Is Guatemala safe?
Your volunteer experience in Guatemala can be rewarding and culturally-enriching. However, living here can also be somewhat dangerous due to the high levels of poverty, gang activity and crime. AP1 is committed to the safety of its volunteers. To date, we are very pleased that no volunteer has been harmed while working with AP1. We have established procedures and recommendations that will help each volunteer stay safe.
Unfortunately, some tourists fall victim to criminal activity (typically theft or robbery), most frequently late at night or while traveling. For that reason, volunteers receive information during orientation on how to reduce your risk of being the victim of a crime while living and working in Guatemala. To help all volunteers understand the risks involved in visiting Guatemala, the need for vigilance, and the personal responsibility to following safety guidelines and recommendations, we do expect all volunteers to review, understand and sign a personal liability waiver prior to beginning work as a volunteer with the program. We also strongly encourage each volunteer to inform themselves of the risks involved in living and working in Guatemala by reviewing the travel warnings published by the U.S. State Department.
What do volunteers do?
Both short-term and long-term volunteers join our staff in Guatemala during normal business hours (Monday to Friday, 8 am to 5 pm). Volunteers will work with our volunteer coordinator before they arrive to create a schedule of volunteer activities that fit the volunteer's interests with the organization's current needs. We ask volunteers to be flexible and willing to help where help is needed, which means that your volunteer schedule may change with very short notice if the organization's needs or priorities shift.
I want to help, but I don't feel comfortable working with kids. Are there other ways to help?
Yes! We understand that some people want to help but aren't interested in feeding babies at the local malnutrition center. Don't worry! We've got plenty of other needs, ranging from construction projects to administrative work, that will allow you to contribute to our mission in a meaningful way. Just be sure to tell the volunteer coordinator of your expectations or concerns before you arrive, so we can create a volunteer schedule that accommodates your wishes.
Where do volunteers live?
Volunteers live in Teculutan, Zacapa, where our central office is located. Most volunteers choose to live with local, middle-class host families because it allows them the chance to experience "typical" Guatemalan life. We also offer lodging at a local hotel, which has a pool and restaurant on-site. Volunteers may also opt to make their own arrangements, which they do at their own expense and risk.
How old do I need to be to volunteer?
Short-term volunteers need to be at least 18 years of age if traveling independently, or 13 years of age if traveling with a parent or guardian. Long-term volunteers need to be at least 21 years of age.
Do I need to speak Spanish to volunteer?
Our Guatemalan staff and the people we serve speak Spanish, so even basic Spanish skills will allow you to connect and feel more comfortable in our programs. Certain volunteer positions may not be available to you if you do not speak any Spanish, depending on the needs of our staff and programs.
If you would like to learn Spanish, we recommend that you spend some time in the beautiful Antigua Guatemala before starting your volunteer experience. Antigua is world-renowned for affordable, high-quality Spanish schools. Our volunteer coordinator will be happy to make some recommendations if you are interested in learning more about Spanish lessons.
Is there a certain length of time I have to commit to volunteering?
Since we require orientation and training for volunteer positions, we ask that you commit at least 5 full days to short-term volunteer positions. Long-term volunteers are asked to commit at least 3 months, full-time, since their positions are more technical and will require more training and coaching.
Is there a cost for volunteering?
We require a $50 non-refundable application fee with all volunteer applications. This fee covers the administrative costs of arranging your volunteer experience and providing support during your visit to Guatemala.
What do volunteers do with their free time?
Many volunteers take the weekends and holidays as opportunities to explore all of the beauty, history, and culture that Guatemala has to offer. Teculutan is located on a major national highway that connects the Atlantic coast region with Guatemala City and beyond. You can easily purchase charter bus tickets at the local bus station and plan trips to Coban, Semuc Champay, Livingston, Rio Dulce, Copan, Guatemala City, Tikal, Antigua, and more.
Volunteers also make plans to hang out after work, getting something to eat at a local restaurant or enjoying the evening breeze in the town square. Please note that your free time is yours to plan and manage. Do with it what you please!
Will anybody be there to meet me at the airport?
We offer private airport shuttles at a cost of $50 each trip. Our trusted driver will meet you at the airport's exit holding a sign with your name on it. You can choose to stop at a restaurant on your way out of Guatemala City if you're hungry, or sit back and enjoy the 2.5 hour journey to Zacapa.
How much do things cost?
In general, volunteers can expect to spend anywhere between $350 and $600 per month for typical living expenses (depending on lifestyle). There are two supermarkets in town, in addition to an outdoor fruit and vegetable market which can be helpful in lowering food cost. Almost every block has at least one “tienda” (small store) where you can purchase miscellaneous items (water, soup, vegetables, soda pops, chips, etc.).
What happens if I get sick?
During orientation, we'll offer some helpful tips on how to stay healthy while in Guatemala. However, if you do become ill and need medical attention, let our Volunteer Coordinator know. We'll take you to a private local clinic or hospital for treatment, and will stay with you the whole time to answer any questions or help with translating.
For most common ailments, medicine can be purchased without a prescription at a reasonable cost.
Do I need medical insurance?
Because of limited resources, we are not able to offer medical services or insurance to volunteers. Therefore, we require volunteers to have medical or travel insurance that includes emergency evacuation in case you get seriously ill or injured while in Guatemala. You will be asked to bring proof of your insurance and of your emergency evacuation policy to your first day in the project. You can find many options for this coverage online.
What's the weather like?
The eastern region of Guatemala, where our operations are based, is very hot and arid during most of the year. The rainy season is from May to October, but rainfall in this region (also known as the Dry Corridor) is typically not significant. Expect lots of sunshine and high temperatures ranging from 75 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit (25 to 40 degrees Celsius). You can see a detailed weather forecast here.
Does AP1 have a dress code?
Despite the hot weather, we ask that volunteers be respectful of the conservative communities we work in by dressing modestly. Please plan to wear pants or shorts/skirts that reach the knee, and tee-shirts. We ask that volunteers do not wear tank tops or strapless shirts/dresses to their work sites. If doing construction, please wear close-toed shoes, as well.
Do I need a visa to visit Guatemala?
A special visa is not required to visit Guatemala. When you pass through airport immigration, they'll stamp your passport with a simple tourist visa. This stamp is valid for 90 days from your date of entry. If you plan to be in Guatemala longer than 90 days, please ask our volunteer coordinator how to renew this visa.
Can I communicate home while I'm in Guatemala?
Teculutan is well-connected to the modern world, and you will be able to easily stay in touch with friends and family back home during your time with us. Internet cafes are located around the town's central plaza, and free wifi is available in some of the local fast food restaurants. You may also consider renting a cell phone from our offices for a returnable deposit of $40. Our volunteer coordinator will show you how to purchase minutes for your phone, which you can use to call home at a reasonable rate.
How do I access money in Guatemala?
There are several local banks available in Teculutan, providing you with the following options to access money:
- Cash: US currency can be exchanged at the daily rate at any bank in town. You will need your passport to exchange money and some banks set limits to the amount of money you can exchange daily.
- Credit/Debit Card: ATMs are widely available in Teculutan and throughout Guatemala, allowing you to withdraw money directly in Guatemalan currency. Be sure to check with your card service about international use fees and notify your bank of your travel plans.
How to I apply to volunteer?
Click here to fill out our volunteer inquiry form and our volunteer coordinator will be in touch shortly.