Guatemala is a developing country with wide income disparities; it has a large proportion of indigenous population (59%) living in poor conditions, mainly in the Highlands (250km west of the capital). The reported incidents of mugging, assaults, or petty theft of foreigners are not worse than what happens in some large U.S. or European urban areas. Like any large metropolis, Guatemala City has also its slums to be avoided by foreign visitors. One word about the so-called narco-delinquency south of the U.S. border. It is important to know that the drug smugglers are active in the border zones with Honduras, El Salvador and especially in Guatemala´s northern tropical jungle bordering Mexico. They are not interested in stealing or attacking tourists, because they are involved in a much more lucrative business (so to speak off ! ). Most of the violent deaths are related to people involved in the drug smuggling and related extorsion businesses. Domestic violence due to “machismo” is unfortunately also a problem especially amongst the poor and in marginal areas. Security for tourists has improved: because tourism has become such an important part of the country’s revenues, the government has taken pro-active steps to increase tourists’s safety. Since 2003 the yearly number of foreign visitors has increased by 800.000, totalingover 1,700,000 tourists per year. To be fair several huge improvements need to be mentioned:
- The complete renovation of the Guatemala City Airport “La Aurora”, with increased security. Entrance and arrival areas are totally separate now. “La Aurora Airport” is now the most modern airport of all Central America.
- Installation of over 1,200 video cameras in strategic areas of the capital, linked to a central emergency unit, equipped with the latest surveillance technology.
- A special police force has been created to protect tourists. More police officers have been put on the streets, either on foot or on motorcycles.
Medical Tourism Guatemala and its commitment to security
Your security is our primary concern and once outside of the hospital you are not left to your own devices. We don’t take our patients to risky zones: the medical centers and hotels we are working with are all located in residential zones. We never refer you to dubious businesses or hotels. All your transfers are private and take place during day time. Moreover, you are going to be accompanied to your appointments by reliable staff, who are there to facilitate with every type of errand that you are unfamiliar with (like going to the bank). We organize follow-up visits to your hotel during your convalescence. If you need help we are there to assist you 24h/24h. We ask our patients to dress appropriately and to avoid discotheques/night clubs; we recommend shopping in residential shopping malls and to stay in touch with us whenever they leave town. Guatemala is a peaceful and beautiful place, and its habitants are absolutely friendly and welcoming towards tourists. It still has many problems like in all developing countries, but at the same time it is safe enough to make your medical travel rewarding for you. With Medical Tourism Guatemala your medical and wellness vacation in Guatemala is going to be absolutely stress-free. We are reprinting here some safety tips forwarded by the Guatemala Tourist Board and which are valid for every trip that you would make overseas:
- Keep always an eye on your luggage and never ask strangers to watch it for you.
- Carry at all times a copy of your passport on you. Make sure it has your picture and date of entry to Guatemala.
- Keep your passport, flight tickets and other valuables in the hotel’s safe.
- Don’t wear expensive jewelry or expensive look-alike fashion jewelry.
- Keep a low profile with your video and photo cameras. Don’t wear bulky money-belts, carry rather discrete inside pouches.
- Exchange money in a bank or at your hotel, never on the street.
- Don´t use ATM machines located on the street, but go inside banks to retrieve or exchange money.
- Keep your cash and credit cards on you, in a safe pocket, or in a small inside pouch. Know which telephone number to call in case of credit card fraud or theft, and keep your credit card data handy in case you have to report a theft.
- Only carry cash for the day and one credit card (preferably VISA), which is accepted in shops and most restaurants.
- Tell your local bank manager that you are traveling to Guatemala, so that they don’t block your credit card thinking that someone took off with it.
We´ll give you a list of reliable taxi drivers who´ll give you personalized service. Don´t hail taxis on the street, only use drivers who have been recommended to you. Remember that all taxi drivers must carry proper identification (placed in a visible spot and clearly stating the driver’s name next to a recent photograph). In Antigua, only use the taxicabs clearly identified as such; they are located on the Central Plaza, near the Cathedral. Only use the three-wheel taxis or so called “Tuk-tuks” during day-time.
At the beach, ask your hotel’s front desk about safe areas. Get information on tides undertow. Make sure there’s a lifeguard on duty.