What kinds of projects can I volunteer with?
Buena Onda is a network of grassroots Guatemalan NGOs, each project making real impacts in their communities. We work with a wide range of projects , that include education, health and nutrition, social justice, environment, animal welfare, construction, and community development. You tell us what your interests, goals, skills, and passions are, and we’ll connect you with a project where you can leave a real, lasting impact in an authentic, unforgettable community setting.
What is included in the $100 Buena Onda fee and what isn’t?
The $100 administration fee is our major source of income. This $100 helps us pay for our day-to-day Buena Onda activities. We don’t ask anything from our partner NGOs, as they have very limited budgets and their resources are invested in their communities, which is exactly where they belong!
The $100 gets you your own personal team working with you to put together a volunteer trip that is as personally rewarding as it is beneficial to the community with which you work. We will help you identify and connect with a project that meets your goals, we will assist with transport, with accommodation, and other logistical matters through our Build Your Trip feature. Buena Onda volunteer coordinators will also be your main contacts for support before, during, and after your time in Guatemala.
Not included in our $100 administration fee are the costs of transport, accommodation, and other services. We will work with you, as you Build Your Trip, and send you one final invoice. Once you pay your invoice, we will pay your transport, your accommodation, and anything else, so you don’t have to worry about any of those things when you get here.
Is Guatemala safe?
The majority of our partner projects are located in Antigua, a safe and popular UNESCO World Heritage town, or around Lake Atitlan, recently voted by National Geographic as the most beautiful lake in the world. Both are very popular destinations for travelers and you will find many comforts of home in the two. Guatemala as a country is no different than the majority of others around the world, in that people who use common sense and listen to advice do not find themselves in uncomfortable situations. We put the highest priority on your safety and we always monitor national events with our partner communities so that we can minimize any risk. We at Buena Onda will always be honest with you and we’ll tell you if something isn’t right or if there is somewhere you shouldn’t go.
What do I do if I get sick or injured?
There are certain sicknesses, such as stomach sickness, that happen to many travelers and are not considered serious. There are pharmacies everywhere and you can find medications, creams, and pills for pretty much anything that ails you. You do not need prescriptions for many medications in the pharmacies. If you do need to go to a doctor, we will help you find an English-speaking physician if needed. For things more serious, Guatemala City has world-class hospitals. Guatemala City is a short hour drive from Antigua and about three hours from Lake Atitlan.
Do I need a visa to come to Guatemala?
When you arrive in Guatemala, you will be granted an automatic 90-day tourist visa. This is sufficient for many volunteers. You can extend your visa for an additional 90 days in Guatemala City (or with a registered visa agency in Antigua). After 180 days, or six months, you need to leave Guatemala and can renew your visa by going to Mexico, Belize, Panama, or Costa Rica. Due to an agreement called the CA-4, you cannot renew your visa by going to Honduras, El Salvador, or Nicaragua.
If you stay a few days over your 90-day tourist visa, you will need to pay Q10 (about US $1.25) per day. This does not affect your re-entry to Guatemala if you would like to come again.
Where will I be staying?
Check out our Build Your Trip feature, which allows you to choose between host family, hostel, guest house, or hotel. We’ll work with you, your needs and requests, and your budget to find a place just right for you!
I will be working hard, are there trips outside of my volunteer community that I can take?
There is an excellent shuttle network through Guatemala that allows you to get from place to place relatively easily. Guatemala has a stunning amount of natural beauty packed into its borders and we can help you figure out where you’d like to go as well as how to get there.
Some popular destinations are the black sand beaches of the Pacific Coast, the Garifuna village of Livingston, the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal, the beautiful natural pools of Semuc Champey, the rich traditional culture of Quetzaltenango, a climb up one of Guatemala’s many volcanoes, and the lush jungles of the Peten.
What is the weather like in Antigua and Lake Atitlan?
Both places are in the Guatemalan highlands, which is known as the Land of the Eternal Spring. Temperatures during the day are mostly for shorts and t-shirts and nights are cool enough for jeans and light jackets. The rainy season is generally mid- to late-May until early November. Still, days of long, drenching rains are rare and most are simply a few hours of rain in the mid-afternoon. Note that Guatemala has been in drought conditions for the last few years, which means that rainstorms can get severe but are less frequent.
How can I stay in touch with my family and friends?
Most cafes and restaurants and accommodations in Antigua have wifi so you can connect to email, social media, or whatever service you use to make calls. At Lake Atitlan, wifi is still common in more touristed areas but you may not find it in the smaller villages. You likely will never be far from a place where you can connect and get in contact!
How can I stay involved?
There are many ways to stay connected to your volunteer project even when you aren’t in Guatemala! These are best discussed with the project staff so that you can strategize and implement ideas that best serve the community. As most Buena Onda partner projects are a small organizations, your word-of-mouth is absolutely essential to help bring their activities and realities to the wider world. Often, the grassroots projects do not have marketing budgets the size of their huge hearts, so your participation afterwards is tremendously appreciated!
You can also stay in touch with us at Buena Onda! We happily work with all volunteers and are excited when someone is referred to us. Again, your word-of-mouth helps us help the communities that we all want to support. Writing articles or blog posts, presenting Buena Onda to community groups, and introducing Buena Onda to your local professional networks are all wonderful ways to stay connected to Guatemala and know that you are continuing to make a huge difference!