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|| News Item: Posted 1998-12-13

Travel Tales
By Jose Villegas / Sacramento Bee

I've made many trips to Mexico and Central America, travel light if you can, you don't want to be a target.

I can tell you about traveling with my reporter friend Marcos ├│nBret to do a immigration story in Guatemala. We were traveling with a group of people who had traveled extensively throughout the country and thought they knew what they were doing. Big mistake.

We made the mistake of taking a bus with this group to this small village about 7 hours north of the capitol. If you've never traveled through Mexico of Central America, public transportation can be quite the experience. It was just what you would expect. Old school buses with front and back door exits. The buses pull up into the square in the middle of town, then the mad rush by people trying to pile in from both entrances, filling the bus to capacity like a can of sardines.

What you have here is a case of pandemonium in progress as hot sweaty bodies push against one another trying to get a spot on the bus. We weren't able to get on the first two buses that came through, the third, well we got aggressive and forced our way on. My partner, who stands 6'5", makes room for both off us from the back door of the bus, in the chaos, someone slits the front pockets of his pants, taking his cash and passport while were getting on the bus sandwiched.

All this on the 1st day of the trip.

Be aware that pick pockets target tourists. It took two days to replace the passport after we returned to the Capitol.

A good lesson when traveling in unfamiliar territory where cabs are not available. Spend the extra money, rent a utility vehicle and hire a driver. It's worth it.

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