FAQ Category: What to expect

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What are the major holidays? Where are they?

• Semana Santa — the week before Easter Sunday.  • Fiesta of Santiago, celebrating the patron saint of Santiago Atitlán — July 25th. • Guatemalan Independence Day —September 15th. • Todos Santos (All Souls Day) — November 1st and 2nd. • Christmas holidays — Begin in mid-December and last until January 6th (Three Kings Day).

Where can I study Spanish in Santiago Atitlán?

There are a number of Spanish teachers, with varying levels of experience. Classes range from conversation to formal. We particularly recommend Rosa Archila. This is the longest standing Spanish school in town, run by Rosa and her daughters, who have many years of experience. They charge by the hour, and you can arrange one-on-one lessons in your home or hotel. Phone: (502) 5414-0307 

Where can I buy food? What is available?

Santiago Atitlán has a thriving indoors market that is open daily but better to shop in the morning. Fresh produce from around Guatemala is available at cheap prices. There are a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans and meats. In addition, there are a number of small “convenience” stores that sell packaged foodstuffs. The town also has a number of restaurants. If there is any food that you must have during your time in Santiago Atitlán, it is best to pick it up in Guatemala City prior to arriving.

Where will I do laundry?

If you rent a house, the house staff will find a woman to come do your laundry, weekly or more frequently, if needed. This will cost about Q20 or $3/load. Be advised that hand washing can be hard on delicate fabrics, so you might want to give special instructions. Or, bring more durable cotton fabrics. If you do a home stay, your laundry may be included in the cost. However, if your clothing is heavy or difficult to wash, you may be charged extra. Dolores (5384-7441) has a laundry service. She will pick up and return your laundry.

How can I stay healthy?

The following are some tips for staying healthy while in Guatemala: • Use purified water for drinking and when brushing your teeth.  • Soak fruits and vegetables in water with a few drops of chlorine, iodine or other disinfectants.  • Eat street food at your own risk! 

Will I have access to telephone and Internet?

There are several Internet cafes in town that charge $1/hour. Several coffee shops have Wi-Fi available with purchase of food or a beverage. Wireless Internet is available at the Hospitalito, free of charge. Cell phones are sold in town for $20 or Q150. Local calls cost Q1 per minute; calls to the US are Q2 (25 cents) per minute. US cell phones generally do not work in Guatemala. Check with your provider to see if you can purchase a special SIM card that will allow you to make calls within Guatemala, as well as international calls. There is a kiosk in the airport that offers SIM cards (next to the exchange kiosk). Another inexpensive way to call other countries is through Skype or other Internet-based phone services.

Can I receive mail?

There is currently no functional postal system. You can send packages through Fed-Ex or DHL if necessary, but you will be asked to pay taxes on the contents.

Is a homestay an option?

Homestays are only successful with families that have experience opening their homes to visitors. Problems can include food preparation and a healthy environment. We recommend homestays for those who plan on staying a month or more. For about $10/day (Q75), you will get a private room, meals, and laundry service. Home stays are listed in the housing list.

Where can I stay?

Once our volunteer coordinator has accepted you as a volunteer, you will receive a document listing the housing options in Santiago Atitlán, which includes descriptions and prices. You can also go online to check out and make reservations at the better local hotels: Posada de Santiago: www.posadadesantiago.com Bambu Hotel: www.ecobambu.com Hotel Tiosh Abaj: www.tioshabaj.com