NIÑOS DEL LAGO
Guatemala Travel Guide & Registration Information
By: Tom Lingenfelter from Xela Pages Travel Guide
Please click on a link below to view information about the topic.
Please remember that when your credit card statement arrives, the US$40.00 Registration Fee will show up as a charge from "Mary Lingenfelter." This fee is not part of your tuition. It is an administrative fee not a tuition deposit. You should have already received a copy of the invoice from Mary in your email box. If you did not receive this invoice please contact me.
For Your Information...25% of your registration fee goes directly to support Niños Del Lago San Pedro Spanish school's social project. More info can be found here: http://ninosdellagosanpedro.org It is possible to volunteer while you are studying at the school.
You will need to pay your weekly tuition directly to the school upon arrival you can pay one week at a time or all at once it is your choice.
Ramon, the director San Pedro Spanish School will be contacting you with a confirmation email. If you need to secure travel plans please do not wait. Your space at the school is GUARANTEED by Xelapages.com.
San Pedro Spanish School
San Pedro la Laguna
Office: 502 5715 4604
Cell: 502 5966 2072
Important: If you do not hear from the school in 3 business days, not counting weekends, please email me so I can contact the school again. All the schools have an email account, but they may not be able to check them or respond everyday. I check my email daily and if needed I can call the school and let them know you need more information.
Send emails to: email@example.com
If you have not already purchased a Guatemalan guide book I HIGHLY recommend that you get one before you leave. You can read about the Highlands where San Pedro and Lago Atitlan are located as well as what there is to do in the surrounding area and around the country.
Two of the best guidebooks are...
Lonely Planet Guatemala 2015 Edition
You can find it on Amazon.com
Rough Guide Guatemala 2015 Edition
You can find it on Amazon.com
Xelapages.com has a very active message board system dealing with all kinds of topics from Volunteering to what type of clothes to bring. Please join in on the discussion! Click Here
Lonely Planet Thorn Tree - Central America is a great discussion board for all Central American Travel. Lonelyplanet.com look for The Thorn Tree.
It is recommended that you check your health insurance coverage before you travel. Most US policies do not cover you while traveling. It is important to ask your carrier what they will and will not cover while you are in Guatemala. If you find out that you are not covered it is recommended that you purchase travelers' insurance before your arrival.
Travel Insurance - Great Rates!
World Nomads - Excellent prices
Here is some general information about arriving at the La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City and getting to San Pedro.
AIRPORT: When you arrive at the airport you will need to pass through immigration, show your passport and tell the agent how long you are staying. The maximum stay is 90 days. If you wish to stay longer than 90 days you will need to leave the country and return to get a new visa
stamp. This can usually be done in 1 or 2 days. The closest border crossings to San Pedro are Tecún Umán, GT/Ciudad Hildalgo, MX, El Carmen, GT/Talisman, MX and La Mesilla, GT. You can also make a trip to the immigration office in Guatemala city to renew your visa.
BAGGAGE CLAIM: Once you pass immigration go to the right to a small baggage claim area,
pick up your bags then pass through Customs. If you are travelling with just your personal belongings tell the agent you have nothing to declare and hand in your declaration form. The agent may or may not ask to see what is in your bags. This entire process takes about 30 to 45 minutes
to complete, depending on how many people are on your plane and how fast the bags are delivered.
BANK CHANGE MONEY: Once you pass Customs you should look for the ATM or a bank as you walk
to the exit. The bank at the airport typically has lower exchange rates than banks in the city. So it is best to not change a lot of money with them. Just enough to get you to your destination. In this
lobby area you will find an INGUAT (National Tourist Service) booth. They gladly answer all questions. Recently I noticed that they removed the ATM in the lobby, however, there is one on the 2nd floor of the airport all the way in the back behind the money changing booth. You have to exit the airport and go to the 2nd floor.
Current Exchange Rate: $1.00 US = Between Q7.50 to 7.65 quetzales.
SAFETY: Before we leave the airport let's talk about safety. As I am sure many of you have read, hear or been told by others Guatemala is a "dangerous" place. This can be a true statement; however, it does not have to be if you will use common sense and take some simple precautions. Most crimes
against tourists are opportunity crimes so if you do not give the criminal the opportunity it should lower your chances of becoming a victim.
PICKPOCKETS: We are seeing more and more tourist come to our office with stories of
being pick pocketed. The pickpockets are VERY good at what they do. They can get your front pocket as well as you back pocket and have been known to get their hands in your bags also. Amazon.com has a bunch of good Money Belts for sale online. These simple devices can stop a
pickpocket who will look for easier prey elsewhere.
