Holiday Experience Volunteer Program in Guatemala - Antigua
Want to deck the halls and have a Holiday Experience as a volunteer in Guatemala? International Volunteer HQ’s Holiday program enables volunteers to help with a range of community initiatives over the festive season. These could include volunteering with disadvantaged children, coordinating holiday parties for residents in elderly care facilities, or helping in an animal shelter or at a coffee farm. It’s a great way to contribute meaningfully to the community over the holidays in a variety of areas when many volunteer projects are closed, while also getting to enjoy the sparkling atmosphere of Antigua over Christmas and New Year.
- Only available the weeks of Christmas and New Years
- Affordable fees from £325 for 1 week
- Includes accommodation, breakfast and dinner, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
Help arrange festive activities and make a difference during the holidays
Discover Guatemala’s incredible volcanoes and beaches
Celebrate Christmas and New Year with a local family or other volunteers
Who is this program suited to?
What to expect and how you'll make an impact
When other volunteer projects are closed, you’ll get to enjoy all the festive activities while also adding to the giving season as a Christmas volunteer. Volunteers have public holidays off around Christmas and New Year to enjoy Antigua and its surrounding areas, which are decorated and colourful.
The Holiday Experience schedule varies from year to year. Specific tasks will be determined closer to December, but in previous years, the schedule was as follows:
|Sunday||Arrival and Orientation|
|Monday||Childcare Project/Holiday Party: Show underprivileged kids a great time for the holiday! Celebrate by bringing gifts and food to the project.|
|Tuesday||Elderly Care/Holiday Party: Connect with elderly people who may not have close family or friends around and help them to celebrate the holiday season.|
|Wednesday||Construction Project: Assist the community with minor construction and renovation projects like painting and gardening. Tasks depend on what is needed most by the community at the time.|
|Thursday||Conservation: Support an organic, sustainable coffee farm with its daily activities.|
|Friday||Christmas Day/New Years Day: Public holiday, no placement work.|
Please note, the order of this work may be subject to change based on local requirements. In 2021, this project is only available to volunteers who begin the weeks of 20th and 27th December - volunteers should arrive in the morning the day before your project starts.
Volunteers who continue on the program beyond these weeks will transfer to another volunteer project of their choice.
Why do Holiday Experience volunteering in Antigua with IVHQ?
When you volunteer during the holidays in Guatemala you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:
- Bringing the community together over the holiday season
- Connecting with the young and old
- Practicing your Spanish
- Developing your communication skills
- Gaining a variety of volunteer experiences
- Immersing yourself in Guatemalan culture
- Experiencing the festive season in vibrant Antigua
- Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
- Volunteers aged 16-18 are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional documentation to the local team
- All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
- All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
- All volunteers must speak fluent English.
Guatemala photo gallery
”It was wonderful to see our kids so excited about helping. They really threw themselves into the work. My job is stressful and our cases seem interminable, so I really appreciated the instant gratification of hoeing and painting. It was rewarding to know that the locals who passed by the weather-worn clinic in the morning would see a brighter facade on their way home that day and in the future.”
Read reviews from Holiday Experience volunteers in AntiguaSee more reviews
When you walk the cobblestone streets of Antigua it is easy to see why it has been made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Baroque architecture, Spanish colonial churches and brightly painted buildings can be admired on nearly every corner. The urban environment speaks to the rich history of the city which dates back to the 1500s and includes a number of destructive earthquakes which have seen it repaired and rebuilt over a long period of time.
IVHQ’s Guatemala program is based in Antigua with placements in the city and surrounding areas. At these placements you’re likely to see the struggle faced by many Guatemalans living with limited resources. Despite the beauty of the place and its busy tourism industry, Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. Its citizens can benefit greatly from the support volunteers can give local initiatives which strive to improve their lives.
Antigua is located approximately 30 minutes from Guatemala City.
Arrival and orientation
The program orientation begins every Monday and volunteers need to arrive in Guatemala City on the day before orientation.
After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the La Aurora International Airport (GUA) in Guatemala City. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee. We recommend that volunteers under the age of 18 travel internationally with a notarized letter from their parents to support their documentation.
When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Antigua. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.
