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You won't find the accent very different from CR and the Lake is wonderful place to visit although San Pedro too hippy and party for my taste. Also, the Lake is rather isolated from the violence of the capital but I would still be careful not to venture out of town alone if I was female. I hope that you have a wonderful time.

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Hola Gayle,

 

If you've never been to Lake Atitlán it is quite impressive. I first saw it in 1968 and it was stunning and mostly unsullied. I last saw it in 1975 and the little towns around it were just starting to gear-up for tourism. I can't imagine what places like Panajachel and the other dozen villages scattered around the lake and each named after a different saint must be like now, after so many years.

 

But with the lake and the surrounding volcanoes and the Mayan culture all mixed together there it will be an inspiring place in which to study spanish.

 

Incidentally I cannot really agree with TyLand about tico and guatemalteco spanish sounding the same. I always understood Guatemalan spanish clearly but tico spanish has been what I'd at best call a re-learning experience.

 

Even so both versions are beautiful in their own ways, tho I must admit that I tend to favor the sounds of Guatemalan spanish since Guatemala was the first place I ever traveled to and studied outside the US.

 

Que tenga mucha suerte con sus estudios!

 

Paul M.

==

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We have a Guatamalan friend, who goes home at the end of each year to visit family. She told us that crime is on the increase there, especially violent crimes, such as robberies and muggings.

She said you should be safe as long as you stick to the planed tourist thing, but do not go off on your own without a local you trust with you, and NEVER go out alone at night.

 

Dana

Edited by DanaJ

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Dana: I think that advice about crime in Guatemala will depend entirely on where you go and what you do, just like Costa Rica. What is good advice for Guatemala City is not necessarily good advice for Tikal or San Pedro la Laguna and vice versa. What is good advice for San Jose is not good advice for where I live, and vice versa.

 

Gayle is well-traveled and has sense enough to know how to keep out of "iffy" situations. Plus, she is going to a Spanish language school where they can alert her to any specific problems in the area.

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Eleanor

 

My advice was not related to Guatemala City. The warnings are country wide and come from a variety of sources.

 

She may do just fine, but when the tourism group in Guatemala actually suggests armed private escorts... well... I know of no place here in CR that is similar.

 

We also do not have roving gangs on major highways away from San Jose that ambush visitors. Guatemala has some serious issues as they are the last point of entry to Mexico and are heavily controlled by the cartels and gangs, and I felt it a good idea to tell her so she can take appropriate precautions.

 

TG

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TicoGrande: I am sure that Gayle appreciates your advice.

 

She is actually not an "ordinary" tourist but is going to a Spanish school in San Pedro on Lake Atitlan. So she will have a kind of "layer" of protection, if you will, and if she chooses a homestay, even better. I am sure that the staff at the school can give her all the warnings necessary about the San Pedro area. I have been there and I also sent her some security information in a PM with more details about the area.

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Hi Elenor, I am sure that Gayle will be well able to take care of herself. But my friend's family does not live in GC, but near Antigua.

She says that the women do not go out at night at all anymore, and most of the small towns pretty much shut down a couple hours after sunset. Guatamalan men try not to go out after dark much either, even they feel it is getting too dangerous.

 

But the warning applies most seriously to tourists. They should never go about with out a local person they trust, and never go out at night.

 

Honduras is even worse, a friends son went to a surf destination there, and there were armed guards with M16's all around to make sure they were not kidnapped.

 

Dana

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I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Guatemala 8 years ago and, at that time, the homicide rate in Solola (the Lake) was very similar to the United States. There has indeed been an increase in violence since I left but, very recently, things are looking up and there was a recent article in the Economist praising Guatemala's progress. My family goes back every year but we do avoid the capital. That said, it is undeniably more dangerous than CR.

I stick by my assessment of the similarity of Spanish between rather two countries but I do admit the accent in the campo is different from the urban areas. My favorite town on the Lake is San Marcos, followed by San Antonio Palopo and San Lucas Toliman. Have fun!

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I was in Guatemala last year for three weeks. That makes me an expert, no? Lol

 

I really don't see it as a problem for Salish Sea. She will be staying in a "protected" environment and not traveling all around. San Pedro la Laguna is not exactly a hotbed of criminal activity. And yes, I agree with TyLand about the great towns around Lake Atitlan. Definitely worth exploring and there are boats that have regular trips to these towns. If concerned about safety, she could go with a guided tour or just with a guide.

