Safety might be one of your first concerns if you are planning a trip to Guatemala. The country does still have a bit of a bad reputation, and crime levels are unfortunately higher than in other parts of the world.
When it comes to cost, many websites will tell you that it is a cheap travel destination, but most of those articles are outdated. I found that Guatemala is not that cheap at all.
I spent three weeks in Guatemala. Here are some tips on safety and general costs.
Safety TipsCommon sense and awareness of your circumstances and who is around you are the best personal safety practice. When you read online about safety in Guatemala, make sure you don’t rely on outdated information. Many safety advises I found were from 2013 and 2014. The situation, as for other country, has changed over the past years. Stick to the main tourist areas (Flores, Antigua, Lake Atitlan and Semuc Champey). Avoid smaller villages outside of the tourist routes and especially Guatemala City.
Within the tourist centers you will find armed police at every corner which might be odd at first, but will make you feel very safe after a while. Don’t loose sight of your credit card. If you pay at a shop or restaurant make sure you always see whats happening with the card. Use ATM’s that are located in busy areas and that have security guards and cameras. Don’t withdraw a huge amount at once. Alternatively you can exchange cash at the hotel reception. After all, Guatemala is a third world country and you should still be very cautious of your valuables. Avoid displaying valuable items like laptops, cameras and mobile phones.
Use hotel safes or bring locks with you to keep your valuables securely locked when leaving your hotel room.
When travelling on buses, always watch your luggage. Wearing a belt to store your passport, phone, cash and credit cards might be a good idea, especially on overnight bus rides. I read a lot that women should not wear any jewelry, but I’d say this is overrated. As long as it doesn’t look too valuable, you should be fine.
Overall, by following those advises, I never felt unsafe in Guatemala.
General CostsGeneral In fact, Guatemala is not the most expensive country in Central America – it is cheaper than Belize or Costa Rica, but more expensive than Mexico or Nicaragua. When planning my travels, I budgeted USD 30 per day (incl. accommodation, food and activities) and realized quite soon that this is not doable. If you look for a private room, eat in mid-range places and plan some activities, about USD 50 per day is a good bet (this is if you travel with someone and share the accommodation cost). Food There are a some local eateries and street food, however most of the restaurants will have prices similar to Europe. Especially Antigua and Flores are quite expensive. For a meal at an average restaurant you will pay about USD 10 (including a drink). Often prices at restaurants don’t include service charge and if you pay by card, be prepared to pay up to 6% transaction fee on top. Transportation Unless you stick to chicken buses, you will pay quite a lot for decent buses and smaller shuttle vans. A trip from Flores to Antigua by bus will cost you about USD 32, the mini van from Antigua to Lake Atitlan USD 10 and the bus from Lake Atitlan to Guatemala City USD 20. Even though some domestic routes can be done by plane, flying is much more costly. Accommodation If you are looking for a decent but basic room with private bathroom, rates will start from USD 40 during high season. Majority of the hotels are not bookable online, so if you have the time you will be better off looking for accommodation on the spot as rates will be cheaper if you book with the hotel directly. Shopping If you plan to go shopping (clothes, handicrafts, souvenirs etc), stick to the local markets. You can negotiate prices at the markets, however at the majority of shops in the cities, bargaining will not get you far.