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 7:30 until 4:00 with a break for lunch. When we are not volunteering, 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! In February, we will enjoy sunny, 75-85 degrees days and cool and comfortable nights. It is possible that we might 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. The sun is strong and we will be outside all day, so sunscreen is provided and trip leaders will encourage participants to apply sunscreen regularly.
How will we dress throughout the trip?
During our service days, we will dress conservatively as we will be working and learning alongside Guatemalans. During our time in Antigua, you may wear your regular spring/summer clothes. Please see the packing list for more details.
Will I be able to do laundry?
No. You should follow the packing list and plan to bring enough clothes to last throughout the adventure. You will need fewer clothes than you think!
What water will we be drinking?
The water in Guatemala is non-potable, so we will be drinking filtered water and bottled water throughout the entire trip. Unlimited drinking water will be available each day.
Will there be any free time?
Every evening there will be free time at the hostel once all programs have ended for the day. 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.).
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 a lot of gifts or if you plan to buy 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, and be sure that your debit card has a four-digit PIN. Please note that ATMs are not always dependable, and the town where we will be staying does not have an ATM or a bank. Most vendors only accept cash; however you should be able to use a credit card in many shops in Antigua.
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. 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 in in Antigua, the closest hospital is in Antigua about 20 minutes away. When we are at the lake, the closest hospital is in Sololá, about an hour and a half 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.
What type of medical insurance is included in the program fee? Do I need additional insurance?
All participants are required to have health insurance and will be asked to provide their health insurance information as part of the registration process. The program fee includes limited international medical insurance and medical evacuation insurance through TravelGuard. You and your parents will have the opportunity to review the policy and determine if your family would like to supplement the provided policy with additional insurance. As stated above, 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 from the dock at our hotel and at the Cerro Tzankujil Nature Reserve in San Marcos La Laguna. 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 February Service 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 or hired 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 camera charger?
Guatemala has the same electric current as the US, so you don’t need voltage transformers or socket adapters (the standard voltage is 120 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz). You can plug your camera charger directly in the wall.
Can I bring a cell phone?
We request that all students leave their devices at home, except for a small digital camera if desired. We have found that phones, etc. tend to distract participants from work projects, cultural exchange opportunities, and team building. Devices also tend to isolate participants and pull their focus away from the purpose of the program, which can cause strain on our small community of travelers.
Team leaders will have Guatemalan cell phones and international cell phones with them at all times for emergency purposes.
Adult participants are also requested not to bring devices and enjoy a week unplugged with their teen. However, we understand that there might be a need to stay connected for work purposes. If that is the case, we ask that adults only use their phones when they are in their rooms in the early morning and after all programming has ended in the evening, and refrain from using their phones during the day at worksites, in restaurants, in common spaces at the hostel, in buses, or during free time. Please note that wifi is often spotty and slow.
If you need to bring something in order entertain yourself during down-time or travel, we’d recommend something that involves others like cards or small board games. Other suggestions would be a book, journal, and/or art supplies.
I am taking an online class. How will I be able to keep up with my work when I am in Guatemala?
Given our past experience accommodating online classes, we strongly advise you to contact your teacher and arrange your academic schedule so that you do not have to post while you are in Guatemala. If you feel this is not possible, please get in touch with us and we’ll discuss your specific situation.
How will friends and family back home be able to follow our adventures?
Our days will be full, and so those back home should assume that no news is good news and that all is well. Program leaders will send parents a “safe arrival” email, and will do their best to post a few pictures throughout the week. Often participants share their photos with one another at the end of the trip.
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?
We eat at places that 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 Imodium A-D on hand and can administer it to those students who have permission to take this over-the-counter medication. 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?
Get in touch! We would love to hear from you. You can submit a question using this Ask A Question link.
I’m ready to apply. What should I do?
Submit your application today! After we’ve read your application, we’ll set up a time to talk about your interest in the program. We review applications and extend invitations to team members on a rolling basis, so please apply as soon as you know that you are interested in this experience. Once you’ve accepted the invitation to join the program, we’ll send you additional registration materials, the payment schedule, and a welcome packet that includes fundraising tips.
Get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!