 

There are people who live in Costa Rica who say: "We never leave our home unattended! If we need shopping, one of us stays home and the other goes to the store." Other people will say, "I would never go to Puerto Viejo -- it's too dangerous!" Still more will say, "I won't go to Samara because a tourist was killed there."

 

Obviously, we all agree that crime is on the rise in Guatemala and some of that is crime against tourists. But let's not have "the sky is falling!!" mentality. There are robberies and violent crimes everywhere but that doesn't mean that people stop going there. You could have a big list of crimes against tourists in Costa Rica that would make anyone shrink back. But those of us who live here know that that is only a small part of the whole story.

 

It's more a matter of what you do and how you do it -- plus if you have a good "radar." Example: Two years ago, my son and I were in Florida in a shopping center, just about to get in our car. A young man in a hoodie was walking across the parking lot towards us with his head down and looked really out of place. Robber? or guy going to work? First of all, we both recognized a possible threat. And without saying anything, we both just stood there outside the car until he walked past. This is what I mean by "radar." People who have traveled extensively tend to have that radar honed to a fine point. They are able to recognize "iffy" situations and avoid them whenever possible.

 

When I was in Guatemala, did I go out at night? No. I would go out for a more-or-less early dinner and walk back to the hotel in the gathering dusk. Plus, there are always taxis available to whisk you here and there. If Gayle is staying with a host family, that's another level of protection, as I have said before.

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I appreciate all of your comments. I rarely even go out at night in San Ramon, but that's because we don't like to drive on the narrow, dark roads at night (and sharing them with pedestrians -- WHY do they always have to wear dark colors so we can barely see them?). I absolutely will not go out at night even in San Pedro. My flight arrives during late morning and leaves about the same time, so it truly should be fine. Pickpockets are likely to be the biggest threat, according to an email from the school. (A lot of warnings about not going out at night, as well. I am duly warned, believe me.)

 

This has nothing to do with much of anything, but we were in Russia in 2001. All the guidebooks warned about not having a guidebook or phrase book or anything similar visible when you were out and about. I guess we were lucky, because I often got the phrasebook out, so I could slowly and painfully figure out the signs in the metro stations and where to go. I stopped one woman to show her the metro map in the book and the line we needed to get to -- the metro system there is massive -- and she took Paul and me to the place we needed to go to wait, which was quite a distance from where she had been going. I know that Guatemala is not like Russia in 2001 (Russia in 2013 is not like Russia in 2001), but I generally trust my instincts. People in Russia, by the way, were as wonderful and helpful as in many other places, and at no point did either of us feel unsafe. Twice people tried to get into Paul's backpack, and both times I stopped them.

 

with kind regards to all!

Gayle

Edited by salish sea

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Hi everyone,

 

I'm about 2/3 of the way through my two-week stay here, and thus far, I've been very lucky. The worst thing that's happened is that I've been overcharged a few times (tuk-tuk drivers are notorious, and it wasn't until I went out with a member of my host family that I found I'd been getting overcharged.)

 

Paul, I suspect you wouldn't recognize Panajachel, which has become quite the tourist mecca. As Eleanor suggested, last weekend, I took a "launcha publica" and had a wonderful time stopping at all of the pueblos on the route and talking to locals riding the boat, along with a few tourists.

 

I think it's been quite a cultural experience, very, very different from CR. My host family lives in a family area about a mile from school, so it's a very different experience from someone who's staying in the heavily-touristed part of town. Nearly everyone, if not everyone, is Mayan, and for all of them, Spanish is a second language. I think that were I to do this again, though, I'd pay the additional money and go to a good Spanish immersion school in CR. I'm not sure the accent is so different (Paul, I don't have an especially good ear, sorry), but a number of the words are different. Not enough to really throw me, but enough to think about.

 

Thank you all for your comments and good wishes!

 

regards,

Gayle

San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

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Gayle,

 

Glad to hear you are doing well with the studies.

 

The Maya in Guatemala are quite an intriguing, gentle people. That they have managed to orally maintain their culture in the face of conflicts with other cultures is impressive. Simply seeing the richness of their native costume is fascinating and subtly (mostly indistinguishable to us gringos) identifies them and which town/community they come from.

 

Will look forward to another report on your progress and impressions of Guatemala.

 

So... How much were you being overcharged by the tuk-tuk drivers? (Just curious.)

 

I'm sure I would be more than a little stunned to see what Panajachel has become since I last saw it. Have you made it to Chichicastenango to market-day there, yet? It's not very far from Pana... and not to be missed!

 

Cheers!

 

Paul M.

==

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