GUATEMALA 2014   >   Overview      Guatemala Region      Expedition Details      What to Expect     How to Prepare     Expedition Materials     FAQs

HOW TO PREPARE

 

Passport

A passport is required for each expeditioner to enter and exit Guatemala. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date of proposed entry into Guatemala. Check your passport’s expiration date ASAP. It needs to expire six months after the last day of the expedition in order to be valid for travel to Guatemala. If you need to apply for or renew your passport, do so as soon as possible on the U.S. State Department website; the process can take up to three months (see Processing Times on their website for more information).

According to the State Department, processing times can vary depending on workload and occcasional unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters. During busier times, such as the summer travel season, individuals traveling in less than 10 weeks are are encouraged to expedite their applications.

It is recommended that you leave a copy of your passport in a location at home and to pack a second copy in a safe place in your luggage. A copy of your passport needs to also be provided as part of the registation process.

Special Fees

Upon exiting Guatemala, you may be required to pay a $30 customs fee per person, which is charged to all visitors exiting the country. Check with your airline, as some airlines account for this in the airline ticket price. Be prepared to budget accordingly.

Immunizations & Medications

No vaccinations are required for entering Guatemala. However, we recommend getting a Hepatitis A shot. For individuals planning to work in the medical clinic, the Hepatitis B series is recommended.

We also strongly recommend that you visit your doctor at least four to six weeks before traveling to assure that you are up to date on all routine immunizations and to allow time for any necessary shots to take effect. If it is less than four weeks before you leave, you should still see your doctor. It might not be too late to get your shots or medications as well as other information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while traveling.

Please refer to the Center for Disease Control for the latest health information on Guatemala.

Travel  & Medical Evacuation Insurance

Medical evacuation insurance (with coverage at least $25,000) is required for all expeditioners. FHe is not responsible for medical care costs or medical evacutation, should you need to be transported home.

Standard travel insurance and trip cancellation insurance is recommended. Suggestions for travel insurance include:

Travel Guard
3300 Business Park Drive  |  Stevens Point, Wisconsin 54482  |  (800) 826-1300

Travelex
PO Box 641070  |  Omaha, Nebraska 68164  |  (800) 228-9792

Gateway Connexions
Paragon Office Park  |  PO Box 14468  |  Des Moines, Iowa 50306  |  (800) 282-4495

Insure My Trip
100 Commerce Drive  |  Warwick, Rhode Island 02886  |  (800) 487-4722
Also, check with your credit card company, as some offer travel insurance for free or at minimal cost (ensure that this is insurance and not simply insurance consultation).

For students and faculty, medical evacuation insurance is available with the international youth/study/faculty I.D. card ($20). Check with the study abroad office if you are attending a university.

Packing List

Items listed on the suggested packing list will help make you more comfortable during your stay. Many items are not readily available in Guatemala and the Polocic Region is even more remote. Things to keep in mind:

CLOTHING
The deep red soil in the Polochic Region often finds its way into clothing and can be difficult to remove. Please keep this in mind as you pack your belongings. Also, due to the humidity in Guatemala, it is recommended that you pack quick-drying/Dri-FIT clothing, as they dry more quickly than cotton. Cargo and hiking pants/capris are ideal. Due to the mud which is often present during the rainy season, waterproof hiking boots or old tennis shoes are recommended (although be aware that stains on tennis shoes from the dirt in the Polochic Region might not come out).

Open toe shoes such as flip-flops are difficult to wear throughout the day, but can be helpful when taking showers. A poncho or windbreaker is also recommended. Hats and sunglasses can be helpful for sunny days. Please be respectful of the villagers, who follow a more conservative dress standard. Tank tops and shorts are discouraged.

FOOD
Comfort foods in particular will make your experience more pleasant. The food there, while delicious, is often not as familiar. Having a supply of snack foods you enjoy is particularly helpful for times in-between meals or if meals are delayed. This would be especially helpful when traveling with children.

NO GIFTS FOR VILLAGERS
We support CHOICE Humanitarian’s no-gifting practice. As a general rule, please do not bring candy or food for the villagers, as there is not enough for everyone, and we do not wish to create a handout-mentality in our attempts to build self-sustaining communities. We cannot bring supplies that the villagers have not requested through the in-country staff or other village authority. This includes clothing, amongst other items. Any requested supplies must be routed through the in-country staff or other village authority. Contact us if you have items you would like to donate to the community.

Packing List
PDF file

Language Preparation

Because both langauages are spoken in the Polochic Region, it is helpful to know some basic words in both Spanish and Q’eqchi (pronounced Kek-chee). Often, the men or children are taught Spanish in school but speak Q’eqchi’ at home and most villagers are able to recognize common phrases in the other language. Studying beforehand will help you have more quality interactions with the people there.

Spanish 101
PDF file
Q’eqchi’ 101
PDF file

Mental & Physical Preparation

TO PREPARE MENTALLY:
Remember that expeditions are not tourist vacations; they can be dirty and uncomfortable. Be prepared to face disquieting circumstances while traveling, working and living in impoverished, primitive areas. Expect the unexpected, be flexible and patient, and keep a sense of humor.


TO PREPARE PHYSICALLY:
Travel outside of your usual environment means contact with microorganisms that are unfamiliar to your immune system. A strong, healthy and fit body responds to this type of stress successfully. In addition to aerobic fitness, a healthy diet will help you prepare for a safe and enjoyable trip. Just prior to an expedition is not the time to go on a weight-reduction diet. On departure, you want to have a well-nourished and well-hydrated body.

Although a physical exam is not usually required before an expedition, it is a good idea. You are required to complete a health statement on your Medical Information Sheet (PDF) and provide your doctor as a reference to verify your health. The expedition leader needs to know of any allergies or previous illnesses that might affect your participation. Completion of needed dental work before departure is also advised.

Countdown

For a 60, 45 and 30 day countdown of other helpful recommendations to prepare for the expedition, visit the Timeline page.