Guatemala 2015 Crime and Safety Report
Travel Health and Safety; Transportation Security; Stolen items; Theft; Cargo Security; Financial Security; Assault; Carjacking; Rape/Sexual Violence; Kidnapping; Murder; Drug Trafficking; Extortion; Burglary; Human Trafficking; Riots/Civil Unrest; Earthquakes; Volcanoes; Floods; Landslides and mudslides; Employee Health Safety; Intellectual Property Rights Infringement; Counterfeiting; Fraud
Western Hemisphere > Guatemala; Western Hemisphere > Guatemala > Guatemala City
Overall Crime and Safety Situation
Crime Rating: Critical
Theft and armed robbery are the most common problems encountered by American citizens. No area, including the upscale shopping, tourist, and residential areas of zones 10, 14, 15, and 16 in Guatemala City, is immune to daytime assaults. Pickpockets and purse snatchers are active in all major cities and tourist sites, especially the central market and other parts of Zone 1 in Guatemala City. Pickpockets and purse snatchers are prevalent in major cities and tourist sites. There have been numerous reported incidents of bank patrons being robbed outside banks after withdrawing large sums of money, suggesting possible complicity of bank personnel. Vehicle thefts continue to be a serious problem. Cargo and transportation theft is a major problem. Particularly attractive are trucks carrying shipments of electronics or gasoline. Theft of items from occupied vehicles is becoming more common. A particularly troubling trend is the use of motorcycles for armed robbery. Typically, two men on a motorcycle accost the driver of a car and demand the driver’s cell phone. In some cases, the vehicle occupants were visibly using their cell phones or other handheld devices prior to the theft. In some cases, armed robberies have turned violent. The assailants are able to flee the scene quickly. Some police members have been involved in criminal activities. There have also been several recent incidents where individuals dressed in police uniforms have been implicated in robberies.
Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Central America. Violent crime is a serious concern due to endemic poverty, an abundance of weapons, a legacy of societal violence, and weak law enforcement and judicial systems. The number of violent crimes reported by U.S. citizens and other foreigners has remained high, and incidents have included, but are not limited to, assault, theft, armed robbery, carjacking, rape, sexual assault, kidnapping, and murder, even in areas of Guatemala City once considered safe, such as Zones 10, 14, and 15. Statistics provided by the Policia Nacional Civil (PNC) are the ones most commonly used by the government and international organizations for reporting purposes.
Narco-trafficking and transnational organized crime groups and gangs pose a real, dangerous threat to local, regional, and international interests.
Extortion calls are commonplace, and many times originate within prisons. In recent years, the number of extortions has risen dramatically. In most cases, changing the phone number and not responding to the threats will resolve the matter. However, cases involving gang members must be taken seriously, as they will not hesitate to back up their threats with violence.
The government continues to report a drop in the homicide rate from a peak of 6,498 in 2009 to 4,998 in 2014. However, Guatemala’s homicide rate is one of the highest in the Western Hemisphere. In 2014, Guatemala reported an average of 96 murders per week. Guatemala’s worrisome murder rate appears driven by four key factors: narco-trafficking activity, gang-related violence, a heavily-armed population (upwards of 60 percent possess a firearm) and a police/judicial system that remains either unable/unwilling/both to hold many criminals accountable. Well-armed criminals know there is little chance they will be caught or punished. While the vast majority of murder incidents does not involve foreigners, the sheer volume means that local officials, who are often inexperienced and underpaid, are unable to cope.
The PNC does not count homicides if the victim left the crime scene alive and subsequently died from injuries. INACIF (Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Forenses de Guatemala), the government agency responsible for tracking all deaths in country, shows homicide rates 8-16 percent higher than PNC homicide rates between 2009 and 2013. In 2014, that difference increased to 21 percent, with INACIF reporting 6,072 deaths compared to PNC’s 4,998.
