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Is it safe to travel alone in Guatemala?


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  • Added on: February 11th, 2010
It's just amazing they don't do something about those highwaymen between Santiago de Atitlan and San Pedro. I was going to walk it cause i thought it would be good exercise and having just gotten out of the Jungle from a 100 mile hike, i thought what the heck, but my hotel owner warned me not to and so i didn't. They should put up some signs, "Bandit's ahead, be prepared to be ;pulled over and relieved of your possessions" so i could have been singing the same song as you had i taken that stroll.


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Location: happily homeless

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  • Added on: February 11th, 2010
The particular guys who "liberated" my extra money were in fact caught and dealt with mayan justice style-- beaten, then dragged to the public square then stoned to death. They weren't just working tourists, but also locals. I got word from one of my friends who is local motorcyclist.

I read warnings online about the road but had talked to several locals the morning before my trip and everyone said it was okay, except one guy. Perhaps that was my problem-- asked around too much and tipped off the guys. But who knows, I'm probably overthinking it. What's funniest is that my guatemalan friend jokingly said that I shouldn't have stopped because they probably didn't have bullets, only guns :lol:

My perspective is that Guatemala is very dangerous, but worth the risk. If you stay on the main trail, everything should be fine. Don't start wondering around until you get settled and start to understand the areas to avoid. The robbery really changed my perspective from easy-going-nothing-can-stop-me to really trying to understand what I was getting myself into. This was probably a very helpful perspective to have later in my trip. And I absolutely disagree with everyone who says crime happens back home.. That is an oversimplification. When you're in someone else's country you can't pick up on the subtle clues that something is wrong.
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  • Added on: February 12th, 2010
There are some pretty infallible signs that the area is not exactly safe. Here are some of them:

1. Shop close down at 4 or 5 pm, before nighttime, and you see a lot of steel bars everywhere and steel curtains.

2. Grafitti. It seems to be an international language for "Gangs here, claiming territory"

3. No one is out after dark. No place is open after dark, except the shadiest ones. Those places that are open and not shady feature armed guards.

4. That funny feeling of: What am I doing here? Very often instincts kick in.

As a disclaimer, I have lived in dangerous areas of cities before, so my measure of 'danger' is not exaggerated. I also acquired a certain 6th sense about dangerous areas, and areas that just aren't good at dark. There is a certain dark hostile feeling one recieves from many less than safe situations. When I felt them and said nothing, I found out later the place was dangerous.

That's not to say that one can know all the time, of course. I would never have known the area between San Pedro and Panajachel was dangerous without being told. Deserted roads can be either deserted and safe, or deserted and unsafe. There's little way to tell the difference in many cases. This is where local knowledge kicks in.

Its too bad about the fate of the thief that got caught, but it sounds right. Guatemalan justice tends to be on the level of the village, not the village justice. Lynchings were commonly reported when I was there. On the other hand, many tourists are robbed all the time in areas not patrolled by a village, where corruption can rear its ugly head. This was the case for the Volcano by Guat city for a very long tim, and at the Cerro de la Cruz in Antiqua. I hear its changed a bit. Conditions do change.


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Joined: November 29th, 2007
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  • Added on: February 12th, 2010
Just a new heads up, from a local. I have posted several times of the dangers of taking the local buses (the red ones) in certain areas of Guatemala City, due to the danger of the extortionist gangs shooting drivers and helpers (60+ drivers and 20+ helpers killed just in 2009). The danger to tourists is that they are often poor shots, and at least one passenger has been killed and several wounded.

Well, the gangs have taken things to a new low. They are now using fragmentation grenades. In the past two months there have been three incidents that I know of. The first time a grenade was thrown in the parking area for the buses (no passengers involved), but the last two have been thrown at or on buses full of passengers. So far no passengers have been killed, but quite a few have been wounded.

My advise is to not take any local buses in Guatemala City or surrounding areas. Use a taxi or tourist van.
----------------------------------------- I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.-Mark Twain


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