Guatemala has temporarily closed its air, land and sea borders (see the COVID-19 section under Travel above). You could be fined or arrested for breaking the nationwide curfew in place.
Strict security controls are in place at Guatemalan borders due to high levels of drug-related criminal activity.
Military personnel are stationed along the border between Guatemala and Mexico. They may want to check your documents.
Only use recognised border crossings, particularly between Guatemala and Belize. There is an ongoing border dispute between the two countries.
Security at border crossings into Mexico has recently been increased by the Mexican government in response to a large number of migrants seeking to travel to the US. Take extra care when using these border crossings and follow the direction of authorities.
To drive in Guatemala, you need both:
- an International Driving Permit (IDP)
- an Australian driver’s licence
You must get the IDP before arriving in Guatemala.
You’re 4 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident in Guatemala than in Australia.
Driving in Guatemala can be dangerous. Hazards include:
- aggressive local drivers
- poorly maintained vehicles
- roads in poor condition
- drivers ignoring traffic laws
In rural areas, extra road travel risks include:
- poor lighting and street signs
- people and animals on roads
Mudslides and road collapses caused by heavy rains are common. Roads may be closed at short notice.
Inter-city travel after dark anywhere in Guatemala is dangerous. Violent carjackings occur, particularly on poorly maintained roads, but also on main highways.
Dangerous roads include:
- the Pan-American Highway (CA-1)
- the Pacific Coast Highway (CA-2)
- the Atlantic Highway (CA-9)
Criminals have violently attacked motorists between El Salvador and Guatemala, particularly on the Guatemalan side of the border.
Armed gangs often build roadblocks in:
- the northern and western Departments of San Marcos
- El Quiche
- Alta Verapaz
- El Peten
Other dangerous areas for road travel include:
- the route between Cocales (Suchitepequez) and San Lucas Toliman (Atitlan)
- the isolated dirt roads near Lake Atitlan
- the Godinez bypass via Patzun between Guatemala City and Panajachel
An alternative route to the Godinez bypass is the main Pan-American highway to Solola.
Criminals sometimes pose as police officers.
It’s illegal to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Authorities may arrest or detain you.
If you plan to drive in Guatemala:
- check your travel insurance cover
- learn local traffic laws and practices
- don’t travel alone, at night or through dangerous areas
- keep doors locked and windows up, even when moving
- don’t drink or use drugs
Before you drive:
- get local advice on road conditions, including security risks
- know your travel options in advance
- be prepared for a change in plans if any security issues come up
Check with your travel insurer whether your policy covers you when using a motorbike, quad bike or similar vehicle.
Your policy may not cover you for accidents that occur while using these vehicles.
Always wear a helmet.
Travel by taxi can be dangerous.
Book airport taxis and regular taxis through a reputable taxi company. These are safer than taxis flagged from the street or at taxi stands.
If you use a taxi:
- arrange transport through your hotel or a radio dispatcher to avoid unlicensed operators
- buy vouchers from the airport Tourist Office for airport taxis
- book in advance if travelling at night
Public buses and chicken buses (converted school buses) are often unsafe. Armed robberies are common.
Bus travel can be dangerous. Gangs have targeted, robbed and sexually assaulted passengers on:
- tour buses
- inter-city buses
- luxury coaches
Gangs have also detonated bombs targeting buses. In 2016, gangs killed 5 people in a bomb blast on an inter-city bus in San Jose Pinula, near Guatemala City.
Dangerous areas for bus attacks include:
- border crossings
- tourist areas like Panajachel and Antigua
- the roads from the El Salvador border to Cuilapa
- from the Belize border to El Cruce
If you need to use public transport:
- avoid travelling on public buses or chicken buses (converted school buses)
- only travel on tour buses and inter-city buses with good security arrangements
- do not stow your bag on the overhead bin or under your seat
- check security arrangements before you book
If you plan to travel by bus from Guatemala to southern Mexico, see our travel advice for Mexico.
Criminals may attack you on motorised boats or sailing boats in Rio Dulce and Livingston.
Check there are good security measures in place before booking any boat travel.
Strong currents and tides on Guatemala’s Pacific coast are dangerous for swimmers.
You often won’t find beach patrols, lifeguards or warning and advisory signs.
DFAT doesn’t provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check Guatemala’s air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.