Traveling Luck for 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.
Land in Guatemala is mostly mountains with narrow coastal plains and rolling limestone plateau.
Guatemalan land covers an area of 108890 square kilometers which is slightly smaller than Tennessee
As for the Guatemalan climate; tropical; hot, humid in lowlands; cooler in highlands.
Guatemalan(s) speak Spanish 60%, Amerindian languages 40% (23 officially recognized Amerindian languages, including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca).
Places of note in Guatemala
- Villa Nueva
- San Juan Sacatepéquez
- Villa Canales
- Santa Catarina Pinula
- Santa Lucía Cotzumalguapa
- Puerto Barrios
- San Francisco El Alto
- San José Pinula
- San Pedro Ayampuc
- San Pedro Sacatepéquez
- Antigua Guatemala
- Santiago Atitlán
Guatemalan National Map
Regions of Guatemala
The Maya civilization flourished in Guatemala and surrounding regions during the first millennium A.D. After almost three centuries as a Spanish colony, Guatemala won its independence in 1821. During the second half of the 20th century, it experienced a variety of military and civilian governments, as well as a 36-year guerrilla war. In 1996, the government signed a peace agreement formally ending the conflict, which had left more than 100,000 people dead and had created some 1 million refugees.
Guatemala is the largest and most populous of the Central American countries with a GDP per capita roughly one-half that of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. The agricultural sector accounts for about one-fourth of GDP, two-thirds of exports, and half of the labor force. Coffee, sugar, and bananas are the main products. The 1996 signing of peace accords, which ended 36 years of civil war, removed a major obstacle to foreign investment, but widespread political violence and corruption scandals continue to dampen investor confidence. The distribution of income remains highly unequal with perhaps 75% of the population below the poverty line. Other ongoing challenges include increasing government revenues, negotiating further assistance from international donors, upgrading both government and private financial operations, curtailing drug trafficking, and narrowing the trade deficit.
Guatemalan natural resources include petroleum, nickel, rare woods, fish, chicle, hydropower
no natural harbors on west coast
Guatemalan religion is Roman Catholic, Protestant, indigenous Mayan beliefs.
Natural hazards in Guatemala include numerous volcanoes in mountains, with occasional violent earthquakes; Caribbean coast extremely susceptible to hurricanes and other tropical storms.
- The main type of incident for which British nationals require consular assistance in Guatemala is for victims of violent crime, such as armed robbery and mugging. You should be on your guard and exercise great caution as violent crime is common throughout Guatemala, and has affected tourists.
- You should avoid travelling on some roads in Guatemala, because of criminal attacks on cars and buses (Please see the Crime and Local Travel sections of this travel advice for more details).
- Tourists are targeted by criminals, especially those arriving at the airport and travelling towards hotels in the business areas of Guatemala City (Zones 9 and 10). You should take great care when leaving the airport vicinity and avoid displaying items of value such as laptops, cameras and mobile phones.
- Armed robbery is becoming more usual in Antigua, Guatemala, and even the main areas of town during daylight hours have seen attacks. You should be on your guard at all times. You should also avoid travelling at night or visiting remote places unaccompanied.
- The threat from terrorism is low. But you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners.
- The rainy season in Guatemala normally runs from June to November, coinciding with the hurricane season in the Caribbean. Please see the Natural Disasters section of this Travel Advice for more information.
- You should carry a photocopy of your personal details page of your passport with you at all times for identification purposes.
- We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. You should check any exclusions, and that your policy covers you for the activities you want to undertake. Please see Travel Insurance.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Violent crime is a major problem throughout Guatemala. Serious attacks on tourists, including murder and rape, have taken place. Armed robbery of tourists and muggings can happen anywhere in the country. It is extremely important not to resist if being robbed. You are advised not to wear jewellery and to carry minimal amounts of cash.
There are 5 to 6 murders a day in Guatemala City and surrounding areas. The majority involve the use of guns. While many are the result of turf wars between gangs or are narcotics related, innocent bystanders have been killed or injured in the shootouts.
You should take particular care in Zone 1 of Guatemala City where many cheap hotels are situated and where many bus routes terminate. Other parts of Guatemala City, including Zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 18 are also dangerous. Take care after dark in all areas of the city.
Visiting businessmen are at less risk if they stay in international class hotels in the capital, in Zone 9, 10 or 13. However, tourists are targeted by criminals, especially those arriving at the airport and travelling towards hotels in the business areas of Guatemala City. The business areas are seeing an increase in crime, with those carrying laptops and mobile phones especially liable to robbery. You are strongly advised to use only metered taxis, preferably those recommended by hotels.
