Guatemala City, Guatemala Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Guatemala City, Guatemala

Guatemala City, Guatemala 03/14/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is our second Central American tour; we've also lived in San José (CR), as well as various cities in Europe, and the Middle East.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

It's a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Guatemala City to Atlanta on Delta, with frequent connections to all East Coast cities from there. The flights are on the expensive side, but are easily found, with morning and afternoon flights available.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Work at the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We LOVE our housing. We have a three-bedroom house (which was an initial surprise, since smaller families than ours here have been given larger homes with more bedrooms). The house itself is gorgeous, and the neighborhood is fantastic. The homes in our neighborhood are all in the colonial style: terra-cotta roofs, whitewashed walls, huge wooden doors. The new Embassy is currently under construction not too far away and new families seem to be increasingly placed in this neighborhood to prepare for the big Embassy move in the years to come.

The gated community in which we live has green spaces for kids to play, several playgrounds, a fire pit, an outdoor pool that's open year-round, a gym, and a large community space for rent for birthday parties/weddings/etc. There's a large, high-end open-air shopping plaza that abuts our neighborhood, with a large grocery store, excellent restaurants, bars, hairdressers, a karate dojo, and more. It's safe to walk on during the day and at night, and is a popular destination for Guatemalans looking for a pretty, safe place to take a weekend outing with their family. The commute to the Embassy is miserable as traffic is awful here. Since there's practically no parking available at the Embassy, the majority of people have to take an Embassy shuttle. It's not fun for the employee, but it has meant that our family can easily get by with one car here.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Nearly every grocery product imaginable is available here. Groceries are more a bit expensive than I would have expected, but not problematically so. A number of different large grocery store chains exist, as does a warehouse club store equivalent to BJs/Sam's Club/Costco in the US. We get a huge community share agriculture (CSA) box of vegetables delivered to our home every other week for about $20. Fresh seafood delivery is available as well.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More sunscreen! Particularly waterproof sunscreen for kids at the pool, and facial sunscreen for adults. The selection here is lacking and expensive, and sun damage comes on strong and fast, particularly because of the altitude. The longer we're here, the more I resemble an expensive leather handbag.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

American fast-food chains are abundant in the city: McDonald's, Burger King, Taco Bell, Subway, Krispy Kreme, etc. Nearly all offer home delivery. Uber Eats (and several competitors) have also recently started up and are doing well. We have great Indian and Korean restaurants, a taco place, and good Guatemalan restaurants, too. There are options available to suit nearly anyone.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

We've had far fewer insects than I would've expected. An initial infestation of tiny sugar ants when we moved in was quickly resolved. Our biggest problem has been tiny moths, a minor annoyance at best. Mosquitos were a problem in our first rainy season here, but the Embassy installed window screens, which dramatically improved matters.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO is fast and reliable. There is no Guatemalan postal service.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We employ a part-time housekeeper/nanny three days a week, and pay her the going Embassy rate of around US$20/day (8 hours). Many, if not most, members of the Embassy community employ either part-time or full-time housekeepers and/or nannies. Houses have a small living quarters intended for live-in employees.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Many residential communities and apartment buildings have their own gyms (with no membership fee required for residents). The city has many other gyms that you can join, as well, ranging from CrossFit gyms to Orange Theory to HIIT classes. A large gym in our part of the city also has a heated indoor pool with swim classes offered for adults and children.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We use credit cards nearly everywhere and have had no problems with them. The open-air artisan markets are cash-only, but every store I can think of accepts our US credit card. ATMs are commonly found. The ATM fees are exorbitantly high ($5-$7 per withdrawal), but the Embassy cashier can also cash checks or make withdrawals from your checking account with your ATM card, fee-free.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is relatively widely-spoken by the Guatemalan elite/upper class, but not the rest of the country. Basic Spanish is a must in daily life. Luckily, Spanish tutors for adults and children are widely available and incredibly convenient; most will come to your home, work around your schedule, and design a curriculum that meets your needs. Embassy-recommended tutors run about $20/hr. Far cheaper options are available, but you may get what you pay for.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

I think so, yes. Cobblestone streets are common, and sidewalks are frequently narrow, slanting, and in poor repair.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Embassy families are prohibited from using local buses or taxis for safety concerns. Gang attacks on buses and taxis are a relatively common occurrence. Uber, however, is allowed, and has been fantastic for us here.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

We've been happy with our large SUV. Outside of the city, the roads can get dicey, and having a larger car with higher ground clearance that's more capable of handling challenging road conditions has been good for us. Parking our large vehicle in small underground parking garages has been hard, but not impossible. Regardless of what kind of car you bring, you'll want to immediately get the windows tinted. Installation of the tint can be done at your home, on your schedule, but is a safety must.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