If you are travelling in Guatemala prior to your volunteer program, we can arrange for you to be picked up in Antigua on the day before your program orientation.
Orientation is hosted by our local team at their office in Antigua. Orientation begins on Monday morning and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Guatemala – an introduction to Guatemala, Guatemalan customs, language training details, rules and expectations, safety, travel opportunities in Guatemala, and an introduction to your project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.
Volunteer schedule example
On your first day of volunteering, you will be escorted to your placement by a local coordinator and introduced to the placement staff you will be working with.
Volunteers will have a morning or afternoon shift, which will last around 3 to 5 hours. Work and hours are dependent on the project and location. If a volunteer is taking Spanish language lessons, they will usually volunteer for half the day and spend the other half in lessons. A typical schedule is as follows:
|7:30 - 8:00 AM||Breakfast with your host family.|
|8:30 AM||Volunteer leaves home and travels to the project. The volunteer meets with the local staff. You will be given a duty roster and a plan for your work.|
|12:00 PM||Lunch at a local restaurant.|
|1:00 - 5:00 PM||Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel back to the accommodation, go sightseeing or do some shopping.|
|7:00 PM||Dinner with your host family.|
During the weekends, volunteers have spare time and usually just relax or take the opportunity to explore Antigua and other parts of Guatemala. Hop on a chicken bus and discover the beautiful architecture and sights of the charming city of Antigua, or jump on an ATV and go exploring at a coffee plantation, on a volcano or through small countryside villages. You’ll also find a great selection of markets selling everything from fruit and vegetables to locally-made handcrafts and cooking classes that can teach you how to make Guatemala’s tasty national stew - Pepian.
Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to destinations, such as Tikal, Belize, Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras.
Sunday is a religious day of rest and many shops and restaurants are closed. Most Guatemalans devote the day to spending time with their family. If you wish, you can accompany your host family to their local church, as a Latin American church service is a unique and special experience for many volunteers.
Accommodation and WiFi
You’ll be accommodated in either a homestay with a local family or a dormitory-style volunteer house.
Living is comfortable in both the volunteer house and homestays and all accommodation has electricity, running water and western bathrooms. Low pressure showers should be expected and the water is not always heated.
Bedrooms have single beds and bunk beds with bedding provided. You can expect to share a room with two to six other volunteers of the same gender, but in some homestays volunteers will have their own rooms. Private room upgrades are available in Antigua and cost £47 per person, per week.
The volunteer house does not have WiFi, however it is available in some of the homestays. You will also have access to computers and WiFi at the local team’s office in Antigua.
Volunteers are provided breakfast and dinner at their accommodation. Breakfast will be bread or tortillas, spreads, fruit and eggs with tea or coffee. Dinner commonly consists of meat, beans, starches and vegetables.
Lunches are not provided to Antigua-based volunteers as they are usually away from their accommodation around midday. We recommend budgeting between £2 and £3 per day to buy lunch at local restaurants recommended by staff. Tap water in Guatemala is not potable and drinking water is not provided for you in your accommodation, however bottled water is easy to purchase and inexpensive throughout Guatemala. Tap water can be used for showers and brushing your teeth.
When you apply for the program, please be sure to notify us of any special dietary requirements so we can make arrangements for you.
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
|1 week||£324 Equivalent to £47/day|
|2 weeks||£579 Equivalent to £42/day|
- Breakfast and dinner
- 24/7 in-country support
- In-country program orientation
- Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
- Airport pick-up
- Personalized preparation tools, guides and check lists
- Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
- Discounts on language lessons
- Certificate of International Volunteering
- All programs attract a Registration Fee of £229 in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in GBP.
- A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
- Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, criminal background check, public transportation to and from your placement each day and return to the airport when your program finishes.
- Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Guatemala generally find US$100 per week to be sufficient for expenses, such as lunches (except for Beach and Turtle Conservation and Mayan Cultural Immersion volunteers), in-country tours, and Spanish language lessons.
Recommended activities and tour add-ons
We believe that no volunteer adventure would be complete without experiencing the natural wonders of your host country. That’s why we offer volcano and coffee plantation tours, surfing lessons and mini adventures, exclusively available to IVHQ volunteers in Guatemala as affordable add-ons.
