FAQs about Peace Corps in Guatemala

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FAQs about Peace Corps
  • How much luggage am I allowed to bring?
  • What is the electric current?
  • How much money should I bring?
  • When can I take vacation and have people visit me?
  • Will my belongings be covered by insurance?
  • Do I need an international driver’s license?
  • What should I bring as gifts for my host family?
  • Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?
  • How can my family contact me in an emergency?
  • Can I call home?
  • Should I bring a cellular phone with me?
  • Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?
...and more...

For information see Welcomebooks


[edit] How much luggage will I be allowed to bring to Guatemala?

Most airlines have baggage size and weight limits and assess charges for transport of baggage that exceeds this allowance. The Peace Corps has its own size and weight limitations, and will not pay the cost of transport for baggage that exceeds these limitations. Checked baggage (2 pieces) should not exceed 80 pounds total with a maximum weight allowance of 50 pounds for any one bag. The combined linear dimensions (length + width + height) of your checked baggage may not exceed 107 inches. The larger piece of checked baggage may not exceed 62 inches. Your carry-on baggage may not exceed a total linear measurement of 45 inches.

Peace Corps will guarantee the transportation of two pieces of checked baggage weighing no more than 80 pounds total. This policy does not mean that you aren’t allowed more than 80 pounds of luggage, but that you will be responsible for any potential charges for amounts over that weight. Questions about baggage limits should be directed to the particular domestic and international airlines on which you will be traveling. The Peace Corps recommends that you do not bring more than you can carry. You will be responsible for handling your luggage en route to post and overseas.

If you exceed an airline’s baggage limits, you may be assessed a fee. However, if your luggage conforms to the parameters stated above, the Peace Corps will reimburse you for fees incurred for which you have a valid receipt.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radio receivers are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their overseas assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers. For a complete list of prohibited items, please visit the Transportation Security Administration’s website (www.tsa.gov).

[edit] What is the electric current in Guatemala?

Electric current is the U.S. standard 110 volts.

[edit] How much money should I bring?

Volunteers are expected to live at the same level as the people in their community. They are given a settling-in allowance and a monthly living allowance, which should cover their expenses. Often Volunteers wish to bring additional money for vacation travel. Credit cards and travelers checks are preferable to cash. There are ATMs in a growing number of locations in Guatemala and some of them accept U.S. ATM cards, though usually with a fee. If you choose to bring extra money, plan on bringing the amount that suits your own personal travel plans and needs.

[edit] When can I take vacation and have people visit me?

Each Volunteer accrues two vacation days per month of service (excluding training) and have official vacation for all American holidays. Leave may not be taken during training, the first three months of service, or the last three months of service, except in conjunction with an authorized emergency leave. Family and friends are welcome to visit you after pre-service training and the first three months of service as long as their stay does not interfere with your work. You must discuss this with the program director prior to their arrival. Extended stays at your site are not encouraged and may require permission from your country director. The Peace Corps is not able to provide your visitors with visa or travel assistance.

Volunteers who desire to travel in Guatemala commonly find ample opportunities to do so. Regular scheduled Peace Corps events give Volunteers the opportunity to get to know the country well. Volunteers commonly visit other volunteers throughout the country, it remains one of the best ways to really experience Guatemala. Traveling outside of Guatemala and traveling inside the country during the week requires completing signed travel documents and abiding by the official in-country vacation policy (stated above)

[edit] Will my belongings be covered by insurance?

The Peace Corps does not provide insurance coverage for personal effects. However, such insurance can be purchased before you leave. Ultimately, Volunteers are responsible for the safekeeping of their personal belongings. If you wish, you may contact your own insurance company; additionally, insurance application forms are included in your invitation package, and we encourage you to consider them carefully. Additional information about insurance should be obtained by calling the company directly.

Volunteers should not ship or take valuable items overseas. Jewelry, watches, radios, cameras, and expensive appliances are subject to loss, theft, and breakage, and in many places, satisfactory maintenance and repair services are not available.

[edit] Do I need an international driver’s license?

Volunteers in Guatemala do not need to get an international driver’s license. Operation of privately owned vehicles is prohibited. Most urban travel is by bus or taxi. In rural areas, people travel by bus, truck, or on foot. On very rare occasions, a Volunteer may be asked to drive a sponsor’s vehicle, but this is only with prior written permission of the country director. Should this occur, the Volunteer may obtain a local driver’s license. Your U.S. driver’s license will facilitate the process, so bring it with you just in case.

