Frequently asked questions

On this page:
Travel information - Health - Climate - The schools - The families - Volunteering - Safety

Travel information

To which city should I fly?

- The Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City is the only airport in the country with flights to the United States and Europe. It is then a four hour bus ride to Quetzaltenango..

How do I get to Quetzaltenango from the airport in Guatemala City?
- When you arrive at the airport, you might want to change some money for taxis, buses, snacks, etc. A taxi will take you to a first class bus station (Alamo, Las Américas, see also the information in the travel guide that you will receive upon registration) for about Q50. The bus to Quetzaltenango (more commonly called Xela) costs Q45 and takes about 4.5 hours, then take another taxi to our school (Q30 max.).

How do I get to the Mountain school from Guatemala airport?
- When you arrive at the airport, you might want to change some money for taxis, buses, snacks, etc. A taxi will take you to a first class bus station (Alamo, Las Américas, see also the information in the travel guide you will receive upon registration) for about Q50. The bus to Quetzaltenango (more commonly called Xela) costs Q45 and takes about 4.5 hours. Take a taxi to the Minerva Terminal in Zona 3 to continue your trip to the Escuela de la Montaña. The bus line you need to take is the Xela-ju (whose final destination is Cuatepeque), which departs every half hour starting before dawn and continuing until 5:00pm. Bus fare is Q7. (Prices may go up a little, since local bus fares have increased throughout the whole country). The official name of the stop is ´La Piedra´ (the rock). To be clear, tell the driver that you want to be let off at the Escuela de la Montaña. When you get off, there will be a sign welcoming you to Santo Domingo, a neighboring community. The school is located less than five minutes down the road from the highway. If you’re still on the bus when it gets to the town of Colomba, you went about 10km too far and you will have to get off and take another bus back or pick-up to the school.

Do you have airport pick up service?
- Yes, we do. As long as you mention clearly that you want to make use of this service and send us your flight details in time (date, time, name of airline, and flight number.) Ingrid Arana will be waiting for you at the only entrance the airport of Guatemala has, with a sign with your name on it. She will guide you all the way (taxis and buses) to Xela or the Mountain School. This service costs respectively US $65 or US $75, and can be paid upon arrival.

Do I need to apply for a visa for Guatemala?
- North-Americans, Canadians and most Europeans do not need a visa for Guatemala. Check with your guidebook or a Guatemalan embassy or consulate, or look at the web site of the Guatemalan foreign ministry: http://www.minex.gob.gt/tur/tur8.htm
(citizens of the countries in class "A" do not need visa). In Customs, visitors travelling with a passport are given permission to spend 30 or 90 consecutive days in Guatemala. Ask for 90 days ("noventa días") and make sure they stamp your passport (otherwise you'll later have to spend a whole day at the immigration office of Guatemala City and pay a fee). If you want to stay for more than 90 days you need to hop across the border and pass through Guatemalan Customs again to receive a permit for another 30 - 90 days. Otherwise, you can spend most of a day at the immigration office to get your permit extended for another 30 days.

Health

Do I need any vaccinations for Guatemala?
- Consult your doctor. Each individual has their own medical considerations and there is no rule that applies to everyone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, www.cdc.gov/travel, is one source of information on travelers’ health.

Climate

What is the weather like?
What clothes should I bring?
- Since you will be living at about 2.330 m on a large plateau, it can get quite cold. The days are generally nice - lots of sun, but a mild 25 degrees C. The nights however are very cold during the months of November through February, and chilly/cold during the rest of the year. You'll need at least one sweater and it's not uncommon for students to bring a down vest or jacket. Note: If you don’t want to carry a lot you can buy beautiful, well-made wool jackets, scarves, gloves and blankets in Momostenango (an indigenous village near Xela) at very reasonable prices. Also, at least one pair of jeans or trousers are recommended.

The schools

I am interested in special vocabulary. Do you have teachers that are specialized in law/literature/…?
- We have teachers that are specialized in medicine, law, history, psychology, journalism, literature, art, etc.

