Questions on travel to Guatemala.

Old Apr 17th, 2007, 11:13 AM
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Questions on travel to Guatemala.

My husband and I are going to Guatemala for six months to volunteer at the end of this year. I realize we don't need a visa, but I can't seem to find if we need any documentation stating how long we'll be there. Our inititial plans were for Brazil and we needed a return plane ticket for the visa. Another position came up in Guatemala that is much more suiting to our needs. Will we need a return plane ticket? The only reason I ask is because we're not sure of the exact date we'll be leaving and may be interested in traveling around a bit afterwards.

Also, has anyone had an experience traveling with a pet? I know the documentation I'll need, but I haven't been able to find anything about how long it'll take to get through customs or if he'll need to be quarantined.

Does anyone know of a good site for Guatemala?

Thanks!
oceanslily is offline  
Old Apr 17th, 2007, 02:54 PM
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As a tourist, you're given 90 days, at which time you must leave the country. The thing is, El Salvador and Honduras are in a customs/immigration union with Guatemala, so going to those countries for a few days doesn't count as leaving for these purposes. I guess it would have to be a jaunt to Mexico or Belize.

I don't know if your situation counts as tourism though. Would you need a visa, because it's working of sorts? The organization for whom you are volunteering should be able to tell you this. I assume they have sent other people to Guatemala before and should have the answers to your questions.

I'm in Guatemala now, but can't answer the question about the pet.

Yes, a foreigner is supposed to have a return or onward plane ticket to enter the country.

The Guatemalan Embassy in Washington should be able to answer these questions too.

www.guatemala-embassy.org

I have never had much luck when I tried to E-mail them for information. Call if you want answers. The number is on the webpage.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Old Apr 19th, 2007, 08:07 AM
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Thanks for your reply and the information. I guess another nagging question that I know has been answered many, many times is safety -- do you feel safe? I made the mistake of reading the state department's information where it highlights EVERYthing which of course really takes things out of perspective.

I'll talk to the organization and see what they say. I'm just waiting to get final confirmation that we've been accepted and am trying to get as much planning done in the meantime. I know we're just about guaranteed a slot, just have to wait for the confirmation.
oceanslily is offline  
Old Apr 19th, 2007, 05:27 PM
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I'm always superstitious about answering this question because the moment I say, don't worry, everything is fine, then something happens to me, or so it has seemed in the past. But I am still struggling with this issue about what to say about safety in Guatemala because I have been here for about four weeks (so far so good), and will be here for about that length of time more, all for the purpose of writing about the country.

Before I travel to a place that has a reputation, I look at the State Dept. website, but also the equivalent sites for other countries:

Canada
http://www.voyage.gc.ca/dest/sos/warnings-en.asp

United Kingdom
http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?...=1007029390572

Australia
http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/zw-cgi/view/Advice/

New Zealand
http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

... just to see if the State Dept. page seems way off base. In the case of Guatemala, all five have pretty stern warnings about the security situation here. The U.S. page, though, is far more frightening than the others. I know what you mean. I read that before my trip and thought, oh-oh.

Some of this depends on where you'll be posted. Do you know that yet? Part of living abroad, something I've done for a good chunk of my adult life, is that you get to know your area in a way that a tourist never will, and that will be the case with your stay. You'll develop a sense of what you can do, and what you shouldn't do. I was just talking with a Peace Corps volunteer about this on a bus yesterday.

I'd think the organization sending you here could also offer you some insight, or maybe even put you in touch with past volunteers about their experiences.

Do a search on this board for "Guatemala," and you'll see many posters here have had no troubles. This is a place where you need to take some precautions though, more than, say, for Costa Rica. It is one of the world's truly amazing countries, though. I think you'll be impressed with the place.
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Old Apr 20th, 2007, 06:05 AM
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We have only been there for about 1 month over two trips. At no time did we really feel threatened. The guide book that we had warned of rapists and robbers at Pacaya volcano but we went anyway and had a ball. Tons of tourists all enjoying themselves.

The one thing we did do was to ask locally at every place we went to find out if they knew of any spots that might be a problem. There are still areas that they recommend you go with some tourist police. We did see some people at Pacaya with a couple of them.

