Gap Year Guatemala
Volunteer abroad in Guatemala as you learn Spanish! Our programme provides the ideal framework for exploring Guatemala and getting to know its people and culture. Live with a Guatemalan host family, immerse yourself in the culture, and do something meaningful for the local people.
Can I participate if I’m not from the UK?
Yes. Participants from the United Kingdom and the United States are welcome, as well as citizens from other countries. If you are from another country, we will have to check your country’s visa requirements to see if you can participate in the gap year in Guatemala programme.
Do I need to take a test to prove my Spanish skill level?
No, no Spanish test is required, and you do not need to have any knowledge of Spanish in order to participate. When you arrive in Guatemala, you will be learning Spanish with a private instructor, who will be able to judge your Spanish language skill level without administering a test.
If you are a complete beginner, you must take the full four weeks of Spanish instruction in order to participate in the gap year in Guatemala programme. However, if you already have good knowledge of Spanish, you may shorten the length of time that you take the Spanish course. You may also extend your Spanish course beyond the first four weeks.
Do I need special references or experience to participate?
No. You do not need to have any specific teaching, educational, or work experience in order to participate. However, any special skills which you could use as you volunteer would be both helpful and welcomed. Motivation, flexibility, and personal initiative are the most important qualities you can bring to your gap year in Guatemala.
Is there an age limit?
No, there is no upper age limit, although you must be at least 18 years old in order to participate. Most participants are between 18 and 30 years of age. If you are older than this, you are still welcome to participate in the gap year in Guatemala programme, but you should know that it is rather unlikely that you will meet people your own age on location.
Can I participate with a friend?
Yes. When you apply, you can list a travel partner, and we are generally able to place travel partners together at the same project. However, we cannot guarantee 100% that you will be placed in the same project.
Can I combine my volunteer work in Guatemala with a volunteer programme in another country?
Yes. It is often possible to combine programmes. Feel free to contact TravelWorks for more information.
Can I choose the city/region where I would like to volunteer?
Before you leave for your gap year in Guatemala, you will receive a list of the possible places where you can volunteer. You will be able to pick out your top three choices, and we will try to place you with one of your top choices.
What projects can I volunteer for?
You will most likely be working on a project in Antigua during your gap year in Guatemala, although we are sometimes able to offer programmes in other cities. You should be aware that it may not be so easy for you to adapt to the working conditions. In many cases you will be working with children from poor families, people with disabilities, or the elderly. Which volunteer project you are placed in (giving health advice, tutoring students, etc.) will depend on your personal initiative, experience, and Spanish language skills.
Before you leave for your gap year in Guatemala, you will receive a list of volunteer projects, and you will have the chance to list your top three preferences. Our partner organisation in Guatemala is usually able to place volunteers with one of their top project choices. However, if there are many volunteers participating at the same time as yourself, you should be flexible enough to work on other similar projects, which may not have been among your top choices.
Please be aware that your volunteer project will not be meticulously planned out for you. You will have a general volunteering assignment, and will have to use your own creativity and initiative in order to successfully complete your project. You will need to be very flexible, independent, and adaptable.
When will I find out which project I will be working on?
We will let you know three weeks before your departure which project you will be working on.
What is the health/safety situation in Guatemala? Do I need vaccinations?
The safety, security, and infrastructure conditions in Guatemala are not comparable to those in Europe and the United States. When you travel, you should take certain safety precautions. For example, travel only during the day, hold your luggage in your lap during bus rides, and do not wear any expensive jewellery. Our partner organisation in Guatemala can give you helpful information about which travel routes you should take and which areas of the country you should avoid for safety reasons. Current information about travelling safely in Guatemala and other countries is available at www.fco.gov.uk and travel.state.gov.
Before your gap year in Guatemala, you will need to get vaccinations. Exactly which vaccinations you will need will depend on your specific travel destinations in the country. Therefore, you should definitely go to a doctor for advice about necessary vaccinations and health precautions. You should do this as early as you can, to make sure you get the proper vaccinations in time. You can find useful information regarding vaccinations at www.fitfortravel.nhs.uk
Do I need to apply for a visa?
No, no visa is required for UK and U.S. citizens who are planning to stay in Guatemala fewer than 90 days.
