Guatemala

Guatemala

Use Normal Level of Caution
Use High Level of Caution when visiting the following departments: San Marcos, Quiché, Petén, Jutiapa, Huehuetenango, and Alta Verapaz

The Republic of Guatemala is located in Central America bordering Mexico, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and with coastline on the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean. The population is about 15 million people. Although Spanish is the official language, more than 20 indigenous languages are also spoken.

The government of Guatemala is a democratic republic with a president as chief of state and head of government. The country is a developing country and is one of the poorest countries in Latin America.

Guatemala was at the centre of Mayan culture and was one of the most important areas in Central America for about a thousand years before the Spanish arrived. Guatemala was a Spanish colony for about 300 years and achieved independence in 1821. The country went through a 36-year civil war that officially ended in 1996. More than 200,000 people were killed or disappeared, the majority being civilians.

Today Guatemala suffers from problems of social inequality, poverty, illiteracy, high infant mortality, with the life expectancy among the lowest in the region. Violent street gangs and organised crime have added to the social problems. Guatemala, however, is said to be one of the most beautiful countries in Latin America. Visitors can enjoy 14 eco-regions, Tikal National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), the Maya Biosphere Reserve, mountains, and Mayan ruins.

Currency GTQ: Quetzal
Language Spanish
Capital Guatemala City
Recent Alerts 1
Latest Alert March 21, 2017 - Zika virus in Central America - update

Diseases To Be Aware Of

The diseases listed below are those which occur most often in Guatemala. Other, less frequently encountered diseases might be displayed within the Travel Alerts section if they have occurred recently.

Hepatitis A

There is a significant risk for hepatitis A virus exposure in Guatemala.

Hepatitis B

There is a significant risk for acquiring hepatitis B in Guatemala.

Typhoid Fever

Unvaccinated people can become infected through contaminated food and water in Guatemala. The risk is higher when visiting smaller cities, villages, or rural areas where food and water sources may be contaminated.

Malaria

There is a low risk for malaria throughout the year at altitudes below 1,500 metres. There is moderate risk in the departments of Escuintla and Izabal, and low risk in Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Chiquimala, Petén, Suchitepéquez and Zacapa. There is no risk in Antigua, Guatemala City, or Lake Atitlán.

Yellow Fever

There is no risk of yellow fever transmission in this country. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travellers having transited more than 12 hours through an airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Dengue Fever

There is a risk of dengue fever throughout the year in Guatemala.

Chikungunya Fever

Chikungunya fever has occurred in this country.

Rabies

Rabies occurs in this country. Travellers involved in outdoor activities (e.g., campers, hikers, bikers, adventure travellers, and cavers) may have direct contact with rabid dogs, bats, and other mammals. Those with occupational risks (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, researchers) and long-term travellers and expatriates are at higher risk.

Chagas Disease

The risk for travellers is extremely low. There is a higher risk if staying in poor quality housing that might harbour the insect that transmits this disease.

Tuberculosis

Tuberculosis occurs in this country. Travellers to this country are at risk for tuberculosis if visiting sick friends or family, working in the health care field, or having close prolonged contact with the general population.

Zika Fever

There is transmission of the Zika virus in this country.

Vaccinations to Consider

The following is a list of recommended vaccinations for travelling to Guatemala.

Hepatitis A Vaccine

There is a significant risk of exposure to hepatitis A for this country, therefore, the vaccination is recommended.

Hepatitis B Vaccine

There is a significant risk of infection with hepatitis B for this country, therefore, the vaccination is recommended.

Typhoid Fever Vaccine

There is a risk of exposure to typhoid fever in this country through consumption of unsafe food and water. Since exposure to unsafe sources is variable within this country, the vaccination against typhoid fever is generally recommended, especially when visiting smaller cities, rural areas, or staying with friends and family.

Yellow Fever Vaccine

A yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers over 1 year of age arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission and for travellers having transited more than 12 hours through an airport of a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Rabies Vaccine

Vaccination against rabies is recommended for travellers involved in outdoor activities (e.g., campers, hikers, bikers, adventure travellers, and cavers) who may have direct contact with rabid dogs, bats, and other mammals. Those with occupational risks (such as veterinarians, wildlife professionals, researchers) and long-term travellers and expatriates are at higher risk and should be vaccinated.

