March 2013. Gang activity, bus driver shootings, and kidnappings are down and down a lot. Police presence is markedly improved and noticeable in the historic and commercial zonas. The army has reduced its operations from a year ago. Recognition should be given to the mayor of Guatemala and President Otto Perez Molina- a former military general for safer conditions. STATISTICS FOR CRIME IN GUATEMALA CITY HAVE FALLEN THREE YEARS IN A ROW.
I did many hours of walking during my two stays in the capitol in the historic and commercial districts. I even considered a ride on one of the red city buses which have a reputation for pickpockets. Things have improved in my opinion and I worry much more about the kamakazi bus drivers and the clouds of thick black smoke that pour out of them.
My impression from visiting Guatemala on numerous occasions and probably I could say residing in Guatemala is that you can put yourself in some serious situations through no fault of your own- but getting back to your room early, taking cabs, running your travel plans past people who know Guatemala staying SOBER and STRAIGHT will reduce risk immensely.
I'm sure after I post this that I'll get the stories of some terrible experiences. All I can say is Guatemala is a lot better than it was just three years ago. I've posted on my VT Guatemala website here a lot of statistical information and reports. My best advice: If you are a victim DO NOT RESIST. Guatemala has not lost its record for having one of the world's highest murder rates.
Sexta Avenida near the National Palace Plaza is active until 10 PM with lots of eateries and shops- and well patrolled by the police.
This is rather a transportation tip but with a twist. There is a Pullman bus service from San Salvador to Guatemala every day in the morning and the afternoon. Sunday has even three connections. The problem is that unlike Ticabus, (less flashy brand) where once you have passed your luggage on to the company employees (airport style) you are not to worry anymore. Well, Pullman has a similar type of organization but somewhere between the counter and the bus the passenger has to reclaim the luggage and physically load it on (entrega!!?) the bus. Already lulled by the previous worry-free experience on Ticabus, I missed this nuance and so my luggage was left behind. Fortunately, in the age of mobile phones, the stewardess on board was alerted by the ground staff in San Salvador when I was on my way to cross the border with Guatemala. The uneasy feeling continued for another 4 hours until the last Pullman bus from San Salvador arrived at the holiday Inn in Guatemala City with my luggage with it.
This might not be a big problem if Guatemala City is your final destination but the chances are that it is a transit point and so the missing baggage can turn into a big headache further down the road. Moral of the story - stick to Ticabus if possible!
Meanwhile, enjoy the scenery.
Before I went to Guatemala City for the first time, I have to admit that I was fairly concerned about all the crime that I read about. However, I can thankfully say that in my ~3 months in Guatemala City, I never felt threatened. My advice is to not let the crime reports keep you from going. I'm not saying that you should ignore crime or that everything is completely safe -- I am saying that if you use common sense and maintain situational awareness, you should be fine.
I walked many, many miles in Guatemala City, both days and nights, weekdays and weekends. I did make it a point not to be out walking between about 11pm and 6am. Dress down. Don't call attention to yourself. Leave your jewelery at the hotel. If you carry a camera, try to keep it out of sight. If you need to use a credit/debit card, keep it in a pocket by itself so that you can access it without pulling out your wallet. The same thing goes for cash. Walk like you know where you are going -- if you want to stop and look at something, do it purposefully and in a way that does not make you look oblivious to your surroundings.
If you have to wear a suit or fancy clothes, carry a briefcase or laptop, or something similar -- take a cab.
It's all pretty simple and common-sense based. I followed these rules and never had a single problem. Guatemala is a wonderful place and the people are awesome -- don't let crime reports keep you from going if you otherwise want to visit.
