Do not go to areas known to be hotbeds of drug trafficking activity ie: some parts of the Peten, and do not go to the most dangerous neighborhoods in Guatemala City zones 3, 6, 18, and 21. Be careful in Zone 1 in Guatemala City, especially after dark, and do not stay in any hotels there. Using the slightly more expensive hotels in Zone 10 or Zone 13 near the airport is a better idea if you intend to visit Guatemala City.
Women should be especially careful around men, even if the men present themselves as local hotel employees. Over the last year, several tourists have been the victims of brutal sexual assaults in the beach community of Monterrico and the town of Panajachel. In one case, a local man pretended to be a hotel employee before torturing, raping, and attempting to kill a young woman staying in the area.
Do not use buses at night in Guatemala City, as buses are frequently robbed by gangs. Instead, radio-dispatched taxis Taxi Amarillo are a safer way to get around the city. Another note is that when traveling by chicken bus, beware of anyone sitting next to you.
Although some say that travelers should always carry a bit of extra cash and be prepared to bribe a few police officers, most tourists will have no reason to give bribes to anyone. The most likely situations in which you might have to bribe police would be if you are driving a car or riding a motorcycle and are stopped for a false violation of traffic rules. Most North Americans and Europeans find it immoral to bribe but it is, unfortunately, almost a way of life in Guatemala and it is much easier to spend 50Q to avoid the headaches of being harassed by the police. Phrases such as "I'm sorry officer. Is there any way we can resolve this right now?" work well. Do not offer bribes directly to an officer because bribes are illegal, and if you encounter an officer who actually does follow the law, you could end up in more trouble.
Never take photos of children without permission. Some Guatemalans are extremely wary of this and will think that you are mixed in with kidnappers and planning to take the child for ransom. Kidnapping is a common occurrence in Guatemala. The country also has many problems with children being kidnapped and sold for adoption on the black market. Taking pictures of adults at a distance wth a few children included is generally fine. In the major cities, people are somewhat more open towards picture taking, but still avoid it.
It is dangerous to travel between cities after dark. Doing so significantly increases your risk of being the victim of an armed robbery.
Pickpocketing is common in markets, so never keep anything in your back pocket and take as little with you as possible.
Guatemala has an abundance of natural beauty and numerous treks. But some of these are notorious for robberies Volcan de Agua, trails around Lago de Atitlan, Volcan de Pacaya. Always ask around about the situation before embarking blindly. Inguat, locals, and fellow travelers are safe bets for information. Traveling in groups during daylight sometimes decreases the risk, but not always.
Traffic can be dangerous. You will encounter many two-lane roads one lane each way and drivers are apt to swerve back and forth, avoiding potholes and bumps along the way. There are also various multiple lane highways. Traffic in Guatemala City and surrounding metropolitan areas during rush hour is very slow, but general driving everywhere is usually very fast average speeds of up to 60 mph in some city roads.
Drink only purified water Agua Pura Ecológica is recommended by most of hospitals and hotels.
CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/travel...) states that malaria risk exists in rural areas at altitudes lower than 1,500 metres, with no risk in Antigua or Lake Atitlán. Preventative anti-malarial medication can and should be purchased ahead of visiting malaria-endemic areas.
Dengue fever is endemic throughout Guatemala.
Hepatitis A&B vaccinations are recommended.
Guatemala's international calling code is 502. There are no area codes. Phone numbers all have eight digits. On September 18, 2004, the phone system switched from seven to eight digits, and there is a scheme for adding specific digits to the front of seven-digit numbers WTNG.info description (http://www.wtng.info/wtng-502-gt.html).
The phone system isn't great, but it works. Tourists can call abroad from call centers, where you pay by the minute. It is also easy to purchase a calling card to use at public pay phones. The phones there do not accept money, so to use a public phone on the street you must purchase a telephone card. Typically, the cost is around 8 quetzals for a 10 min call to North America. Cell phones are quite cheap and calling to the US through one can get as low as $0.08 a min. If you are planning to stay for a while and plan to use the phone, you should consider buying a cheap prepaid phone. Wireless nation-wide internet access for laptops is also available as a service from some companies. Telefonica has good coverage with their PCMCIA EV-DO cards.
Spanish is the official language of Guatemala, and the most commonly spoken. Over twenty indigenous languages are still spoken throughout, but many of the Maya people have at least a working knowledge of basic Spanish as well, except in the more remote areas. For the Garifuna people in Livingston, Garifuna and an archaic form of British English are the main languages but Spanish is spoken as well.
The most familiar form of Spanish spoken among good friends is the "tú" and "vos" form, but varies between regions. It is considered rude and very informal if used with someone that you do not know. As a tourist, it is safer to stick with the "usted" form. However, don't be surprised if some homestay families and some language teachers jump right into using the "tú" or "vos" form. If they do, you may respond in kind.
Internet access is widely available. Even most of the more remote areas have some type of internet access available. Many larger areas also have WiFi. All of the Camperos chicken/pizza restaurants which are numerous offer free WiFi, as well as many other restaurants and cafes. Some hotels may also offer computer banks with internet access. Just ask and you eventually will find some sort of free access.
If you have an internet capable mobile phone such as iPhone, Google Android, Nokia N95 etc or USB dongle for your laptop, you just need a local SIM card roughly Q25 and can start enjoying the prepaid access plans, which generally come in lots of an hour, a day, or a week.
Anecdotal: when I passed through Guatemala in May 2010 I bought a TIGO Guatemala SIM and automatically received an SMS within a day or two offering me 30 days of free internet access without any need to do anything, which was variable in its reliability but very useful all the same. With a program such as PDANet you can create a mini Wifi network that follows you around as you travel. I asked around and apparently the normal way to activate the internet after putting in the right configuration settings I was supposed to send the SMS message "WAP" to the shortcode 805, but I didn't need to do this. The APN access point name was internet.tigo.gt
Here is a table for the settings and activation options for various providers, including approximate costs.
|Provider||Configuration details||Activation instructions||Costs|
|TIGO Guatemala||APN: internet.tigo.gtuser: any or blankpass: any or blank||SMS "WAP" to 805||~ Q12 a day|
|Claro||APN: internet.ideasclarouser: blankpass: blank||SMS "7 datos" to 313 for 7 days. SMS "internet basico" to 313, should give you the settings||GTQ 50 for 7 days or 400MB, see website for other rates: (http://www.claro.com.gt/w...) Overall, incredibly easy to setup and use. Speeds are equivalent to 3G in the US.|
|Movistar||APN: internet.movistar.gtuser: movistargtpass: movistargt||SMS "MSEMANA" to 700 for 7 days.||GTQ 50 for 7 days or 500MB, see website for other rates: (http://www.movistar.com.g...)|
Bilingual English & Spanish monthly magazine based in La Antigua, with tourism and feature articles, interviews, and Calendars of Events, Cinema, and Live Music. Print edition is available for free in many places in La Antigua and select locations in Ciudad de Guatemala. Online edition is available at Qué Pasa's website.
English language newspaper
Bilingual magazine about development and human rights issues in Guatemala and Central America, published bimonthly and distributed throughout Quetzaltenango, and other areas.