Frequently Asked Questions
How does the Foundation help me transition to living in Guatemala?
The Foundation has a number of bilingual employees in each city who help our English teachers make a smooth transition to living in Guatemala. Most everyone in the colegios and at the Fundación offices is more than willing to help you as needed. Fundación employees help you make the transition to living in Guatemala in the following ways:
- Take you to and from the airport
- Help you get medical attention when needed
- Help you renew your visa
- Introduce you to the city where you will be living
- Show you how the bus system works
- Show you where you can access the internet
- Coordinate food and laundry arrangements
- Explain how to get to different tourist sites
- Organize occasional activities with the English teachers
- Provide a listening ear when you need one
Where am I going to live?
You live with families in the city where you teach. All of the houses are close to the schools (or to a school bus stop) and have relatively easy access to markets, downtown, buses, etc.
What about eating arrangements?
In Guatemala, lunch is the main meal. It is usually eaten in the early afternoon (between 3-5 pm). Breakfast and dinner are lighter meals. The schools have a small store that sells snacks and grab-and-go foods like hot dogs, pizza, tostadas, etc.
For your main meal, you can cook for yourself or eat out. We have a list of recommended eating establishments that provide good, clean food at reasonable prices (about $2 for lunch; $4 for dinner). Each house has a kitchen so you can cook for yourself.
Never eat food from street vendors—no matter how good it smells! Local people that you work with can recommend clean places where you can eat with relative confidence.
How do I do my laundry?
Generally, we hire local people to wash your clothes by hand. This costs about $16/month. Since most houses have a pila (a concrete tank for water with two sinks—one for washing clothes and one for dishes), you can also wash your own clothes by hand.
If you are going to be in Chimaltenango, you can get your clothes washed in a washing machine for about $2.50/load. You can also have them dried in a drier for $2.50/load. A load is a regular-sized laundry basket. If you do two loads of washing only a week, this works out to about $20/month.
Am I going to get sick?
Probably. Most teachers experience gastrointestinal problems typical to North Americans who travel to a third-world country (diarrhea, upset stomach, gas pains, etc.) in the first several weeks that they are in Guatemala. Being careful about where and what you eat and drink is the best way to avoid more serious problems. Some past teachers have reported that brushing their teeth with tap water—without swallowing it—helped them get used to Guatemalan microbes. Others say that drinking a Coke a week and/or taking acidophilus helps maintain a healthy digestive system.
In addition to potential digestive problems, you are going to be working in a school. Plan on catching your fair share of colds from the kids and other teachers. The best way to avoid problems like these is to wash your hands frequently with anti-bacterial soap. It is also strongly recommended that you carry some hand sanitizer with you.
How can I call home from Guatemala?
Most public phones in Guatemala take a phone card. You can buy a phone card in varying quantities (Q20, Q50, Q100, etc.) in almost any store. You can also get a cell phone that works using a card. The phone costs between Q300 and Q1300 ($45-200) depending on the phone that you want. You can buy tarjetas [cards] in varying quantities to use with your cell phone.
To call the United States, you dial your number like this:
001 - area code - phone number
Calling from the States varies depending on your telephone service provider, but here is the basic information you need to make an international call from the States to Guatemala:
011 – 502 – phone number
How can I get mail/packages in Guatemala?
The Foundation has contracted the services of an international courier service in order to facilitate the receipt of packages and letters from the United States. The service has a higher cost than using the regular mail office but it is much more agile and reliable. Its best use is in RECEIVING letters and packages into Guatemala. For sending letters and packages it becomes cost prohibitive to use private agencies. We need to rely on the regular Post Office.
The courier’s name is Quickbox and it has offices in Guatemala AND in Miami. The sender only needs to send the letter and/or package to an address in Miami via regular mail and they will take it from there and ship it to Guatemala where we pick it up. This service has a higher cost than the national mail system. However the Foundation covers the basic costs and the final recipient will have to pay an amount roughly equivalent to the cost of using the former. For example if a 20-lb box is being sent to a volunteer teacher from Utah via regular mail, the sender will pay about $20 for the package to be delivered to the Central Post Office in Guatemala City. The consignee then has to pay import duties which will run normally about $8.00. Total expense: $28.00. Total time to delivery: 20-40 days. Reliability: questionable. With Quickbox the sender pays about $6.00 to send the box to Miami and the recipient pays about $1.00 per pound to receive it in Guatemala. Total expense: $26.00. Total time to delivery: 10-15 days. Reliability: High.
