What has inspired other people to go on a tour?
Do I need to speak Spanish to go on the tour?
Nope! In fact, the majority of our tour participants speak little or no Spanish. Your guides will translate most activities, including encounters in the communities with parents, students, and families. When you interact with students on an individual basis, you’ll find many other ways to communicate, such as sharing family photos and playing soccer, basketball, and other games.
Where will I stay?
We stay in tourist-class accommodations. Typical hotels we use include:
- Hotel Villa Colonial: Antigua
- Hotel Los Olivos: Antigua
- Casa Santa Rosa: Antigua
- Porta Hotel Antigua: Antigua
- Hotel Casa del Rey: Chichicastenango, El Quiché
- Hotel Posada Don Francisco: Cobán, Alta Verapaz
- Park Hotel: Cobán, Alta Verapaz
- Hotel Vista Real: Guatemala City
- Hotel Radisson: Guatemala City
- Porta Hotel del Lago: Panajachel (Lake Atitlán)
- Hotel Atitlan: Panajachel (Lake Atitlán)
- Posada de Santiago: Santiago Atitlán (Lake Atitlán)
Will I be safe in Guatemala?
CoEd has been operating tours in Guatemala since 1998. In that time, not one of our tour participants has ever been a victim of a serious crime. However, in Guatemala, as in other developing countries, crime is a significant problem. Traveling in these countries is therefore not without risk. To better understand these risks, we require all tour travelers to read the U.S. State Department’s Guatemala information page and any relevant public announcements concerning Guatemala.
These advisories give valuable information and suggest precautions visitors may take to mitigate risks. However, since many travelers have not previously traveled to Guatemala, they often find it difficult to put these risks into context. The following statistics may help:
- Approximately 1.37 million tourists visited Guatemala in 2015 (Source: World Travel & Tourism Council).
- Less than 0.5% of tourists were involved in crimes serious enough to be reported to the U.S. Embassy (Source: the GlobalPost, May 2010).
- Based on the above statistics, an individual’s chances of being involved in serious crime are roughly 3.5 in 1,000.
We consider the risk of traveling to Guatemala comparable to that of spending time in higher-crime areas within major U.S. cities. While traveling to any crime-ridden area can be at times unsafe—and one must acknowledge and accept the risks involved—it is our judgment that if appropriate precautions are taken, traveling to Guatemala on a tour is a reasonable risk to take.
We make every reasonable effort to assure the safety of its tours, including:
- Guiding the tours with veteran staff members, with years of experience working and traveling in Guatemala.
- Traveling in multi-vehicle caravans with an escort provided by a private security firm.
- Maintaining updated lists of high-quality doctors and hospitals (specific to the itinerary).
- Fielding extra staff and vehicles, so that at any moment, one staff member and one vehicle could be dispatched to handle a medical issue. (This is different from “for profit” tour operators who send only buses and drivers with no support staff.)
- Arranging airlifts from rural Guatemala in the unlikely case of serious injury.
Trip participants can also lessen their own chances of being targets of crime by:
- Leaving valuables (jewelry, watches, electronics) at home.
- Avoiding carrying large sums of cash.
- Not discussing your travel itinerary with strangers.
- Staying in groups during free time.
Overall, we believe that your experience in Guatemala will be a positive and memorable one, as it has been for the 900+ visitors to our projects who have come before you.
Can I arrive before the tour and stay after?
If you plan to arrive a day before or stay a day after the tour at the hotels we use in Antigua, we can book those nights for you. Please contact us by July 1/January 1 at firstname.lastname@example.org or 513-661-7000 to make the arrangements.
If you would like to travel in Guatemala outside the official tour, you are responsible for making your own arrangements. See our list of hotel recommendations (under “Where will I stay?”) for starters.
Can I bring my children/grandchildren?
Yes! We welcome parents traveling with their children and grandchildren to share a volunteer travel experience. We ask that all minors travel with a relative. In our experience children older than 10 years are better suited to understand the difficulties of life in a developing country.
Can I visit the Rise student I sponsor? What about my friend's student?
If you are the half or full sponsor of a Rise student, absolutely! Our students absolutely LOVE meeting their sponsors in person. Think about how special you feel when someone comes from far away to see you, and multiply that times a thousand. Join us on a CoEd Project Tour for the opportunity to meet your sponsored student. Not only is it incredibly special for your student, many sponsors find that meeting and spending time with their Rise scholar is the highlight of their trip. It is a great way to not only foster a relationship with your student, but to see the impact of your sponsorship first-hand.
What if I’m not coming on a scheduled tour?
If you plan on being in Guatemala outside of a scheduled tour, we will do our best to arrange a visit between you and your student, but we need at least 60 days’ notice. We also suggest a $250 donation (https://portal.coeduc.org/donate) to offset the expenses associated with logistical planning for and staffing of the visit. We’ll be in communication with you if for some reason it would not be possible for you to visit with your student (timing, holidays, work schedules, etc.).
What about my friend’s student or a student I sponsor as part of a big group?
Sometimes tour participants also want to see a student that a friend or family member is sponsoring, even if that friend is not going to attend the tour themselves. Or maybe 10 friends got together to jointly sponsor a student. While we want all sponsors to meet their students, it’s important to note the logistical challenge that comes with communicating with students and their families from over a dozen different communities, and arranging transportation for all of them for a visit, especially without the student’s sponsor in attendance. As such, if you would like to visit with a student that you do not personally sponsor with a half or full sponsorship, we suggest a $100 donation (https://portal.coeduc.org/donate) to offset the expenses associated with logistical planning and staffing for the visit.
For the sake of safety, all sponsors must be accompanied by CoEd staff when visiting with students, and any visits outside of those arranged by our staff are strictly forbidden. Cooperative for Education reserves the right to deny a request to visit a student if it deems that this connection may in any way put at risk the students, staff, or reputation of CoEd and its programs.
Can I leave hotel contact information with my friends or family?
Yes. Just before your tour we will send you a complete list of hotels and contact information, which you can share with your family.
Can I donate school supplies or other items to CoEd's projects?
Many tour participants ask us if they can bring donated items for the children and schools. We recommend making a monetary donation, which CoEd can use to purchase school supplies and other items in Guatemala to distribute during the tours. However, if you are committed to carrying items for distribution on tour, please consider the following:
- Luggage and storage space on the buses is very limited. Tour participants are permitted one medium-sized suitcase. If you would like to bring additional luggage containing donated goods, please submit a request to email@example.com or 513-661-7000, by Jan. 1/July 1.
- CoEd distributes books, sporting equipment, and pens/pencils to all schools. Any tour participant wishing to distribute other items, such as photos, candy, or clothing can do so without the assistance or involvement of CoEd staff. We do ask that you let us know ahead of time that you intend to pass out items at the schools. Items that are religious in nature may not be distributed within the context of a CoEd tour.
- Spiral notebooks
- #2 pencils
- Colored pencils (12/box)
- Crayons (24/box)
- Cap erasers
- Metric rulers
- Pencil sharpeners
- Soccer balls
- Playground balls
- Basket balls
- Sturdy pump inflators
- Mesh bag (approximately 38” H x 23” W)
Note that because schools supplies are packed for tours prior to your arrival, any supplies that you donate will be collected, sorted, and used on future tours.
How can I help the children of Guatemala after I return to the US?
Download our How to Help PDF and find out!
What if I can't go on a tour that I have already signed up for?
Please refer to CoEd’s Tour Refund Policy for information about cancelling your trip.