From 2009 to 2013, the number of missing persons cases reported to the government increased 207 percent. While migration could account for some of that increase, it is unlikely that family and friends would undergo the cumbersome process of filing a denuncia (complaint) if they knew or suspected the persons had disappeared voluntarily. The U.S. Embassy is aware of the disappearances of several U.S. citizens, the cases for all of whom remain unsolved.
Home invasions by armed groups occur in upscale neighborhoods. Thieves gain access by enticing a resident to open the door for a delivery or rushing in when family or staff open the door. While residential crime rates increased by 24 percent during 2012, the rate decreased by four percent during 2013 and by 16 percent in 2014.
According to government crime statistics, sexual assault numbers increased from 120 in 2009 to 614 in 2014. In most known cases, women traveling/driving alone were targeted specifically.
The Embassy has no reason to believe that U.S. citizens are being targeted specifically, other than the suspicion that U.S. citizens and their relatives have more money than average Guatemalans. Longer-term residents and dual nationals are more likely to become victims of serious crimes, as they tend to be integrated into local society and may not reside in the safest areas. Tourists seem to be largely shielded from the worst of the violence, instead succumbing principally to pickpockets and purse snatchers. That said, U.S. tourists have been victims of rapes, sexual/physical assaults, and murder.
In the past several years, citizens' frustration with crime has led to violent incidents of vigilantism, including stoning, lynching, and immolation, especially in isolated rural areas. Guatemala has many different and firmly-held local beliefs and customs. Particularly in small villages, residents are often wary and suspicious of outsiders. Guatemalan citizens have been lynched for suspicion of child abduction.
Areas of Concern
Widespread narcotics and alien-smuggling activities make remote areas especially dangerous because criminals look for any opportunity to strike. Due to uncontrolled drug and alien smuggling, the 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 due to drug trafficking activity. The U.S. Embassy takes extra precautions when U.S. government personnel travel to the region.
Violent attacks have occurred in the Mayan ruins in Petén, including in the Cerro Cahui Conservation Park, Yaxhá, the road to and inside Tikal Park, and in the Tikal ruins, particularly during sunrise tours. However, tourist police (DISETUR) patrols have significantly reduced the incidence of violent crime inside the park, and there have been no reports of armed assaults on tourists there in the past two years. Travelers should remain in groups, stay on the principal trails leading to the Central Plaza and the Temple IV complex, and avoid remote areas of the park.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Overall Road Safety Assessment: Fair
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Fair
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Fair to poor
Availability of roadside/ambulance assistance: Fair
U.S. citizens will encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. Many city streets are illuminated, but secondary and rural roads have little to none. Passing blindly on winding and/or steep mountain roads, poorly designed surfaces, and unmarked hazards, including landslides and precarious temporary highway repairs, present risks to motorists. Winding/steep mountain roads, poorly designed surfaces, randomly placed speed bumps, and unmarked hazards present additional risks to motorists.
Driving demands one's full attention, requiring that drivers be defensive, as traffic rules are only casually observed. Speed limits, lane markings, and stop signs are frequently ignored. Many drivers do not use their turn signals. Instead, a common custom is for a driver or passenger to stick a hand out the window and wave it to indicate that they will be taking an unspecified action. Drivers often drive at the absolute maximum speed their vehicle can handle. These drivers share the road with slow vehicles, some barely able to manage 20 miles per hour, creating a hazardous mix of velocities. Further, cars and trucks are often stalled or parked in the middle of the road. Tree branches are sometimes placed in the road 100 meters or so before the stalled vehicle to warn approaching traffic of a hazard. Drivers are supposed to use the right-hand side of the road, and speed limits are posted depending on the condition of the road. Turning right on red is not permitted unless otherwise posted, and drivers must yield when entering a traffic circle. Seat belts must be worn, but there are no laws regarding the use of child safety seats. It is against the law for drivers to operate cellular phones while driving, although this is not widely enforced. People found driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs are arrested and may serve jail time.