If the sender wishes to aid the recipient in the payment of the shipping cost he/she should send a check to the Foundation Headquarters in Provo, Utah and indicate the purpose of this “donation”. It is not recommendable to send cash inside letters or packages. If the contents and purpose of the package is DIRECTLY related to Foundation business, the Foundation will assume all courier costs.
It is not unusual that the shipping cost of an item exceeds the cost of obtaining it from a local store in Guatemala. Senders should always consider the possibility of just making the cash available to the recipient rather than going through this whole procedure.
Sending money can be done by using a private secured mailing/transfer system (e.g., Western Union, UPS, DHL, etc.). Some individuals prefer to use a personal bank account using the “honor system”. For example, a parent may deposit $50.00 into my account at Zion’s bank in Utah (Julio Salazar, acct# 033 08590 0) and sends me an email with the amount and date of the transaction. As soon as I verify the deposit, I deliver the cash in local currency to his daughter in Guatemala.
Address for Packages:
Name of Recipient
c/o Julio Salazar
10205 N.W., 19th Street
Miami FL 33172
Address for Letters:
Name of Recipient
c/o Julio Salazar
P.O. Box 526150
Miami FL 33152-6150
Will I have Internet access?
Usually. All three schools have internet access. English teachers can usually use the computer lab during the day and in the afternoon.
How can my family contact me in Guatemala?
Here is a list of people and their numbers in Guatemala that your family can contact to get in touch with you:
|Foundation offices in Guatemala
Director of Operations
email: jrsalazar99 [at] gmail [dot] com
|office: (801) 319-4021
email: jennifer [at] dodgeevans [dot] com
|School in Chimaltenango
||(011502)-7839-7225 and 7226
|School in Patzicía
||(011502)-7830-5266 and 5259
|School in Momostenango
||(011502)-7736-5329, 5330, 5331 and 5332
What kinds of churches are in Guatemala?
Guatemala enjoys total freedom of religion. You can find almost any major denomination in any of the three towns where we have schools. Most churches are within walking distance of the English teacher houses. The most prevalent churches are evangelical, Catholic, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, although Jehovas Witnesses and Seventh-Day Adventists are also present.
Is the electricity in Guatemala different from the US?
No. The electrical outlets and currents are the same as in the U.S. Many houses only have two-prong outlets, so you’ll need to buy a three-to-two prong adaptor when you get here. The adaptors cost about Q8 ($1).
How much does the program cost?
There are four costs involved in participating in the English Program:
- Travel to Guatemala - approx. $600/round-trip ticket
- Enrollment in one-week intensive Spanish class (including room and board) - $135
- Living with host family - $125/month or the equivalent in Quetzales
- One meal (supper) each day:.........................$2.50 ea. or $75 per month
- Electricity, water, and other services:..................................$20 per month
- Miscellaneous expenses*....................................................$10 per month
- Rent for furnished room.......................................................$20 per month
- Additional personal expenses - varies
* these are expenses related to the volunteer participating in family activities like family outings, extra meals, etc. Host family does not cover cost of personal toiletries, such as shampoo, body soap, toilet paper, etc.
If you want to travel or purchase souvenirs and art, we recommend bringing an additional $150 in cash or Travelers Cheques to change into quetzales.
How do I exchange money (dollars to quetzales)?
You can exchange money or cash a Travelers Cheque at just about any bank in Guatemala. You will need to show your original passport. The exchange rate varies, but it’s usually around 8 quetzales to 1 US dollar.
The basic unit of currency in Guatemala is the quetzal (named for the national bird).
5 cents (small and silver)
10 cents (medium and silver)
25 cents (big and silver)
50 cents (small and gold)
1 quetzal (big and gold)
5 quetzales (purple)
10 quetzales (red)
20 quetzales (blue)
50 quetzales (orange)
100 quetzales (tan)
How do I access money from the US?
