Where is Guatemala? That was my first question when deciding on a place to learn Spanish. When I found out Guatemala is in Central America, my second questions was: is Guatemala safe?
I’m not going to lie, my family was not happy about my chosen destination constantly asking me: Is it safe to visit Guatemala? If I’m honest I had some serious reservations about my safety in Guatemala before going there. I knew very little about Guatemala like most people I have to do a search to find out where Guatemala even was. All I knew about Guatemala was it was a country in Central America with a long history of civil war. That and the fact my uncle once spent a few nights in a Guatemala jail back in the day (don’t even ask).
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So chances are you are in the same position and wondering “Is Guatemala safe?” After living there for 9 months I can say with 100% security it is safe to visit Guatemala. In fact, it is one of the most welcoming and friendly places I have ever visited. I’m sure you will love Guatemala just as much as I did if you decide to travel there.
In this post, I am going to cover 7 key safety issues for solo female travelers visiting Guatemala, but really it’s good general safety advice for anyone traveling anywhere. So, is Guatemala safe? If you do these things, yes.
- Don’t travel at night
- Don’t walk along in the early morning or in the evening
- Avoid early morning buses
- Don’t travel between villages on the lake by road
- Take care when getting a Tuk Tuk alone
- Keep your belongings locked away
- Always keep your Bankcard separate from your cash
- Carry a copy of your passport
Is Guatemala safe for solo female travelers?
In a nutshell yes. I spent 9 months there and nothing bad happened to me. Granted I heard lots of stories and know people who did run into trouble, but no matter where you are in the world there are people looking to steal your stuff. So long as you keep your wits about you and follow the advice in this post you should be fine. Honestly watching the news of terror attacks across Europe and the USA I have felt far safer in Guatemala these past few months.
Like many Latin American Countries, Guatemala has had a troubled past. With a long civil war and government corruption, for a long time, it was unsafe to travel here. But Since the Civil War ended the country has worked hard to repair and heal itself. On the whole, I have found Guatemalan people to be the kindest and friendly people I have met.
Seriously, ask anyone who has been to Guatemala “Is Guatemala safe?” and they will all tell you what they love most about Guatemala is how friendly the people are.
That said every country has it’s bad apples, Guatemala is no different. There are a lot of people living in poverty who feel they have no option but to turn to crime.
Just a side note, it’s worth remembering that when you are haggling down prices on your gifts, it may be just a few dollars to you but that goes a long way in Guatemala. Take a read of my ethical travel in Guatemala guide for more tips.
Here are my top safety tips for solo female travelers in Guatemala
1. Try not to travel around Guatemala at night
If you are flying into the city at night book into this hostel and travel to your final destination in the morning. They offer a free shuttle to pick you up and then you can get dropped back on in the morning to get a shuttle to Antigua. You may be totally fine traveling at night. But it is a risk as most bus crime happens at night.
This doesn’t just go for getting from the airport, it’s a general rule. I have traveled at night with no problems and I know lots of people who have taken the night bus from Tikal for example. But it is more of a risk at night than in the day.
If you need to travel to Lake Atitlan make sure you plan so you are there before dark. It’s always better to spend a night in Antigua and take the morning shuttle to the lake.
2. Don’t walk alone early in the morning or after dark
Most crime (especially in Antigua) happens early morning or late at night. Weekends are always worse. The most common thing is that 2 guys on a moto (scooter) will come past you and snatch your bag. Be warned everyone I know who this happened to has said they were threatened with a knife. So give them the bag. It’s not worth the risk. There aren’t local people they come from the city just to steal from tourists. It’s sad but true. As I said I never had any issues but I do know people who this has happened to. I always walk close to buildings with my bag on the side away from the road. I also always avoided taking anything of value out with me whenever possible. Oh and try not to carry too much cash!
3. Avoid the early morning buses if you can
I have heard a few reports of crime happening on the 4 am bus to Nicaragua. To put it into context a bus goes every day and I’ve heard 1 or 2 stories. So it’s not a big issue, but it does happen and the attaches were pretty brutal. If you want to be extra precautious then take the day bus or fly.
4. Don’t travel between villages on the lake by road
As well as being unsafe, it’s uncomfortable and often takes longer. If you want to play it safe get the shuttle to Panajachel and take the water taxi (launch) from Pana to your final destination. If you are visiting other villages do so during the day and take the boat rather than a tuk-tuk. With the exception of San Marcos and Tzunun and San Pedro and San Juan which I have never had any issues with walking or taking a Tuk Tuk during the day. In the evening that’s another matter, these routes are unsafe at night and you should not walk them. If you have to travel take a Tuk Tuk preferable with a friend.
5. Take care getting Tuk Tuks alone
See my last point. If you need to get home and you are alone at night ask someone for the number of a trusted Tuk Tuk driver. If you have no choice then taking a Tuk Tuk is better than walking. This advice isn’t just for traveling at night. Just before I left Antigua I heard about a girl who had a nasty experience traveling to her home outside of Antigua in a Tuk Tuk. Within the city, you should be fine but be careful if you are staying outside the city. Like I said I have never had any issues but I’m always very careful.
6. Keep your stuff locked away
I lived in a hostel for a few months and I never locked anything away including my expensive computer and camera. Nothing was ever taken. But not all hostels are the same, and not all of them take such care with security.
7. Keep your bank card separate
This is just standard travel safety advice. Guatemala has no postal service. So if you lose your card there it’s going to be a whole drama getting it back. And don’t even get me started on trying to get money western unioned to you. I always kept mine in my locker unless I needed to get cash out.
8. Always carry a copy of your passport
This is useful for many reasons but the big one is if you have any issues you can just show it to the police. But you will also need it to use your card in any shop.
Is Guatemala safe for solo travelers? Final thoughts
I hope this post has been useful in answering the question “Is Guatemala safe” and in highlighting some of the dangers of traveling in Guatemala, but it hasn’t put you off. I love Guatemala and I felt very safe there. However, like any country there is crime. So it’s best to know what to look out for. I really hope you enjoy this beautiful country as much as I did. If you have any questions please let me know. If Guatemala is just one stop on your trip then I recommend taking a read of this to reassure you about solo travel in Central America.
Transport and tours in Guatemala can come with risks. The only company I recommend for booking transport and tours in Guatemala (other than the individuals and companies I have named) is GuateGo. They are a Guatemala owned company who have painstakingly brought together all of the transport and tour options in one easy to use website. You can book transport in Guatemala with them here and Guatemalan tours with them here.
Planning a Trip to Guatemala? You might be interested in these articles:
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