Guatemala accounts for 40% of all reported cases of malaria in Central America. Guatemala last reported 18,102 cases of malaria (July 2005). The most effected provinces are the highland provinces of Quiche and Alta Verapaz.
Fortunately, malaria in Guatemala is not a virulent form of the disease.
Symptoms include fever, severe headaches, and possibly vomiting.
Tourists going to Tikal in El Peten should use mosquito spray and wear light colored clothing to protect skin from bites. Mosquito nets are not widely available- but if you have one or can find one use it - why let the buzzing keep you awake.
Local sources will tell you if cases of malaria have been reported. Local drug stores (farmacias) will carry anti-malarials used in your area. You do not need a prescription.
Before crossing pastures look for bulls
Always ask if possible about dangerous bulls if you are hiking near cattle.
If you are in cattle country you may happen to cross paths with a brahman type bull. This means in the Peten and the lowlands- especially the plains sloping towards the Pacific. If the bull isn't paying you any heed that is a good thing. First rule is not to run or scream if you cross paths with one. Bulls can easily outrun a person. Stay still and quiet. Look for an escape route (a tree, a fence). Eventually you'll be able to move away or past it. However if it shows signs of challenging you-- remove a garment such as your shirt, slowly. Bulls instinctively charge toward movement. If he charges, throw the garment away from you and he'll charge the shirt. (a small rock or weight will help add distance) While he's distracted with the shirt, move away (yes, you should run). Once you put some ground between him and you, he will lose interest.
PS: The color of the garment doesn't matter. They don't have color vision. Don't forget that cows have horns also. Look for an udder to verify whether you are facing a bull or just a cow.
I must admit I was somewhat concerned about personal safety before visiting Guatemala. If you read the US State Department's web pages, you can develop an uneasiness about visiting this fascinating country. I blogged VT members to get advise from travelers who have visited Guatemala. Their advise was well taken.
Guatemala has poverty and a history of civil unrest. This does make a recipe for potential criminal activity. However, I never felt unsafe any place I visited. There is security in the town of Antigua and at Tikal. Also, there was a security presence at Pacaya Volcano. All of the people with whom I came into contact were friendly and warm. I just used some common sense and kept aware of my surroundings as I would in any other city. I carried only the amount of cash I thought I might need and wore no jewelry, not even a watch. I dressed down and did not display large sums of cash.
Ask the locals about any areas to avoid; they will tell you.
Above all, I absolutely loved Guatemala. I plan to return someday. There is much to see and do there, so pack your bags, take your common sense with you and enjoy this remarkable place.
Rough Guide for Guatemala 2006 is very out of date. Halfway through realised that they have not bothered checking if some of these hotels / cafes are even still in business.
My tip would be to ask other travellers if they have been to the hotel and the obvious thing would be to call the hotel before you get there.
We stayed at a place in El Estor and so much of this hotel was under construction that the chainsaws went off at 7am.
Travel and living in Guatemala is dangerous for Guatemalans and tourists. There is a residual level of violence from 16 years of civil and not so civil war that must be considered. This includes more than simple theft or pick pocketing. Guidebooks and consulates tend to advise traveling in groups, using regular tourist transportation and avoiding cheap hotels, but I have my doubts. (They also tend to use every incident of the last ten years to boaster their warnings so the picture they draw may be worst than the actual situation.) Even in Guatemala in recent years where city buses have been stopped and women raped by armed gangs, I felt safer traveling with local transportation, staying in cheap accommodations and going on my own rather than I would have felt being in a group of obviously rich folk. My fluency in Spanish also helped me identify and avoid higher risk situations.
Being a women would naturally increase the risks, but guns in the hands of bad guys naturally put everyone at risk of death or injury. Putting this in prospective, I would still think the greater risk of injury would be from a highway accident an issue often overlooked by potential travelers considering a trip to Guatemala.
The question with travel is often one of weighing the risks to benefits. I personally found the richness of Guatemalan travel well worth the risks. I believe people can make this trip, but they must use their common sense and caution to limit the risks.
Outside of Guatemala city or Antigua, be careful because there is some mistrust of Americans and other foreigners in more rural areas. Malaria shots are recommended, and bring some stomach medicine- anti vomit- anti diarrheal-and remember, you never know what you are allergic to in a foreign country, so probably some benedryl
Yes Gautemala is no joke and is a very violent country and is still dealing with the aftermath of a civil war. With that being said the people are incredibly warm and for the most part I felt safe the whole time I was there. I have friends that live in Gautemala city mostly in Zona Viva. As a tourist you should never never be in zone 1, 18 or 3. Locals dont go there. el gallito is in zone 3 and is one of the most violent ghettos in central america. Unless you are a social worker you really dont have any business going there being that most guatemalans don't go there unless they have to. Antigua is very very safe just don't walk home alone at night after the bars especially if you are a female. Get guides for the volcano. Get guides for the jungle. Lago Atillan is very safe just use normal common sense.
