Safe and Sound
The State Department's consular warning about Guatemala travel can certainly cause some alarm. We would never claim that the country is 100% safe, but neither is any location you would travel to. While safety in Guatemala is a valid concern, we do think the state department's warning may be out of proportion. So, here is a bit of information, provided by our local partner in Antigua, which might be helpful.
One of the first things to note is that American tourists are NOT (nor have ever been) targeted specifically. There may be incidents where tourists are targeted or involved, but robberies can unfortunately occur with any nationality - including Guatemalans. Tourists, in general, are not a rare sight in Guatemala. Many people fear that they will stick out like a sore pulgar. At any one time in a high-season month there will be a few thousand tourists in Antigua, with many hundreds in Lake Atitlan and Chichi - same for Tikal.
While there has always been a problem with highway banditry in Guatemala, this can be combated by driving along safer, more well-traveled roads. A car that passes along the same road at the same time everyday is more of a target, so it is best travel during an unscheduled (unpublished) drive. Generally, keeping a low profile is always helpful. Our local operator keeps a very low profile, and our business, itineraries, routes and passenger information is not made public in any way. We also vary our travel routes, so as not to become a target.
If you are still feeling a little uncomfortable about Guatemala travel, there are a number of things you can do to increase your safety. We recommend that you travel with an established tour company that provides you with full time guide service. It is also best to make sure that your guides are bi-lingual and local to the area. Local guides who grew up in the area are familiar with the people, politics and safety issues, putting them in a better position to help keep travelers safe.