If you are from another country, we will have to check your country’s visa requirements to determine if you may participate.
Should I buy travel insurance?
Yes, we strongly recommend that you get travel insurance to protect yourself abroad. WorldNomads offers flexible travel insurance for short-term and gap-year travellers like yourself. Note that this is only a recommendation. Feel free to search for the travel insurance which is right for you.
How much money should I expect to spend on extra costs such as extra travel and food?
You should expect to pay about Ł 360, (US$ 600 / 400 €) per month in extra costs, for excursions, souvenirs, nights out, etc. Of course, this will depend on your personal lifestyle, so you may pay more or less than this during your gap year in Guatemala. You should factor the following expenses into your trip’s budget:
- Flight ticket
- Travel insurance
- Miscellaneous personal expenses
What will my accommodation be like?
Participants will stay with a guest family during the language course and the social volunteer projects. During this time, the host family will provide full board Monday through Saturday, as part of the programme cost. The host families are usually middle-class families living within walking-distance of the school where you will be learning Spanish.
There are a few projects outside of Antigua, for which you could volunteer during your gap year in Guatemala. If you participate in one of these projects, you will be living in accommodation at the project site.
Will I live and work with other volunteers?
You will probably have a room to yourself during your gap year in Guatemala, but this is not guaranteed. You will most likely be working with other volunteers. Whatever the case may be, you will definitely meet fellow volunteers at your Spanish language school.
Your volunteer “base” will be your Spanish school. Here, you will have access to information about Guatemala and to staff members from our partner organisation, who are there to help if you have any questions or problems. There is an internet café near the school, where you can go online for a small fee.
Is there a way for me to contact the other volunteers before I Ieave?
We can send you a list of the other volunteers who will be travelling with you, including their e-mail addresses.
Is it possible for me to contact my host family before I start my trip?
In principle, this is possible, but only after our partner organisation has found a host family for you – which could be just before your departure for Guatemala.
Please be aware that letters can take a long time to reach your host family, and the family will not be expecting to be in contact with you before your arrival.
How much time will I actually spend learning Spanish and volunteering? Will I have free time?
You will spend about 20 hours per week in your Spanish class, and will have free time at the weekend. Volunteer projects vary widely, but in most projects you will work 4 to 8 hours a day. Free days will depend on the project, but weekends are usually free. You should have plenty of free time to travel and experience Guatemalan culture!
Do I need to bring any materials for my volunteering project?
You are not required to bring anything along for your volunteering project, but you can if you would like. For example, if you are volunteering at a day-care centre, you could bring along art supplies for the children to use.
May I extend the language course or the volunteer work?
It is possible for citizens of the United Kingdom and the United States to extend their stay in Guatemala for up to 90 days. You will be charged an additional cost for any extra weeks that you spend taking your language course or volunteering. We especially recommend that you extend your language course if you do not speak any Spanish.
How are the language school and instruction organised?
Spanish lessons with personal instructors begin in the morning or afternoon, and you will have 20 hours of instruction each week. After the language course, you will be able to communicate well enough in Spanish to work on your volunteer project. Since all projects in Guatemala are social projects, you will most likely be working with young children. Therefore, good Spanish skills are an advantage for volunteers during their gap year in Guatemala.
Employees at the language school will be there for the duration of your gap year in Guatemala to help you if you have any problems or questions.
When can I start the programme?
Lessons at the language school start every Monday, not including holidays. Therefore, it is smart to book your flight so you will arrive on a Sunday. The overnight stay from Sunday night to Monday morning is included in the total programme price.
Please note that your project choices are somewhat limited from the middle of December through April and during the summer months, because many establishments are closed at these times.
What are my next steps?
If you decide to participate in the gap year in Guatemala programme, just fill out the PDF or online Booking Form. Please note that if you are booking online you will need a credit card (we accept Visa or MasterCard). If you choose the PDF booking form, please print, fill out, and sign the form before faxing it to TravelWorks. As soon as we have received your application, we will process your booking. At this point your application will be legally binding. We will contact you if we need any additional information.
You will receive various application materials by e-mail after you have applied for the gap year in Guatemala programme. These documents need to be completed and returned to TravelWorks.