We had people in more than one place suggest that we not use the banks because there were some street gangs watching them and following people after they left. Places like Antigua are probably safe in that regard. The banks had just reopened when we got there and people were lined up everywhere. Tourist police everywhere. In other areas like Panajachel we used small stores that change travelers checks and money. We were taken there by cab or driver and then left the same way.

Up around Yaxha they are having trouble with squatters so we thought we would skip it as we had seen it on the previous trip. Our guide told us the trouble was not right by the ruins so we went and enjoyed it again.

We wandered all around Panajachel during the day but a bartender went down the street to get us a taxi after the super bowl because he thought it would be safer for us to get in the taxi at the bar rather than walk down at night.

We have found most of the locals to be very nice and friendly and more than willing to help with advice.

I do hope you know some spanish. It really helps down there.
Suzie2 is offline  
Old Apr 21st, 2007, 11:00 AM
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As far as safety in Guatemala goes, I have been there twice in the past 2 years with groups and we have not had a problem.
But, one trip was with a touring bus, and we were assigned, by the Guatemalan government, a police escort truck who followed the bus everywhere (Antigua, Chichi, Panajachel, Santiago Atitlan, and Guatemala City.) The two officers were friendly, professional, and carried weapons.
The one caveat I have about personal safety is in regard to photographing Guatemalan children. As others in our group tried to take these pictures, the parents and grandparents either turned the younger children away from the cameras, or gave very stern admonitions about No Pictures. I think it is very wise to heed the warnings on the government sites about photographing children in Guatemala, unless you are totally certain the parents don't mind.

Is there a website we could visit to learn about the volunteer project in Guatemala? Sounds great.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2007, 08:03 AM
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My husband and I are making our fourth mission trip to Guatemala. this time we will be going to an area we have never been near......does anyone have any info to share about Coban ?
We would love to find some information about the area but can't seem to locate the right sourcee.
Please help !
thank you.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2007, 09:38 AM
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I was just up in Cobán earlier this month. I loved it. It is cool and slightly brisk with pine trees, not at all like the tropics. It rains a lot more up there, but that makes everything lush and green year round. Much of the rest of Guatemala is looking pretty dusty right now at the end of the dry season.

Good website for the area is:

www.cobanav.net

English and Spanish. The site somehow has trouble rendering the accent in Cobán, and it shows up as: Cobᮠ. If you can get beyond that, there's a lot of good information about the area. But you're right. It's not a well-known part of Guatemala.

I agree about the warning concerning photographing children. Don't. There was this horrible incident a few years ago in Todos Santos Cuchamatán in which a Japanese tourist taking photos of kids there was killed by townspeople. Could a simple misunderstanding have had any more terrible outcome?
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Old Apr 23rd, 2007, 04:42 PM
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I just had to come back to this discussion and post this. I'm in Antigua today, and wouldn't you know? This afternoon, a group of tourists off a tour bus started trying to photograph some children on their way home from school. The children were dressed in their school uniforms, hardly anything "exotic." The kids did not want their photos taken and a one of them started to cry. I intervened and told the tourists to stop, that the kids obviously didn't want to be photographed and to leave them alone. Well, a couple of the tourists started taking pictures of me! What in the world is wrong with people? What possible interest could there be in taking these photos for the folks back home?

If I find my picture in someone's "Just Back from Guatemala" trip report posted here...

But it raises an additional point about this whole topic in my mind. I don't think anyone is in danger of being bludgeoned to death here in Antigua over this issue, but how would any of these people feel or how would your tour companions feel, shadowcatcher, if strangers suddenly started photographing their children? I'd sure be concerned. It goes way beyond a matter of cultural sensitivity. It's a safety issue for the children in question. It shouldn't be done anywhere.
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Old May 12th, 2007, 08:24 AM
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I spent two summers in Guatemala and traveled by the local buses and never had any troubles. I felt very comfortable traveling, even alone as a woman. Of course they do have problems but I think the official sites can scare you unless you hear from people that have traveled and not had problems.You have to pay attention, travel during day time hours and I would suggest caution about using the strictly tour/foreign means of travel as I think they are more likely to have problems given that all tourists have $. I did some volunteer work, studied Spanish and really enjoyed Xela as my home base.
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