- Reviewed: 19 March 2020, 14:00 NZDT
- Still current at: 3 July 2020
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Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in Latin America. Criminal acts often involve firearms and may include armed robbery, kidnapping, sexual assault and murder. The majority of this crime is drug and gang-related, however, violence can be indiscriminate and occur in areas frequented by tourists. On 22 April 2017 a violent armed attack involving a group of tourists was reported at La Laguna, Pasaco in the Jutiapa department.
New Zealanders in Guatemala should remain security conscious and exercise a high degree of caution at all times. This includes in Guatemala City and other major cities, public areas and tourist destinations including Tikal, Petén, Antigua, Volcán de Pacaya and Lake Atitlán.
Sexual assault remains a serious problem in Guatemala, including against tourists. We advise New Zealanders to exercise a high degree of caution and avoid travelling alone, especially at night.
Pickpockets and bag snatchers are prevalent in major cities and tourist sites, especially in central markets. We advise New Zealanders to take steps to safeguard and secure their personal belongings.
“Express kidnappings” have also been reported in Guatemala, where criminals abduct a victim for a short amount of time and force them to withdraw funds from their bank account. To reduce the risk of this occurring we recommend you use ATMs that are located within bank branches and during daylight hours only. We also recommend you avoid displaying or wearing items that appear valuable, such as mobile devices and jewellery. No resistance should be given if you are the victim of crime as this could lead to an escalation in violence. Victims have been killed and injured attempting to resist perpetrators.
When travelling to remote areas, including to volcanoes, it may be safer to travel with others or a reputable tour company. The Guatemalan Government PROATUR service offers tourist advice and security escorts for travel around the country.
Inter-city travel can be dangerous, particularly after dark. There have been reports of armed robbery and bus/carjackings affecting tourists on a number of travel routes, including along main highways and the road to and from the international airport in Guatemala City. Criminals have been known to set up roadblocks and pose as police officers. If travelling by road, you should keep doors locked and windows up at all times. Wherever possible travel in a convoy and avoid all travel after dark.
Travel on local public buses (“chicken buses”) should be avoided for safety and security reasons as they are usually overloaded and there have been armed attacks and incidents of crime against foreigners on buses. Radio-dispatched or hotel taxis are the safest option as there have been robberies and assaults associated with unofficial taxis. Prepaid vouchers can also be purchased from the INGUAT (tourist office) in the arrivals terminal.
Special care should also be taken in border areas with Belize, Mexico, Honduras and El Salvador and at border crossings due to organised crime and drug-related violence. Allow enough time for border formalities so that you can arrive at your destination before dark.
Guatemala lies in a seismically active zone with four active volcanoes, and the possibility of an eruption always exists. Previously volcanic activity has forced evacuation of nearby visitors. Tremors are common, so familiarise yourself with earthquake safety measures. Travellers should be aware of the possibility for travel disruptions in the event of seismic or volcanic activity. Monitor levels of volcanic activity through the local media, and follow any alerts or instructions from local authorities.
Protests and demonstrations, including strike action and roadblocks, occur across Guatemala and have the potential to turn violent with little notice. They can cause disruptions to traffic and essential services. We recommend you avoid large gatherings, monitor the local media for updated security information and follow any instructions issued by local authorities. Participation in demonstrations by foreigners is illegal and may result in detention and expulsion from the country.
General travel advice
Carry a photocopy or certified true copy of your passport as a form of personal identification when travelling.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe and can include lengthy imprisonment or fines.
Do not take photographs of children without permission. Many people in Guatemala fear that children are being kidnapped for adoption or for theft of vital organs, and foreigners have been caught up in violent incidents related to accusations and fears of child kidnapping. Photography of government buildings, airports and military establishments is prohibited, and could result in detention. If in doubt, don’t take a picture.
New Zealanders in Guatemala should have a comprehensive travel insurance policy in place that includes provision for medical evacuation by air.
New Zealanders in Guatemala are encouraged to register their details with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The New Zealand Embassy Mexico City, Mexico is accredited to Guatemala
Street Address Jaime Balmes No 8, 4th Floor, Los Morales, Polanco, Mexico D.F. 11510 Telephone +52 55 5283 9460 Fax +52 55 5283 9480 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Web Site http://www.mfat.govt.nz/mexico Hours Mon - Fri 0930 - 1400, 1500 - 1700 hrs
New Zealand Honorary Consulate Guatemala City, Guatemala
Street Address 13 Calle 7-71, Zona 10, Guatemala City 01010, Guatemala Telephone (+502) 2360-8276 Alternate Telephone (+502) 2360-4961 Fax +502 2431 3742 Email email@example.com
See our regional advice for Central/South America
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Accredited New Zealand Embassy Mexico
Jaime Balmes No 8, 4th Floor, Los Morales, Polanco, Mexico D.F. 11510
Telephone: +52 55 5283 9460
Fax: +52 55 5283 9480
Hours: Mon - Fri 0930 - 1400, 1500 - 1700 hrs