Guam, an overseas US territory, is part of the Mariana Islands chain in the Pacific Ocean. Every year, over 1 million people visit this remote destination in the Pacific Ocean, which shows how beautiful it must be.
Guam has plenty to offer everyone. Most people come for the beautiful beaches, such as calm Tumon Beach and reef-filled Gab Gab Beach. Guam is also rich in history.
Explore Spanish colonial architecture such as Fort Apugan, sites important to local Chamorro people such as Latte Stone Park, and sites marking World War Two battles such as the Pacific War Museum.
Visitors also love attending cultural performances and getting a taste for tax-free shopping. Once you look at all the exciting things to do in Guam, you probably want to book your trip there immediately.
However, before you go to any new place, it’s a good idea to learn about practical concerns such as safety.
But don’t worry — our travel experts put together this detailed travel guide to help you figure out if Guam is safe to visit or not, including detailed information about crime. Read on to learn all you need to know!
Is Guam Safe to Visit in 2023?
Yes. Guam is a very safe place to visit. Besides some petty crime, crime rates are fairly low on the island.
As with any tropical island, you will have to be careful of extreme weather events and natural disasters, but you can usually avoid getting caught up in that problem by doing some research.
Travel advisories from most countries agree that Guam is safe to visit. The Australian government gives travelers the green light to travel to Guam, just telling its citizens to exercise normal precautions and to be aware of potential risks.
These risks include:
- Bag snatching
- Drug-related crimes
New Zealand has a slightly sterner advisory in place, advising its citizens to exercise increased caution when traveling to Guam. Its reasons for issuing a Level Two travel advisory for Guam include security concerns, as Guam is a US territory and might be a target for attacks.
However, the risk of a terrorist or military attack on Guam is very low (you should keep in mind that the New Zealand government tends to issue much stricter travel advisories than most other governments).
Besides crime and security threats, there are some natural concerns that might affect your safety while in Guam. Guam is a tropical island, which means it has many of the same problems that other tropical islands experience.
Insect-borne diseases are fairly common in Guam. The United States CDC warns about the risk of dengue fever in Guam and advises citizens to take precautions to prevent bug bites.
Like most places in tropical climates, Guam has a rainy and a dry season. Rainy season lasts from July to December and can include several tropical storms and cyclones a year.
Guam is at risk of strong tropical typhoons and cyclones, which are increasing in strength each year due to climate change. Try to avoid visiting during the rainy season and check the weather carefully if you do.
Crime in Guam
Crime is a common concern for people when they travel, whether they are visiting a new city in their home country or traveling to the other side of the world.
They fear that their lack of local knowledge will stick out, making them an easy target for criminals. Most people don’t have to worry about crime when they visit Guam because the island is very safe.
It has a moderately low rate of both violent and property crime. For example, the average homicide rate according to the World Bank is 4 incidents per 100,000 people.
The rate calculated per 100,000 people in Guam fluctuates drastically because Guam has only about 170,000 people, so just one homicide more than the year prior will cause the rate to jump drastically.
The Guam police published a detailed breakdown of crime statistics. In 2019, there were 563 violent crimes on the island. The most common violent crime is assault, which made up about 64% of total violent crimes committed.
Assault is followed by forcible rape, which made up 20.6% of total violent crimes, and robbery, which made up 14% of total crimes committed. In 2019, there were 7 homicides in Guam.
Violent crime rarely affects tourists visiting Guam. In most situations, the victim and perpetrator had some kind of relationship and attacks against strangers are rare.
The risk of violent crime is not something that you have to worry about much when you travel to Guam. However, the rate of sexual violence is higher in Guam than in other parts of the United States.
Most crimes in Guam are property crimes. In 2019, there were 4,046 total property crimes. The most common type of property crime is burglary, which made up 47% of total property crimes.
Burglary is followed by larceny-theft, which made up 43.6% of total property crimes. Motor vehicle thefts and arson were much smaller percentages of the total property crime rate. Recently, the crime rate has increased in Guam, worrying locals and visitors alike.
The crime rate worried one Guam senator so much he proposed a bill that suggested caning prisoners as a punishment (this was dismissed as a good idea by local police chiefs).
There are complex factors behind the rising crime rate, including worse economic opportunities as the tourism-dependent economy was decimated by COVID-19 lockdowns and higher rates of drug abuse.
The rise in crime is certainly troubling, but even with a crime increase, crime rates in Guam are much lower than in most other places in the United States. This issue is certainly concerning for many locals, but it shouldn’t affect you as a tourist going to visit Guam.