While driving in or near large cities, be vigilant of pedestrians who dart across roads, even in heavy traffic, due to the lack of cross walks.
Driving outside of urban areas at night is dangerous and not recommended. Do not travel after dark outside of Guatemala City. Intercity travel after dark is extremely dangerous and should be avoided altogether. It is highly recommended to caravan with at least two cars when traveling outside of Guatemala City. The Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and the road from Guatemala City to the Caribbean coast (CA-9) are especially dangerous due to heavy traffic, including large trucks and trailers, and poorly maintained vehicles that oftentimes lack properly functioning lights. The main road to Lake Atitlán via the Inter-American Highway (CA-1) and Sololá is safer than the alternative secondary roads near the lake. Specifically, the main road is preferable to the alternative road through Las Trampas and Godinez to Panajachel (RN-11) where robbery, rape, and assault are known to have occurred. Armed attacks have occurred on roads between Guatemala City and Petén, as well as between Tikal and the Belize border.
Minor traffic incidents can escalate quickly to violence when one or both parties are carrying firearms. All drivers involved in accidents resulting in injury may be detained and held in protective custody pending investigation. In several instances, police officers have been posted outside hospital rooms of drivers who were injured, and they were not allowed to depart the country without judicial intervention. Such cases require the assistance of private local attorneys. Lethal head-on collisions are common.
There are no roadside assistance clubs; however, a roadside assistance force (PROVIAL) patrols most of the major highways. PROVIAL can be contacted by calling 1520. Their vehicles are equipped with basic tools and first aid supplies, and their services are free. Police patrol the major roadways and may assist travelers, but the patrols are sporadic and may be suspended due to budget constraints. For roadside assistance, travelers may call the police by dialing 110 or 120 or the fire department by dialing 122 or 123. Cellular telephone service covers most areas frequented by tourists. Some reports of highway robberies include accusations that police, or assailants dressed as police, have been involved. A few have included sexual assaults of victims.
Leaving cars unattended in parking lots can also invite break-ins despite of the presence of armed guards, who oftentimes will not intervene.
In May 2009, a new law mandated that the motorcycle license plate number must be printed on a sticker on the back of the motorcycle driver's helmet. This law was used effectively in Colombia in the late 1990s. However, criminals in Guatemala have adapted tactics to include two men on two or more motorcycles. In 2013, the government modified the law requiring motorcycle riders to wear orange vests and display the license plate numbers on those vests. The modified law also requires motorcycle riders to drive on the right-hand side of the road only. However, enforcement has lagged.
Emboldened armed robbers have attacked vehicles on main roads in broad daylight. Travel on rural roads increases the risk of being stopped by a criminal roadblock or ambush.
Drivers should lock their doors; leave their windows rolled up, and leave at least half a car length of space after the car in front of them to maneuver. If a driver has to pull over on the highway, they should do it in a well-illuminated area with high visibility or a public place (preferably within view of a police officer). It is also highly recommended that if individuals are driving, that they use a car with slightly tinted windows and not talk on their cell phones.
Public Transportation Conditions
Safety of public transportation: Poor
Common public transportation is by local brightly-painted recycled U.S. school buses, which serve almost every town. Criminal activity and frequent fatal accidents make these low-priced buses particularly dangerous. Buses are generally poorly operated/maintained. Modern inter-city buses offer some security from highway violence, but armed attacks are increasing, indicating that all buses are vulnerable. Several travelers have been attacked on first-class buses on highway CA-2 near the border areas with both Mexico and El Salvador, and on highways CA-1 and CA-9 near the border with El Salvador, and in the highlands between Quetzaltenango and Sololá. Travelers need to exercise caution with personal items such as backpacks, fanny packs, and passports while riding buses, as tourists’ possessions are a favorite target of thieves.
Taxi Seguro can be reached at 2312-4243 but may not always be available, especially late at night. Taxi Amarillo Express is a radio-dispatch taxi service and can be reached by dialing 1766. Hailing taxis on the street in Guatemala City is discouraged.
