Guatemala Trip Info

Antigua, Guatemala

General Info

  • Team Leaders: Haley Pope & Gala Pope
  • Location: Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
  • Trip dates: April 7 – 15, 2018
  • Team Size: ~16 people
  • Event code: GV18576
  • Program donation: $1,930
  • Program donation due and recruitment ends: week of February 21, 2018

Check out the Habitat for Humanity Guatemala website to get a sense of who they are and how they help. READ THE HANDBOOK!

Build Location: Quetzaltenango


Habitat for Humanity Guatemala was founded in response to the earthquake of 1976. It is estimated that one in six Guatemalans were left homeless when their homes, mostly adobe structures, were destroyed by the powerful quake. Habitat for Humanity came to Guatemala in an effort to help rebuild and prepare families for future natural disasters.

Today, Habitat Guatemala works to improve the quality of life of Guatemalan families through partial or full funding for the construction, improvement, and repair of homes across the country. With over 85,000 housing solutions to date, Habitat Guatemala has contributed to the reduction of 4.6% of the country’s housing deficit, both qualitative and quantitative.

Quetzaltenango is a city in Guatemala’s western highlands. It’s set against a backdrop of volcanoes, including towering Santa María with its active Santiaguito lava dome. Overlooking Central America Park, Espiritú Santo Cathedral has a baroque colonial facade and a 20th-century interior. The city is known for its neoclassical buildings, including the House of Culture and the restored Municipal Theater.

Our build site will be about a 30 – 45-minute drive from our accommodations. We will be working on two houses with two families: half of our team will work on one house and the other half will work on the second house. We’ll spend time together during the mornings, evenings to debrief, and during cultural activities during the week. 

Dates, Cost & Fundraising

Payment Due Dates

Deposit: $350 to secure your spot on our team (non-refundable, non-transferrable).

Full trip cost: $1,930 is due on February 21, 2018.

Please pay this fee or the remaining cost using any of the following methods:

  • Online with a credit card on the secure GV website
  • Online with a credit card on your fundraising page by clicking the donate button in the top right corner
  • By phone with a credit card: call 1-800-HABITAT, ext 7530
  • Send a check in the mail to Habitat for Humanity International Global Village Program, 121 Habitat Street, Americus, GA 31709.

*NOTE: Include the GV event code (GV18576) and your ID # on any payment

Your GV trip cost includes a donation to Habitat for Humanity Guatemala and Habitat for Humanity International; meals; accommodations; transport (excluding airfare); cultural activities; health, accident, and emergency evacuation insurance; and team coordination from HFHI and the host program.

The trip cost does not include airfare, R&R activities before or after the build, and visa and exit fees (where applicable). All R&R arrangements should be made independently by the team and directly with tour operators.

Read Habitat’s cancellation policy.


For those of you who have already set up your Share.Habitat page, keep up the great work fundraising! Please don’t forget to thank your supporters! You may even want to consider ways to draw them further into the experience, like sending them a photo of you at the build site. 

For those who haven’t created a page yet, there’s still time. Create your account and share it on social media, through email, and word of mouth to encourage your friends and family to support your trip. This is not only a great way to help fund your way to Vietnam, but also allows others not physically participating in the trip to know they’re playing an important role in supporting the build. Let me know if you need any help!

Learn how to be a great fundraiser for Habitat!

Travel Arrangements

Arrival & Departure

UPDATE: Book your flights to Guatemala by Feb 21, 2018. Send us your flight info. 

  • Arrive at the Guatemala City (GUA) airport by 5 pm on Saturday, April 7. We will be driving to Antigua this evening to spend the night. 
  • Our trip ends on Sunday, April 15. You can book your flight home anytime on this day leaving from the same airport.
  • Habitat recommends purchasing trip cancellation insurance, in case unforeseen circumstances prevent you from taking this trip. You can usually purchase this with your airfare.
  • Please book your flights by February 21, and send us your full flight itinerary.
  • Early Arrivals/Late Departures: The dates noted above are the “official” trip dates, but you are free to arrange your own independent travel before or after our build. 
  • Insurance coverage is only for the dates listed in the itinerary. Any travel outside of this time will not be covered by the Habitat insurance policy.

*NOTE: The arrival and departure days may vary based on each volunteer’s flight schedule. Team members arriving earlier or staying later than this itinerary are responsible for their own transport, hotel arrangements, and payments.

