Health and safety
We have an excellent safety record on our bottle school trips. With our experience of Guatemala, we have put many measures in place to safeguard the health of participants on bottle school trips. It’s important that you follow some simple steps too, as outlined below, as you will be in a very different environment to what you are used to.
The information provided here is basic information to take into consideration for your health and safety. You should research and consult with YOUR doctor to ensure YOUR health safety within the parameters of what you are comfortable with. Your medical insurance health coverage in and out of your home country is a matter that should be looked into before your trip begins.
There are various recommendations on vaccinations to get before traveling abroad.
Please do not ask us what vaccinations you “should” get, as this is a personal choice that you will have to make, in consultation with your physician. Serve The World Today is unable to give advice on which vaccinations you should or shouldn’t get, as there is no “right” answer. We are not trained medical professionals, and for reasons of liability we cannot give any more advice than there is in this document.
Very few visitors to Guatemala choose to get vaccinated against rabies or malaria, and many choose not to get any vaccinations at all. Others choose to get every vaccination available to them. It is entirely up to you what you feel comfortable with.
One place to go for information is the Center for Disease Control’s web site: See Information about Guatemala on the CDC web site.
Having read the CDC web site, you should consult your doctor or visit your local travel clinic for a consultation before making any decisions about what vaccinations to get. To find a travel clinic near you visit the CDC: Travel Clinics webpage.
We also suggest that do your own research (such as Google searches) before making decisions on getting any vaccinations.
International Travel Health Notices
For the latest health information and warnings for countries around the world visit one of the following websites:
US State Department: Country Specific Information
Food and Water
- Be aware of your water
- Don’t drink the tap water. We provide bottled water and bottled water will always be available wherever you are.
- Use bottled water when you brush your teeth, and keep your mouth closed in the shower.
- Only eat the food that we provide you, plus any packaged snacks that you bring with you.
- In Antigua we eat at a trusted restaurant; in the communities we have a private chef, Christy, who trained in food science in the US.
- Don’t buy food off the street, however tempting it looks
- If a child offers you candy, you can take it so as not to appear rude or ungrateful, but don’t eat it – you don’t know where their hands have been.
- Keep your hands clean by washing with soap often or using hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
- Before eating
- After using the bathroom
- After coughing or sneezing
- Bring snacks. It may be a good idea to pack snacks from home such as granola bars, peanut butter, power bars as an option in case local food disagrees with you. You’ll also be working hard on the bottle school, so you may need snacks outside of mealtimes!
- Stay hydrated
- Carry a bottle of water around with you everywhere you go. This is a great preventative measure for heat stroke, dizziness, fatigue or heat exhaustion, and dehydration.
- You should drink enough to maintain the same urination frequency you have at home.
- Remember as you age your thirst reflex begins to decline so don’t solely rely on that feeling for when to hydrate
- As a minimum you should be drinking 6 pints of water per day. 8 pints or more is fine and necessary in certain climates. Remember that coffee, tea and alcohol cause your body to lose water; if drinking these drinks you will need to drink more water.
- Wear sun screen.
- Get plenty of rest and wear earplugs when you sleep.
- Use insect repellant if mosquitoes are prevalent
- Guatemala may be perceived as a “dangerous” country, but most parts of the country are not dangerous at all. Antigua is a popular tourist destination and is very safe. San Martin Jilotepeque is very remote and does not see many tourists; you will be welcomed as honored guest or even like a family member.
- Please note, however, that petty crime has been on the rise in Antigua recently (late 2013). Please stay aware, and please stay with the group at all times. Be especially careful when getting money out from your purse or pocket, and be careful with your iPhone or camera – don’t have it visible and accessible, such as in your back pocket.
- Always follow the instructions of your tour guide and group leader, as they are familiar with the many ways to ensure you have a pleasant experience.
- Always communicate specific desires and requests to your group leader and they will always do their best to accommodate you, if they can without disrupting plans for the entire group.
- Do not handle or pet animals so as to avoid bites, particularly dogs and cats
- If you are bitten, wash the area immediately with soap and water, and seek medical attention straight away
Serve the World Today has a no-tolerance policy regarding alcohol or drug consumption while on our voluntourism trips. The rationale behind this policy is two-fold: to ensure your safety and to maintain a good relationship with the communities with which we work.
While building bottle schools, you will be amid a very conservative community where drinking may be viewed as offensive. Once you return to Antigua after your trip, we request that you refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages simply because being out drinking late at night greatly increases the chances of something “bad” happening.
While we respect the rights of adults to make their own choices, any incident can jeopardize Hug It Forward’s reputation and therefore our entire bottle school program in Guatemala; we don’t want to risk our ability to help these communities.
Serve The World Today has not had anything “bad” happen, with over 1000 trip participants coming to Guatemala. We have a great record because we avoid potential situations that could hinder your beautiful travel to Guatemala. Thank you for respecting our guidance.
Arriving early and staying late
If flights from your home are limited and you are unable to arrive in Guatemala City before 4:00PM on the start day of the trip, you may want to consider arriving one day earlier so you don’t miss the first night’s dinner.
Some travelers also prefer to arrive early or extend their stay in order to spend more time in
Antigua. If you arrive or depart one or more days before or after the start or end dates of your trip, we can arrange transfers and hotels for you, but you will be responsible for the cost.
Since you are traveling to a foreign country with various scenic destinations and cultural sites to explore, you might be interested in visiting other places in addition to those we tour during the bottle school trip.
We understand and appreciate this sense of adventure. However, we do not feel comfortable making suggestions for accommodations outside of Antigua.
Serve the World Today uses our familiarity with Antigua and San Martín Jilotepeque to create a very safe environment for our guests; however, this safety does not necessarily extend to
businesses, neighborhoods, or other locations in Guatemala that you may visit outside of the context of your supervised Serve the World Today voluntourism trip.
Our top priority is keeping our volunteers safe, and although we cannot guarantee safety in
Antigua, we feel we can better limit chances of something happening there. For this reason, we request that you don’t ask us for suggestions of places to visit outside of Antigua. We greatly appreciate your understanding in this matter.
Money and valuables
- All the trip costs are included in the price of your trip. Generally people find that $200 to $300 is a reasonable amount of spending money to bring on their trip. You will have the opportunity to buy lots of beautiful handicrafts, which make great gifts! If you anticipate that you will want to purchase a lot of handicrafts, please consider bringing more money or be willing to use one of the ATMs. Apart from gifts and souvenirs, the only other thing you might need money for are discretionary tips for our Guatemalan Staff (trip leader, assistant trip leader, bus driver, and private cook). Past guests have found that a total of $50 to $60 is a reasonable amount to set aside to show their appreciation for the staff on the ground who take care of them throughout their trip.
- Your valuables will be safe at the hotel, or in the community. There is always a safe place to store valuables while we are working on the bottle school.