Cotton Money Belt and Passport Holder $6.99 - $25.99
You can find it on Amazon.com
TAXI SERVICE: When you exit the airport there will be a bunch of people asking you if you want help with your bags or a taxi. If you need help pick one and let him help. I prefer to carry my own bags when possible and suggest you do the same. If you do ask someone to help the normal tip is Q5/bag.
Taxis are lined up on the other side of the street once you get outside the airport. Cost of a taxi to bus station is Q60 to Q80 and takes about 20 minutes.
Always negotiate the price of your taxi before you enter the car. The taxis on the 1st floor of the airport are all legally registered taxis. They cost more because they pay special fees to line up on the 1st floor awaiting exiting passengers.
BUS SERVICE TO SAN PEDRO: This information is also found under FAQs: How to Get to San Pedro
San Pedro La Laguna is 4 hours from Guatemala City by bus, and is served by a direct road or you can cross the lake from Panajachel by boat (cost 25 quetzales per person).
Click Here for a Map
By Taxi from Guatemala International Airport: We can meet our students directly at the airport and accompany them in a taxi to San Pedro. This service costs Q800 (approx. $100). There is also
a direct shuttle service each day from Guatemala city to San Pedro. The cost is $30.00 per person. You must request this service directly with the school.
If you arrive late at night, we recommend making a reservation in the Dos Lunas Guest House in the outskirts of the capital city. Their address is 21 Calle 10-12, Zona 13, and they can be contacted by phone on +(502) 2261-4248 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Website: Hoteldoslunas.com The price for a shared room for the night is $15, including an airport pickup. They can advise you how to continue your journey to San Pedro the next day.
If you need a hotel in Guatemala city, please visit our website for hotel choices.
TRAVEL DOCUMENTS: Citizens of most countries, including the United States, Canada and most of Europe need only a passport to enter Guatemala. It is best to check the Guatemalan Consulate's website which has a complete list of travel requirement for all world citizens:
VACCINATIONS: There are no required vaccinations to enter Guatemala; however, it is best to consult your local doctor or international travellers' clinic to learn about recommended vaccines. You may also want to consult the Center for Disease Control website Cdc.gov/travel
Prescription Medications: Please bring an adequate supply of any prescription medicines that you will need during your stay here. While there are many pharmacies here that sell a wide variety of medication, it is possible that you will not be able to find what you need. Also, bring a copy of your prescription with you and make sure you have the generic name of your medication if possible. It is possible that your medication is known only by the generic name here in Guatemala not the name the pharmaceutical company gives it.
Over-the-counter items: San Pedro has a few pharmacies, but it best to bring what you need. You can also buy over the counter items in the small 'tiendas' (shops) around town.
HEALTH CONCERNS: It is very common for foreigners to experience stomach problems while travelling. Even though families take precautions you can still be sensitive to all the new bacteria. The most common is travellers' diarrhea, but you can also easily pick up some not so friendly forms of parasites, amoebas, or other bacteria. There are many medications available here in Guatemala to fight these illnesses however, you might consider talking to your doctor about some medication you can bring with you. I have found that 750mg of Cypro and 2 Imodium AD tablets can give you fast relief.
If you do begin to get sick it is best to seek medical attention quickly. The normal process is easy. Go to the local laboratory give them a stool sample. About 1 hour later they will give you the results which you can take to a local doctor who can prescribe the correct medication. If treated quickly your stomach problems can be fixed in 24 to 48 hours.
BEFORE YOU ARRIVE: One way you can prepare ahead of time to help your stomach adjust is to begin eating more beans, especially black beans, before you arrive. Black beans are served with just about every meal in Guatemala. Another trick is taking acidolpholous pills (look for them at a GNC or healthfood store) or eating lots of yogurt before arrival. This helps set up good bacteria in the digestive tract to help fight off the unusual bacteria you will encounter. Yogurt is also here in Xela.
ONCE YOU ARE HERE:
INSECTS: San Pedro is not in a malaria area. If you will be traveling to the Pacific coast or to areas such as Peten, where there are lots of mosquitoes, you may want to consider bringing a strong bug repellant that contains a high amount of Deet. And/or taking Malaria medicines.
APPROPRIATE CLOTHING: Guatemala is a fairly conservative country. Although you will see
Guatemalan women dressed very modern at times, more conservative looks are common.
For women: as foreign women you will receive attention that you may not want. It usually consists of whistles or comments on the street. It is best to just ignore and keep walking. Wearing tight or revealing clothing may only bring more unwanted attention. Tank tops are fine and skirts, but not too short. It is perfectly acceptable for women to wear pants and jeans; however, a skirt or dress is nice to have for an evening out.
CLASS MATERIALS: Some materials for class are provided for you, except for writing utensils and paper. It is easy to buy pens, pencils, and notebooks at local book-stores. These supplies are quite inexpensive. It is recommended that you bring your own Spanish/English dictionary and small version of a verb conjugation manual. If you have any specific textbooks or materials you would like to use in class, please bring them and your teacher will be happy to incorporate it into your studies.