"High speed" is debatable, but the internet access here through either Claro or Tigo (the two largest internet companies) is fast enough to watch Netflix. It took us weeks to get it installed, weeks for repairs every time there was a problem, and our speeds are never even approaching the speed we've paid for, but it gets the job done. The walls of all of the residences in our community are concrete, so Wifi signals have a very difficult time reaching the whole house. Even with a Wifi extender, we still have dead spots. Choose the location of your desktop computer wisely.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Most Embassy people here buy a cell phone plan through either Claro or Tigo. Service and quality seem to be about the same. We bought pay-as-you-go SIM cards upon arrival, and just kept them the whole time instead of signing up for a plan. We pay around $13/month for calls to Guatemala and the US (can't remember how many... we never seem to run out of either...) and 2gb of data.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

The wide variety of styles in public places is fascinating: everything from very traditional Mayan clothing (hand-woven long skirts and blouses) to skinny jeans/crop tops/stiletto heels is seen on the streets here in the capital. Outside of the city, in the more conservative indigenous areas, I feel more comfortable when I'm more covered up, but I've seen plenty of backpackers around Lake Atitlán wearing booty-shorts.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Crime is a major issue in Guatemala. Carjackings and muggings happen; they seem to be more frequent in poorer neighborhoods, but no area seems to be completely immune. Just in the past two years, I've heard of two different taxis being shot up at the taxi/bus stand near our home, not far from where school buses drop off kids from the international schools. Neighborhoods in the city go from reasonably safe to gang-controlled-territory within the span of a block or two, and even after two years here, I'm always uncertain as to where I should or should not be driving. It's a challenge. That said, I feel VERY safe in our home and neighborhood, and have never worried about home invasions. You can spend your time here closed up in a bubble of security, but you'd miss out on so much of what this country has to offer. There are ways to mitigate (although not completely eliminate) your personal risk as you travel out and about. It's worth finding the balance that works best for you.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Food poisoning abounds. I've had more digestive upset here than anywhere else in my life. That said, the quality of available medical care is very high, and very inexpensive. The specialists we've seen here have spoken perfect English, received most of their training in the U.S., give out their personal cell numbers to patients in case we need to follow up with them after hours, and they charge so little we sometimes don't even bother submitting receipts for insurance reimbursement. I've been far happier with our medical care here than in Washington, DC, and at a fraction of the price. Same goes with dental care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Air quality is poor (although certainly not as disastrously poor as many other places around the world). In the dry season, the air is filled with dust; in the rainy season, there's lots of mold and mildew. Pick your poison. Bad, chest-rattling, viral coughs are par for the course.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Managing food allergies here is a challenge. Without strict labeling laws governing food packaging, it can be anyone's guess as to whether or not your particular allergen is an ingredient.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The weather here is as close to perfect as I can imagine. It changes enough that there are discernible seasons; there are times of year when it's warmer or colder, but never TOO hot or TOO cold. The rainy season and dry season are predictable, and the rains are very tolerable. Even at the height of rainy season, there are usually sunny, bright mornings to be had.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are several international schools available and most Embassy families choose either Colegio Americano de Guatemala (CAG) or Colegio Maya, although there are also kids at Equity. Each school has a different feel to it. I don't think there's a bad choice to be made: the academics, class sizes, and teaching staff at all three are excellent, and the kids seem to be happy and thriving.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

In this neighborhood, Tykes and Pequenitos are the most popular preschool/daycare options. Both are walkably close, both have excellent staff and facilities.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Absolutely! Art classes, dance classes (ballet/jazz/modern/hip-hop), karate classes, any instrument you can think of, Little League baseball... it's ALL available here.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

I suspect most expats in Guatemala tend to live in Antigua or on Lake Atitlán instead of the capital, but there are a fair number here in the city, as well. They seem to run the gamut from happy hippie backpacker kids to adventurous retirees.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's been a great tour for my family! There are lots of things for kids to see and do and lots of activities to join. I'd have been thrilled to be here as a singleton or a part of a couple, too. There's so much for everyone to see and do.

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3. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

We've found Guatemalans to be very warm, welcoming, and easy to get to know. The linguistic barrier is a real challenge if your Spanish isn't up to par, but people here are patient with broken Spanish, and eager to help. It's the first post we've had where I felt like I really made local friends, and it's been a highlight of our time here.

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4. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

There are too many to count! Climbing ancient Mayan temples in Tikal and Yaxha, speeding across Lake Atitlán in a tiny lancha, bartering for one-of-a-kind handicrafts in the market at Chichicastenango, wandering the colonial cobblestone streets of Antigua.