The most common crime visitors encounter when visiting Guam is petty theft. There is a fairly large income gap between most locals and visitors, which creates the perfect incentive for petty crimes of opportunity such as pickpocketing, bag snatching and scams.
Petty crime is the most common type of crime countries mention in their travel advisories for Guam. New Zealand warns its citizens about the prevalence of pickpocketing and bag snatching and advises its citizens to stay alert at all times.
The Canadian government also includes information about petty theft and advises its citizens to keep a particularly close grip on their passports as ID theft is common in Guam.
Most thefts in Guam are crimes of opportunity, so you can prevent theft by minimizing the opportunity thieves have to take your things. The Australian government includes some tips for preventing theft in its travel advisory.
You should have basic awareness of your personal safety, which means not going down dark alleyways, keeping valuables in a secure place, and not being obvious about wealth.
Never leave your valuables unattended — thieves often go through people’s bags on the beach while they are swimming. If you are robbed in Guam, alert the police and file a report.
If you’re renting a car, don’t leave your valuables unattended as thefts from vehicles happen often. The Australian government also advises its citizens not to buy counterfeit goods in Guam, a common tourism scam.
As in any other tourist destination, Guam has its fair share of scams targeted at foreigners.
Another common one is the photography scam, when a local will ask you to take their photo, drop their camera or phone, and blame you for the loss and force you to pay up.
Scammers have also posed as police officers in the past and pulled over tourists to demand money for imaginary fees. Always ask for ID when someone introduces themselves as an official and make sure that the ID matches who they say that they are.
Female travelers will face additional concerns when visiting Guam. Unfortunately, the US territory has one of the highest rates of sexual assault and other forms of violence against women in the country.
According to FBI statistics, Guam has a rape rate of 64.2 incidents per 100,000 people, which is the second highest in the nation and much higher than the US national average.
Analysts are trying to figure out why the sexual assault rate in Guam is so high.
Social factors play a role — Guam has high poverty rates, and all rates of violent crime tend to be higher in impoverished communities, as does violence against women, due to the stress and trauma of poverty.
Local groups fighting violence against women also point out that Guam has a very conservative culture which prevents victims from reporting or women from living in safe environments.
Although most cases of violence against women in Guam affect local women and are instances where the victim and perpetrator knew each other, female travelers should still be alert to the risks when visiting Guam.
Be careful not to give too much information, such as your hotel room, to new acquaintances. If you go out at night, avoid poorly lit, poorly visited streets and keep a close eye on your drink.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Some parts of Guam have higher crime rates than others. Most locals advise visitors to avoid Dededo as this part of Guam has a very high violent crime rate. Anigua and Agat are other areas that locals say are a bit shady.
Things to Consider
Here are a few things to consider when visiting Guam:
- Alcohol-related crime is fairly common on the island, as are fistfights as island culture is quick to react to a slight, even though people are normally laid-back. If you’re going out at night and notice a tension in the air, head away immediately as the situation could escalate.
- Drugs are illegal and penalties are strict in Guam. Authorities are cracking down on drug laws more lately due to high drug abuse rates fueling a rise in crime, so it’s better not to risk partaking in any illegal substances.
- Some beaches on the island have strong currents and can be dangerous to swim in. Always ask locals before heading to check out a new, out of the way beach.
- Guam is an important base for the US military, which means there is a heavy military presence on the island. Be careful not to venture into military bases where your presence is not authorized as the punishments are severe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions visitors to Guam have asked in the past:
Is Guam good for tourists?
Guam is very good for tourists. The island has beautiful beaches, lots of history, and plenty of infrastructure in place to meet tourists with open arms.
Is Guam expensive for tourists?
The cost of visiting Guam can be expensive, primarily because it is expensive to get there. There are only a few direct flights to Guam, and they cost a lot. Accommodation is reasonably priced and even affordable, but basic goods such as food are often expensive because they have to be imported.
What is so good about Guam?
The nature in Guam is one of the best things about the island. Besides the pristine beaches, make sure to head inland to trek through the beautiful jungle and see the pristine nature.
Is Guam a safe place to live?
Most expats that move to Guam find the island a safe place to live, besides some neighborly disputes and petty crime. Choosing the right neighborhood to live in is also crucial for making sure your time in Guam is safe.
Can I speak English in Guam?
Guam is a US territory, so most people speak English, and it is the most common language. The local language is Chamorro, and it is polite to learn at least a few words before visiting.
So, Is Guam Safe to Visit?
For the most part, Guam is safe to visit. Petty crime occurs here, as it does almost everywhere else in the world, but as long as you take some basic precautions you should be fine.
Research your itinerary before coming, but don’t spend too much time fretting — that goes against the island mentality, after all. So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip to Guam today!