About your trip to Guatemala FAQ
- About places
The most professional schools are in Antigua and Quetzaltenango. But there are so many students, that you may find yourself speaking English half of the time. In some of the smaller schools in the interior of Guatemala you may end up learning more Spanish. (See also town pages).
Antigua: Pro: Safe, beautiful, dazzling scenery, eternal spring. Centric for travels.
Contra: Lots of tourists and college students, families are a bit like guest houses.
Quetzaltenango: Pro: Nice landscape and outings, Spanish teachers are university students.
Contra: Town is a bit ugly, very cold in winter. Still many tourists.
Atitlan (San Pedro, Panajachel): Pro: Most beautiful lake of the world, dazzling scenery, nice climate. Cheapest town in Central America. Friendly people.
Contra: Many tourists, not too much to do, teachers may be persons with Maya languages as their first language.
Cobán: Pro: Not many tourists, Cobán is centric to many breathtaking nature sites.
Contra: Town itself is a bit ugly, at times very rainy.
Monterrico: Pro: Study near the beach! Beautiful rugged surf and interesting hinterland.
Contra: If you do not get into contact with locals, you may be a bit lonely. Very hot in May. Many mosquitoes in June through September.
Petén: Pro: Beautiful lake, nature, friendly people, safe.
Contra: Schools are a bit laid back. In May it becomes very hot.
Huehuetenango: Pro: Not many tourists, the Cuchumatanes are near.
Contra: Town is a bit ugly, very cold in winter.
- About seasons
Try to avoid June, July, August. Schools are more expensive, and the service is not as good since schools employ many inexperienced teachers at this time of the year. Teaching areas become very crowded and you cannot avoid overhearing the classes of neighbor students. Also, your host family may be crowded with other students. Furthermore, in tourist areas it will be hard to practice any Spanish in the street, pub or school due to the large number of tourists. But if you have no choice, you may as well go for it! Small schools and small towns don't have as much of a high season effect as the famous places. Avoid Petén and Monterrico for May (too hot). You might avoid Quetzaltenango during December and January, or come prepared for a thorough highland chill. I would not study in Cobán during October – too rainy.
- Health tips
In order to stay healthy when you arrive, do not drink water from the tap or rinse your toothbrush in tap water. (Avoid diarrhoea).
Be careful with street food which has not been heated or which has been exposed to dust or flies. (Avoid cholera, diarrhoea and parasites).
Use your own sleep sheets in hostels. Don’t visit hour-hostels. Use insect repellent if you suspect bugs or fleas. (Thus avoid sexual and skin diseases.)
In lowlands don’t expose to mosquitoes at dusk, if you are among locals. Use long trousers and sleeves or insect repellent or stay in the breeze at this time. (Thus avoid dengue or malaria. Although these diseases may be mortal, Guatemalan strains are normally are comparable to a serious cold).
- Pack list
Our recommendation is to take your money in US$ Travelers Checks and about $200 in small US dollar bills for a start.
We recommend you bring some general medication with you for symptoms such as upset stomach, coughs and colds, and also some sun lotion.
It is best to bring products such as toothpaste, shampoo, soap and towels from your own country, as the host families do not provide these things. Also a small flashlight may come in useful in case there is a power failure.
If you intend to travel a lot, you may want to bring a sleep sheet, as some hostels only provide a bottom sheet and blankets.
From December to March, please bring warm clothes, long trousers, a warm jumper etc. as it is generally cold. From March to June, we recommend a jacket and/or a rain coat, as the evenings are cold but the days are warm. From June to mid-November, it is the rainy season, you might bring an umbrella.
2 pairs of trousers
1 pair of shorts
5 t-shirts or shirts
5 pairs of socks
5 * underwear
1 wind or rain jacket or rain coat (you get the famous "nylons" in Guatemala, plastic sheets which natives use in the rain, and which do not make you sweat excessively as rain coats do in the tropics)
umbrella: buy it there! (in the rainy season it may rain two hours per day)
1 baseball cap or foldable hat
hiking boots if you like hiking,
shoes / sandals
sun tan lotion
flashlight for power failures
general medication with you for symptoms such as upset stomach, coughs and colds.
antibiotics for diarrhoea
not too expensive camera. There are internet cafes now that burn your photos on cd's
photocopy of your passport
$200 in cash to change at the airport for the first week
travellers cheques (at least $200 per week)
credit card (be careful though to not trust anybody your credit card information)
address and telephone number of your embassy.
photos from home as gifts
Spanish textbook if you are not native English speaker or go to a budget school.
- Safety in Guatemala?
I have been living in Guatemala peacefully since twenty years. During all that time the US government has warned tourists to travel in Guatemala. I have followed up numbers. Statistically, the risk to travel in Guatemala is about twice the risk of crossing a street in an EU country or in the US during the same lapse of time. So yes, the risk is higher, but not extreme. Having said this, there are a few rules every traveller should follow: Adapt to safety measures taken by the local population, e.g.: In some urban areas, single women do not go out after 9 p.m. In Zone One of Guatemala City, do not carry expensive gadgets in public and watch your luggage. Beware the surf in Monterrico, about six persons die there every year (without being mentioned in any newspaper or web site).
- Visa information
Persons from the European Union, the US and Canada, Australia and Japan get their visa at the airport. Ask for 90 days! For other nationalities see our visa information.
- Why Guatemala?
I am willing to bet that there is no place on this planet where you can learn Spanish faster or cheaper than in Guatemala. This is due to one on one teaching, where you constantly talk and hear Spanish. Also, schools offer attractive after school activities in a country of vivid Mayan culture and dazzling scenery and biodiversity. You enjoy total immersion in host families, where you are encouraged to communicate in a warm atmosphere.
Travel while learning: Most schools offer afternoon and weekend excursions. If you choose two or three schools in different parts of the country, you can explore Tikal, Lake Atitlan, and the Quetzal bird - learning Spanish. Stay in host families, get to know Latin culture, learn to dance Salsa and Merengue, get to know people from many different countries.