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5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

YES. Oh, yes. For handicraft lovers, this is one of the best posts imaginable. The handwoven fabrics, the embroidery, the wool rugs, the pottery, the jade... it's high-quality, one-of-a-kind, and ridiculously affordable.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

As the largest city in Central America, it's got something for everyone. Whatever you're into, you're likely to find it here, and it'll probably be inexpensive. It's nice to so close to the US, and sharing the same time zone (or close to it, anyways) makes communication with family and friends there easy.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

I wish I'd taken the time to study more about the history of Guatemala. Current events would have been much easier for me to understand if I'd known the events of the past. Whether you agree with them or not, get up to speed on the U.S.'s current immigration policies... they WILL come up in conversation. I also wish I'd taken the State Department's security class (FACT) before coming; I think it would have helped me to feel more comfortable faster, particularly the driving.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

ABSOLUTELY! I think Guatemala is the hidden gem of the Foreign Service.

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3. But don't forget your:

Situational awareness, bartering skills, sense of adventure, and Immodium.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Guatemala Reader, Born in Blood and Fire, Bananas

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Guatemala City, Guatemala 02/14/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Been around, tour # seven (four in developing countries.)

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

US to Guatemala, thru Atlanta or Miami is fairly easy, if coming from DC. Guate airport is small and easily navigated; parking, including diplomatic, right on the curb

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Good housing. Housing varies, but is generally older, gated, established neighborhoods with nearby 'other' embassies, or Class A high-rise apartments with all the amenities; near high end dining and shopping; commute is generally 10-15 min drive or can be up to an hour on bad days or some can walk. A new US embassy is being built, so a lot of housing is transitioning towards new location in 'Cayala' (z15). Currently commute 15-20 minutes, up to an hour. This newer housing can still have 'new construction' problems to include many are smaller spaces, tiny yards and very close or attached housing (like compound living).However, it does have vibrant shopping, dining and social area (think mixed use) of Paseo Cayala. The future new embassy will be within walking distance. Entire area is being built up, and traffic is already difficult at peak times and during events (they host a lot of events in the area).

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Practically everything available here, but of course Amazon is rich for a reason. Supermarket chains and shopping malls are mostly like US in quality - slightly higher pricing though (in Guatemala City, not rural). Walmart and big box shopping (Pricesmart, similar to Costco) available here. Toy stores, butchers, etc...

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3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Guatemala has US-based restaurant chains all over the place in the capital (fast food certainly, PF Changs, Applebees, TGIF, Krispy Kreme, etc), as well as Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters, Forever 21, Hush Puppies, Zara, etc. There is a thriving motorcycle delivery industry for food options direct from restaurants but also delivery services like UberEats, Glovo, Hugo.

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4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not in mine. Not that I've heard of.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Local options not used (available?) or (secure?) but embassy mail room is fine.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic services widely available. Guatemala labor laws in effect and salary mandates for part time and full time under debate (in law). Generally 150- 200 quetzales (roughly $20-25usd) is standard for both maid or gardener services; fluctuating on size of housing/yard. Often gardeners have own lawnmowers and machete. Drivers are not typical.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Many gyms located about town. Some apartment buildings have these included, including private gyms or rooftop infinity poos with views of the volcanoes.
2017 pricing 'Alive' gym (z10) = 650q/mo for annual membership with 4 mos free at end. (special)
'Fitness One' and futeca are options.
There are also various yoga, spin classes (AVIA bldg) around.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Yes. I don't use ATMs outside Embassy banking services.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Unknown

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

I use it frequently, however not sure it's absolutely necessary. Classes and tutors available in English.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, somewhat. City streets, sidewalks, etc., all have uneven pavement. Traffic is unforgiving for pedestrians.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Uber is available and safe to use; taxis okay. Other transport not used.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

There are more and more high end (Porsche, BMW, Range Rover, occasional Maserati, etc) on the streets than even 2 years ago. Almost all are encouraged to tint windows however for safety. Driving outside the capital (and to Antigua), the roads deteriorate and can be difficult to navigate in some areas, due to excess traffic and lack of adequate infrastructure.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, available. Occasional spotty service. Installation within short time/quickly.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Used US-based cell phones for a month prior to service deteriorating, then switched to local number and service (Claro or Tigo).

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Veterinarians (and gun stores!) all over the place. Unsure quality. No quarantine.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Limited embassy offerings.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Unknown

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual to suits in the office. In public, it can be casual. Formal dress only for specific events.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Zika is still present. There are areas or zones that are not considered safe, even though Wayz will try to lead you through them.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is considered good and may be less costly than the US. Appointments (and results on lab work) are generally much quicker.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Guatemala doesn't have great air quality. Within the capital high traffic streets having poorer quality of air, but it's better in other parts. Since there are no car emissions testing or car age limits, so old US school buses have a long afterlife down here and really put out some exhaust. But the climate is good, so there is no Hepa filtered, recirculated air conditioning, and windows are generally left open. That said, the capital city is surrounded by of volcanoes / mountains that may trap city smog.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Average almost all the time. Summer heat is direct, but the temperature may not seem as hot as it feels. Guate has a 'raining season' (all thru summer). Winter turns chilly, but further up the mountain (by Colegio May school, it is cold!). A/C and heat not generally provided.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Stereotypes:
Colegio May - the smallest English based curriculum. All grades represented in fewer than 500. Average, more diverse, some sports, clubs.
InterAmericano - all grades -1100 students, some sports, clubs. Less diversity,
Cag Americano - large school, money elite families, some bullying, high academics, less sports, clubs.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Unknown

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Unknown

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Believe so.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Average to smaller and insular. Fine, nothing great.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Frequent restaurant dining.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

All demographics seem represented, but heavier on families with younger children.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Although a Catholic country and local laws are not in favor, LGBT expats seem accepted. Annual parade held (small).

