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Travel Brief: Updates on Guatemala Travel

photo of Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Guatemala is located in Central America, bordering the North Pacific Ocean, between El Salvador and Mexico, and bordering the Gulf of Honduras (Caribbean Sea) between Honduras and Belize.

As of January 19, 2017, the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has issued the following travel advice regarding traveling to Guatemala: “Six tourists died of exposure on Acetanango volcano in January 2017; Entry requirements section – if you overstay your visa then you should expect to pay a fine before leaving the country; this can only be paid at the Migration Directorate in Guatemala City; if you’re travelling via the United States of America on an ETD (Emergency travel document), you’ll need to get a US visa.”

Both the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the U.S. Department of State consider that Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America. The U.S. Department of State issued the following information on safety and security issues in Guatemala.

The threat of violent crime in Guatemala is rated by the U.S. Department of State as “critical.” The Embassy has no reason to believe that U.S. citizens are being specifically targeted, although criminals in Guatemala may assume that U.S. citizens and their relatives have more money than average Guatemalans.

The number of violent crimes reported by U.S. citizens and other foreigners has remained high and such crimes have occurred even in areas of Guatemala City once considered safe, such as Zones 10, 14, 15, and 16. Due to large scale drug and alien smuggling, the Guatemalan border with Mexico (and in particular the northwestern corner of Petén) is a high-risk area. The border areas including the Sierra de Lacandon and Laguna del Tigre National Parks are among the most dangerous areas in Guatemala. The U.S. Embassy takes extra precautions when U.S. government personnel travel to the region. Reports of sexual assault remain high. Women should be especially careful when traveling alone and avoid staying out late without an escort. Support for victims of sexual assault is lacking outside of major cities, and there are not enough trained personnel who can help victims either in the capital or outlying areas. Theft, armed robbery, and carjacking are the most common crimes against U.S. citizens who visit Guatemala. To decrease the likelihood of becoming a victim, do not display items of value such as laptops, iPods, iPads, cameras, or jewelry and refrain from using a cell phone on the street. Carry a photocopy of your passport when out and about to avoid losing it during a robbery. A number of travelers have experienced carjacking and armed robberies as they drive away from the airport after arriving on international flights. Victims have been killed when they resisted an attack or refused to give up their money or other valuables. Pickpockets and purse-snatchers are prevalent in major cities and tourist sites, especially the central market and other parts of Zone 1 in Guatemala City. For security reasons, the Embassy does not recommend U.S. government employees stay in hotels in Zone 1 and urges private travelers to avoid staying in this area. In a common scenario, an accomplice distracts the victim while an assailant slashes or simply steals a bag or backpack. The Embassy advises tourists and residents to be very vigilant of their surroundings and report any crime incidents promptly to the police. We strongly encourage you not to use public ATMs.

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