Antigua Guatemala is known to be a ‘pretty safe’ city within the Latin American backpacker trail, and while this is true, that doesn’t mean crime doesn’t occur. Muggings and pickpocketing happen more frequently than you might think, but if you keep your wits about you there’s no reason to feel wary. Here are seven essential tips to stay safe in Antigua.
Strolling Antigua’s charming cobbled streets is the best way to explore this beautiful town, but when night falls it’s different. Walking around at night in a country you don’t know is never a good idea, and according to official police reports, most of the muggings that occur in Antigua happen between 10pm and 3am. Avoid walking around at night wherever possible; even if your destination is a five-minute walk away, take a cab or tuk-tuk.
Opportunistic pickpocketing is easily the most common petty crime in Antigua, so minimize your chances of becoming a victim by keeping your money in the front pocket of your shirt. If you have a backpack and are walking through a busy area, strap it to your front. The markets and Central Park are usually pickpocketing hotspots, so be extra vigilant when walking through these areas.
Vehicle theft in Antigua is more common than you might think, with cars parked near Central Park the most likely to be stolen. Always park in a parqueo, a public or private parking garage, and make sure you have vehicle insurance in case anything does happen.
This one isn’t specific to Antigua, but it’s an important one all the same. Don’t show off any signs of wealth, and leave your jewelry, camera and wallet at home wherever possible. Obviously there’ll be times when you want to take photos, but on those instances always keep a firm hold of your camera: don’t just carry it around your neck, as the straps are easy to slice through.
Before you enter a new country it’s always important to research what the emergency numbers are, should you need them at any point. In Guatemala you can call the police by dialling 120 and 110. Security escorts are also available through the Tourist Assistance Office of INGUAT; dial 1500 to arrange police escort or have questions answered.
Because bars and clubs in Antigua shut at 1am, after-parties have become a real thing here. They sound like fun – and very often are – but come with their own risks. As a general rule, after-parties in Antigua attract shady characters: if there are five criminals out on a Saturday night, chances are they’re going to one of the illegal after-parties. There are exceptions to this (the famous swimming pool after-party has bouncers and is pretty legit) but always bear this in mind if you’re tempted by the lure of partying into the night.
While crime does occur in Antigua, the vast majority of people here are honest and friendly, and if they approach you on the street are far more likely to greet you with a warm “Buenas!” rather than demand your money. Thieves and muggers can often tell when people are scared or wary, and may take it as a sign that you are carrying something very valuable. Try to appear confident at all times, and always keep your wits about you.