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Tikal, Semuc Champey, Chichi, volcano hikes.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Limited excursions (hiking, biking, etc), most folks go to Antigua to site see, to the coast for deep sea fishing (not swimming!).

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Lots of textiles, some pottery, coffee and rum are typical gifts for folks back home.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Less expensive "service industries" - domestics (maid, gardener, driver), some cosmetic medical, vision appointments, salon/barber, massage, shoe repair. Fresh flowers stands abound

Not less expensive - actual eyeglasses (go online), picture framing (ouch, but haven't done it in the US), seamstress/tailor of quality (only found regular, non high-skilled, i.e. hemming, etc).

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Guatemala City, Guatemala 06/07/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Yes, aside from a study abroad in Buenos Aires.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

United has a direct 5-hour flight to DC one or two days a week, otherwise connect in Miami, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, San Salvador, ect. Can be in Miami in two hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

A bit more than a year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is great, though this post is transitioning from LQA to housing pool and it's hard to say what it will be like in the future. Most people live in large, luxury apartments in buildings with pools and gyms, though many families live in gorgeous houses in gated neighborhoods. All buildings and neighborhoods have several layers of security, and at least the apartments are constructed to near-U.S. standards and solid enough to avoid worry during the regular, small earthquakes. The U.S. Embassy is located downtown and is a very short commute for most people - for me it's a 15-minute walk or a 5-minute drive - but they are constructing a new building further outside town.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Most things are available. Fruit and vegetables are typically cheaper than in the U.S., while most other things are slightly more expensive. There are some small, boutique stores when you can find unexpected luxuries (including a place in Antigua that carries a random assortment of Trader Joe's branded items) but at a regular grocery store it can be hard to find baking soda, certain spices, bread crumbs, bourbon, ginger, crisco, it just depends on the season and what order the store happens to have recently received. If you want to buy the exact same products you used at home it will definitely cost you more, but you can make up for it with the cheap pineapples, avocados, eight varieties of mangos, blackberries...

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Wine that isn't from South America and beer that isn't Gallo.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Pollo Campero is the Guatemalan favorite, but you'll also find McDonald's. Wendys will deliver right to your house! Comparable to U.S. prices. Dunkin Donuts is here, and Krisy Kreme is apparently coming soon. Applebees, TGIF, and Hooters round out some of the U.S. based chains. Most of these are limited to Guatemala City, and here you'll always do better to find an independent restaurant where you can pay Applebees prices for a very tasty, high quality meal.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Few in the city.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO or pouch. DPO takes an average of a week using Amazon Prime, pouch takes longer.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Available, and US$15-18/day for live out housekeepers.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Most people who live in apartments have access to gyms in their buildings. There are also public gyms - I think Futeca is the nicest - and a surprisingly active running culture that organizes group training runs, weekly races all over the country, etc. You can also take tennis classes from internationally competitive players for US$10-15/lesson.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Prevalent within Guatemala City. Outside the city, best to have cash.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

