Guatemala is today an ideal destination for travelers who love to holiday amidst the wonders of nature. Celebrities and other travel enthusiasts prefer to visit this Central American nation known for its rich history and luxurious beach vacations. However, many governments, including the US authorities, have issued travel advisories to their citizens, warning them to be cautious in Guatemala. The American government has issued a level 3 (reconsider travel) advisory against traveling to Guatemala. Read on to know about what makes the Central American country risky for international travelers.
Guatemala has undergone years of colonization. The country has a developing economy, and unemployment rates are high. This has paved the way for frequent crimes, including theft, robbery, extortion, and drug peddling. Local law enforcement agencies do not have the resources to effectively respond to the increasing crime rate. This makes Guatemala a risky place to visit.
International travelers are advised to be cautious and seek help from the embassy of their home country. Inform the embassy authorities about the trip and its details in advance. Keep the embassy contact number saved in their phones. It can come in handy during emergency situations. Note that visitors need to be careful and alert even in tourist hotspots like beaches on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, Lake Atitlan, Antigua, and Tikal.
Tourism is one of the major industries in Guatemala, along with textiles, coffee, and petroleum. The country’s tourism industry has estimated to have generated close to 300 million US dollars in 2020. This is expected to increase multiple times in the coming year. Close to 595,000 foreign tourists visited the country in the same year. Guatemala ranks 153rd in the world in foreign tourist arrival.
However, the country’s tourism industry is not regulated efficiently. Safety inspections and rules are inadequate, and facilities for tourists are also not so great. This may create several challenges for a foreign visitor to the country. Guatemala has many programs like PROATUR to help foreign tourists in need. They can also seek help from their home country’s consular mission in Guatemala.
Read on to know more about them.
The American government has issued a level 3 (reconsider travel) advisory to its citizens against traveling to Guatemala. Notwithstanding this warning, many Americans visit the country every year. The advisory asks citizens of the US to reconsider traveling to Guatemala due to high rates of crimes like theft and robbery.
The country is also known for frequent demonstrations and arrests. The US government has warned its citizens against traveling to many places, including tourist destinations like Lake Atitlan and Antigua. The advisory requests Americans to use only certified tourist guides and charted boats while visiting Lake Atitlan.
Americans are encouraged to take help from local guides while hiking as criminals are known to target foreign tourists on the trails. Help may reach late in case of untoward incidents.
American citizens are also advised to take commutation provided by the resorts or hotels, and that too during the day. They are warned against swimming in the Pacific Ocean, leaving drinks unattended in bars, accepting strangers’ invitations, and using public ATMs. They are told to be alert and ask for security guards if needed. The US government has also issued a level 4 (Do not travel) travel advisory to places in Guatemala, including Huehuetenango and Villa Nueva. Foreign tourists are warned against using public transport in Guatemala. Many travelers have experienced carjacking and armed robberies while traveling on a bus.
PROATUR and INGUAT are tourist assistance agencies in Guatemala, and they can be reached at 1500. They will arrange transport for tourists if necessary. Hailing a taxi on the road and boarding a bus are discouraged by the Guatemalan government. International travelers can seek help from PROATUR to arrange commutation, among other things.
Foreign tourist groups can also get security escorts while they are in Guatemala. They can reach out to INGUAT to get help in arranging certified security guards. They will travel with the visitors and, at times, work as travel guides.
Tourists are responsible for their safety, and they need to take adequate precautions for a fulfilling trip. They have to always keep their passports and other documents in order and have them easily accessible. They will come in handy during police checks. A passport identifies a person as a subject of a sovereign nation. Police or other agencies can contact the embassy of that nation in case of emergencies. It is also good to take photocopies of their travel documents and passports. Deposit the originals in the safety deposit box in the hotel rooms. Foreign visitors must also follow the rules and regulations attached to the visa and comply with Guatemalan law.
They must keep valuables like laptops and phones close to them or leave them in the hotel rooms while stepping out. This will help avoid unwanted attention. They should carry enough cash for the duration of their stay. Digital transactions may not be possible or may not be accepted in many cities and towns in Guatemala. Exchange currencies only through authorized banks. Avoid doing it through private or unauthorized agencies. They must have the contact numbers and mail addresses of the consular mission of their home country in Guatemala. They should also inform the embassy about their travel and accommodation itineraries in advance. The embassy can advise them about the precautions to be taken while traveling to a particular area.
Travelers must keep a family member or a close friend informed about their travel plans. They should also share their Guatemalan contact details. Foreigners should plan their Guatemalan trips well in advance. Avoid traveling alone. Traveling in groups is always better and safer. Note that all foreign tourists can make use of the services of the National Tourist Assistance Program (PROATUR) of the Guatemalan government.
International travelers who wish to visit Guatemala have to follow the advisories given by their home countries and comply with the Guatemalan visa rules for an unforgettable travel experience.