The Guatemalan tourist assistance agency, PROATUR, may be able to provide additional information, and can be reached by dialing 1500.
A number of travelers have experienced armed robberies after having arrived on international flights, most frequently in the evening. In the most common scenario, travelers who land after dark are held up by armed men as their vehicle departs the airport, but similar incidents have occurred throughout the day. Private vehicles, taxis, and shuttle buses have all been targeted. Typically, assailants steal money, passports, and luggage and, in some cases, the vehicle. And in some cases, travelers who flagged a taxi outside of the airport have been robbed of their possessions by the drivers. It is recommended that travel arrangements to and from the airport be made ahead of time. In other cases, assailants have worn full/partial police uniforms and have used vehicles that resemble police vehicles, indicating that some elements of the police might be involved. Armed robberies have occurred within minutes of a tourist’s vehicle having been stopped by the police. Recently, many of these attacks have taken place far from the airport, as travelers were arriving at their homes or in less busy areas of the city.
Visitors to the Mayan ruins at Tikal are urged to fly to Flores and then travel by shuttle or tour van.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
Political Violence Rating: Medium
Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns
There are no known terrorist organizations in Guatemala.
Terrorism Rating: Low
Large demonstrations occur, often with little/no notice, and can cause serious traffic disruptions. Although most demonstrations are peaceful, they can turn violent. The use of roadblocks and/or blocking of public facilities, including the international airport, may delay or prevent tourists from reaching their destination.
Guatemala is a geologically-active country. Visitors should be aware of the possibility of earthquakes and the need for contingency plans. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available locally from the National Disaster Reduction Coordination Office (CONRED) and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Guatemala has four very active volcanoes: Pacaya, Santiaguito, Fuego, and Tecuamburro, whose activity has forced evacuations of nearby villages throughout the years. In early February 2015, increased activity at Fuego caused avalanches and shock waves that rattled nearby structures. On February 7, a Strombolian eruption occurred, causing plumes with water vapor and ash to rise 1.3km in the sky. Ash fell in Guatemala City (about 35km from Fuego), and flights to the international airport had to be diverted to El Salvador. In August 2013, Pacaya registered increased activity, and it was necessary to evacuate 32 people from a nearby village. After field assessments, no personal or material damages were reported. During 2013, Fuego, Pacaya, and Santiguito volcanos periodically displayed increased volcanic activity that included lava flow and ash dispersions. The May 2010 eruption of Pacaya briefly closed Guatemala City's international airport. Tourists planning to climb Pacaya and Agua volcanoes during the rainy season should plan their climb for the morning when thunderstorms are less likely to occur. Climbers should monitor the weather and return to the base of the volcano as quickly and safely as possible if thunderstorms gather. INGUAT has organized an active community-based tourism program in San Vicente Pacaya to minimize the risk of armed robbery on Pacaya. Climbing volcanoes in groups and with a guide is still highly advisable to reduce the risk of assault.
Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts are vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms from mid-May through November. Mudslides and flooding during the rainy season often kill dozens of people and close roads. Please consult CONRED for updates on natural disasters or tropical storms and hurricanes.
Beware of strong currents, riptides, and undertow along the Pacific coast beaches. They pose a serious threat to even the strongest swimmers. In 2012, two U.S. citizens drowned in the undertow, and one U.S. citizen drowned each year in the same area in 2013 and in 2014. At least one of these U.S. citizens was an experienced surfer with strong swimming skills. Signs warning of treacherous surf are rare and confined mostly to private beaches. Lifeguards are rarely present. For specific information regarding current conditions, visit Guatemala's national weather and geographical authority at: http://www.insivumeh.gob.gt/.