There's an English-language Protestant church, and a Catholic church occasionally has English mass.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You could probably get by as a tourist without too much Spanish, but you will be very limited living here without it.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Sidewalks are bad, ramps are uncommon.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Some are safe, all are affordable. There's a recommended taxi company that will charge US$5-10 for trips within the central city. There's a new transurbano line of city buses that are supposedly much safer than the red city buses - they don't take any cash and every stop lets out on a platform staffed by police - but they still aren't recommended and honestly don't serve routes that will be useful for most expats. Some of the inter-city bus lines are safe and affordable, you just need to check on the route and the company.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Toyotas and Hondas are the most common. If you're staying in Guatemala City something small and fuel-efficient is best, as many parking spots are tiny and traffic can make efficiency a big deal. Four-wheel drive and high clearance might be necessary if you plan to go to certain places (Semuc Champey, many of the volcano hikes) though usually there are plenty of pick ups willing to give you a ride in the back in those places. More than four wheel drive, I've found that having a powerful engine makes a big difference. Most of the roads are two-lane highways with very few straight sections and full of slow-moving sugarcane trucks from the 1970s. Being able to pass easily and nimbly can save a lot of time and stress.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, the internet is comparable to what I had in the U.S. The cable/phone/internet plan that I have is fast enough for skype and to stream music and video smoothly and costs about US$85/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Tigo and Claro both offer very extensive coverage at reasonable prices. I have a data-only prepaid plan from Tigo and pay US$13 for 1.5GB that lasts a month.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine. I adopted my cat here and have been very happy with the quality of pet care. I love my vet. Like medical care, getting appointments is easy, vets will make house calls, prices are lower, and professionals have more time to spend answering questions.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I know some people who have had success working in the bilingual schools or for NGOs. I don't think that pay is anywhere near what you would get elsewhere.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty. If you don't have any specialized skills there are opportunities at shelters, at a nonprofits that works with residents of a city dump, with religious organizations. Those with medical or agricultural expertise will find more specialized volunteer opportunities.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Somewhat more formal than the US.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, of course, and everybody develops their own comfort levels with security. Most violent crime is targeted and/or takes place in neighborhoods that a foreigner would never visit, but there are no truly safe areas and colleagues have been mugged or had their cars assaulted in broad daylight in the ritziest zones. A few very public (almost certainly targeted) murders have recently taken place on the streets in neighborhoods where many expats live and work. I personally walk alone during the day, walk around in groups at night, run outdoors with my headphones at certain times and in certain neighborhoods. I avoid driving outside of the city after dark and, aside from the well-timeD running routes, don't use electronics or pull out my wallet in public. I'm probably on the less cautious side of the spectrum but in general I don't feel that security concerns affect my day-to-day life, though I've accepted there are constant, unavoidable risks.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is of good or excellent quality in most cases, though anything particularly specialized or critical would likely be better treated in the U.S. Primary care and basic medical services are great, with doctors who have been trained in Mexico, Colombia, or the U.S. but who have much more time to spend with patients and charge much lower prices that we might be used to. It's also typically much easier to get an appointment than in other parts of the world. I had gum graft surgery here with excellent results and for a sixth of the price that I would have paid at home.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Moderate to unhealthy in the city. There are no enforced emissions standards; many vehicles lack catalytic converters, and traffic can be terrible during the week. During February-April the weather gets warmer and hazy and air quality declines, but the rainy season that follows, generally leads to better conditions, at least on weekends and outside of rush hour.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There's a rainy season from May-November, during which it rains most days and mostly in the afternoons. In the capital, the temperature doesn't vary much, March and April months might be five or seven degrees (F) warmer than the rest of the year. Guatemala has 20-something microclimates, mostly based on altitude. You can travel from Quetzaltenango, where the weather is typically cool to cold and it even snowed once (decades ago) to Rehaltuleu, where average highs are in the 90sF, in less than an hour.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

No personal experience, but at least the families I know with elementary-aged children and younger seem very happy with their choices.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Again no personal experience, but most people with young children hire full-time, live-in nannies. I'd guess that this runs about US$400/month though I'm sure it varies.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Guatemala City is the most developed city in Central America, and accordingly home to a lot of expats who are here for work. Most retirees, backpackers, and students live in other parts of the country. Morale is high in general.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of people travel together, take salsa classes, go out to eat, game nights.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for everyone. There's a strong community of singles here, but not a ton of nightlife due to security concerns. It's fairly easy to date in the local community, though as a woman dating Guatemalans I've found it can be tough to find something serious (though maybe this is the case everywhere?). Guatemalans love kids and even fancy restaurants often have play areas.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

It's okay. Homosexuality isn't widely accepted but in general Guatemalan are either too oblivious or too polite to say anything, and though there are definitely instances of violence against gay and lesbian Guatemalans it's doubtful that an expat would experience any issues. I've never experienced anything but warmth and acceptance from those who I know personally, in and out of the embassy community. I don't know much about the scene, but I've heard that dating locals can be tough because many are not fully "out" and are looking for hookups or under-the-table relationships only. On the other hand, a friend met her now-wife here so clearly it can be done.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Racism is a huge concern. Overt racism against the large indigenous community is a fact of life, and there were lots of incidents in the past of landlords refusing to rent to African Americans (though now that we're moving to a housing pool that should no longer be an issue). Typically, you can pick out the person in charge in any situation by figuring out who is whitest, and there's a lot of history to back up these trends. Again, Guatemalans tend to be very polite, especially to foreigners, so I'm not clear how much this racism would affect an expat on a day-to-day level. Gender prejudices are pernicious for those from here but haven't affected me as an expat on a two-year assignment, and religion has never come up.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Climbing Tacana, the second highest peak in Central America. Holding a candle above my head as I climbed and swam through underground caves at Semuc Champey.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

In the capital, you go out to eat, out to drink, to the movies, or you make your own fun. There are day trips to hot springs, Antigua, coffee plantations, Eco Lodge, Pacaya volcano. Salsa and cooking classes are also popular.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

There are beautiful handmade textiles. Guatemala is famously home to some very high quality jade and you can buy jewelry, figurines, masks, etc. out of jade.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The travel opportunities are fantastic! Mayan ruins, Lake Atitlan, dozens of volcano hikes, decent beaches (especially in El Salvador), eco lodges - all are accessible in a weekend. The weather is also a highlight; in the land of perpetual springtime it's always between 60 and 80F. Guatemala City isn't much of a travel destination but it offers good dining and access to most products from home. The Guatemalan people are very warm and welcoming and many fellow expats have commented that it's easier to get close to locals here than in many other parts of the world.

