It's no secret that Guatemala has a high rate of crime – as do many developing countries where money is scarce and governments are corrupt.
But, just how dangerous is Guatemala for travelers, and is it safe?
While crimes do and can happen to travelers, there's no cause for alarm, just keep these handy tips in mind before you go to stay safe in Guatemala.
Markets, public transport, and public processions all bring crowds, and with crowds come easy targets for skilled pickpockets in the area. One, in particular, is Holy Week in Antigua, when pickpocketing is rife.
The famous markets of Chichicastenango are also notorious for theft, with travelers reporting having several pockets razored discreetly until the wallet pocket was discovered. Another traveler recalled how he was pickpocketed at the Solola markets, even with his pockets buttoned shut.
Thieves will take advantage of any time your attention is diverted so they can strike. The US Embassy in Guatemala reports US tourists have been pickpocketed exiting the Aurora International Airport, while riding on buses from Guatemala City to Antigua, and while out shopping and sightseeing.
The best way to avoid becoming a victim? Keep your belongings close, or don't carry expensive items with you when you're out. It's also best to avoid showing any wealth, so dress down to blend in, leave the jewelry and expensive watch at home.
Avoid traveling around night which can make you an easy target for criminals especially in major cities and towns.
Bankcard scamming and account fishing is a commonplace crime in Guatemala. After using ATMs in Antigua's Central Plaza, travelers have reported seeing fraudulent charges on their accounts. These scams have also occurred in ATMs in Antigua grocery stores.
Credit card cloning is frequently reported in Guatemala City. The best way to avoid this is to use cash and carry only as much of the local currency as you think you'll need for the day. Leave valuables back in your hostel or hotel locked in the safe (if there is one). It's also a good idea to let your bank know when you will be in the country in case you get some suss transactions once you leave or arrive home.
Cars may seem like a secure place to store your valuables, but Guatemala has its fair share of car break-ins. A traveler reported having their car broken into while parked at the gas station. Inside was her computer, wallet and credit cards.
Incidents like these are especially popular in Guatemala City, but caution should be taken whenever important items are left unattended in a vehicle. Always keep valuables out of sight or better still take them with you.
Many travelers will visit Guatemala without any trouble involving theft and robbery, but it's wise to note where armed robbery sometimes does occur. This could involve the threat of weapons, such as guns, knives and even grenades. Avoid the known crime hotspots in Guatemala City - Zones 1, 3, 6, 18 and 21.
Several tourists have reported being robbed at gunpoint while climbing the volcano at Volcan de Agua and also on walking tracks throughout the country.
Tourist buses and shuttle buses are occasionally robbed at gunpoint. These incidents would most likely occur the vehicle was in the wrong place at the wrong time or that the thieves and driver were colluding. Typically, such an incident involves the driver of a private shuttle going off-track or traveling in a remote location, where several masked men rob travelers of their belongings. An incident just like this occurred in 2017, where a shuttle bus traveling from Antigua, Guatemala to Leon, Nicaragua was hijacked by a group of armed thieves, and several passengers held at gunpoint.
By exercising some common sense you can minimize your risk of being robbed by doing the following:
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