Picture by Pedro Szekely/ Flickr CC
Guatemala has gotten a bad reputation for being a dangerous place to visit, but if you take precautions, Guatemala safety doesn’t need to be a concern of yours. There are pickpockets and muggings just like in most cities. Keep an eye on your valuables and don’t wear flashy jewelry or carry expensive cameras or electronics, and you should be safe. If you are mugged, the best thing you can do is cooperate. Usually, tourists have only been shot when they have tried to resist a robbery.
Driving at night is a bad idea as that is when many muggings and carjackings occur. Also, riding the public bus in Guatemala can be a risky thing to do. The buses have been robbed by gangs a lot, many of them with explosives. If you stick to a private bus, you will usually be much safer.
One scam in Guatemala involves the ferry from Panajachel to San Pedro. Many of the private charter boat owners will approach tourists before they reach the public ferry and tell them that there are no boats running that day. They will then try to get you to pay them to take you on their private boat. The cost of this is $60 US compared to the $3 ferry ride. Just ignore them, and keep heading toward the ferry even in bad weather. There is a good chance it will still be running. When you get off the ferry, there will be many people who will try to show you to your hotel or just follow you down the street. They will expect a fee for offering as a guide, so just tell them that you know where you are going.
Guatemala is an interesting place with a lot of culture, so if you take precaution, your trip there should be a memorable one.