Passport Requirements

You need a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after our dates of travel in order to leave home and enter Guatemala. Ensure your passport is current and valid.

Visa Requirements

You will get a tourist visa upon entering Guatemala at the airport. You don’t have to apply ahead of time for a visa. Easy!

Health & Medical

Habitat for Humanity provides health insurance for every volunteer on the Global Village trip during the trip. If your travels extend beyond the Global Village trip dates, you will need your own health insurance.


Please consult your doctor or travel clinic to find out what is specifically recommended for you. Here’s a link to the CDC website for Guatemala if you want a preview of what your health care professional might recommend.

Dietary Restrictions & Medical Concerns

Let us know if you have any dietary restrictions or preferences, food allergies, medical conditions, or anything else that might impact your health and safety while we’re in Guatemala. We’ll share the food-related information with the local affiliate to make sure everyone is able to enjoy our meals while we’re away. We’ll also be carrying a fairly extensive first aid kit, but please remember to bring any critical prescription medications (and a copy of the prescription) with you.


During the build, we will be staying in Quetzaltenango (aka Xela, pronounced Shayla) at the Pension Bonifaz, which is next to the Central Park. From here we will have ample opportunities for exploring the area and city during our free time in the evenings. In Antigua, we will be staying at Hotel San Jorge.

Please remember that Guatemala is a developing country in a tropical climate. While the hotels and our staff will do everything possible to make your stay comfortable and relaxing, it is best to arrive with realistic expectations. Each volunteer will have a roommate unless you request otherwise, so please let us know if there is someone you’d like to room with. Single rooms will incur an extra cost to be covered as part of your overall trip cost ($210 for the whole week). 

All hotels that volunteers use will have an internet connection. Additionally, there will be several ways that volunteers will be able to use a phone to make local or international calls (either at the hotel or through Skype). All field coordinators that accompany GV teams in Guatemala have phones to make local calls, and in certain situations, international calls. 

Meal Time


We will eat breakfast at the hotel,  delicious homemade lunches will be hand delivered by a local woman to our build site daily, and dinner will be enjoyed at local restaurants. 

All meals we eat as a team in hotels and restaurants have been vetted and are safe and healthy to eat. The hotels and restaurants that we go to have worked with us on many occasions and they take the proper precautions to prepare the food and drinks in a safe and healthy manner. While you are here in Guatemala, you will have the opportunity to try some of the local cuisines. Breakfasts will generally be eggs, beans, plantains, coffee, and juice. Lunches and dinners will be different dishes of chicken, beef, vegetables, and as always, tortillas!

That said, it’s always good to keep in mind some general guidelines for safe eating and drinking when traveling abroad: you should avoid food prepared by street vendors; wash your hands whenever possible, especially before eating; if soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

Drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles (please make sure to bring a reusable water bottle). Avoid tap water, fountain drinks, and ice cubes. Use bottled water for brushing teeth as well. Make sure food is fully cooked. Avoid dairy products unless you know they have been pasteurized.

*NOTE: If you have specific dietary needs or allergies that you haven’t mentioned, please let us know ASAP so we can make the appropriate arrangements.

Dress Code & Packing List

Guatemala Temps

The temperature while we are in Guatemala will be in the 70s and 80s during the daytime and cooler at night since we’ll be in the highlands. Guatemala can also be very humid, so it’s good to have clothes for any type of weather. Make sure to follow the packing list below. 

When packing clothing for the trip, keep in mind our daily activities: we will be working during the day (bring old clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty) and afterward, eating dinner and socializing in the evenings (bring clothes other than working clothes). At the worksite, loose, comfortable clothing is best. There will be an opportunity to do laundry at the hotel. Each volunteer will need to pay for these services separately.

For the worksite:

  • Long and short-sleeved t-shirts (no spaghetti straps or tank tops)
  • Long pants, such as jeans or hiking pants
  • Knee-length shorts or longer are allowed on the worksite
  • Closed-toe shoes with a hard sole (work boots if you already have them, otherwise, gym shoes are perfectly fine)
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Hat and bandana
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and bug spray
  • Chapstick with sunscreen
  • Work gloves (you can find these at any Ace, Lowe’s, Home Depot, etc.)
  • Reusable water bottle
  • Camera (not an expensive one!)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Insect repellent
  • Supplemental snacks if you have dietary restrictions
  • Gatorade/Powerade powder to add to your water
  • Small backpack or bag to carry your things to the worksite

Here’s a picture of a recent volunteer group – this is what you should wear – look at all of that great sun protection!