Market villages in the highlands of Guatemala such as Chicasantengo, and Santiago Atitlan are interesting and fun to explore, you can find Mayan knittings, pottery and wood carvings, along with many other interesting items. Walking around here like a tourist, with your camera exposed to the locals, you will be bothered to buy just about everything, and there are individuals trying to show you around and be your local tour guide for a few dollars. I feel sorry for these very poor people, but you can only go so far with it. I bought a Mayan calendar knitwork, and the woman gave me stories about how her mother was starving, and I should buy 2-3 more to feed her. I bought another cheap one, after more begging, told her sorry, and walked away to have lunch with my tour group, after an hour or so later, there she was again with more knitworks in hand saying "please, I need money for lunch, you my friend.
She followed me all the way to the bus, as we were leaving, and I gave her a few Guatemalan Quetzals to finally get rid of her. You can get pickpocketed here too. Buy if you want, but make minimal verbal and eye contact with the locals is my tip.
Spent two weeks traveling the country in March 2006 and only had one problem. It was our own fault though. We let our guard down while in Chichicastenango and was approached by a guide that flashed an Inguat badge and offered to take us on a tour of the central church. We didn't ask the price or negotiate first and got to the end of the ten minute tour and found the price was 300Q.
Always make sure negotiate prices for services unless the are posted explicitly. Just like most large cities in developing countries. Have to chalk this one up to being hungover and tired.
In major cities just be aware of your surroundings just like in every major city in the world and when on the highways do not leave the main road for a shortcut. There were a few incidents while we were there where a couple of chicken busses took shortcut roads off the Inter-American and were robbed.
Everywhere we went there were lots of police and millitary patrols. Our bus was stopped by the police between Antigua and Pana turns out they were just looking for some money from the driver. I was a few tense moment especially seeing that large machine gun.
If you are truly prepared and you some investigation and research before traveling to Guatemala, then there is no doubt in my mind that you have already read what I am about to recommend. DO NOT venture into Guatemala City at night!
On our way to the Guatemala Airport, our cab-van had to make a few quick drop-offs in same relatively shady locations in Guatemala City. It was very creepy, especially in the company of a very naïve tourist who thought it would be fine to get out of the van to get some fresh air while we were parked. Needless to say, we were almost robbed. Of course, this was at night in a rather disreputable district of the city. Nonetheless, you know it is a dangerous situation when the cab driver is scared, and he’s a local!
Guatemala is a beautiful country, full of color and tradition. my only close call came in a market in Chichicastenango. i was mulling on the steps of the church camera in hand. a man passed me and thought i had shot a picture of him, and became very upset with me. luckily, i hadn't taken the picture and a nearby group of guys spoke up for me when the angry man started acting out, with his machete. i understood what the man was saying and assured him i hadn't done anything, and that if i wanted to take a picture of him, i would have asked. long story short, he ended up walking away and i was a bit shaken up, and from that day on, i was very careful with my camera and who i was pointing it at. i was told that some guatemaltecos are very touchy about pictures because they have long been seen as an "ugly and common culture with beautiful artistry".
We were told that people have been robbed, raped and killed at the cross lookout. This cross lookout offers the most amazing view of Antigua. You can see the cross from everywhere in Antigua so one day we decided to walk up to it. We walked up the beautiful path and were awarded with the most wonderful view. We noticed there were two guards there. Later when we told our B&B owner she told us we shouldn't have gone up there. Other people informed us that it was a hot spot for muggings, etc.
The only problems I had while visiting Guatemala was at a particular restaurant in Panajachel called The Sunset Cafe. 9 different people in my group, including myself, were pick pocketed. Some friends of mine who visited a year earlier had the same problem at the same location. I would advise keeping your money out of your pockets, I kept mine in my bra the next time I went and had no problems.
This is a viral infection found throughout Central America. Thousands of cases occur each year in Guatemala. The virus is transmitted by zancudo, which bites predominantly during daytime and are usually found close to human habitations, often indoors. They set their breedings normally into artificial water containers, which are commonly used here. As a result, dengue is especially common in densely populated, urban environments, although officially it is NOT common throughout the City of Guatemala. Well, … one out of 10.000.000 zancudos me pico a mi though.
The virus normally causes flu-like symptoms like fever, muscle aches, joint paints, headaches, nausea and vomiting, often followed by a rash. The body aches may be quite uncomfortable, but most cases usually resolve uneventfully in a few days … I had to spent three nights in Centro Médico though.
There is no treatment for dengue fever except to take analgesics and drink plenty of fluids. Severe cases may require hospitalisation for intravenous fluids and supportive care. There is no vaccine. Protect of insect bites!!!
No way to pretend that Guatemala is a very safe country. There are just too many stories of – often armed – robbery for that. Rapes and murders of tourists have also happened. Other potential dangers are pick pocketing, bag-snatching & -slitting and the like in crowded streets, markets, bus stations and busses, but also in empty, dark city streets.
It is possible to reduce the risk of getting into crimes by always staying alert to the behaviour of people around you and by some simple precautions:
- Only carry on your person the amount of money, checks and valuables that you have immediate need of!
- Be aware that any purse or bag in plain sight may provoke you to be grabbed or slashed. Therefore do always take your money in front pockets and divide big bills (100, 50 Q) from small change (20, 10, 5 Q and coins).
- Don’t wander alone in empty streets or isolated areas, particularly at night.
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