Guatemala Travel Advice
Security travel advice for Guatemala
Threat level: Medium-High
Visitors to Guatemala should be aware that the country has one of the highest rates of crime in the world, and prosecution is often unsuccessful. Travellers should remain vigilant to this at all times, however most violent incidents are gang and drug-related crimes and should not affect tourist destinations. Providing you take the necessary precautions throughout your trip, you should not encounter any severe problems.
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Recent Security Risk Events
In April 2017, tourists including British citizens were the victims of an armed attack in La Laguna.
In 2016, a former president and vice president of Guatemala were charged with money-laundering and corruption of government money. They were among 70 individuals being investigated for embezzling millions of dollars of government money.
A journalist was shot dead in the street in June 2016 whilst walking with his grandson near where he lived. The motive for the attack has not been confirmed but it is thought that it is the third journalist to be targeted in the country.
Tourists may be vulnerable to armed robbery, carjacking and assault amongst others due to the perception that westerners are wealthy targets. Do not display any signs of affluence at any times. Leave your passport and money somewhere safe and only carry what is absolutely necessary.
It is advised that you do not travel alone particularly at night, and that you only stay in hotels with a high level of security. When withdrawing money, be vigilant to anyone acting suspiciously around you as cash point robberies are common.
Guatemala enjoys bilateral relations with eight countries including the United States of America which has implemented many policies in the country to try and support democracy, encourage respect for human rights and other peacekeeping arrangements.
The road conditions in Guatemala are poor, and travelling can be risky. Locals often pay little attention to road regulations and driving practices are not safe. In urban areas, the roads can be good conditions, however anywhere outside of the main cities are poorly maintained and poorly lit. Many of the roads are steep and wind around mountains – you should remain attentive at all times. If involved in an accident, you may be detained and held in custody whilst the accident is investigated.
There is some risk of violent criminal activity along the main highways of Guatemala which includes the Carretera a El Salvador and alternate routes out of Antigua. Drivers should be aware of carjackings and armed robberies that take place in vehicles, and are advised to only travel in convoy if possible and avoid travelling at night time. Take particular care when travelling close to the border of El Salvador, as there have been an increase in violent incidents in previous months.
Public transport is generally advised against as it is not mechanically safe and is often targeted by armed robbers. You should only use intercity buses during daylight that have been arranged through a tour provider. Hotel staff will offer you advice on the most reliable companies to use.
Currency: Quetzal (GTQ)
Time now in Guatemala City:
Most foreign nationals including the United States, Canada and the UK do not need a visa if visiting the country for less than 90 days. This can be extended to another 30 days if necessary, you should contact your local embassy in Guatemala to arrange this.
There is an exit fee of approximately $30 USD when leaving the country however this is often including in the price of your air ticket. You should be prepared to pay this in case it is not included.
It is advised that visitors to Guatemala are up-to-date with primary boosters such as MMR. You should ensure that you have been further vaccinated against diseases such as Tetanus, which is usually administered when you are a young baby. You may also want to consider a Hepatitis A vaccination.
Although there is no direct risk of Yellow Fever in Guatemala, if you are coming from a country where there is a risk of the disease, or transiting for longer than 12 hours in an at risk country, you will be required to provide a vaccination certificate. Check with your local health professional prior to travel if you are unsure.
Other health risks
Medical facilities in Guatemala often do not provide treatment until you can provide evidence of adequate medical insurance. It is essential therefore that this is purchased prior to travel to the country as treatment can be costly. State-funded hospitals lack equipment, staff and funding and are often unhygienic, it is recommended that you seek private treatment if possible.
Personal hygiene is paramount and necessary precautions should be taken to stay hydrated. You should only drink bottled water as drinking tap water is highly advised against. Similarly, if visiting Lake Atitlan, be aware that water should not be consumed and in particular areas it is not safe for swimming in either. If you become ill after a trip to the lake, you should seek medical advice.
There have been a reported number of cases of the Zika virus present in Guatemala as well as Chikungunya Fever, both of which are mosquito-borne diseases. Travellers are advised to take necessary precautions to prevent mosquito bites such as using insect repellent spray and wearing appropriate clothing.
U.S. Embassy Guatemala
Avenida Reforma 7-01,
Telephone: +502 2326 4000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +502 2331 2354
British Embassy Guatemala
Edificio Torre Internacional,
Nivel 11, 16 Calle 0-55,
Zona 10 Guatemala City,
Telephone: +502 2380 7300
Other useful info
Police emergency: 110
Medical emergency: 122
Fire emergency: 123