Living in Guatemala: Is Antigua Safe and What is the Expat Mindset?

Is Antigua guatemala Safe

I was walking to church with my family last Sunday, on a sunny, beautiful, perfect day – one of those by which Antigua is known.

As we neared our church, we came across this scene:

Is Antigua guatemala Safe?

Petty Crime in Antigua

Yup. That’s a busted window alright. Something that happens with alarming frequency to cars parked overnight on the streets, usually around La Merced church, at the intersection of 1st Calle Poniente and 6ta Avenida Norte. One should never leave cars parked outside overnight if one can help it.┬áThere are plenty of secure, overnight parking lots available.

Is it safe in Guatemala?

Your answer will depend on a couple of things, mainly your outlook on life and the awareness to surroundings you develop.

I’m a positive person. At least I make a concerted effort to be one. The world around us is filled with too much negativity, one of the reasons I abstain, as much as possible from watching the news on TV. Too depressing and frankly, 99% of it is either irrelevant to my daily life, or they’re things I can’t really do anything to change the outcome of.

Why do I bring this up? Because it reflects my outlook in life. I’m by nature – and force of habit – a positive person. Tell me a problem and I’ll try to find you a solution. At least point out the silver lining. This trait can be uplifting to some at times, highly irritating to others. Sometimes, my wife just wants a little empathy from me, not a 7-step action plan.

This positivity also carries into my work, which this blog happens to be part of. You’ll rarely hear me gripe about things that I perceive to be wrong, different, or annoying about where I live. My life here in Antigua is pretty interesting and I enjoy it, so why let petty things out of my control – like rain, for example – linger on my mind? Which is why I rarely bother talking about them.

Well, that will change, starting today. I’m an optimist, but above optimism I value facts and accuracy. If I don’t show you the negatives – or at least make you aware of them – then I’m not being true to myself.

The Expat Mindset

One of the things I battle constantly online with – whether on forums or on Facebook – is with the perception that Guatemala is an inherently dangerous place. I’m not going to get into that discussion today, as it’s a lengthy topic, but I do want you to know that it’s something I make an effort to be consciously aware of every time I step outside my house.

Mind you, nothing has ever happened to me or my wife in the two years I’ve lived here, thank God, **knock on wood**. But crime does happen, which is why I’m always vigilant and safety-conscious, as any husband and father should be.

UPDATE: Ha! No later than a week after I published this post, my brand-new bicycle was stolen, in broad daylight, just a block away from Parque Central. And yes, it was chained to a bike stand. Goes to show you, focus on the negative, one is likely to attract it :-/

Even in a place as beautiful and safe a place as Antigua, evil happens. People live here, so they’ll behave like people everywhere do. The whole range of evil – and good – humans are capable of – murder, rape, robbery, extortions, etc. – manifests itself here.

Is something like that likely to happen to you? No, not really. But to deny it happens or ignore it is to walk about with a false sense of confidence. Which is why you need to develop the “Expat Mindset”.

What is that? It’s recognizing that you’re a foreigner out of your natural habitat. It’s knowing that because you’re different to most people, you will invariably draw some level of attention to yourself. It’s knowing how to keep a low profile, blend in, as to keep this attention to a minimum. It’s recognizing you have to keep your wits about you and learn to develop street smarts.

To live with fear is to deny yourself the opportunity to live fully. Replace fear with conscious mindfulness. Don’t sleepwalk through life, and you’ll be fine here. Or anywhere, really.


How has your experienced living abroad impacted your outlook on life?

Published by Rich Polanco

Fan of dogs + all things tech. Love a great pizza. My goal is not to travel to every country in the world. I only want to get to know my favorite ones REALLY well. Check out the big bio here. Follow @RichPolanco and connect on Facebook. Currently exploring: Guatemala.