Guatemala

Basic Facts

 

• Spanish is the official language of Guatemala. For 60% of the population, it’s their first language. 40% of the population also communicate using Amerindian languages (21 Mayan dialects to be exact), including Quiche, Cakchiquel, Kekchi, Mam, Garifuna, and Xinca.
• Approximately 15,531,208 people live in Guatemala
• The official currency used in Guatemala is the Quetzal
• Guatemala is a relatively small country, covering a total surface of 108,890 kilometres squared. This is divided between 108,430 kilometres squared of land and 460 kilometres squared of water.
• Guatemala’s main industries are sugar, textiles and clothing, petroleum, rubber and tourism.
• Its capital city is Guatemala City and has a metropolitan population of 2.5 million people.
• It has coastlines along the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, but it also shares land borders with El Salvador, Mexico, Honduras and Belize.
• Guatemala’s first inhabitants are thought to have been around since 18,000 B.C.
• It was the centre of the Mayan civilization.
• Even though it is a relatively small country, it is home to 33 volcanoes.
• Guatemala’s civil war lasted for 36 years, from 1960 to 1996.
• Half of Guatemala’s population are direct descendants of the Maya.

 

 

Reasons to Visit Guatemala

 

  • It’s worth visiting Guatemala for its incredible landscape, including volcanoes, lakes and coastal villages. It’s a country which has a wide variety of scenic panoramas which visitors can take advantage of. Variety is incredible in Guatemala.

  • A visit to Guatemala means close connection with the ancient ruins, customs and behaviours of the Mayan people — the indigenous community which dominated Guatemala before Spanish colonists arrived. Some of the largest ruins date back to 200 BC and are, invariably, located deep within the dense surroundings of Guatemala’s thick forests.

  • A great deal of Guatemala lives very much in the past. It’s a wonderful country to visit to forget about modern-day life, technological developments, business and progress. Antigua, in many ways considered to be the cultural/historical capital of Guatemala, is an almost unspoilt example of a Spanish colonial city trapped within time. It even managed to stand the test of time during the huge earthquake of 1717.

 

Life in Guatemala

 

Guatemala’s government is a presidential representative democratic republic. The president of Guatemala is both the head of state and the head of parliament. The government and congress share legislative power within the country

Guatemala provides free, state education. Education is compulsory for all children in Guatemala for a total of six years. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that these compulsory mandates are respected. Enrollment rate is around 80 percent, but only 30 percent of children in primary school education in Guatemala manage to see this period of education through to the very end. Most children who don’t attend school in Guatemala live in rural areas. A large number of these children are from indigenous families.

Guatemala provides healthcare to its people in three specific ways. It offers a public healthcare system, a private non-profit system and a private for-profit system. However, Guatemala suffers from very poor organisation and access. Only 40 percent of the population has access to healthcare. Studies have revealed that there’s only one hospital bed available in Guatemala per 1000 people, the government only sets aside between four and five percent of its budget for healthcare provisions, and there’s a shortage of medical professionals living in the country. It is estimated that only 0.9 percent of the population are trained in medical care

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Top destinations

 

Mayan Ruins of Tikal — From 250 to 900 AD, Tikal was one of the most important and powerful Mayan cities in Guatemala. The jungle slowly took claim of these cities when they were left to rot after the Spanish took over, and this has turned them into a real natural adventure for anyone lucky enough to visit. Tikal is now one of the most prominent Mayan archaeological sites in the world.

Rio Dulce — Lake Izabal bleeds into the River Dulce and then washes away into the Caribbean Sea. Izabal is the largest lake in the country and a beautiful spot to visit to find rest and relaxation. River Dulce is a popular river with active visitors who enjoy all kinds of water-related sports along its rippling currents. It’s also an active area in terms of natural life and beauty. There are lots of opportunities to go bird watching.

Chichicastenango — If only because it has one of the most difficult names to pronounce across the whole of Guatemala, Chichicastenango is a pretty mountain town worth visiting. Its artisanal market attracts lots of locals and foreigners alike from Thursday through to Sunday, making it the perfect place to find the a range of souvenirs. You’ll be able to find anything from colorful fabrics in the typical Mayan designs to hand-carved Mayan ceremonial masks.

 

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

 

Passport/ Visa Requirements

 

Is a visa required?: Depending on your country of origin. For more information, please check this websites: http://www.projectvisa.com
Allocation of Tourist Visa: Tourist Visa is received at the airport of Guatemala City
Duration of Tourist visa: Lasts up to 90 days
Tourist Visa Extension: It is possible to extend by leaving the country and flying in again or by paying an extension fee
Passport validation: Must be valid for at least 6 months
Return/onward flight ticket: Usually not required upon entering the country
Confirmation of Funds: Declaration of sufficient funds will generally not be required

 

Money/Currency

 

Currency: Guatemalan Quetzal
• Inform Banks: Give the dates of travel and destinations to prevent security blocks on your bank and credit cards
Cash: Always take enough cash to cover your expenses for the first week in case there is a problem with your bank cards or access to ATM’s is limited.
Credit Options: Good idea to have at least two different credit/debit card options i.e. MasterCard, Visa, Maestro, or Cirrus.
Travellers Cheques: Will only be able to exchange in major cities and best to take them in Dollars
Western Union: If at any time you have any problems in accessing money you can use Western Union transfer. Money can be sent from your home country and received in Guatemala the same day.

 

Healthcare 

 

Vaccinations: Yellow Fever Vaccination, Hepatitis A&B + Typhoid + Rabies recommended
• Malaria medication: Recommended if a longer stay in the country is planned
See local GP: If vaccinations or medication is required see the doctor 4-6 weeks before your departure
• Less than 4 weeks before you leave: You should still see a health-care provider for needed vaccines and other medications and information about how to protect yourself from illness and injury while travelling.
Check the following for up to date information: World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

TESTIMONIALS

''Muchas gracias por un tiempo bueno. Yo aprendí español muy rápido. Mis maestras fueron pacientes y nosotros nos reímos mucho.'' Katrin Bunge.


''Thank you so much for a great 4 weeks in Spanish school. I learned a lot of Spanish in a very short time, and my teachers were amazing. It has been avery good experience and hopefully my project will be just as good and help me in learning even more! Marianne P Ersland.


¡Muchas gracias por un tiempo muy fantástico! El tiempo aquí pasa muy rápido y yo deseo más semanas! Hasta luego. Mari Orbak.