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10. Can you save money?

Absolutely. Anything produced domestically or involving mostly labor costs (vs capital costs) will be affordable. Travel can be done as cheaply as you like. If you are a member of the diplomatic community, it's currently fairly simple to get the 12% IVA (VAT) removed from most purchases, and flights originating in Guatemala are often a couple hundred dollars cheaper than the list price due to the various taxes that you don't need to pay.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes - Guatemala is a hidden gem.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothing.

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3. But don't forget your:

Flexibility and a sense of humor. Hiking shoes. Common sense.

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Guatemala City, Guatemala 04/23/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No--also lived in Manila.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

West Coast. It's about 7 hours total with a stop in Dallas/Fort Worth.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

This is currently an LQA post but that may be changing in the near future. It was fun picking our apartment here, and I think we have loved this post mainly because we ended up living in the same building as many of our friends. There are lots of beautiful houses and apartments here, with new buildings being built all the time. If you see an apartment and want to have changes made to it, often the landlord will make changes for you. Our commute to the Embassy is about 10 minutes driving or 30 minutes walking, depending on traffic.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Groceries (including household supplies) for our 4 person family are about US$300 per week. PriceSmart is the local version of Costco, and Pais is run by Wal-Mart so there are lots of American products available here.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Maple syrup, natural peanut butter, some specialty baking items, toys (are available here, but expensive!) and any specific items you can't live without.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

McDonald's, Wendy's, Taco Bell, Burger King, Dairy Queen, TGIFridays, Hard Rock, Chilis, plus a bunch of local chains--Taco Inn, Pollo Campero, etc. They are all a little cheaper than in the U.S. There are also lots of nicer steakhouses and restaurants that are also a bit cheaper than in the U.S.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not much. You see the occasional cockroach in the city but it's pretty rare. The houses and apartments sometimes have silverfish or ants, but again, it's rare.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and diplomatic pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Everyone has a helper, either PT, FT or live-in. Drivers aren't common. Helpers are around US$350/month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Most apartment buildings have gyms, hot tubs, and pools. There's a tiny gym at the Embassy. Futeca is another option. Not sure of the price.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

We use credit cards most everywhere we go. We only withdraw cash from the bank at the Embassy.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Learn Spanish. Not many people speak English except for those who went to college. The med unit has a list of doctors who speak English and were trained in the U.S., but you will still encounter many nurses, receptionists, cashiers, waiters, taxi drivers, etc. who don't speak English. A little Spanish knowledge goes a long way here!

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It wouldn't be a great place to live if you are in a wheelchair as the sidewalks are either pretty torn up or non-existent and there are lots of cobblestone roads in parts of the city and in some of the more touristy places like Antigua. That being said, most buildings, including the Embassy, have elevators or ramps.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No.The Embassy recommends that you used only the yellow taxis. Minimum fare is Q25 per ride (about US$3.50).

