Phone Napping, Extortion and Other Unexpected Misadventures in Guatemala

Since being in Guatemala it’s been a race against time to get as much accomplished as possible. In between the running around we want to make this transition for our son as smooth as possible, which usually involves gifts of some sorts.

The gift of the day was a bicycle. We decided to buy it now and it will be waiting for him when we arrive, so he’ll be excited to come back and leave his life behind in Costa Rica. This really has little to do with the actual story. It’s only related in the fact that at every store you arrive to in Guatemala you must leave your bags at the counter. Not purses, but stuff like shopping bags and backpacks.

One store we went to was dead. There wasn’t a soul around except for us. Regardless, my husband had to leave his bag at the front desk. Thirty minutes after the store, where we ended up buying nothing (there was a good reason why it was so empty) we realized my husband’s phone was gone. And the only explanation we could muster up was that it was stolen at the counter.

Quick lesson, don’t bring anything valuable anywhere with you in Guatemala. Second lesson, make sure you have your phone numbers saved elsewhere or you’ll be like my husband freaked out about how he’ll contact any of his friends and co-workers again.

However, the thing that spun me for a loop was the ultimate fear he had about the new and somewhat creative way criminals are taking advantage of people here in Guatemala these days. Apparently, when a phone gets stolen you don’t really care about the loss of the phone, but rather that now the thieves will be calling everyone in your phone book and extorting money from them by saying that they have kidnapped you and they want money. NICE!

My husband ran around for the rest of the afternoon contacting his family members and whatever numbers he could remember of his friends to tell them that he’s alright and if they get any friendly calls from the neighborhood extortionist to ignore it.

I’m not sure what lesson I learned from that one, except do I really want to live here? However, I’ve been assured for the billionth time Antigua is completely different. And from my experience so far, I’d say it is – I hope, I hope, I hope!

About Marina Villatoro

Marina Kuperman Villatoro CEO of, a travel resource site to inspire families to travel with kids of all ages. Marina has been an expat 20+ years in Central America raising 2 boys in a multicultural, trilingual household. She travels all over the world with her family to give first hand experiences of where to eat, stay and play with kids. Needless to say, it’s never boring! Join Marina on Facebook and Twitter for more unique and boutique family travel!

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