[edit] What should I bring as gifts for Guatemala friends and my host family?

This is not a requirement. A token of friendship is sufficient. Some gift suggestions include: knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; or photos to give away.

[edit] Where will my site assignment be when I finish training and how isolated will I be?

Peace Corps trainees are not assigned to individual sites until after they have completed their pre-service training. This gives the Peace Corps staff the opportunity to assess each trainee’s technical and language skills prior to assigning sites, in addition to finalizing site selections with their ministry counterparts. If feasible, you may have the opportunity to provide input on your site preferences, including geographical location, distance from other Volunteers, or living conditions. However, keep in mind that many factors influence the site selection process and that the Peace Corps cannot guarantee placement where you might ideally like to be. Most Volunteers will live in small towns or in rural villages, but will usually be within one hour from the nearest Volunteer. Some sites will require a 10- to 12-hour drive from the capital. There are numerous Volunteers in regional capitals and municipal seats.

[edit] How can my family contact me in an emergency?

The Peace Corps’ Office of Special Services provides assistance in handling emergencies affecting trainees and Volunteers or their families. Before leaving the United States, you should instruct your family to notify the Office of Special Services immediately if an emergency arises, such as a serious illness or death of a family member. During normal business hours, the number for the Office of Special Services is 1.800.424.8580, extension 1470. After normal business hours and on weekends and holidays, the Special Services duty officer can be reached at 202.638.2574.

For non-emergency questions, your family can get information from your country desk staff at the Peace Corps by calling 202.692.2521, 2520, or 2512.

[edit] Can I call home from Guatemala?

The majority of volunteers buy cell phones during their training (I was an RPCV from 2005-2008 and 98% had a cell phone by the end of training). Cell phone service in Guatemala is quite expansive and fairly cost effective due to the fact that several major cell phone companies compete for customers. Text messaging is also popular amongst volunteers. Calling to the USA from Guatemala is cheaper and more reliable than calling from the USA to Guatemala. Contrary to popular belief, using a cell phone will not cause Guatemalans to think you are an elitist, wealthy foreigner (to be honest, Guatemalans commonly perceive volunteers in that light regardless of their consumer behaviors). It is not uncommon to be in very rural areas and see local peopl who pulled out a Razor cellphone from is pocket to answer a call in Mam. The majority of business men in Guatemala (in both urban and rural settings) own expensive cell-phones complete with the latest 'Western' features.

For people without cell phones, making international is made possible by buying pre-paid telephone cards and finding a telephone that will accept them. Many larger towns have small businesses that place international calls for 20 cents to 30 cents a minute. Most Volunteers also regularly use the Internet for non-emergency international communications.

[edit] Should I bring a cellular phone with me?

Cellular phones are being used by nearly every Volunteer. If US cell phone have SIM cards and can operate in foreign countries, it is very likely that they will work in Guatemala. That said, cell phones can be purchased quite cheaply in-country. Cellular service is filling the gaps in Guatemala’s communications infrastructure, but there are still areas of the country with poor or no coverage. If you current cell phone does not have a SIM card, the best tactic would be to wait until you have your site assignment, and then subscribe to the cellular service provider that works best in your site.

[edit] Will there be e-mail and Internet access? Should I bring my computer?

High-speed Internet access is typically limited to larger towns and tourist destinations, but slow internet is surprisingly available in many Volunteer sites. Bringing a laptop poses a security risk since laptops bring a good price in the markets for stolen goods. Volunteers who choose to bring their laptops generally use them to create documents for work-related purposes, to pre-write emails (so volunteers don't have to linger at internet cafes) and to watch DVDs. Do not expect to use your laptop for Internet access in you Peace Corps home. Peace Corps cannot reimburse Volunteers for damage or theft to laptops and advises that bringing one is at the risk of the owner.

Although volunteers have tried to get it changed for a long time, the official packing list still states "The best option would be to bring a palm-pilot type device with an adapter cable that would allow you to download work in one of the country’s many cybercafés." THIS IS NOT TRUE. I don't know one volunteer with a palm-pilot. An increasingly large number of volunteers bring laptops from the States. I would have found my work very difficult without mine. Getting insurance on the laptop and keeping local people from knowing that you have it is important.

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