What is the typical daily schedule?
Each day will begin with a hearty breakfast at the hostel. On our service days, we will work from about 8:30 to 4:00 with a break for lunch. On our adventure days, we will start with a morning excursion, enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and then continue exploring in the afternoon. Each evening we will have dinner together and then will gather for an evening program.
What is the weather like?
The weather is beautiful and we will enjoy sunny, 70-75 degrees days and cool and comfortable nights. It is likely that we will also experience a light rain and some windy afternoons, but this will not prevent us from being outside. Lake Atitlán is about a mile above sea level.
How will we dress throughout the trip?
During our service days, we will dress modestly as we will be working and learning alongside Guatemalans. When we are not volunteering, you may wear your regular spring/summer clothes.
Will I be able to do laundry?
You should follow the packing list and plan to bring enough clothes to last throughout the adventure. Laundry services are not available, but you will need much less than you’d think for this trip.
What water will we be drinking?
The water in Guatemala is non-potable, so we will be drinking bottled water or filtered water throughout the entire trip. Unlimited drinking water will be available each day.
Will there be any free time?
During service days and while we are on excursions, you must stay with the group. Toward the end of the week, we may offer several clearly defined times when you can enjoy free time within certain areas (the hostel, a café, a shopping area, etc.). Also, there will be free time most evenings after dinner at the hostel.
How much spending money should I bring?
For most people, $50-$75 will go a long way toward buying souvenir-type bracelets, scarves, t-shirts, etc. If you would like to purchase artisan-quality weavings, paintings, textiles, etc., you should budget more.
What is the Guatemalan currency and how can I get it?
The Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ) is the national currency. The easiest way to get quetzales is to bring crisp, flat, new U.S. dollars and exchange them at the airport. If you have a debit card and are looking for a better exchange rate, you can use an ATM; bring two different debit cards in case one is not accepted. ATMs in Guatemala only accept 4-digit PINs; speak to your bank before you travel if you need to change your PIN to 4-digits. If you plan to use a credit card for purchases in Antigua, please inform your bank before you leave that you will be traveling to Guatemala.
Are any immunizations required for travel to Guatemala?
Please consult with a travel doctor or your family physician for recommendations regarding immunizations and other medical situations. When discussing your travel plans with your doctor, it is important to know that we will only be in Lake Atitlán and Antigua.
How should I pack my medications?
Participants may bring the medications and treatments that are indicated on their Health Information and Permissions Form in the Registration Agreement. Medications must be in the original packaging/bottle that identifies the prescribing physician (if it is a prescription), the name of the medication, the dosage, and the frequency of administration.
Where is the nearest health center?
When we are at the coffee cooperative, the nearest hospital is in Antigua, about 25 minutes away, and when we are at Lake Atitlán, the closest hospital is in Sololá, about 60 minutes away. If a situation arises beyond what can be treated locally, participants will be evacuated for medical treatment. While limited international emergency medical insurance for each participant is included in the cost of this trip, parents are ultimately responsible for all related costs of medical treatment including co-pays and/or any balances that insurance does not cover.
Can the program accommodate specific diets?
We are able to offer a vegetarian option at every meal.
Is there anything that might surprise me when I get to Guatemala?
You can not flush toilet paper in Guatemala. Instead there will be trash baskets by every toilet.
Is there a curfew?
While there is no curfew, the hostel does have posted quiet hours and we will follow all rules and be sure to respect the needs of other guests. Once our evening program is finished, students are not allowed to leave our hostel at night for any reason.
Where will we be swimming?
We will be swimming in Lake Atitlán at the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve in San Marcos La Laguna, and we will also have the opportunity to swim off the dock at our lodge. Parents must indicate on the Health Information and Permissions Form whether their child is a competent, developing or non-swimmer. If you are a “Non-swimmer” you must bring and wear your own life jacket while playing in the water, traveling by lancha (boat), and/or paddling. Only those students who receive permission on the Health Information and Permissions Form are allowed to jump into the Lake from the platform located in the nature reserve. If you don’t have permission to jump from the platform, you can simply step into the water from a nearby location. Youth participants on the April Service Learning Adventure are only allowed to swim under adult supervision.
What types of transportation will we use?
We will hire private vans and buses for long drives, and we will use both private and public boats to get around Lake Atitlán. During our service days, we may be transported in vehicles owned by the volunteer organization. We also might hire small, three-wheeled vehicles called tuk-tuks for short trips around town. Most of the time we will be on foot!
Do I need to bring a voltage adapter for my electronics?
Guatemala has the same electric current as the US, so you don’t need a voltage adapter. You can plug your camera charger directly in the wall as the sockets have two, straight-prong openings. However, if you are bringing something with a three-prong plug (i.e. a computer), you will need a two-prong adapter.
Can I bring a cell phone?
Bringing a cell phone in order to stay connected with friends at home is discouraged. However, it is understood that for many students, a cell phone is their only camera option.
How often will I have access to the internet?
There will be free time in the evenings and you will be able to try to access the internet then. We will not be using wifi (if available) at mealtimes or throughout the day, but you can try to connect after our evening program is over. Please remember that the internet is spotty.
How will friends and family back home be able to follow our adventures?
Our days will be full, and, as mentioned above, the internet is not always dependable, so it should be assumed that no news is good news. Program leaders will send parents a “safe arrival” email, and will do their best to post a few pictures throughout the week.
What if I get homesick?
Missing friends and family and wishing for comfort of your own bed and familiar food are common feelings while traveling. Packing your favorite nutritious snacks (and maybe a few not-so-nutritious treats!) can help ease the desire for the known, and writing in your journal about your adventures is a good way to capture stories to share with your friends and family when you return home. If you are feeling homesick while you are away, please know that your Trip Leaders are always available for support.
Is there really a ZERO tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol?
YES! Please read the Community Understandings thoroughly and make sure that you can abide by all of the expectations including the zero tolerance policy for drugs and alcohol. You and your parents must understand that if you were to violate the policy, you would be sent home, at your parents’ expense, even if there were only one day left in the program.
What about traveler’s diarrhea?
All of our meals are prepared by those who cater to travelers and offer the highest health standards possible. However, given the environment, it is best to expect to experience traveler’s diarrhea sometime during the trip while hoping, of course, that you are like most people and don’t experience any symptoms. Symptoms can range from just a squiggly-belly feeling to severe cramping and loose stools. Usually this resolves within one to three days. We will have charcoal tablets and Imodium A-D on hand and can administer either to those students who have permission to take these over-the-counter medications. Please talk to your doctor about specific recommendations for your situation.
Can I bring gifts or donations to give to local children?
Thank you for your generosity! We do not give gifts directly to individuals; instead, a few weeks before our departure, we will ask our local partners what their greatest needs are and then we will share these “wish lists” with you. If you would like to contribute items from an organization’s wish list, it would be certainly be appreciated. Also, by participating in this trip you will be supporting several community initiatives since your program fee includes a donation to each of the organizations where we will be volunteering.
I have more questions. What should I do?
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Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!