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Safety in Guatemala
Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America. Take care in all parts of the country, including Guatemala City. You should carry personal ID when travelling (certified copies are fine).
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Guatemala. Usually you get a 90 day tourist visa.
American, EU and British passport holders enter for free and can stay for up to 90 days. Guatemala is a part of the CA-4 agreement, however, so that entry gives you a total of 90s in the four countries of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. Other nationalities can check the visa requirements here.
If you wish to extend your visa, you must submit an application to the Migration Directorate in Guatemala City.
Safety tips from travel blogger Shannon
Guatemala is one of the least safe areas of Central America, mostly because of the drug routes northward. Importantly, however, this violence is not targeted at tourists — it’s for this reason that most western governments haven’t issued the highest alerts. That being said, it’s significantly safer than nearby Honduras and El Salvador. Like many places in the region, night travel has higher risk factors. Exercise caution and stay on the tourist route. You would have to be in the wrong place at the wrong time to experience more than petty crime. Anything can happen on the road. I am a firm advocate of travel insurance; here are my tips to pick a good travel insurance.
Car-jacking and armed hold-ups are common on the main road ‘Carretera Salvador’ leading from Guatemala City to the border with El Salvador. The crossroads at Fraijanes, San Jose Pinula and Las Luces are also focal points for express kidnappings. Take care around ATM machines, petrol station forecourts, the airport, bus stations and shopping centres.
Be wary of bogus police officers. There have been reports of visitors becoming victims of theft, extortion or sexual assault by people dressed in police uniforms.
Pay particular attention to your security in the border areas with Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize. It is often better to cross borders in the morning as they often close in the early evening and you will have time to reach your destination before dark.
When crossing into Guatemala by land border, there have been numerous reports of customs/immigration officials charging an “entry fee”. This is illegal.
For security reasons you should avoid travel on public buses (repainted US school buses). There has been an increase in armed attacks by local gangs on bus drivers and conductors, often resulting in serious injury or death.
It is generally safer to travel on main roads. There is a greater risk of attack on quieter routes. Travel in convoy if possible. In more isolated locations, roads are unpaved and you may need a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Don’t take photographs without permission, especially of children. There have been lynchings related to accusations and fears of child kidnapping for adoption or theft of vital organs.