Volunteer In Guatemala
- What are New Hope’s programs in Guatemala?
- Who will meet me at the airport?
- What should I do if I get delayed or miss a flight?
- Where do I stay during my volunteering program?
- What do I eat?
- What are Visa regulations in Guatemala for volunteers?
- Will someone pick me from the airport? If so, how do I know about the person?
- How should we take care of our health while in Guatemala?
- What vaccinations do we need to have?
- What is the currency of Guatemala? Where should I change my currency?
- Can I use a debit card or credit card? Should I bring travelers checks?
- How much money do I need to bring?
- How does New Hope Volunteers help me when I am in the field? How can I maintain communication?
- How do I communicate with my family? Is there internet available?
- What is the climate like in Guatemala?
- What materials do I bring during my volunteering in Guatemala?
Currently, projects that New Hope offers in Guatemala include: orphanage project, street children project, English-teaching Project, Healthcare Project and a Social Work Project. We offer free Spanish lessons to participants volunteering in projects based in Quetzaltenango. For some projects, a certain level of Spanish fluency is preferred to prevent volunteers from becoming frustrated due to the occasionally-occurring language barriers
Upon arrival in Guatemala City airport, volunteers will be met and picked up by a local New Hope representative who will then transfer volunteers to their assigned accommodations/volunteer projects.
If some sort of delay occurs, including flight delays or missed flights, contact our Guatemala office as soon as possible. Volunteers coming to Guatemala are advised to arrive one day before their program start date. The program fee will cover expenses from the first day of the program (Usually first or third Monday) to the last day of the program. If you arrive before the first day of the program and/or stay beyond the last day of the program, expenses will be the responsibility of the volunteer (usually $30 per day for room/food in hostel).
In Guatemala, all volunteers stay with well-screened host families. Our host families are socially respected and are well versed in the art of hosting international volunteers. Host families offer a safe home, private rooms (occasionally rooms will be shared with other same-gender volunteers) and shared bathroom facilities with running water and a “western” style toilet. Volunteers can do laundry at the house or the host family may offer to do it for you for a nominal extra fee.
Host families provide typical meals that are traditional to Guatemala. You receive three prepared meals per day. If you will be out of the house during lunch hour, you can request a lunch "to go" that you can take with you or eat out on your own.
New Hope Volunteers suggests all volunteers apply for a tourist visa before leaving for Guatemala. Though American, UK and Canadian citizens are able to acquire a visa at the airport, this can be time-consuming and is not guaranteed. Volunteers can acquire a Guatemalan visa from the Guatemalan Embassy or consulate in their home countries.
For more information, please visit: http://www.learn4good.com/travel/Guatemala_embassies.html
For stays exceeding 90 days, apply for an extension within the first week of arrival with the Guatemalan Immigration Department or exit the country for a minimum of 72 hours before re-entering on a new visa.
General Health Tips for Volunteers in Guatemala:
- Public water is not considered safe to drink in most of Guatemala. When traveling to the beaches or very rural areas, drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or sealed bottles. Tap water should not be considered safe at the beaches, nor are drinking fountains, fountain drinks (soda pop) and ice cubes. If purchasing pre-packaged water isn’t possible, make water safer by both filtering through an "absolute 1 micron or less" filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. Filters and tablets are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
- Buy bottled water from respectable outlets/vendors to guard against an upset stomach. Make sure that the seal of the bottle is intact as it is not uncommon for local street merchants to sell tap water in resealed bottles.
- The most common health complaint in any developing nation is an ailing digestive system. In many cases, the illness may be attributed merely to a change in diet, but occasional cases of food poisoning can occur, whereby the symptoms occur very quickly, severely and explosively. These are seldom serious or extended illnesses, but medical treatment should be sought if it occurs.
- Avoid eating food from road side stalls/vendors. Don't eat unpeeled fruits or fruits that have already been cut by unknown handlers on the street. If you must eat food at a place that you have doubts about, make sure the food is served hot.
- If you require any prescription drugs, bring enough for the duration of your stay in Guatemala. They will need to be carried in their original prescription bottle and the prescription must be in your name.
- It is advisable that you carry a small health kit which should include remedy for upset stomach, some antiseptic cream, hydration powder, deer mosquito repellant, sun block, band aids, etc.
We recommend all traveling volunteers visit the Center for Disease Control's website (www.cdc.gov ) for traveler's health recommendations. You should also consult with your personal doctor regarding current epidemics and medical concerns.
Recommended Vaccinations and Preventive Medications
The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to Central America, including Guatemala. Discuss your travel plans and personal health with your healthcare provider to determine which vaccines you will need.