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Most people here have SUVs with very tinted windows. Get your windows tinted here--it's cheaper and darker. 4-wheel drive is handy is you plan on driving outside of the city.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. It's around US$100/month for "triple play" which includes cable, phone and high-speed internet.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Pay-as-you-go phones are the cheapest way to go. Monthly plans are available. The Embassy gives FSOs phones.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Most Embassy EFM jobs require a 4/4 in Spanish, which makes it difficult for non-native Spanish speakers to get jobs here. Some spouses have gotten local jobs at the international schools and with private companies.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are orphanages and churches who gladly accept volunteers.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Suits and ties for men, dresses and suits for women.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes--take precautions when walking or driving around the city. Armed robberies are not uncommon. Everyone has a story of something that has either happened to them or someone they know. While some crimes are completely random, I think you can minimize your risk by taking a few common sense precautions--don't talk on cell phones at intersections while driving, don't flash expensive jewelry or electronics, and make eye contact as you are out walking.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Every now and then you get the typical third-world stomach bug and viruses. Medical care is great. Miami is about 2.5 hours away if you need a medevac.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Pretty good, most of the time. It can get a little hazy during the holidays when there are nightly fireworks or when one of the nearby volcanoes erupt. Traffic is really bad enough to cause a lot of pollution. Allergy-sufferers may have problems as this is the "land of eternal springtime" and with that comes environmental allergies.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The weather is perfect! Cool nights (in the 50s F) and sunny afternoon (70s-low 80s F). During the rainy season (May-August), the weather is nice until the late afternoon and then there are loud thunder- and lightning storms.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are a few schools that most U.S. kids go to--Colegio Maya, Equity American School, Interamericano, and Americano. Colegio Maya is in Zone 16 and probably has the best facilities but we chose not to go there because the drive can range anywhere from 45 minutes to 3 hours depending on traffic and natural disasters (earhtquakes and landslides). Our child went to Equity, which was only about a 5 minute drive away. We've enjoyed the small class sizes, frequent field trips, and school performances. It's fine for elementary, however it lacks the resources (large library, music, art, enrichment opportunities, etc.) and sports teams that we would want if our child were in high school.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are local options that are good. They are around US$325 a month.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Swimming, dance, gymnastics, tennis, martial arts, soccer.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Medium sized. Most people here love it. I haven't met anyone who hates it.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of restaurants, Oakland Mall has lots to do, movie theaters (kids' movies are in Spanish, while adults' movies are in English with subtitles), traveling, amusement parks, Pasos y Pedales on Sundays, museums, the zoo. There are lots of parties and gatherings in people's home, as well.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families--yes. Lots of traveling. Many restaurants have big play areas for kids. Guatemalans seem to love kids. Singles--maybe. The nightlife is probably a bit restricted by the security situation. Couples--yes.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling with friends.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Semuc Champey, Copan, Tikal ruins, Iximche ruins, Roatan, El Salvador. There are also fun places to go with kids--the Zoo is nice, the Childrens' Museum is GREAT, the Mall has lots of cheap rides including a carousel, mini-train, bumper boats, sometimes a huge ball pit, and rotating attractions in the parking lot. There are also a few amazing amusement parks around the country, run by IRTRA. Mundo Petapa is in Zone 12 in town and is a cheap, well-maintained amusement park. Xocomil is a huge water park in Retalhuleu (about 4 hours away) that has another amusement park with rollercoasters next door.

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Textiles, jade, coffee, chocolate, paintings, Zacapa rum.

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Lots of great traveling within the country! You can drive to Lake Atitlan (3 hours), Antigua (45 minutes), Retalhuleu (4 hours), Monterrico (3.5 hours), Rio Dulce, Semuc Champey, Copan, Tikal, etc. There are lots of Mayan ruins to see and great handicraft shopping, if you are into textiles, wood carvings, jade, or pottery. The weather is always between 60-80F degrees.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

That the crime doesn't feel as scary as the internet makes it seem. There are more dangerous zones of the city but you just don't go there. That being said, crime can happen anywhere, but if you take precautions and go places in groups, you greatly reduce your chances of becoming a target.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes, most consumables (you'll find most everything here), fears of the crime stories you read on the internet.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses, swimwear, adventurous spirit.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Lonely Planet Guatemala (Country Guide)
,

Moon Living Abroad in Guatemala

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Guatemala City, Guatemala 01/03/14

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This was my second expat experience, the first one having been in Vienna, Austria.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

My home base is in South America, and the most convenient flight is with Copa Airlines. It takes between 10-20 hours, depending on the length of the layover in Panama City.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I was posted to our Embassy in Guatemala for a short (1-year) tour of duty, completed in early 2013.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I was a Foreign Service Officer at the Embassy of a South American country in Guatemala, my second expat experience.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Renting options are plentiful and generally very high-quality and comfortable. Living close to the workplace is advised as traffic can be tough during rush hours.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Supermarkets are comfortable, well stocked and offer prices comparable to those one can find in the U.S. PriceSmart (a local version of Wal-Mart), a membership-based wholesale store, is the best option for those who can buy stuff in bulk.

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3. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Food is good, cheap and plentiful. All American fast food chains are present (McDonald's, Burger King, IHOP, Wendy's, Dominos, and the like - a Planet Hollywood franchise has just opened), and there is a very good Guatemalan chain of chicken-based fast food (Pollo Campero). Guatemalan traditional food is also very good. Dining options are plentiful throughout Zones 10, 14 and 15, but the best restaurants I've seen in the country are in Antigua - Santo Domingo, Panza Verde, el Convento, Sobremesa, Le Cinq Bistro are all excellent.

Coffee is amazing. A local chain of cafes (Barista) has copied and improved the Starbucks model, and their coffee is simply wonderful.

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4. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Bugs were not a problem in Guatemala city perhaps because of the altitude. Some cities and areas on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts might have some problems but nothing to be concerned about.

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Domestic help is easily available, even if the quality of the service may be hit-or-miss. We had to let a couple of maids go, but eventually found a very good one. Maids and nannies usually make minimum wage, which has just been raised to US$303 in 2013.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. Most upscale apartment buildings have well equipped gyms themselves, and for the workout aficionados there are some good options like Futeca Sport Gym and World Gym. Costs are moderate.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit and debit cards are accepted nearly everywhere. Beware of card fraud, however.

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A good command of Spanish is pretty much necessary for work and daily activities.