FEMA Earthquake page: http://www.fema.gov/earthquake
Drop Cover Hold On: http://www.dropcoverholdon.org/
Terremotos: A California-specific site containing useful guidance in Spanish for earthquake preparedness: http://www.terremotos.org/
Red Cross – Earthquake Preparedness: http://www.redcross.org/prepare/disaster/earthquake
Red Cross – Earthquake Preparedness (Spanish): http://www.redcross.org/cruz-roja/preparate/terremotos
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
The capacity of the government to respond to chemical/industrial accidents is extremely limited, and small incidents typically go unreported. The government is also very limited in its technical ability to monitor watershed runoff or air pollution from industrial processes, the most controversial being mining.
Economic Espionage/Intellectual Property Thefts
The U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement provides for improved standards for the protection and enforcement of a broad range of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) that are consistent with U.S. standards of protection and enforcement as well as emerging international standards. Enforcement of IPR laws, however, has been inconsistent. A number of raids, cases, and prosecutions have been pursued; however, resource constraints and lack of coordinated government action impede efficient enforcement efforts. Piracy of works protected by copyright and infringement of other forms of intellectual property, such as trademarks including those of some major U.S. food and pharmaceutical brands, remains problematic. However, economic espionage does not appear to be a major problem.
Narcotics-related crimes certainly factor into the precarious security environment, but polls have shown that average Guatemalans are more concerned about general criminal violence, which is also what most directly affects U.S. citizens. Certain neighborhoods of Guatemala City are essentially controlled by criminal gangs who have walled off their territories with concrete barriers and whose permission is required to enter. In spite of regional initiatives to combat drug trafficking and gangs, they continue to be a concern in Guatemala City and rural areas, though they have a far greater impact on Guatemalans than on foreigners. Narco-traffickers and gang members are very well armed. Emboldened armed robbers have attacked vehicles on main roads in broad daylight. Travel on rural roads increases the risk of a criminal roadblock or ambush.
Safe storage of seized drug precursor chemicals is a challenge. The capacity to transport, treat, store, or dispose of these chemicals safely does not exist within the government, though the government has tried to develop expertise, albeit with slow progress. The Department of State is funding an Organization of American States (OAS) initiative to provide training and equipment to the government to address the safe storage, handling, and destruction of precursor chemicals.
Kidnapping gangs, often connected to narcotraffickers, are a concern in both Guatemala City and rural Guatemala. Gang members are often well armed with sophisticated weaponry, and they sometimes use massive amounts of force to extort, kidnap, and kill. There have been “express” kidnappings in recent years, primarily in Guatemala City, in which kidnappers demand a relatively small ransom that they believe can be gathered quickly. Some kidnapping gangs are known to kill their victims regardless of a paid ransom.
Indigenous activists have taken foreign tourists hostage in the Rio Dulce and Livingston area. Although all hostages have been released unharmed, tensions between indigenous activists and authorities remain. In January 2012, a group of National Geographic explorers, including U.S. citizens, were detained in Quiché department by local residents when they jumped into a pond considered sacred in the Mayan tradition. The incident serves as a warning to be mindful of local traditional practices when visiting indigenous Mayan communities.
The Policia Nacional Civil (PNC) lacks personnel and training to accomplish their mission. In addition, the PNC suffers from a lack of logistical supplies (vehicles, fuel, ammunition, etc.) with little improvement from year-to-year. More often than not a police investigation fails to result in an arrest, much less a conviction. Apart from impunity, a principal reason that the government is unable to respond to the needs of crime victims, or to prevent them from becoming victims in the first place, is that the PNC is significantly under-trained and under-funded. The average PNC officer should have at least a high school degree but often times has much less, is often equipped with as little as six months of police training before being sent out on the streets, and receives only $535 per month as salary. Moreover, the PNC’s annual budget is nowhere near adequate to support its personnel, vehicles, training, and other infrastructure needs.
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
U.S. citizens detained by the police can contact the Embassy for assistance at (502) 2326-4000; after working hours the Embassy's Duty Officer is available via the 24-hour emergency number at (502) 2331 2354.