Guatemala City is not a very safe place. Zona 10 is not bad, I felt comfortable being outside there at night (although we took a cab, I wouldn't walk far at night). Zona 1 is dangerous, not to mention filthy (cockroaches are literally everywhere after dark. I have never seen so many in my life.) The guys I traveled with wanted to eat at some restaurant about 8 blocks from our hotel and it was about 10 PM. There are homeless people and prostitutes on almost every corner, and the park was full of homeless people/people buying and selling drugs. I saw a girl passed out in a planter about 5 feet from the sidewalk and some guy was taking his pants off getting ready to rape her. I've never felt so unsafe in my life.
Visitors to Guatemala City should be aware that there is a high crime rate throughout Guatemala, and it is higher here in the capital city than in most other parts of the country. Tourists are sometimes victims of armed robbery, rape and murder. Pickpockets and scams are common. Throughout the city you will see armed security guards in the front of almost every significant business or institution. Virtually every window has bars on it and high fences topped by razor wire are everywhere.
Your best defense is to use common sense. Don't walk the streets at night. Avoid alleyways and areas where there are no other people around. Don't wear jewelry, use a money belt, and don't let all the dire warnings keep you from experiencing this fascinating city.
Guatemala City is divided into zones. Zone 10 is reported to be the safest, and the most expensive. Zone 1, which is the historic heart of the city, is said to be the most dangerous. It is also where you will find the Metropolitan Cathedral, Plaza Mayor, and many other points of interest. I stayed in Zone 1, and as 99.7 percent of the people who visit there, I had no problems.
Click the link below to see the U.S. State Department warning for Guatemala.
We kept reading about the dangers in Guatemala City and decided to skip it altogether. Still, we had to spend one night there prior to our flight out the next morning to Tikal. Our shuttle bus ride there was quite the experience!
Our hotel was located in the outskirts of the city, closer to the airport in one of the 'safer' zones, but the other people in the bus with us were getting dropped off in other parts of the city. It was dark out and even our native bus driver was scared for our safety! One guy got dropped off at the central bus station-a sketchy place at night-and while we were waiting to leave again, a fellow passenger decided to get out of the bus for some fresh air. Upon seeing this, the driver quickly ran over and told her to get back in. Afterwards he more or less yelled at her and all of us to never get out, that it's dangerous, that robbers will kill you for 1000 quetzales (do the math-not worth your life), etc.
During another drop off, there were some suspicious men hanging around the area, and our driver and assistant were on guard around the vehicle (since all our luggage was piled on top of the bus as is the norm in Guatemala).
I write this not to discourage people from visiting Guatemala City, but to advise them to exercise extreme caution when doing so and to read about all the dangers before arriving. It's amazing how many naive people just go out there without even reading up on a place first (like our fellow passenger) and then get themselves into bad situations!
YES, IT IS A FACT THAT THERE ARE LOADS OF THIEVES AND DRUG DEALERS EVERYWHERE JUST LIKE IN ANY OTHER BIG CITY. IT IS ALSO A FACT THAT THERE HAS BEEN MANY MURDERS IN THE CITY EVERY YEAR, ESPECIALLY WHEN THEY INVOLVE RIVAL DRUG DEALERS AND THE STREET GANGS SUCH AS THE MARA 18s AND MARA SALVATRUCHAS.
ABOUT HALF THE CRIMES COMMITED NEVER GET SOLVED DUE TO POOR AND CORRUPT POLICE FORCE.
ALSO TAKE CARE WHEN CROSSING THE ROADS AS CARS COME FROM ALL DIRECTIONS! GUATEMALAN MOTORISTS ARE FAST PACED AND THEY DON'T USUALLY STOP FOR NO-ONE.
I MYSELF HAVE BEEN LUCKY AS NOTHING BAD HAPPENED TO ME FROM MY TIME SPENT IN THE CITY. NOTHING MIGHT HAPPEN TO YOU TOO, JUST USE THE USUAL COMMON SENSE AS IN EVERY OTHER BIG CITIES AND KEEP YOUR VALUABLES HIDDEN, DON'T GO OUT AT NIGHT, DON'T GOTO ISOLATED AREAS, KNOW THE AREA YOU IN, GET ADVICE ON WHICH AREAS TO AVOID, AND STICK TO AREAS WHERE THE GENERAL PUBLIC ARE. IF YOU HAPPEN TO BE CARRYING A BACKPACK AND GOING INTO CROWDED AREAS THEN WEAR IT ON YOUR FRONT WHERE YOU CAN SEE IT WHICH WILL THEN REDUCE CHANCES OF BEING PICKPOCKETED.
