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Four in ten children (43.4%) under five are chronically malnourished (as measured by height relative to age), a condition that causes them to drop out of school, lowers their productivity, makes them susceptible to illness and even loss of intellect, which are irreversible effects that last a lifetime. Chronic malnutrition affects eight in ten (80%) indigenous children.
(51%) of children live in poverty and 15% in extreme poverty. Among the indigenous populations in rural areas, the percentage increases to 72%.
In many poor communities, school fees for tuition, textbooks, uniforms and supplies easily consume a substantial percentage of a family’s income and result in high drop out from school. Dropout rates are high, especially for girls. Girls particularly are required to take care of their siblings, and leave school to help support their family.
11 life-changing days
We explore many different areas in Guatemala. We explore Antigua, Hike a Volcano, Visit Lake Atitlan, Volunteer in San Andrés, shop in Panajachel and spend a lovely day at the black sand beach. We believe we should see the beauty that Guatemala has to offer.
Nope. We stay in local hotels and Airbnb’s and always sleep in beds.
We hire private drivers. We travel like a family and always travel together.
Quetzales is the name of Guatemalan money and it exchanges at about 7 to 1 USD.
Yes, Tobie will help you exchange your personal spending money so you can buy items in town. Many stores are not able to accept credit cards so it’s a good idea to have cash.
Many volunteers bring $100-$200 for souvenirs. It is totally up to you 🙂
We have space for up to 16. We like to travel in a small group because that allows us to get to know each other well and fit into our bus and the small homes and shops.
Absolutely! First tip when looking for fundraising ideas for your service vacation: Be creative and have fun. The possibilities are endless! We have put together a guide that gives some awesome fundraising ideas!
Please do. The experiences we have are so amazing to be shared with your friends and family.
Bring layers of warm, comfortable clothes for being active. It is cool in the mornings, and evenings and there is no such thing as heat inside homes. Have clothes that would be comfortable enough for yoga, walking, and playing with the kiddos.
Yes, all your personal items need to fit inside your carry on. You (along with Tobie) will fill TWO 50 pound suitcases with much needed donations for our Preschool and the families in our community.
Quetzal (GTQ; symbol Q), named after the national bird of paradise. Notes are in denominations of Q200, 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 1. Coins are in denominations of Q1, and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centavos. US dollars are widely used.Currency restriction:
The import and export of local currency is prohibited. The import and export of foreign currency is unlimited.
The Quetzal is extremely difficult to obtain outside Guatemala or exchange after leaving Guatemala, and visitors are strongly advised to exchange local currency before departure. It may be difficult to negotiate notes which are torn. Unused local currency can be exchanged at the bank at the airport.
Bank opening times vary, but generally banks are open from Monday-Friday 09h00-19h00; and on Saturday from 09h00-13h00.
American Express and Visa credit cards are accepted, whilst Diners Club and MasterCard have a more limited acceptance. ATMs are common throughout the country, although care should be taken as there are frequent scams and robberies. It is best to use ATMs inside banks and shopping centres.
Travellers cheques are generally accepted by most banks and good hotels, although visitors may experience occasional problems. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller’s cheques in US Dollars.
Guatemala’s domestic flight network is fairly limited, the main route being Guatemala City to Flores. Avianca (www.avianca.com) and TACA Regional (www.taca.com) run daily flights. Except for high seasons such as Semana Santa it isn’t necessary to book these too far in advance. A travel tax of Q5 per person is applied to internal flights and payable at the check-in desks.
Travelling by car is a good way to access more remote areas but driving conditions are not for the faint-hearted. International and local car hire firms have offices in Guatemala City. Four-wheel drive vehicles are advised. Vehicles are drive o the right side of the road. Seat belts must be worn at all times. Speed limits vary depending on the condition of the road but they are rarely enforced. There is an extensive road network and the main highway network has had a major make-over and is now in good quality but many of the more rural roads can be poorly maintained. A national licence is valid for one to three months, but an International Driving Permit is recommended.
The majority of travel within Guatemala is by road and major highways connect the main cities. Most travel is by bus and the most popular are the colourful, ex-US school buses called camionetas, but known by visitors as chicken buses. They are cheap and efficient, but the driving conditions can be erratic, schedules somewhat flexible and conditions hot and cramped for longer journeys. Ex-Greyhound buses known as Pullmans operate longer journeys between main cities, and provide a better level of comfort. Private shuttle minibuses operate on the main tourist routes.
Taxis in Guatemala City are metered, and it is preferable to call one from a hotel. In other areas, be sure to negotiate the fare before setting off. Three-wheeled tuk-tuk taxis have become common, especially smaller towns.
Cycling is common and it is possible to rent mountain bikes in places such as Antigua, Panajachel and Quetzaltenango.
Regular boats operate between Puerto Barrios and Livingston. There are also frequent services along the Rio Dulce, as well as on the bigger lakes, in particular between villages on Lake Atitlán.
Health in Guatemala is focused on many different systems of prevention and care. Guatemala’s Constitution states that every citizen has the universal right to health care. However, this right has been hard to guarantee due to limited government resources and other problems regarding access. The health care system in place today developed out of the Civil War in Guatemala. The Civil War prevented social reforms from occurring, especially in the sector of health care.
