I am planning a trip to central america in june. i hope to visit Belize and Guatemala. i am a 26 yr old female from england and unfortunatly do not have any spanish Language skills. i will be travelling alone. i am concerned about some of the saftey issues that i have heard regarding both Tikal and Antigua areas. in particular there seems to be a lot of stories about violent attacks on tourists in general and also sexual assault. I have travelled before but never in Central America. Also there seems to be a lot of conflicting info as to whther public buses or minibuses are the safest transport options. Does anyone have any advice regarding experiences in Guatemala and is the risk as heavy as it seems or is it just a common sense kind of issue?
Thanks - Alex
Right now I am living in Guatemala (antigua) for 5 months, after that I will go travel one more month before going back home (the netherlands). I am a girl and 20 years old and I can tell that yes there are some dangers and bad parts in guatemala, but I can tell you as well that you should not worrie to much about this and just go! it really depends mainly on the person if you would get robbed or raped or whatever. everywhere people will tell you if it is good to go somewhere or if it is too dangerous, you only have to follow the locals in this. I am living in antigua and it can be very dangerous. people get robbed at night when they return back home from a party for example, but I just always take a tuctuc to go back home which costs about 10 quetzales, like 1,5 dollar... so you see I won´t get robbed but thats your own decision then...
and that is with everything, you can always make sure that the possibility of getting robbed or raped or something like that goes from 70% of chance to like 20% of chance, you know what I am trying to explain?
This maybe sounds bad to you, but when you live here you don´t notice that it is sometimes a dangerous country. andf it is not, it is a wonderfull and beautifull country. The people are amazing and very friendly especially in Guatemala and El salvador. so don´t worrie and go!!!
also that you are a girl will not be a problem. You will make many friends and almost never you will have to feel alone here, at least that was my experience while traveling.
Hope I convinced you )
adios o quizas hasta luego!
Mostly common sense, look for a travel companion in Belize City or Cay Caulker, etc. or here on the forums. In Tikal don't wander too far off the beaten path while alone, especially in the late afternoon and evenings. The overnight bus from Tikal (actually the lakeside town of Flores, Peten, some 25 km. south of the ruins)to Guatemala City is the luxury El Dorado Lines or you can opt for slower chicken buses down to Rio Dulce and Puerto Barrios for Livingston (for an overview, some articles and all the adverts, lots! view the Guatemala Revue Magazine - English, online (pdf) http://www.revuemag.com/ )
Antigua has had problems recently with women being harrased and even raped walking late at night..also with 'ruufies' in bars..Antigua is full of sleazy little bars and great big fancy ones..does not matter..matters who you meet there. Antigua with no neon or street lighting is dark and empty in areas after 9PM, so never walk back to hotel or home alone in Antigua late at night, always with a friend or better in a group. Antigua crowded but festive otherwise..meet friends and more travel/walking companions at the Rainbow Room 7a Ave. Sur No. 8..see the Revue Mag
Lale Atitlan and its villages are far more casual, friendlier and safer in general than Antigua view www.atitlan.com/
Guatemala City is not that safe at all for a lone female traveller who speaks little Spanish. If you get lost go into a store (Tienda) or business and ask directions quietly off the street to keep a low profile, avoid Zone 1 in the city, the Downtown area, at all costs if alone and especially if carrying your pasport and valuables. Any more info. you require
Alex: It is true that Guatemala has a high crime rate that has been getting worse. It is also true that many people vacation there and have no problems at all. Some guidelines for safe travel: Don't tavel at night. Don't venture off by yourself. It is safer to travel in large groups or in places with other people around. Stay away from volcano treks; these are sites of frequent attacks. Although there have been many reports in the news about the increase in crime, it is not all directed against tourists but against Guatemalan citizens, too. They are becoming quite upset about the problem and have been demanding a response from the government with little results. No one can promise you a safe trip to Guatemala but with precautions you can minimize risk and have a wonderful time in a magical country. It's an incredible place. Remember, the majority of tourists return home without incident. You should be able to be part of that majority.
For those of us who live here in Central America, the difference is w know when to go and where to go, what to say and how to say it. The crime wave is in part due to the pandilleros or gang members deported from the US and the brunt of crime victims live in the poor barrios of Guatemala City and in other large towns. for example, Jocotenanago, a city of 15,000 people, located just 3 km. outside Antigua, is generally poor and working class and very dangerous at night, no Tourist Police here. Many of those who prey on tourists in Antigua "commute" from Guatemala City. There have also been reports of travellers gaining the trust of other travellers and stealing from them, I've seen this in and around Lake Atitlan. Stay away from people offering to sell illegal substances, avoid hard drug users, and avoid going out late at nights alone, especially to bars and if you do either get a taxi or find someone to escort you to hotel.
We are very confused about the safety issue. When someone says
'the majority' of tourists come back without having been 'raped, mugged, assaulted' this makes me uncomfortable. Does this mean 51% are okay? I'm not certain I like those odds.
Also, some comments suggest no trekking to volcanos, nor villages on Lake Atitlan. Not go? Others (like DBLOOM) says these villages are safe.
How many violent incidents are there in, say one year. Are the incidents against how many tourists, how many natives? Are they mainly in cities, at night, outside of bars, on lonely streets? Or does violence occur all over without pattern?
Can someone please tell me if we should visit if I'm not gutsy and don't want to be the object of an assault. We have traveled around a good portion of the world, and I have never felt frightened! (robbed, yes, but silently and through my inexperience and stupidity)