Located in the heart of Guatemala in Antigua, a small town that’s a tourist oasis about an hour drive west from the capital. Although Guatemala City nearby is notorious for its high crime rate, Antigua has a reputation for being safe and a gateway to the rest of the country. Crime is a broad topic and one where when it affects you personally, doesn’t make the best of statistics comforting.
You’ll read a lot about how safe Antigua is or isn’t but overall, here’s what you need to know.
Small Town Vibes
There aren’t many reliable statistics on crime in Antigua but economically it is an important hub of tourism for Guatemala. Tourism equals money and corruption in government is an issue in Guatemala, meaning that officials have a vested interested in bringing your cash to Antigua. (So they can pocket part of it.) Sometimes though as a traveler your goals align with that of shifty politicians and to keep Antigua safe, there is a heavy police presence in the town.
Not ominous, just present. You’ll see cops and tourist police a the corners of many popular spots in town, casually keeping an eye on things.
Most locals will tell you Antigua is free to explore during the day – which coincidentally is when most things are open. Restaurants and even bars close relatively early and if you are out in the later hours, just have a cab called for you to take you back to your hotel. The streets are pretty deserted at night so better to not risk being the only person at the wrong place, at the wrong time.
But aside from general street common sense (don’t walk around at night alone when it’s late) at most other times it’s just business as usual. Take your phone or camera out to take pictures, there’s no need to tourist around in fear. Smartwatches are common sights and so long as you take the usual precautions (watch you pockets in busy places) you should enjoy what Antigua has to offer. (Which by the way is lots of history and lots more good, good food in Antigua.)
There are also cameras on most street corners so if you do get unlucky and pick-pocketed or lose something, locals will tell you the cops are generally good about reviewing footage to help you out as best they can. The cameras are a good deterrent for criminals and helpful police means happy tourists, which means money – some of which will probably be skimmed into someone’s pockets.
Like life, crime levels can change over time, for better or worse. Being so close to Guatemala City may make you apprehensive. But there’s a lot of effort in Antigua to keep it tourist-friendly, safe, and that’s cultivated a wonderful place to visit in Guatemala.