Special Travel Circumstances in Guatemala

Customs: Guatemalan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Guatemala of items such as antiquities and other cultural property. You should declare any amount of cash exceeding $10,000 that you bring into the country or the money may be confiscated by the authorities. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Guatemala in Washington, D.C. or one of Guatemala’s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. Enforcement of laws to protect intellectual property rights in Guatemala has been inconsistent. As stated above, in Guatemala, counterfeit CDs and DVDs are openly sold on the streets of major cities in violation of copyright laws. A number of raids, cases, and prosecutions have been pursued; however, resource constraints and lack of coordinated government action impede efficient enforcement efforts. Piracy of works protected by copyright and infringement of other forms of intellectual property, such as trademarks, remain problematic. Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Access for the disabled: Travelers who are disabled and need to use a wheelchair will find access for the disabled limited in Guatemala. Except for major hotels, some government buildings and major museums that have special access ramps for the disabled, most buildings remain wheelchair-inaccessible. Visitors in wheelchairs to Mayan ruins such as Tikal are advised that these sites do not provide special access for the disabled.

Marriage: Non-Guatemalan citizens who wish to marry in Guatemala are required to provide proof of identity and civil status (indicating whether they are single or divorced). Prior notice of the marriage must be given in the Diario de Centro América (Guatemala's Official Record) and any large-circulation daily newspaper for fifteen days. The marriage must take place within six months of the publication of the notice or the publication loses validity and a new one is required with additional expense.

Pacific Beaches: Beware of strong currents, riptides, and undertow along Guatemala's Pacific coast beaches. They pose a serious threat to even the strongest swimmers. In July 2011, a U.S. citizen drowned as a result of the undertow in this area and two U.S. citizens drowned in the same area in February 2012. Signs warning of treacherous surf are rare and confined mostly to private beaches owned by hotels. Lifeguards are rarely present on beaches.

Volcanic activity: There are currently four active volcanoes in Guatemala. Volcanic activity has on occasion forced evacuations of nearby villages. In September 2012, increased activity of the Fuego Volcano caused the evacuation of several villages. Past eruptions of the Pacaya Volcano near Guatemala City have briefly closed Guatemala City's international airport.

Tourists planning to climb the Pacaya and/or Agua volcanoes during Guatemala's rainy season (May through October) should plan their climb for the morning hours when thunderstorms are less likely to occur. Climbers should monitor the weather situation and return to the base of the volcano as quickly and safely as possible if thunderstorms gather. INGUAT has organized an active community-based tourism program in San Vicente Pacaya to minimize the risk of armed robbery on Pacaya. Climbing volcanoes in groups is still highly advisable to reduce the risk of assault. ( Inguat website)

Earthquakes: Guatemala is a geologically active country. Visitors should be aware of the possibility of earthquakes at any time and the need for contingency plans. Typically, the country experiences minor earthquakes on a fairly reguar basis, every few months. On November 7, 2012, an earthquake registering 7.4 on the Richter scale struck the northern region of the country. The earthquake’s epicenter was just off the Pacific Coast of Guatemala, near the Mexican border, where widespread damage was reported. More recently, on September 6, 2013, a 6.5 earthquake struck, again with an epicenter located in the northern part of the country, near the border with Mexico, no injuries were reported in that earthquake.

Storms: Both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts of Guatemala are vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms from mid-May through November. Mudslides and flooding during the May to November rainy season often kill dozens of people and close roads. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available locally from the National Disaster Reduction Coordination Office (CONRED) and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

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