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?
Our group trips are designed to be flexible to your group's goals and needs. Our Groups Coordinator will work with you to create a trip that will be truly unforgetable. Generally, trips offer a variety of different activities that demonstrate the wide range of services AP1 provides. These activities can range from construction projects to caring for children in a local malnutrition hospital to helping us perform a rescue in a nearby village. Click here to see an example itinerary.
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 Groups Coordinator of your expectations or concerns before you arrive, so we can create a schedule that accommodates your wishes.
Where do teams stay?
Teams stay in Teculutan, Zacapa, where our central office is located. To keep everyone together and allow for more efficient team management, we offer lodging at a local hotel, which has a pool and restaurant on-site.
How old do I need to be to join a group?
Team members need to be at least 18 years of age if traveling independently, or 13 years of age if traveling with a parent or guardian. We can make some exceptions to the age of children traveling with a parent or guardian, but smaller children may not be able to participate in some activities. Please inform our Groups Coordinator if you plan to travel with children under 13 years old.
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. However, Spanish is not a required skill for our group trips and you will always have an English-speaking guide with your group.
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 Groups Coordinator will be happy to make some recommendations if you are interested in learning more about Spanish lessons.
What do groups do with their free time?
Many groups take time before or after their volunteer time 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. We can help your group book a shuttle and plan a trip to Coban, Semuc Champay, Livingston, Rio Dulce, Copan, Guatemala City, Tikal, Antigua, and more.
During the week of volunteer activities, our Groups Coordinator will help you plan fun, cultural activities during evenings and down-time. Additionally, we've planned Saturday to be a fun, relaxing end to your volunteer week. Activities can range from salsa dance lessons to preparing a traditional Guatemalan meal, dining out at a local restaurant to enjoying some splash time at a nearby waterpark, visiting Mayan ruins or Guatemala's only dinosaur museum.
Will anybody be there to meet me at the airport?
We offer private airport shuttles, which is included in the group trip price. Our trusted driver and an English-speaking guide 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 trip to Zacapa.
How much do things cost?
In general, visitors can expect to spend anywhere between $100 and $400 on souvenirs, additional activities or trips, and extra food or drinks. Remember to haggle prices on souvenir purchases; its traditional practice in Guatemala to start at a high asking price and haggle down to the real asking price. See Pricing & Packages for more details on what is not included in Group Trip prices.
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 Groups 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 send proof of your insurance and of your emergency evacuation policy prior to your group trip. 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, strapless shirts/dresses, or flip-flops to their work sites. If doing construction, please wear close-toed shoes. After work hours, feel free to dress however you would like.
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.
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 Groups 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 sign up for a group trip?
Click here to fill out our group trip inquiry form and our Groups Coordinator will be in touch shortly.