- Hepatitis A or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice, or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables, or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
- Hepatitis B, especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, health-care workers), have sexual contact with the local population, or be exposed through medical treatment. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
- Malaria: if you are traveling to a malaria-risk area in this region, see your health care provider for a prescription anti-malarial drug. For details concerning risk and preventive medications, see Malaria Information for Travelers to Central America and Mexico .
- Rabies, if you experience extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking, or bicycling, or engaging in certain occupational activities.
- Typhoid vaccine. Typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food, or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors.
- Yellow fever, for volunteers traveling to endemic areas in Panama.
- As needed, booster doses for tetanus-diphtheria and measles.
- Precaution again Malaria.
Guatemala’s local currency is the “Guatemalan Quetzal” (GTQ). Dollars can be changed at the exchange houses in the airport. Many businesses accept dollars at the current exchange rate. ATM machines are available in various regions throughout Guatemala, especially Guatemala City and the airport where the option of US dollars or the Quetzal is often available.
Do not arrive in Guatemala without any cash as ATM machines can be down or fail to accept your card. It is wise to check with your bank ahead of time to confirm that your card will work overseas. Debit cards and credit cards are becoming more acceptable at major stores; however, they are still not accepted as widely as in your home country.
Credit card fraud is an issue in Guatemala. Do not use your cards at any smaller or non-reputable locations. Information is often stolen and used fraudulently just by paying with a credit card. For this reason, New Hope Volunteers suggests cash and travelers checks to settle your bills. You will have trouble actually paying with traveler's checks, but you will be able to exchange them at local banks. Traveler's Checks are recommended as a safe way to carry money with you, make sure you write down the check numbers and contact information you need to cancel stolen checks. Different brands of traveler's checks work better in different countries so consult your local financial institution regarding which Traveler’s Checks to bring to Guatemala.
How much money you bring depends on your personal spending habits. Thrifty people can get by on less than $10/day. Your budget should also include money to explore Thailand in free time as well as for your personal use. A good rule of thumb for money management is the 1/3 method, bring 1/3 cash, 1/3 traveler's check and leave 1/3 of your money in your account - plus a credit card for emergencies.
Find the Exchange Rate for Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ) at http://www.xe.com/ucc/
Once your volunteer program begins, our local staff members stay in constant touch with you. However, volunteers staying far from our Quetzaltenango office, our staff will visit you every 2-4 weeks (if possible) and volunteers are always welcome at the office. We recommend that volunteers stop by the office once a week, if they are staying/working in the local area, to give feedback on their home stay and project. Many minor issues can avoid escalation with a just little extra communication. Your project will have local staff members in addition to our in-country coordination staff. If your project is located a substantial distance from our offices, then our local staff communicates by either email and/or phone.
We are available for you at the local office via email and phone for your entire trip. It’s our job to make sure that you are safe and healthy.
There are a number of internet cafes located in some of the major cities such as Guatemala City, La Antigua and Quetzaltenango and usually cost about $1/hour. There are also international phone cards available to make international calls. Also, please use local phone cards for local calls as every minute of local or international use is billed to the families. If you need to contact the local New Hope Volunteers staff members, your host family or project will generally allow you to use the phone for short periods of time.
Guatemala has a lovely climate year round. The rainy season generally occurs from May to November. Fluctuations in weather are usually due to escalating altitudes, but warm temperatures are normally found throughout the country. Northern Guatemala features a hot, tropical climate with the majority of the rainfall occurring between May and September.
Both the coastal and northeast regions are hot and the drier period occurs from November to April, with average temperatures of 68°F (20°C). Guatemala City and La Antigua (designated as the “highlands”) both have a pleasant climate with less rainfall (as compared to the coastal regions), but experience colder temperatures in the evenings.
Most items of daily use are available in Guatemala and are fairly inexpensive. However, we suggest volunteers pack the following items:
- Mobile phone (you can use your mobile phone after changing the sim card). NOTE: only bring cell phones that have multi-national coverage. You cannot switch to a new card here on the local phone system without being a resident and having a receipt for your phone on you.
- Sleeping bag
- Mosquito repellents
- Insect repellents
- Work gloves (if joining conservation or construction project)
- Some books about Guatemala
- Map of Guatemala
- First aid kit
- Flash light
- Electricity adapter/converter
- Shoes/boots (for work and travel)
- Hot weather clothing but not overly-skimpy (conservative clothing)
- Jeans or pants or skirts
- Long-sleeve shirt and jacket for cooler areas (cool temperatures occur in the evenings in Guatemala City and Antigua)
- Raingear (especially during the rainy season which occurs from May to November)
It is a common courtesy to bring a small gift for the staff that will be hosting you. You are not required to do so, but if you choose to bring something it can be pretty simple. We suggest a box of chocolates, a t-shirt with a hometown/country logo or pictures of your family and local post cards.