What activities do you offer?
- Every week we organize different activities which are scheduled throughout the day so as not to infringe on class time. Our weekly activities include the presentation of a documentary and a dramatic film, a soccer game, a review of the most important news that occurred in Guatemala during the week, a dinner and graduation every Friday, half-day trips, two translated conferences, a salsa dance class or Yoga class, and a day-long or overnight trip on the weekends. The diverse guest speakers who present the conferences elaborate topics such as the human rights situation in the country, deforestation, the Guatemalan Justice System, the discrimination that the indigenous population encounters, testimonies of experiences during the civil war. When it comes to the trips, we visit villages that are famous for their agriculture, churches, Mayan ceremonial sites, campesino (farmer) communities, volcanic hot springs, natural beauty (such as excursions climbing volcanoes), and more. The costs of all these activities are included in the tuition fee except for basic expenses like transportation, food and accommodation during trips.

Should I bring my own books?
- At both schools we have libraries with many resources for Spanish study including workbooks and exercise books. Together with your teacher you can find materials appropriate for your level of Spanish. Around the corner from the school you can buy notebooks and pens, so there’s no need to fill your bags will those materials and additionally you will support the local economy by buying them here.

Are the schools closed during specific holidays?
- The only days that the schools are closed are: January 1, Good Friday, September 15 (Guatemala’s Independence Day) and December 25.

The families

What can I expect from my host family?
- We work together with middle-class and working-class families and we do not screen them based on any religious or political beliefs. Your families will provide you with 3 meals per day, a key to the house and a private room with a bed. Living with a host family is the perfect opportunity to practice the Spanish you learn in class. The family members will converse with you and we ask them to correct your Spanish as well. By living with a Guatemalan family, students develop friendships, learn about daily life in Guatemalan and are introduced to activities in the community.

Where are the host families located?
- All host families are located within walking distance from the school.

Should I bring any presents for my host family?
- All families receive a salary through the school for hosting students (part of your tuition goes straight to the families), so it is not necessary to bring any presents. The families of the school do not have as many necessities as so many people in Guatemala. For this reason, we suggest to students that if they want to give something, they can instead, for example, donate a book to the Luis Cardoza y Aragon Popular Culture Center for example. The children that receive classes there come from families with limited resources and hardly have access to any literature. We are constructing a library for them and thus books of all kinds are graciously received.

Is it possible to register for the PLQ AND the Mountains school or for the Mountain school only?
- Yes, it is up to you if you want to study only at PLQ, only at the Mountain school or divide up your time between the two schools. Just make it clear on your registration form exactly what you want.

What are the differences between PLQ and the Mountain school?
- The PLQ is the school in the city Quetzaltenango and therefore offers the variety of city life: you can go out for dinner or a drink, check your email, etc. The Spanish classes you will receive last five hours a day and you live with a host family where you will eat your three meals a day.
The Mountain school is situated in the mountainous coffee region of Colomba and brings students into contact with rural Guatemalan life. The Spanish classes last four hours a day, you stay in the school building with a maximum of 13 other students and classes are conducted the huge garden of the school. You will visit a campesino family in the nearby communities of Nuevo San José or Fátima three times a day for meals. Even though students do not live with their host families, they often they hang around to talk with the parents or play with the kids.

Volunteering

What volunteer opportunities are present in PLQ and the Mountain school?
- Next door to the PLQ, we direct the Luis Cardoza y Aragon Popular Culture Center. This center provides classes in art, music, computer programs and English to children of Quetzaltenango from families with limited economic resources. Students are encouraged to volunteer on a short or long term basis at the Center. Students work in the afternoons from 2.30-5pm and share their energy and creativity teaching the kids. There are many other volunteer opportunities in and around Xela. The office of PLQ keeps an up-to-date list with contact-information of organizations that need volunteers.
- Students at the Mountain school have the opportunity to help out with daily activities at the school such as caring for the vegetable and herb gardens, tutoring and reading to the local children. When there are current construction projects in neighboring communities, some students help out when they’re not in class. Students with higher levels of Spanish fluency and who plan to spend an extended period of time studying at the Mountain School may be able to work out placements in nearby communities depending on their interests and skills.

Safety

How safe is Guatemala?
- Guatemala has a very negative image when it comes to safety. There is crime and violence present, and therefore we always tell students to use common sense. Never travel at night or walk alone at night and listen to the local people when they tell you not to go somewhere or not to do something, watch your stuff when you are at a bus terminal, tuck away your money in different pockets when you are in a market place, etc. Unfortunately however, as in any other corner of the world, for some things there are no precautions.

 
Next door to PLQ we have the Luis Cardoza y Aragon Popular Center.
This center provides classes in art, music, computer programs and English to children of Quetzaltenango...
Proyecto Reforestación de Cantel
Many hands have left a caring imprint on that small piece of land near Cantel, and already the effects are already evident...
 
 
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