Off the worksite:

  • Casual clothes (shorts are fine)
  • Personal toiletries
  • Baby wipes or make-up wipes
  • First aid items (there will be a first aid kit on site, but it’s nice to have Band-Aids, Tylenol, Advil, Pepto-Bismol, etc. for yourself!)
  • Any personal medications (bring your prescription as well)
  • Earplugs (you will be sharing a room)
  • Small flashlight or headlamp with batteries
  • Electrical adaptor
  • A good book or two
  • ATM card
  • Personal spending money
  • Journal and pen and pencils
  • Snacks – granola bars, nuts, etc.
  • Passport and a photocopy
  • Swimsuit, just in case
  • Shower shoes
  • Zip-lock or plastic bags for soiled clothing/shoes
  • Photos of your family (avoid photos depicting wealth)
  • Spanish/English pocket dictionary, if you’ll be attempting some Spanish
  • And of course, don’t forget your passport, ID, and money!

What not to bring:

  • Anything expensive you’d be devastated to lose (watch, laptop, camera, jewelry)
  • Large amounts of cash
  • Gifts (as discussed above in the gift-giving policy)


Day 1: Travel
Saturday, April 07
• Arrive at Guatemala City (GUA) airport; greeted by HFH staff
• If our team arrives before 5 pm we’ll be transported to Antigua. If after 5 pm, we’ll stay in Guatemala City
• First team dinner with host coordinators and overnight in Antigua or Guatemala City
 Day 2: Welcome
Sunday, April 08
Breakfast at accommodations
• Travel to Quetzaltenango (arrive by 12 pm), meet host affiliate, and visit completed home and homeowners
• Welcome ceremony with affiliate members, partner families, and local committee members
• Safety orientation
• Dinner and overnight at accommodations
Day 3-4, 6: Build
Monday, April 9
Tuesday, April 10
Thursday, April 12
• Breakfast at accommodations before heading to work site
• Work on the build site with breaks for snacks and lunch
• Travel back to accommodations, cultural activities, group reflection, and dinner
• Presentation about history, housing and health issues (Day 6)
Days 5: Build & Cultural Activity
Wednesday, April 11
• Breakfast at accommodations before leaving for work site
• Work until 1 pm and have lunch at the worksite
• Shuttle to cultural activity (common options are visiting a local weaving cooperative, visiting Mayan Ruins, boat rides or visiting with a coffee cooperative)
• Team meeting and dinner in local restaurant
Day 7: Celebrate
Friday, April 13
• Team build from 8 am to 2 pm, with breaks and lunch
• Goodbye ceremony with Habitat affiliate members, partner families, masons, and local volunteers.
• Time for team meeting and reflection
• Dinner of traditional Guatemalan food with Habitat members
Day 8: Explore
Saturday, April 14
• Breakfast at hotel
• Shuttle to Antigua at 8 am – 12 pm
• Lunch in Antigua
• Free afternoon in Antigua. GV coordinators will assist volunteers in arranging optional activities in Antigua including historical walking tours, cooking classes, coffee tours, volcano hikes, etc.
• Final team dinner in Antigua restaurant
Day 9: Explore
Sunday, April 15
• Breakfast at accommodations
• Depart Guatemala City

Cultural Activities & Evenings


During our build, we’ll have some built-in free time to avoid over-working ourselves and also to make sure that we have an opportunity to get to know the community. We have some fantastic options for how to spend this time. 

On our half-day during the week:

  • Fuentes Georginas – Hot springs nestled in the mountains about an hour outside of Xela. Lunch will be provided by our local caterers at the site.  
  • Plus one more activity in the evening, TBD, but could be: 
    • Cooking class – Some of the women in a local volunteer committee are eager to lead a group cooking class. We will learn how to make tortillas and other local Guatemalan/Mayan food.
    • Doña Pancha  – A chocolate factory gives classes on the history of chocolate for the Maya and they let you test out their different products.  
    • Y’abal – A local weaving cooperative where we will receive a two-hour demonstration in Xela with a master weaver. She will explain the history of weaving and the cultural significance. There will be time to shop in their store.

On the Saturday after the build on the way to Antigua:

  • Salcajá – A nearby town just outside of Xela is home to the oldest church in Central America. It was built in 1524 AD and has never been restored. The town is also known for making two local liquors, caldo de fruta and rompope. There’s also a small lagoon there that we can see.  