Guatemala City has a high rate of violent crime and there isn't really a completely safe place, although Zona Viva is the safest part of town. Many travelers choose to stay in the Old City (Zone 1) because of the cheap hostels and plenty of bus connections, but this area is not safe at night. We took a tour by car with some locals and they told us we'd be crazy to get out of the car alone in some of the areas we were driving through.
So far, a whole lot of people recommended me not to go to the Capital during my stay in Mexico, not only due to contamination. I did it though, and to be true, didn`t face that many problems with my personal health like I do it here in the City of Guatemala – referring to sicknesses caused by pollution. It started with severe cough after about two weeks of my staying here, which did not let me sleep night after night. Now, having taken strong medicine, it`s getting better fortunately. This terrible cough refers to pollution in the air, which you can even see most of the days, like the buses` emissions and of course SMOG curtain that covers the city. From my bedroom I could have an amazing view of the volcanoes of Agua, Fuego and Pacaya – if the air was not that polluted!!! There are researches, that 25% of Guatemalan children do suffer from asthma.
Besides I recognize my nose to be that dry since about two weeks, that it´s almost always about to bleed if I sneeze.
For the most part credit cards are widely accepted in Guatemala City but ask questions before using them, several restraunts and bars add the service fees of using the credit cards to the bill usually 5-12% making the bills larger......ask questions when using credit cards !!!!!
It's obvious. Don't walk after shops are closed. No one is on the street. It's around 6-7 pm. If you want to take a chance, go ahead. I did, and I was about to be mugged. Take a cab, if you go out. However...I'm talking about Guatemala City downtown. The situation may be different else where in the city.
A relatively high level of violent crimes are committed against foreigners in Guatemala, so travellers should always be alert to potentially dangerous situations. Incidents of bus- and car-jackings are quite common, and Guatemala's larger cities can be dangerous after dark. Intercity travel after sunset should be avoided. Kidnappings, rapes and assaults do occur during daylight hours and in some cases affect entire groups of travellers. Travellers should be especially careful in the Biotopo Cerro Cahuí, in the El Remate area, where there has been a spate of rapes and attacks. There has been a recent rise in vigilante justice, especially in the countryside, and outsiders who have attempted to interfere with such phenomena (public lynchings and the like) have been dealt with harshly by instigators.
Guatemala lived the guerrillas experience and paramilitars groups so you can find ex-soldiers on the streets....with no good intentions....so if you are no braveheart, better just go near the zone 10 a very safe place....
Joan 'dropped' a piece of her sandwich to a begging coatimundi even though signs prohibit feeding animals and a guide next to her warned they bite. The animal climbed her leg for the whole sandwich when she jumped up displacing the beast. While Joan and I climbed the plaza temples, Jim watched a German tourist offer a cookie in one hand while holding the cookie bag in the other. The animal jumped up his arm to grab the bag from the other hand, then slid down his arm so claws cut two deep lacerations in the German's arm. While the German tourist screamed Jim chased the animal away with a club. Park police came to the rescue, donned gloves, stopped the bleeding and hauled the tourist away in a red pickup truck. So much for an ambulance in the jungle.
In Tikal, fence barriers and park police guard the top enclosed temple areas. I liked Chichen Itza in the Yucatan better because it has more carvings and open tops. Tikal has been a robber's dream as they waylaid tourists on the roads to Tikal and in the jungle areas between scattered ruins. Guatemala decided tourist income was more important to the economy than thievery so instituted police patrols on highways and temple grounds. Still....don't be out after dark.