it happening to your are relatively low.

Just read the posts of those who have visited Guate here on TA., I think you will see that the vast majority of visitors to this beautiful country have a wonderful time with no problems.

Central America
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16. Re: Guatemala Safe?

A couple more security suggestion for Guatemala.

"Known Quantity". Always venture into unfamiliar areas with a trusted local friend or guide who is well known in the area. People have gotten themselves killed here by wandering into places where they should not. Being in the company of a local who is a known quantity can make the difference between a great experience and a bad one. This is not just a drug trade related issue. Some of the more remote indigenous villages can be very wary of outsiders, justifiably so, and the situation can turn ugly if they become suspicious of your intentions. I've been into remote villages with indigenous friends where I would not venture unaccompanied.

"Robo niños". Particularly in more remote areas it is common for the locals (especially indigenous Mayans) to strongly believe the "robo niños" (child thief) myth (?). They believe that foreigners steal children to harvest their internal organs (there have in fact been children kidnapped for the adoption trade which is where I think the myth originated). Be very cautious about how you interact with local children. In remote areas it is probably best just not to interact with them at all (including taking their pictures). Misinterpretation of intentions have resulted in a few tourists being killed. I've discussed the "robo niños" myth with locals who are convinced it is true and site the small planes and helicopters which cross remote regions as evidence (this is how they believe the stolen children/organs are transported).

Edited: 1:06 pm, January 11, 2013
Bethesda, MD
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17. Re: Guatemala Safe?

There were cases of babies stolen to be put up for adoption. But the notion that foreigners kidnapped children to harvest their organs was part of a military intelligence disinformation strategy used during the civil war to sow distrust of foreigners in rural (Mayan) areas.

Central America
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18. Re: Guatemala Safe?

Well, the misinformation campaign was certainly effective. This myth is still strong. I assume they were well trained in propaganda at the School of The Americas

Bagram, Afghanistan
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19. Re: Guatemala Safe?

I had a nice city tour in GC; set up by Barceló hotel. 1st mistake was not asking if the tour included walking in a crowded area. 2nd mistake: I forgot to leave a gold necklace in the hotel safe. 3rd mistake: Should have told the guide, "no thanks" to walking to busy market even in middle of the day. The police and military were at the National Palace and Central Park, but none on way to market - very short walk, 4th mistake: walking on street towards market with guide in front and not turning around to see who was following me. 5th mistake: focused on protecting passport and camera in pocket, forgot about necklace. The sum total is a gold necklace snatched off my neck from behind by a man and at least two accomplices seen fleeing afterward.. Pursuit seemed futile. Guide told police. I have learned valuable lessons at a price. I hope this helps others not make the same mistakes.

Panajachel...
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20. Re: Guatemala Safe?

Any country, town, etc can be unsafe - I would say there are places in the developed world, USA, UK, Europe etc that are way more dangerous than many places (especially tourist places)in Latin America. Guatemala always gets a bad rap - yes there are problems here, but they are generally VERY localized, certain areas of the capital, a couple of towns like Escuintla and then up close to the border with Mexico in places where tourists basically never go!

I've lived and travelled throughout Latin America (a young blond woman alone) for over 13 years and never had a problem. I lived in London the earlier part of my life and I and my friends had constant problems!

Please, whatever you do, or anyone DO NOT READ THE TRAVEL AVISORY PAGES ON THE EMBASSY WEBSITES! These are for embassy employees and mention everything to cover the embassies legally!!

I am certain you will have a wonderful time in Guatemala where you go. I would say that Lake Atitlan is one of, if not the, safest place to visit in Guatemala. There are fabulous hotels and hostels everywhere, just look at lonely planet or rough guide, fantastic travel agencies (you do not need to book anything really in advance as Antigua and Panajachel can help you with everything), great rentals if you prefer to rent and the list goes on.

Check out the local English-language publication: the Revue http://www.revuemag.com/. And just google Lake Atitlan and Antigua for a million sites with heaps of useful information!

Take all the normal precautions you would anywhere and you will have a magical and unforgettable time and will definitely want to return!!

Have a wonderful trip!

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