We at Guatemala VIM are aware of the occasional U.S. State Department travel warnings regarding Guatemala, particularly of reports of violence against U.S. citizens which appear in U.S. newspapers. We are also sensitive the safety concerns and apprehensions that VIM group leaders and participants have about coming to Guatemala.
We want to assure you that we do everything in our power to insure your safety while you are in Guatemala. We use well-traveled routes, travel in daylight, and deal with people and groups that we know are reliable.
We also offer the following suggestions:
1. Stay in your group. Do not wander off on your own away from the group, particularly at night.
2. Do not wear expensive clothing or jewelry. Do not display large sums of money. Group leaders should calculate payments for drivers and interpreters in advance so that exact amounts can be placed in individual envelopes. All cash should be carried surreptitiously in money belts. Large amounts of money should be divided among co-group leaders. Whenever possible, pay VIM fees and construction costs with checks made out to Iglesia Metodista VIM to avoid carrying cash.
3. Carry your passport and money with you at all times, preferably in a hidden money belt or zippered pocket. Fanny packs are not recommended as they are too obvious and are easily cut or torn off. Some smart travelers even carry a phony wallet with only a few dollars and plastic cards resembling credit cards. This can be handed over to a would-be robber while keeping your real wallet and money safely concealed.
4. Trust your driver and your interpreter. They know the culture, the local situation, and the possible risks. Consult with them about any changes in plans, how best to handle the logistics of your travels and commitments, etc.
5. Do not leave your belongings unattended. This means not leaving your camera in your hotel room or in a vehicle. Luggage is safe in a vehicle only if the vehicle is guarded. While we don’t want you to be paranoid, neither do we want you to be naïve. Be responsible for your belongings and those of other people on your team.
Remember, even in the U.S. there are crimes of violence. Most of these are related to gang activity, drugs, or revenge among locals. The same is true in Guatemala. Violence in the U.S. doesn’t prevent you from going about your daily activities. But you use caution and common sense to avoid dangerous situations. You are safer in Guatemala than you are in many inner cities of the U.S. Here in Guatemala our VIM office staff, drivers, interpreters, host communities, project leaders, cooks, and others want your experience to be positive. So be careful, but have fun!