Health & safety
Although most visitors never experience any trouble, there have been incidents of robbery, rape and murder in the highlands. The most frequent sites for robberies are unfortunately some of the most beautiful – the paths that run around Lago de Atitlán. The security situation is forever changing here – some months it’s OK to walk between certain villages, then that route suddenly becomes dangerous.
If you do plan to go walking, use common sense – don’t take any more money than you need, or anything that you really don’t want to lose. Walk in groups of at least six and (one piece of local advice), consider taking a machete along (for deterrent purposes only, naturally). If you do run into trouble, don’t resist – chances are your life is worth more than your camera.
There are persistent rumors about a Japanese tourist who was lynched for taking a photo of a child in the highlands. This is slightly misleading. What he actually did was pick up a crying child in an effort to comfort it, which led the locals to think that a kidnapping was afoot. Fears of foreigners kidnapping children are common in the highlands, so use some restraint. And, of course, ask permission before taking photos of people.
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