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PopWuj Spanish School - Safety&Liability

We cannot guarantee the safety of any person traveling and studying in Guatemala and do not hold or accept liability for any injuries, accidents, or deaths incurred there.  However we do provide information to minimize risk and suggest that common sense can be the best defense.  We            
Pop Wuj Spanish School Guatemala - Safety & Liability
Pop Wuj Spanish School Guatemala - Stay Save
recommend reading up on any country in which one plans to travel in order to be prepared.   While tourists are a common target in all parts of the world, there are several steps that can be taken to minimize your chances of being victimized in Guatemala.

Simply put, this is foreign travel in the developing world. Like many other countries, developed and developing, there is violent crime, and tourists can be singled out because of their relative wealth. If you choose to travel, you assume these risks.

Guatemala has been unsettled for a number of years, and the peace accord signed in December 1996 brought a different form of instability with increased acts of banditry and lawlessness. The December 1999 elections and the current election process have brought unrest throughout the country with some disruptive and violent demonstrations in Guatemala City. Demonstrations occur countrywide that are not always publicized in advance. We recommend staying away from large gatherings and demonstrations. However, targets of political actions by the police, army, or mobs are rarely foreign tourists. There have been serious acts of vigilante groups that resulted in deaths, but these generally take place in areas not frequented by tourists and the targets are almost always Guatemalan citizens. There have been a few notable exceptions.

Attacks on tourists are an international problem that is certainly not unique to Guatemala. In Guatemala, these incidents have been, for the most part, confined to the people who strayed away from the usual tourist areas, climbed the volcanoes without guides (or spent the night on a volcano), or traveled after dark. There have been some acts of banditry and incidents of rape. Victims of kidnappings are usually wealthy Guatemalans or those whose monetary worth is established and known. In response to crime, the Guatemalan government created a civilian police force and increased highway patrols in areas frequented by tourists. There is also free police escort service for tourist groups giving 72 hours notice.

Unplanned events and problems can crop up. Maintenance of vehicles is not to the standard one expects from living in the developed world. Vehicular accidents can and do occur due to poor maintenance, overloading, etc.  When traveling in third-class "chicken" buses, one assumes this risk. The school attempts to rent vehicles or take first-class buses, however given the transportation situation, this is not always possible.

For travel between Guatemala City and Quetzaltenango (Xela) or other long-distance trips, use the first-class buses that are used by Guatemalan citizens. It is not advisable to ride in tourist buses and vans, as these are marked as tourist vehicles and can cause travelers to stand out more than they might already. We emphasize, NEVER travel after nightfall!

At the school, we review several safety methods and address all concerns before classes begin on Monday morning during a new student orientation. We advise students not to walk alone after nightfall in Quetzaltenango, to only carry the money they will need that day, and to carry a photocopy of their passport instead of the actual passport (which can be safely left at the home of the host family in Xela). We also discuss when and how one should travel between cities and the many common scams that take place in more urban areas, such as Guatemala City. As far as Xela goes, it is a safe city but as any other city of some size, there are areas that are safer than others. This is also discussed and students are given a map and told where not to go and when.  There are many language schools here and people are accustomed to foreigners.

Upon arrival at the airport in Guatemala City, we can have a representative pick you up and take you directly to the bus station for an additional charge of $15 US. If you arrive too late in the day to safely arrive by bus in Xela before dark, we suggest that you spend the night with our representative and her family for an additional charge of $20 US (Airport Pickup). The bus ride from Guate to Xela has historically been a safe one during the day. It takes approximately four and a half hours.  The Galgos bus station in Quetzaltenango is just a short walk from the school.  

All of the host families live within fifteen minutes of the school by foot. We try to place single women with the families closest to the school.

For all students, we encourage reading any notices provided by your country's government with respect to foreign travel in general and travel to Guatemala specifically. For Travel Advisories, we recommend calling the U.S. State Department toll-free at (888) 407-4747 or checking their web site www.travel.state.gov.