Crime Victim Assistance
Crime victims are often asked to pay for gas so that the police, if they have a vehicle available to them, may visit the crime scene. Victims of crime should contact the following phone numbers for assistance:
Police (911 equivalent): 110 or 120
Fire Department: 122 or 123
Tourist emergency assistance: 502 2421-2810
Tourist Assistance (PROATUR): 1500
PROATUR is a joint national police/INGUAT initiative and is present in all major tourist destinations.
Security escorts for tourist groups and security information are available from the Tourist Assistance Office (PROATUR) of INGUAT (the Guatemalan Tourism Institute) at 7a Avenida 1-17, Zona 4, Centro Cívico, Guatemala City. INGUAT’s PROATUR division has 24-hour/seven days per week direct telephone numbers for tourist assistance and emergencies (Tel: (502) 2421-2810, Fax: (502) 2421-2891, 1500 in Guatemala, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org). PROATUR also maintains regional offices in all major domestic tourist destinations, and the regional delegates provide rapid and appropriate assistance to crime and accident victims. Travelers may also wish to visit INGUAT’s website at: http://www.inguat.gob.gt/ (Spanish only).
Tourist groups are advised to request security escorts from INGUAT. There have been no incidents of armed robbery of groups escorted through the Tourist Protection Program. The request should be submitted by mail, fax, or e-mail (email@example.com) and should arrive at INGUAT at least three business days in advance of the proposed travel. Requests should be directed to the attention of the Coordinator of the National Tourist Assistance Program and should provide the itinerary, names of travelers, and model/color of vehicle. Travelers should be aware that INGUAT might not be able to accommodate all requests.
A wide range of medical care is available in Guatemala City, but medical care outside the city is limited. Public hospitals frequently experience serious shortages of basic medicines and equipment. Care in private hospitals is generally adequate for most common illnesses and injuries, and many of the medical specialists working in them are U.S.-trained and -certified.
Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, although most private hospitals accept major U.S. credit cards. They do not typically enter into payment plan agreements. Travelers should be aware that they may have to pay in advance and seek reimbursement.
After Hours: 502-2327-7100
Description: EMT and paramedic on board at all times. All ambulances are fully equipped to respond to cardiac, respiratory, and trauma events. Typical response time can vary from 5-15 minutes, and all vehicles can access any private and/or public hospital.
Asistencia Medica, S.A.
Description: EMT on board at all times. Paramedic on board if requested. All ambulances equipped to respond to cardiac, respiratory, and trauma emergencies. Typical response time has been reported to be a minimum of 15 minutes. All vehicles have access to all public and private hospitals.
Description: EMT and paramedic on board at all times. All medical providers are trained in Guatemala. Ambulances can provide intensive care quality transportation with equipment including continuous cardiac monitor, oxygen, infusion pump, incubator, and other medical supplies. Typical response time varies from 7-10 minutes, and all vehicles can access all private and public hospitals.
Contact Information for Recommended Hospitals/Clinics
Neither the Embassy nor the Department of State can assume any responsibility for the accuracy of any of the data provided, the integrity, or the professional ability of any of the hospitals listed (source: U.S. Embassy Guatemala Consular Website).
Private Hospitals in Guatemala City Area
Hospital de las Americas
10a. Calle 2-31, Zona 14
Phone: 2384-3535 Fax: 2384-3535 Ext. 1028
Hospital Herrera Llerandi
6a. Avenida 8-71, Zona 10
Phone: 2384-5959 Emergency: 2334-5955
Cedros del Libano
8a. Avenida 2-48, Zona 1
Phone: 2230-6274/6/8, 2220-1356/2230-6274
6a. Avenida 3-47, Zona 10
Phone: 2279-4949 Fax: 2331-7533
Public Hospitals in Guatemala City Area
Hospital Universitario Esperanza
6a. Avenida 7-49, Zona 10
Phone: 2362-8626 Fax: 2362-8657
Private foundation, affiliated with Francisco Marroquin University School of Medicine
Hospital General San Juan de Dios
1a. Avenida 10-50, Zona 1
Phone: 2321-9191 / 2253-0423
Affiliated with University San Carlos School of Medicine IGSS
Instituto Guatemalteco de Seguridad Social
9a. Calle 7-55, Zona 9
Phone: 2332-1009, 2332-4031, 2332-1278, 2332-3252, 2332-1312, 2332-0063.