Medications to Consider

The following is a list of recommended medications for travelling to Guatemala.

Anti-malarial Drugs

Anti-malarial medication for Escuintia Province is atovaquone-proguanil, chloroquine, doxycycline, or mefloquine. For all other areas with malaria, the U.S. CDC recommends atovaquone-proguanil, chloroquine, doxycycline, mefloquine or primaquine. For these areas, NaTHNac and WHO only recommend chloroquine.

Safety and Security in Guatemala

Emergency Numbers

110
120 Alternate police number
122
123 Alternate fire department number
1500 Tourist assistance (INGUAT). See note below
502-2421-2810 Tourist assistance alternate number

INGUAT provides current local security information in Spanish and English. The tourist assistance service also provides escort service for tourist groups or individuals and issues current advice on which routes to take.

Personal Safety

Guatemala has one of the highest violent crime rates in all of Latin America. Tourists have been targeted arriving at the international airport and travelling to hotels in Antigua and Guatemala City. Try to schedule your arrival at the La Aurora Airport (Guatemala City) during daylight hours. If possible, travel with a reputable tour company or use an escort from the government-run tourist service. If possible, do not travel alone, particularly at night. Avoid low-cost hotels with minimal security. Avoid walking alone after dark.

Well-armed violent street gangs are becoming a problem throughout Guatemala. Violent crime has increased in Guatemala City and in parts of the city previously considered safe. Foreigners have been targeted in robberies, assault, sexual assault, rape and carjackings.

Always be alert to your surroundings, especially in cities. To avoid being targeted, never display signs of affluence, and keep cash and valuables out of sight, including cell phones or other electronic equipment.

There have been reports of increased vigilante justice in rural areas, resulting in hangings of suspected child kidnappers, etc.

Intercity travel by car can be dangerous, particularly at night. Try to travel during daylight and in a convoy if possible. Do not travel on public buses.

Always drive with car windows closed and doors locked.

The US dollar is the only currency freely exchanged in Guatemala.

Areas To Avoid

Armed attacks due to organized crime activities and drug-related violence has occurred in the southeastern border regions with El Salvador, Honduras and northern areas along the border with Mexico.

The Inter-American (or Pan-American) Highway (CA-1) and the road from Guatemala City to the Atlantic Ocean are dangerous because of heavy traffic. Off-road travel in the remote highlands should be undertaken only after seeking advice from your embassy in Guatemala City.

Due to civil unrest and violent crime, always check with local authorities if considering travel to the Department of Peten (including the tourist site of Tikal) or the Department of Izabal, especially the areas of Rio Dulce, Livingston, Lake Isabal and Puerto Barrios.

Avoid travelling on the isolated small dirt roads near Lake Atitlán. The safest route to Lake Atitlán is via the Inter-American Highway and Sololá, although this is where most disturbances occur. Avoid travelling on the road from Godinez to Panajachel as it is dangerous and rarely patrolled by police. Armed robberies against vehicles with foreign licence plates have occurred on the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-2) and the Atlantic Highway (CA-9).

Roadblocks have been reported along roads leading to and from airports. Do not attempt to pass through a roadblock, even if it appears unattended. Also, armed gangs frequently set up roadblocks, particularly in the northern and western departments of San Marcos, Huehuetenango, Quiché, Alta Verapaz, Petén and Escuintla. There have been reports of criminals posing as police officers. Do not resist if attacked.

Extreme Violence

Violence related to organised crime, drug trafficking, and streets gangs occurs and has also been reported in the capital, Guatemala City, as well as in other major cities in the country. Foreigners are not usually targeted, but should remain vigilant to surroundings to avoid being caught in one of these situations.

Political Unrest

Protests, strikes, blockades and demonstrations occur, sometimes without warning causing disruption to traffic, utilities and public transport. These situations have become violent in the past. Travellers should minimize risk by avoiding all public gatherings and demonstrations.

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