How to Stay Safe in Quetzaltenango

by Matt Berry

Nov 17, 2014

Quezaltenango locals, Guatemala © Sjors737 | Dreamstime


With a few exceptions, most places in the world will offer visitors safe travel, as long as travelers are conscientious, courteous and respectful. In short, it’s important travelers understand their surroundings. Quetzaltenango, Guatemala’s second-largest city, is no exception. Quetzaltenango, commonly referred to by its indigenous name “Xela,” is home to around 225,000 people and has increasingly grown in popularity as a tourist destination in recent years.


Along with the surrounding natural beauty and historical architecture, Xela features bustling daytime sidewalks, authentic Mayan markets, frequent festivals, international cuisine and a lively nightlife. In all, Xela is considered a safe Guatemalan city, especially compared to a few gang-riddled zones in Guatemala City. In reality, Quetzaltenango is probably safer to visit than pronounce. However, there are a few pieces of advice when traveling to Xela to ensure your safety.


Be cognizant of crowds. Petty crime and pickpockets are found in any impoverished nation (and rich nation), and the most opportune time to snatch a wallet or purse will be when you are in the middle of crowd. Whether it’s a street festival, market or public area, be conscious of your belongings.


Understand your surroundings after dark. True for any place on the planet, Xela has its safe nightlife area and places better left untrekked after dark. For example, the beautiful El Calvario Cemetary and bustling Minerva Market are both wonderful places to visit during the day. However, both Xela attractions become a little more unfamiliar once the day’s crowds dissipate.


Choose a safe place to stay. Excellent lodging options dot the city, but most visitors will opt to stay in Zone 1 near Parque Central. Along with its number of restaurants, state office buildings, historical cathedrals, bustling park and nightlife, Zone 1 is considered the safest area of town. Although other zones offer safe accommodations and areas as well, Zone 1 is easy to navigate, and there are plenty of hotels for every budget. For an indulgent stay, Hotel Real Virginia by the Quetzaltenango Metropolitan Cathedral may be a good option, while budget travelers may prefer the upscale, hostel-like atmosphere of Casa Renaissance, located a few blocks from Parque Central.


Although, generally speaking, Quetzaltenango is a safe, mid-sized Central American city, travelers should always use precaution when traveling anywhere new, and Xela is no different. However, with a little common sense and respect for new lands, your stay in Quetzaltenango is sure to be a fun and safe experience.



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