Use of IGSS services requires registration
Nuestra Senora del Pilar
3a. Calle 10-71, Zona 15
Colonia Tecún Umán
Private, run by Asociacion Española de Beneficiencia by nuns of the Anunciata.
Calzada Roosevelt, Zona 11
Affiliated with University San Carlos School of Medicine
Hospital General de Accidentes - IGSS
13 Avenida 1-51 Col. Monte Real, Zona 4, Mixco
Membership required to use services
Recommended Air Ambulance Services
American Aerovac Air Ambulance
P.O. Box 291033 Davie, FL 333329-1033
Air Ambulance Network
3607 Alt 19 N., Suite A, Palm Harbor, FL 34683
Aerotaxis Air Ambulance Service
Direct: 502-5709-7922, 502-2331-3073 or 502-2360-4074
Avenida Hincapie y 18 Calle, Zona 13, Interior Aeropuerto, Hangar J-12
Aero Ruta Maya, S.A. Air Ambulance Service
Avenida Hincapie y 18 Calle Final, Hangar L-16, Interior Aeropuerto La Aurora, Zona 13.
Recommended Insurance Posture
There are some aerial medevac services; however these services are extremely expensive and frequently require payment before the service is rendered. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can be costly. It is very important to find out BEFORE you travel whether your medical insurance will cover you overseas.
CDC Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/guatemala.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Tips on How to Avoid Becoming a Victim
In mid-2012, the U.S. Embassy received several dozen reports of cases in which people in the U.S. received calls allegedly from young relatives traveling in Guatemala and in urgent need of financial assistance. The scam victims collectively sent thousands of dollars before this trend diminished in August.
In another popular scam, robbers place a nail in a parked vehicle’s tire. Robbers who pose as “good Samaritans” then follow the vehicle until the tire becomes flat and the victims pull over. While “help” is being rendered, the contents of the car are stolen, often without the victim’s knowledge. However, in some cases, the robbers have threatened tourists with weapons. Parking areas in and around the Guatemala City International Airport are particularly prone to this crime.
In another scam, victims are approached in a hotel, restaurant, or other public place by an individual who claims that there is some sort of problem with his or the would-be victim’s automobile in the parking lot. On the way to investigate the “problem,” usually in a remote or concealed area near the parking lot, the robber pulls a gun on the victim and demands cash, credit cards, and other valuables.
Situational Awareness Best Practices
Ensure that someone not traveling with you is aware of your itinerary. Coordinate arrival times with those picking up passengers, minimize time spent standing outside in the airport passenger pick-up area, and do not walk out of the airport with valuables in plain sight. Carry laptops inconspicuously in a backpack or other carry-on luggage. Avoid using electronic devices in traffic or leaving purses on seats in plain sight.
Travelers should be aware of their surroundings and watch for suspicious activity. In a common scenario, an accomplice distracts the victim while an assailant slashes or simply steals a bag or backpack. In 2014, U.S. citizens have increasingly reported to the Embassy information about armed robberies in Antigua, mostly at night but with some occurring in plain daylight, targeting pedestrians on less frequented roads. The Embassy advises tourists and residents to be very vigilant of their surroundings and report any crime incidents promptly to the police.
