Traveling to a developing country can be intimidating, especially for women traveling alone. When I told people that I was spending half of my time in Guatemala traveling the country on my own, I was met with a lot of surprise and caution. As long as you stick to a few main tips that apply to nearly anywhere and anyone, traveling on your own can not only be safe but incredibly enjoyable.
Use Common Sense
Many safety precautions that you would take in the US or other developed countries also apply to travel safety in Guatemala. Don’t walk down dark alleys, don’t walk alone at night, and don’t put yourself in situations that make you feel threatened. Stick to the more populated areas, but keep a firm hand on your purse. Unless you are traveling to or from your hotel, don’t bring any valuable items with you. Don’t carry all money and cards in the same place, and have back-up cash kept with your passport.
Travel in the Morning
Just as anywhere else, much of the crime in Guatemala happens late at night. For example, if you are traveling from Antigua to Guatemala City for a mid-day flight, opt to travel during the earlier hours rather than late in the evening the day before your flight.
Use Private Transportation
Using private transportation companies in Guatemala is much like choosing to use Lyft or another private car service in the US instead of taking the public bus. It is highly recommended to use private transportation rather than taking a chicken bus or even using a first class bus similar to Greyhound.
Note: I used both public and private transport while in Guatemala. The only safety issue I experienced with public transport was that the public bus I took was in need of some fairly major suspension repairs. They don’t have the same safety guidelines for public transport companies as you would find for most businesses in the US. Private transport companies host an international clientele and thus will most likely have higher maintenance standards.
Have A Guide
There are guided tours of most of the common tourist attractions—Tikal, Antigua, Guatemala City, etc. It is very easy to find a local to give you a guided tour of any area if there is not an organized tour available. Tourism services are very common and would be your best resource to find a reliable guide.
Know How To Defend Yourself
For anyone—whether you are male or female, traveling or not—taking a self-defense class will teach you the basic skills to defend yourself and become more aware of your surroundings. We always hope that we will never need to defend ourselves, but if we ever do need to, it can be a matter of life and death.
If you’re even thinking about traveling on your own, chances are that you are already expecting to meet people along the way. I met quite a few other solo travelers along my journey and made friends very easily with them and the locals alike. The groups that I met along the way were also very friendly and weren’t as much of a closed clique as you might find in the US. To make the most of your travels, don’t be shy of making new friends and meeting new people. Just make sure to know your boundaries and stick to them, especially with the locals.
Planning a trip to Guatemala and want more detailed suggestions? I’m just an email away.