GIFTS: It is not necessary to bring gifts for your host family or your teachers. However, many people like to do this in order to say an extra-special thank you. If you do bring gifts, it is very nice to try
to give things that may be a reflection of the culture or place that you come from. Here are some examples and ideas:
A product for which your town or region is especially known for example, Ghiradelli Chocolate from San Francisco or Maple syrup from Maine. Postcard and pictures of your home town and family are great ice breakers as well as key chains, stickers, baseball hats, t-shirts which have logos of your state.
Small games/toys for kids or adults, such as yo-yo's, Frisbees, or slinkys.
Of course, you can also wait and get to know your host family and buy them something here that you realize they may need or would enjoy. You will also know the ages of the kids and could buy storybooks or educational toys at a local book-store. If you are into cooking, you can prepare dinner one night for the family. Or maybe you have another talent or speciality that you can share with them. Finally, if you take pictures with the family while you are here it is nice to leave them copies or send copies to them soon after you get home.
FAMILY HOME STAY: Many of you will choose to live with wonderful Guatemalan host families.
Your family will provide you with:
Your family will not provide you with a towel or face-cloth. You will need to bring your own or buy one here.
The families are very different in make-up and personalities. Some are single moms and may or may not have another job outside of the home. Extended families living under one roof is common. It is likely there may be a cousin or grandparents in the home as well. Most homes are simple, but clean. Sometimes, however, you may have to readjust what your idea of ¨clean¨ may be. The ultra cleanliness in many homes in other countries may not exist here.
Food: The diet in Guatemala is basic and unless you are a vegetarian you will be given the same as what the rest of the family eats. Normally, families eat a lot of black beans, eggs and rice. They may not eat as many vegetables or the same kinds as you may be accustomed to. Fruits are plentiful here in Guatemala, but they are more commonly prepared as beverages for the noon meal or as fruit smoothies and for snacks.
Cultural differences: Please remember when you stay with a host family that there will be significant differences from your own home and culture, especially in your living environment. Please try to be flexible and understanding and take the opportunity to turn what may be some uncomfortable moments into occasions for learning and self-reflection.
CHANGING MONEY: What currency to bring? The easiest currency to change into Guatemala quetzales is the US dollar. You can change US dollars in any bank throughout the country, at border crossings with private money changers, and in the Guatemala City airport. In San Pedro it is relatively easy to change US dollars at BanRural located five minutes from most home stays
Using Credit Cards and ATM: In San Pedro, you can use your Debit card, Visa or your MasterCard to obtain money from bank or ATMs. This is the most common way tourist receive local currency while travelling.
Visa is more widely accepted at ATMs and banks and at a few local hotels, bars, stores. At times there is an additional charge for using a credit card and not all places accept credit cards.
Please keep in mind that while many students have had no problem using their bank cards to obtain money, others have had difficulties. Consequently, it is best not to rely on an ATM as your only source of getting money.
Travellers' Cheques: You can exchange travellers' cheques in San Pedro and other tourist spots of Guatemala. American Express is much more widely accepted than other brands, so it is best to bring American Express travellers' cheques if you intend on using cheques.
Some people have reported recent trouble changing travellers' cheques. So do not rely on them for all of your money needs. Also changing travellers' cheques takes time. You will need to sign the cheques in front of a bank employee with your passport in hand to prove your identity.
The banking system in Guatemala is modern and computerized and is therefore able to make most kinds of international financial transfers quickly. However, it still seems to take a lot of typing and waiting to get money changed, so have patience!
The exchange rate between US dollars and Guatemalan quetzales has been changing rapidly lately in favor of the dollar. It is currently at about 7.50 to 7.65 quetzales for every dollar. If you want to know what the exchange rate is, ask ¿Cómo está el tipo de cambio?"
INTERNET, FAX, PHONE AND MAIL SERVICES:
There are several Internet Cafés in San Pedro. Most of them offer Internet access for less than $1.00/hour. Many of these same cafés offer inexpensive calls/faxes to the USA and Europe. Most restaurants and regular cafes also have good Wifi nowadays
Most of the host families will have telephones; however, it is not recommended that you use their phone for outgoing calls. There have been problems in the past with unpaid phone bills left by students. It is possible to receive incoming calls, but it is best to ask your family first.
The Guatemalan Mail System "El Correo" is somewhat reliable for sending postcards and letters home to your family members. However, it take about 2 weeks for cards to reach the USA and longer for Europe.
For important documents there are other companies like DHL, King Express, UPS, GuateEx..etc which can guarantee delivery with package tracking.
If you have any questions about the sites in Guatemala or around San Pedro don't be shy, email me and I will do my best to get you an answer.
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