Travel Safety: Is it too Dangerous to Visit Guatemala City?

Centro Historico, Guatemala CitySo you want to see Guatemala City but you heard it was too dangerous?  Should you stick around long enough to check it out?  Well, having just left Guatemala City a few days ago (at the time of writing) I have a few pieces of info that might help you decide.


It’s no secret that most travelers skip Guatemala City all together, but if you’re like me and just had to see it for yourself then here are some things to consider.

Exploring Guatemala City at Night:

Yes, excluding war-torn areas, Guatemala City is one of the most dangerous cities in the world right now.  That’s a fact.  But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be a target of that violence.  Currently most people agree that there are no safe areas to walk around in Guatemala City at night, not even in the more “upscale” neighborhoods that include Zona 9 and Zona 10.  If you need to get around anywhere at night, always take a taxi.  It’s as simple as that.

Centro Historico, Guatemala CityExploring Guatemala City during the Day:

If you want to explore Guatemala City during the day, Zona 9 and Zona 10 are considered safe to walk around.  However most places of interest are found within Zona 1.

Zona 1 contains the 6th Ave shopping area and the Centro Historico with all of its surrounding attractions.  Zona 1 has gotten mixed reviews from people that I have met on the road, some saying that it is a bad idea to ever go there and others saying that you just need to be smart about it.  If you do decide to explore Zona 1 make sure you stick to busy streets, don’t expose valuables and don’t look like a target by appearing lost or scared.

South of the Centro Historico is the “bus stop area” (15a Calle to 18a Calle).  If you haven’t booked a shuttle or a tour, this is where you will need to go to catch a bus out of town.  This is also where nearly 50% of the crime in Zona 1 takes place.  So don’t linger around longer than needed.  The public buses here will take you outside of Guatemala City and to a much friendlier place.

13a Calle, Zona 1, Guatemala CityMy Personal Experience:

That being said, I just left Guatemala City a few days ago and had no problems.  I walked around Zona 1 including the “bus station area” alone…sometimes with baggage and sometimes without.  I “felt” safe the entire time, however I didn’t see any other Gringos while I was there.

From my hotel I took a route that was recommended to me by the lady at the tourist information booth at the airport.  My hotel was located at the intersection of 15a Calle and 13a Av (another bad area).  From there I walked north on 13a Av, west on 12a Calle, and north on 6th Av in order to get to the Centro Historico.  A lovely afternoon!

There you have it!  If you stick around “Guate City” don’t expect to be overwhelmed.  It’s not known to be the prettiest of places, but take it for what it is and have a good time.

March 26, 2014