The easiest way to get money from the States is to bring a debit card that you can use to access funds in an account in the States. ATMs are readily available in Chimaltenango and Quetzaltenango. Most ATMs charge between $2-4 for the transaction. You can also send money using a private secured mailing/transfer system (e.g., Western Union, UPS, DHL, etc.). These systems charge a percentage of the total amount for this service.
What kind of clothes should I bring?
When they hear “Guatemala,” many people think “jungle” or “third world” and plan on dressing accordingly. While Guatemala is a third-world country, and there is jungle in some parts, you’ll find that most Guatemalans take great care with their dress and grooming. In contrast, many past English teachers have taken the attitude that what they wear and how they look isn’t too important—after all, they’re in Guatemala. We urge you to come with the attitude that you should look well-groomed—especially during the week. Keep in mind too that each Colegio has a dress code for teachers. See “What should I wear to work?” in the section “Working at the Schools” for information about teacher uniforms.
You should bring nice but durable clothes that can withstand rigorous hand washing. Be sure to bring some nice clothes for special activities (going to concerts, church, etc.). We recommend that you bring any special clothes or shoes that you know you’ll want to wear, but keep in mind that you can buy just about anything you need here. (Note: Bras and underwear are expensive and not of the same quality as in the States.)
Guatemala is replete with second-hand clothing stores called pacas. These clothes come from the US and Europe and are often practically brand new. For example, one volunteer found a pair of brand new dress slacks from the Limited and paid Q30—about $4—for them. See “What Should I Bring?” for suggestions on what to bring with you.
What’s the weather like in Guatemala?
Guatemala is a sub-tropical country, but because of its diverse terrain, its climate varies widely. All three schools are located in cities in the altiplano—the highlands of Guatemala. From November through February, it is cool during the day and very cold at night. March and April are pleasant. From May through October it is warm to hot in the day. However, it always cools down at night. This is also the rainy season, so you will need a light rain jacket and shoes that can get wet.
How much luggage can I take with me?
Most airlines allow you two (2) 50-pound suitcases plus one carry-on bag for flights to Guatemala. Be smart about what you bring with you—you can get most anything you need in Guatemala, so think in terms of what you’ll want when you pack. See “What Should I Bring?” for suggestions on what to bring with you.
What vaccinations do I need to come to Guatemala?
You should receive several vaccinations before coming to Guatemala. Check with your local health department or visit www.cdc.gov for the most current list of recommended vaccinations. Also, make sure you get your shots as soon as you decide to come to Guatemala, since several of them are given over a span of time (e.g., Hepatitis A and B). Please bring a copy of your vaccination record with you to Guatemala.
Do I need a visa to enter Guatemala?
Yes, but you don’t need to do anything before you leave the US. When you arrive in Guatemala and go through immigration, you will receive a 90-day tourist visa. You must renew this visa before the 90 days expire to avoid fines—the Fundación will help you with this process.
Should I register with the US Embassy in Guatemala?
We highly recommend that you register with the US Embassy in Guatemala prior to coming to the country. You can do this online by going to https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/. The US Embassy in Guatemala has a web page with useful information about Guatemala for US citizens: http://usembassy.state.gov/guatemala/.
What kind of “official papers” should I bring with me?
We recommend that you bring the following “official papers”/important information with you:
- 3 copies of the photo and signature pages of your passport, one cut down to the size of the passport page and laminated (this is the copy that you should carry with you while you’re in Guatemala)
- Copies of the front and back of all credit/debit cards that you bring with you
- Copy of your immunization record
- Copy of your birth certificate
- Copy of prescription for corrective lenses (contacts or glasses)
- List of any allergies or other health concerns
- Driver license
- List of important phone numbers
Optional: If you intend to actively participate in a church while you are here, we strongly recommend that you bring a letter from your ecclesiastical leader (priest, pastor, bishop, etc.) stating that you are a member in good standing of that denomination. This will help avoid any doubts as to whether you can participate in church meetings, activities, etc.
What time zone is Guatemala in?
Guatemala is on Central Standard Time year-round; it does not switch to Daylight Savings Time. So, from the first Sunday in April through the last Sunday in October, Guatemala is on the equivalent of Mountain Daylight Savings time. For the rest of the year, it is on Central Standard Time.