Please note that volunteers on the Beach & Turtle Conservation, Mayan Cultural Immersion and Eco-Agriculture projects are only able to do the following add ons before or after their program, not during.
Please contact us or your IVHQ Program Manager to book or get more information about any of the following activities and tours.
Your half-day Volcano Tour will take you to Pacaya Volcano, an active volcano within a national park with exciting thermal activity and stunning scenic views. Enjoy taking amazing photos and even roasting marshmallows over warm lava rocks.
Want to make sure you tick off all the must-see sites in Guatemala? The Mini Adventure combines the major hot spots in Guatemala into a 1-week excursion that can be added at the beginning or end of your volunteer program. You will be accompanied by a certified, bilingual tour guide for each trip, using Antigua as your home base between tours. The 6-day adventure complements your volunteer experience, without the stress of trip planning!
The Mini Adventure includes:
- Pacaya Volcano Hike
- 3 days/2 nights on the beach in El Salvador (surf lessons included)
- 2 days/1 night in the Mayan Ruins of Tikal (airfare to and from Tikal included)
- Zip-line tour
Enjoy a challenging 2-day trek and camping adventure on the active Acatangego Volcano. You’ll hike 11 miles (8 kms) round-trip up this active volcano with an elevation gain of 5,150 ft (1,500 metress). Be sure to pack your camera to capture the stunning views with neighboring volcanoes spewing lava while camping at 13,000 ft (3,963 metress).
Spend a full day trekking up Acatenango Volcano, an active volcano in Guatemala with stunning views of neighboring volcanoes.
Enjoy a half-day tour of the Yalu Coffee Farm or Philadelphia Coffee Plantation, both working coffee farms, led by your own expert guide. You’ll have the opportunity to learn about the coffee production from plant to cup, and enjoy a coffee tasting at the end of your tour.
How to book IVHQ’s recommended add-ons:
When you apply for an IVHQ volunteer program, make a note of which tours and add-ons you’re interested in on your application form so we can check availability and prices for you.
Once you’ve paid your registration fee, your IVHQ Program Manager will be able to book your place on the tour(s) you have chosen and help you organize your trip.
Affordable Spanish language lessons
Fluency in Spanish is not a prerequisite for the IVHQ Guatemala program, however on certain projects volunteer work will be restricted with limited language ability. We recommend that volunteers take advantage of the very affordable language lessons offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers by our partner staff in Guatemala. Past volunteers feel that taking these lessons help immensely with day-to-day volunteer work and communicating with local people. Volunteers interested in taking Spanish lessons can arrange these directly with the IVHQ Program Manager prior to departure. The language lessons are tailored to each volunteer’s current level of Spanish and classes run from Monday through to Friday. The cost is very affordable and offered exclusively to IVHQ volunteers. These lessons are not available for volunteers during the Beach and Turtle Conservation project, Mayan Cultural Immersion project, Eco-Agriculture project or Holiday Experience project due to the remoteness of these project locations. Volunteers on these projects can arrange lessons before or after their projects if they wish to stay longer in Antigua.
- 2-hour Small Group Classes: from £49 per week
- 1-hour Private Classes: from £53 per week
- 2-hour Private Classes: from £107 per week
How to book IVHQ’s language lessons: When you apply for your IVHQ volunteer program, make a note in your application of the language classes you’re interested in.
Once you’ve paid your registration fee, your IVHQ Program Manager will be able to book your place on your chosen language classes.
Check what's required to visit Guatemala
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Safety and support
IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.
- All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
- All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
- All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
- All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Protecting against COVID-19:
Volunteers tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of travel
Health & safety information provided during orientation
Strict disinfecting standards for programs & accomodation
Greater physical distance between volunteers
Essential country information
|Currency||Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ)|
Weather and climate: Guatemala has a range of micro climates and the high altitude of Guatemala City results in a subtropical highland climate in this region. There aren’t distinct seasons in Guatemala and the temperature is typically mild year round. Temperatures range from 22°C to 28°C (72°F to 82°F) during the day, and 12°C to 17°C (54°F to 63°F) at night. The country attracts winds and rain during the months of May to October with the hottest month being April.