The Human Rights Measurement Initiative finds that Guatemala is fulfilling 81.6% of what it should be fulfilling for the right to health based on its level of income. When looking at the right to health with respect to children, Guatemala achieves 94.8% of what is expected based on its current income. In regards to the right to health amongst the adult population, the country achieves only 87.3% of what is expected based on the nation’s level of income Guatemala falls into the “very bad” category when evaluating the right to reproductive health because the nation is fulfilling only 62.9% of what the nation is expected to achieve based on the resources (income) it has available.
For a long time, violence was the norm in Guatemala. Though the civil war here may have ended in 1996 (after 36 years) it’s still very much an issue.
Today violence remains. It’s a corridor for drug traders, highway (and pathway) robberies happen, and human trafficking is becoming more and more common as well.
Guatemala has one of the highest rates of violent crime in Latin America and a lot of petty theft/scams to go with it. There’s always the potential for political trouble as well.
Guatemala is also still a developing country. With a fractious history, much of the nation suffers from poverty and unemployment.
That said, Guatemalans are warm, friendly people and often welcome travellers with open arms. Many people will be there to aid you on your journey through this amazing country, so don’t think that everyone is out to get you.
The tap water in Guatemala is not safe to drink and water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should first be boiled or otherwise sterilised. Bottled water is recommended. Milk may be unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is advised. Avoid dairy products which are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
Guatemala’s cuisine tends to have distinctive regional variations, and many of the dishes have descended from Mayan ancestry combined with Spanish and Mexican influences. Like its neighbours corn tortillas, beans and rice, served alongside meat and fish are staples in most dishes, although soups and stews also feature highly in the local diet. All dishes tend to include some meat, but fish and seafood are found in coastal regions and many dishes are spicy, usually made with fiery chillies. Guatemalan’s eat three meals a day, with lunch being the main meal.
There are restaurants and cafes serving a wide selection of cooking styles including American, Argentinian, Chinese, French, Italian, Japanese, Mexican and Spanish. There are many fast-food chains and continental-style cafes. Food usually varies in price rather than quality and some of the cheap eateries are amongst the best.
A 10% tip is normal in restaurants where service has not been included.
Guatemala’s weather is eternally comfortable: neither too hot nor too cold. Its seasons tend to be divided into the dry season and the wet season, although the temperature,which averages 22°C (72°F) across the country, varies more according to altitude than by season. November through to April is the dry season and in the mountainous central region (Guatemala City, Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Chichicastenango, Cobán and the highlands) it is an ideal climate for outdoor pursuits with average temperatures of 18°C (64°F). It also coincides with the festivals of Semana Santa, Day of the Dead, the Burning of the Devil and the Saint Thomas festival in Chichicastenango.
The rainy season runs from May to October which can hinder travel in more remote areas where roads are not well maintained, with Petén receiving the most amount of rainfall. In higher climes, near the centre of the country, the rainy season, running from May to September, is characterised by clear skies after abundant rainfall in the afternoons and evenings. This means that travel during this time can be extremely pleasant, with less crowds and cooler temperatures. Temperatures can fall sharply at night.
The coastal regions and the northeast are hot throughout the year with an average temperature of 20°C (68°F) sometimes rising to as much as 37°C (99°F), although the Pacific coast has more unpredictable weather and rain is possible year round.
The busiest time of the year for tourism is between December and May when the dry season and festivals mean that much of the accommodation can be booked long in advance (especially in Antigua during Semana Santa). This is also a popular time for language learning and many North Americans come to study in the schools in towns such as Antigua and Xela.
Lightweight clothing is recommended with a jacket or light woollens for the evening. A waterproof jacket during rainy season is advisable as are hiking boots for outdoor activities.
The internet is widely available and Wi-Fi is common in tourist areas. Internet cafes can be found in even the smallest towns. Connection speeds to vary but in the main cities is usually fast and reliable.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Guatemala are very similar to the electrical outlets found in the United States and Canada, and if your appliance has a North American plug, it’s possible that you won’t need any adapter at all in order to plug in there. However, there are two potentially very important physical differences that may need to be addressed with an adapter: grounding and/or polarization. If your plug has one or both, and the socket doesn’t, then the plug may not physically be able to fit into the socket without an adapter.
In the case of a North American appliance plug, grounding is accomplished by the third, round pin beneath and below the two vertical blades on the plug. Polarization is accomplished by the left vertical blade being taller than the right, so that the plug can’t be inserted upside down. U.S. and Canadian sockets are required to be both grounded and polarized. But in Central and South America, the Caribbean, Japan and other areas which use U.S. style sockets, grounding and polarization often are not required, and in fact, the majority of sockets in many of these areas do not accept the taller blade and/or the third grounding pin. This will prevent a North American appliance plug from being able to plug into these sockets, if the plug is either grounded or polarized.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in Guatemala usually supply electricity at between 110 and 120 volts AC. If you’re plugging in a U.S. or Canadian 120 volt appliance, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.If your appliance is not compatible with 220-240 electrical output, a voltage converter will be necessary.