¡Bienvenidos a Guatemala! The plane has just landed at the Guatemala City International La Aurora Airport. Your adventure has begun!
You will need to move through passport control - an entry stamp will be put into your travel document. The customs officer will inform you that you are allowed to stay in Guatemala for 90 days. The customs officer is unlikely to be interested in your return ticket, but, just in case, you should have it printed out ahead of time.
In the aircraft or at the airport, you will be given a customs declaration where information on donations and/or medical supplies must be disclosed and given to the customs officer before leaving the airport. You need to check the ‘donaciones’ and/or ‘medicamentos’ boxes if you are carrying any. Your luggage is likely to be checked, but don’t worry - it’s not illegal to carry humanitarian aid.
In case your luggage is held by the customs - first of all, don’t panic. Inform the officers that you are a Health&Help volunteer and show the humanitarian aid cover letter explaining you are receiving no money for your work. Assure the officers you are giving the donations away, helping the Guatemalan citizens pro bono. To seal the deal, show them pictures of the clinic on you phone.
Under no circumstances should you leave donations at the airport. If the officer is relentless, try bribing him/her - we will reimburse these expenses. They usually expect $50 per 25 kilos, but be prepared to be asked for more. Try insisting on not having more money. If an understanding can’t be reached, call the Health&Help Coordinator.
If you are Health&Help’s new medical volunteer or coordinator, our Spanish tutors will prepare you for such situations.
Here are some phrases which might come in handy when negotiating with the officer:
After you are done with customs, you need to exchange your American dollars for Guatemalan Quetzales (the local currency, named after the national bird of Guatemala) in order to hail a taxi or take the bus to Momostenango. Please note that the exchange rate at the airport is not as good as at the bank.
The exchange rate is normally 1$ = 7.5Q, but it is often subject to change so, to be on the safe side, double check this information before travelling.
It is advisable to buy a SIM card at the airport. We recommend the Q99 plan with Tigo (3Gb+whatsapp and Facebook free of charge). Fill it with 100Q, dial *123#, choose ‘Paquetigos para Navegar’, add the 99Q plan and press ‘Comprar’. The mobile connection and Internet should be working now.
As the clinic is operating at full capacity now and serving many patients daily, we are not able to pick you up directly from Guatemala City.
There are three options:
You need to get to the El Trebol bus stop by hailing a taxi or ordering an Uber. It takes around 30 minutes and 50Q to get there. You need to insist on 50Q as taxi drivers tend to overcharge white tourists.
When at the “El Trebol” bus station, you need to find the bus going to Momostenango. The ticket costs around 35Q.
The transportation system in Guatemala is rather peculiar so don’t even try to find a schedule or a ticket office. The buses leave the station every hour, but even the driver hardly knows when exactly. Try to keep in mind that the last bus to Momostenango departs around 3pm.
Your luggage must be placed right next to you or under your seat. You will be offered to put the luggage on the rooftop: do not agree as it might be stolen.
There are no direct buses to Momostenango after 3pm. You need to take the bus to “Cuatro Caminos”. It costs around 15-20Q.
When at the “Cuatro Caminos” bus stop, you need to find a bus to Momostenango (~7-10Q). The drivers will help you find the necessary bus. Double check the destination sign on the front of the bus.
In case you are not able to carry your luggage, you may ask the drivers to help you; but always be careful and double check that the luggage has been placed inside the bus.
In case you are arriving after 4pm, there is a slim chance you will catch a bus to the clinic the same day. There is an option to book a room at Dai Nonni Hotel near the airport; it is a free-of-charge accomodation for volunteers. However, there are limitations on the number of stays per month - please contact us in advance to find out more.
In case there are no rooms at Dai Nonni, you need to book any other hotel of your choice. We are always here to assist you; a spare coach might also be available at our friend’s apartment.
When in Momostenango, you need to find “Lool’s Pizza” restaurant or the “Momostepan” restaurant/cafe. Using the free wi-fi, call one of our volunteers. You will get their contact number a month prior to your trip. We will be there soon to pick you up and in 30 minutes you will arrive at the clinic.