You should be alert at all times, and not travel alone, especially at night. If using public transport, you should try to keep your belongings in view at all times and keep money, credits cards, passport and other important documents on your person. The most common robberies against foreigners occur when they are travelling on buses on the routes with cheaper fares from Guatemala City to Antigua and Antigua to Panajachel. Hold-ups by armed gangs, often accompanied by physical and/or sexual violence, occur frequently on citywide public transport as well as on long-distance routes. There have been attacks on cars and buses (including tourist buses) during daylight hours on well-used, main roads. These attacks have included the rape of female passengers. You should avoid travelling by public bus if you possibly can. You should be aware that UK based members of the British Embassy, their dependants and official British visitors are instructed not to use public buses because of the risk of violent robbery and accidents. Private inter-city coach services are not included in this restriction.
You should be wary of persons presenting themselves as police officers. There have been instances of visitors becoming victims of theft, extortion or sexual assault by persons who may or may not be police officers.
Guatemala Country Profile.
Large demonstrations can occur throughout Guatemala, often with little or no notice. They can cause serious traffic disruptions. Though most are peaceful, some demonstrations in the capital city and at strategic points on the country’s main highways have turned violent. Demonstrations and public meetings are likely to increase in the run up to the September 2007 Presidential elections. You should avoid getting caught up in any of these.
Car and bus-jackings have occurred on roads leading to the main tourist centres. When travelling between Guatemala City and Panajachel you should use the Pan American Highway to Solola, avoiding the Godinez by-pass via Patzun (the turning is located at 63km on the Pan American Highway). The road there is badly maintained and single track for most of the way. Criminals take advantage of these conditions to hold up travellers. You should also avoid using the route between Cocales (Suchitepequez) and San Lucas Toliman (Atitlan) and take particular care on the road between Panajachel and San Lucas Toliman. The road from the El Salvador border to Cuilapa and from the Belize border to El Cruce are major danger spots for bus-jacking. In addition, there have been similar occurrences on the main Pan-American Highway near Solola.
The Guatemala City Council no longer permits inter-urban buses to enter the city centre. Passengers are dropped at various points on the outskirts. You should take this into account when planning your journeys.
There have been armed robberies in daylight on minor roads around Lake Atitlan involving British and other foreign nationals. You should avoid using these roads. There are adequate boat services between the towns and the lakeshore.
There have been cases of armed attacks on tourists at Tikal and on the approach road from Flores to Tikal. You should therefore continue to exercise care in the Tikal area, and at lesser-known sites such as Yaxha.
Violent crime is on the increase in and around Antigua where armed attacks on foreigners, including muggings, car-jackings and sexual assault, have taken place.
You should exercise particular care when travelling in the Belize/Guatemala border area because of the ongoing dispute between the two countries. You are strongly advised to use only the officially recognised border crossings.
You can use your UK Driving License to drive in Guatemala for visits under 3 months. However, you are recommended to hold an International Driving Permit.
Roads between the main tourist locations in Guatemala are of an acceptable standard. In more isolated locations, roads are unpaved and four-wheel drive vehicles are advisable. Driving standards are variable compared with the UK. You should drive carefully and expect the unexpected. Adequate car insurance is essential.
Many public buses are poorly maintained and accidents are common and occasionally fatal.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
You should be aware that local people are often suspicious of foreigners taking photographs, particularly of children. There have been fatal attacks recently when two Guatemalans in Sumpango were suspected of taking away children for adoption. Before approaching children for photos, or even just to talk to them, you should check (or ask your tour guide to check) with an adult that this is acceptable. However, if you are in any doubt, refrain from doing so. You may be asked to pay a small amount of money to take photographs of both children and adults.
Certain sexual acts remain illegal under Guatemalan law. However, most Guatemalans in the capital are tolerant of individual personal lifestyles. A more conservative attitude prevails outside Guatemala City and public displays of affection by same-sex couples are not recommended.
If you would like to clarify any other information on entry requirements, you should contact the Guatemalan Embassy in London on 020 7351 3042.
In June 2006, Guatemala entered the Central America Border Control Agreement (CA-4). Under the terms of this agreement, British tourists may travel within any of the CA-4 countries (Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala) for a period of up to 90 day, without completing entry and exit formalities at border Immigration checkpoints. This period begins at the first point of entry of any of the CA-4 countries. Fines are applied for travellers who exceed this 90-day limit, although a request for an extension can be made for up to 30 days by paying a fee before the 90 days limit expires. If you are expelled from any of the four countries you are also excluded from the entire CA-4 region.
There is a 30 US Dollars (or Quetzal equivalent) airport departure tax which is normally included in the price of the ticket. An additional security tax of US$3 is payable at the airport. For internal flights there is a 5 Quetzal per person travel tax, which is also payable at airline check-in desks.
When crossing into Guatemala by land border, there have been numerous reports of customs/immigration officials charging an "entry fee". This is illegal. By asking for an official receipt for your money you may find that the "fee" is dropped.
Single parents or other adults travelling alone with children should be aware that some countries require documentary evidence of parental responsibility before allowing lone parents to enter the country or, in some cases, before permitting the children to leave the country. For further information on exactly what will be required at Guatemalan immigration, please contact the Guatemalan Embassy in London: Guatemalan Representation in the UK.