Tourists should carry money in a front pocket or put it in a zippered/buttoned back pocket. They should not display money, jewelry, a cell phone or other perceived valuables, and never leave a backpack or fanny pack unattended. Do not display items of value (laptops, iPods, cameras, jewelry) and refrain from using a cell phone on the street. Limit the number of credit cards and other high-value items you bring with you. Carry a photocopy of your passport when out. Persons carrying laptop computers and expensive cell phones are often targets for armed robberies. Visitors should avoid using a laptop in a public place. Areas that offer wi-fi computer services have been targeted. Several individuals have been killed and their laptops taken upon departure from these establishments after they were seen using their computers in public. Avoid carrying laptop cases or anything that resembles one, even if they do not contain laptops.
Avoid carrying large sums of money. There have been a number of incidents in which foreigners have been robbed immediately after making a large withdrawal from local banks. Complicity by bank employees is strongly suspected. There have also been incidents where persons are targeted for robbery after using ATMs.
Women should be especially careful when traveling alone and avoid staying out late by themselves. 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. Arrest and prosecution of assailants in sexual assault cases is uncommon at best and can be more difficult without private legal assistance.
Do not resist if you are being robbed. Victims have been killed when they resisted or refused to give up their money or other valuables. Assailants are often armed with guns and do not hesitate to use them if you resist.
Use a reputable tour organization. Stay in groups and stay on the main roads. It is preferable to stay in the main tourist destinations.
Avoid hotels that do not have adequate security. Visitors should never give out their hotel key or tell strangers what hotel they are staying in. They should lock their valuables in the hotel safety deposit box; watch for suspicious activity as they enter the hotel and their room. Travelers should make sure to lock the door and do not open it for unknown people.
Travelers should be aware that basic safety precautions commonly required in the United States for swimming, boating, and other outdoor activities may not be observed. Multiple boaters in the Rio Dulce area of the Department of Izabal have been victimized in violent armed attacks.
Travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. It is wise to avoid any public gathering of agitated citizens; persons attempting to intervene have been attacked by mobs. Keep informed of possible demonstrations by following the local news and consulting hotel personnel and tour guides. Confer with trusted local staff or associates, or check the mass media, before venturing out on trips within the country.
The Embassy recommends that U.S. citizens keep their distance from local children and refrain from actions that could fuel suspicions of child abductions. U.S. citizens are advised to be aware of and avoid activities that might unintentionally violate a cultural or religious belief. Avoid close contact with local children, including taking photographs, especially in rural areas. Such contact can be viewed with deep suspicion and may provoke panic and violence.
U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information
Embassy Address and Hours of Operation
Avenida Reforma 7-01, Zona 10, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala
Business hours: 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Mon-Thu; 8:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Fridays
Embassy Contact Numbers
Emergency after-hours tel: (502)2331-2354
The Consular section is open for citizen services, including registration, from 7:30 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; and 7:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. on Fridays, excluding U.S. and Guatemalan holidays. The third Thursday of every month American Citizen Services is open only for emergency services. In 2015, these dates are: February 19, March 19, April 16, May 21, June 18, July 16, August 20, September 17, October 15, November 19, and December 17.
U.S. citizens living in or visiting Guatemala are encouraged to register at the consular section of the U.S. Embassy Guatemala City and obtain updated information on travel and security in Guatemala. U.S. citizens may also want to register online through the State Department at www.state.travel.gov. If you are going to live in or visit Guatemala, please take the time to tell the Embassy about your trip. Enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, STEP (https://travelregistration.state.gov/) will keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements and will help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. The Embassy home page lists reported crimes against U.S. citizens and other foreigners. Also, bookmark the Bureau of Consular Affairs website, which contains the current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Worldwide Cautions. Follow us on Twitter and the Bureau of Consular Affairs page on Facebook. Call 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or a regular toll line, 1-202-501-4444, from other countries.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is an active OSAC Country Council that meets monthly at the American Chamber of Commerce's office in Guatemala City. Typically, OSAC will meet for an annual Regional Security Conference in Antigua Guatemala every spring. Please e-mail the Council at OSAC_Guatemala@state.gov or call at 502-2326-4281. To reach OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team, please email OSACWHA@state.gov.