Each night we will eat dinner and talk about the events of the day as a group, but after dinner is free time for everyone. Although this region is considered safe, we will adhere to common sense safety practices like traveling in pairs or groups. Some nights we may choose to stay in and I encourage you to bring your favorite card or board game and challenge your teammates!

Guatemalan Cultural

Beyond the Horizon 2014: Guatemala

Guatemala is a rich and diverse land that varies in geography, culture, languages, and land. There are 24 languages in the country, with Spanish being the most common language spoken, followed by Xinca, Garifuna, and 21 different Mayan dialects.

Guatemalan families are typically large and a focal point of Guatemalan life. Making visitors feel welcome and comfortable in their home and homeland are important values for most Guatemalans.

In 1960 – 1996, over 200,000 Guatemalans were killed or forcibly disappeared in a civil war. Of those victims identified in the U.N. – sponsored Historical Clarification Commission, 83% were indigenous Maya. 93% of these human rights violations were carried out by government forces.

Habitat Policies

Gift Giving Policy & Donations

Habitat for Humanity takes a very strict stance on avoiding paternalism and fostering any sense of dependency or inequality among our partnering communities. Essentially, giving gifts are not allowed. It can create jealousy, competition, and enmity within the community. In some cultures, people feel if they receive a gift they are obligated to reciprocate. If they are unable to do so, your generosity may lead to unhappiness or disappointment on the part of the recipient. It also undermines the ideal that Habitat is trying to promote – a hand up not a handout.

If you would like to donate anything in addition, which is certainly not necessary, the team leaders will collect the items and give them to the host program who will distribute it appropriately and fairly without names attached. Read the Habitat Guatemala gift policy.

That said, there are a couple exceptions. Here are some guidelines:

  • Never give money, or promise to give money, to anyone. Although rare, you may be approached and asked to sponsor a child, make a mortgage payment, or give money for daily items. Under no circumstances should you agree! Habitat strives to promote independence and personal capacity, not create dependence on others— especially those outside of their own community. Let us know if this happens during the build and we will address the situation.
  • If you have gifts to give, they must be shared anonymously by the host affiliate. We will collect any items you wish to donate and at the end of our trip and pass them along to the host affiliate who can then distribute to those most in need in the community. Some examples of appropriate gifts are below:
    • Work clothing and shoes
    • Tools for building (tools will be provided on the work site. You are not required to bring your own tools).
  • Bring toys to play with the children, but then take them back home. Some ideas include bubbles, Frisbees, balls (with pump) etc. The only guideline here is that at the end of each day, we take back the items to comply with the gift-giving policy. Remember if you share something with one child others will expect something as well. This can cause problems in the community, including violence between children who didn’t receive a toy and those who did.

Photography & Photo Sharing

Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 6.52.11 PM

Taking pictures is a great way to capture special memories and keep them with you – and you are highly encouraged to take lots of photos on the build! But please remember Habitat works to promote dignity in the families and communities. Here are some guidelines:

  • Please ask permission from any local people prior to taking their photo.
  • Avoid photos depicting people in “destitute” situations. The families and communities we are serving are working hard to better their lives and we should strive to document that hope.

To keep our funders and supporters in the loop, it’s nice to share photos of the work we’re doing at the build site while we’re there. Please include the hashtag #GVGuatemala2018 to any photo you share on social media.

After the trip is over, I’ll set up a Flickr album for the trip with everyone’s photos so we all will have copies of the build. 

Alcohol Policy

As a reminder, Habitat’s policy regarding alcohol is that you’re permitted to drink moderately after work, but should do so with discretion and remember to act as a representative of Habitat for Humanity at all times. You will be responsible for purchasing any alcohol you consume – it is not a covered expense by Habitat.

Action Items:

  • Mark your calendar for February 21, 2018, when final trip payments are due.
  • Make sure you have scheduled an appointment with your health care professional to discuss any immunizations.
  • Purchase your flight reservations to and from Guatemala by February 21.
  • A complete copy of your flight itinerary.
  • A short bio about yourself with a photo, so we can start to get to know each other before we depart. 
  • Do you have a roommate preference? Do you want a single room? Let us know!
  • Do you have any dietary restrictions/preferences/allergies and any medical conditions that may impact your safety on this trip? Let us know!
  • Begin to think about packing – assume you won’t be able to buy anything you’ve forgotten, so make a list and check it twice.

Chichicastenango, Guatemala1996