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Probably yes. Sidewalks are bumpy and uneven. Even though most public places, such as restaurants, shopping malls and the like are accessible, quite a few are not - including the Foreign Ministry, which is mostly impassable for wheelchair users.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

There is no rail network. Local buses are crowded, unsafe and prone to all sorts of violent crime. Intercity buses are the same, with the added risk of reckless drivers trying to out-maneuver their competitors in order to reach the next bus stop first and collect more passengers. Even though many tourists regularly use them (particularly backpackers), truth is that they are best avoided. The main roads are generally very good, but avoid secondary roads (Rutas Nacionales) unless you know from a trustworthy source that they are in good condition.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Japanese cars are particularly desirable in the Guatemalan used car market. However I was told that Mazda vehicles are particularly sought by car thieves so insurance for them has a higher cost.

High-clearance and 4WD vehicles are not necessary but might come in handy for some trips to the countryside.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Claro offers a voice-data-cable TV package for about US$60 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phone operators are pretty good in Guatemala. 3G Coverage is impressive (I managed to upload pics from the top of the Acatenango volcano).

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No need for quarantine, just proper paperwork from your home Government's animal health agency. Many good vets and pet stores around town.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many. Numerous foreign NGOs and charities have a strong presence in Guatemala.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes. Crime is rampant in most areas of Guatemala City, and even the most affluent Zones are not completely exempt (such as Zones 10 and 14, where most embassies are located and where diplomats and other expats tend to live). Though most violent crimes are drug-related, robberies at gun-point can (and do) happen anywhere to anyone, cell-phones being a particularly desired booty. That said, one can dodge the risks by avoiding walking in the streets and places without private security.

Driving across the country is generally safe although driving at night is to be avoided at all costs - not only due to the risk of theft (and worse), but also because a staggering amount of cars and buses circulate without tail lights (and that does not mean that they are any more cautious because of it).

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is very good at private hospitals/clinics. Doctors are often educated in the U.S., so speak fluent English.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

In the capital's streets, air quality is terribly unhealthy because of the fumes released by old, poorly-maintained cars and rickety buses, made worse by the fact that gas and diesel that are sold in Guatemala contain toxic additives long prohibited elsewhere.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

As hinted before, Guateamala deserves the epithet of "Land of the Eternal Spring". In the capital, it is never too cold nor too warm, the temperatures ranging from 15 to 25 degrees Celsius most of the year. It gets quite hot in the Peten department, however, where the climate is decidedly tropical.
The country is, however, prone to periodic floods, hurricanes and earthquakes.

My tour of duty coincided with the second strongest earthquake in the country's history, but after the 1976 catastrophe, which killed more than 20,000 people, the country adopted stricter building codes, and so the damage this time has been much less serious. Most new buildings are earthquake proof.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Quite large for the size of the country. Apart from resident embassies (around 30), there are many UN and Aid Agencies offices, and large foreign companies also operate in the country.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for everyone, in principle, though singles may find the nightlife in the capital a bit boring. Antigua, however, is a good option in this regard, and is so close to Guate City (60km) that one can literally go every weekend.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Guatemala is a comparatively conservative and traditional society but I never heard any strong complaints from gay/lesbian expat friends.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

There are serious racial and gender issues within Guatemalan society as a whole but prejudices against foreigners are not common at all.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting Tikal, the world-famous archaelogical site in the Northeastern Department of Peten; relaxing at Hotel Atitlan, on the margins of the majestic lake Atitlan, with a breath-taking view of the three volcanos that surround it; and climbing the Acatenango Volcano and seeing the constant eruptions of its active neighbor, the Fuego Volcano.

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Climbing the Acatenango volcano. Most people tend to go to the Pacaya (which is beautiful and should not be missed) but the Acatenango offers the best views. One can book a hike with a guide from Antigua for US$60-120.

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7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Despite being a small country, Guatemala packs an amazing array of beautiful places and tourist atractions, and has a fascinating cultural heritage. The people are welcoming and warm. The weather is very mild and constant throughout the year - the epithet "land of eternal spring" is not just a PR stunt. Prices are quite low comparing to my home country, so the cost of living is not a major concern.

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8. Can you save money?

The answer is an unqualified yes. The cost of living is quite affordable at least for the expat community.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Definitely. I miss Guatemala and hope to visit it soon. Another posting there further up in my career would also be welcome.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Hiking gear. Many volcanos, active and inactive, offer terrific opportunities for hiking.

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Guatemala City, Guatemala 11/07/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

This is my first expat experience.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Washington, DC. It takes about five hours or so.

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3. How long have you lived here?

16 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Foreign Service Officer assigned to Guatemala.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

This is one of the few LQA posts in the world. You can choose your house or apt, as long as it falls within the space/cost limits and is located in zones 10, 14 or 15.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expect to pay pretty much US prices. One can save some money by going to the Guatemalan version of Costco/Sam's Club.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Anything! American chains are plentiful here from IHOP, Starbucks, Dairy Queen to BK, McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino's, Chili's and Fridays. There are also some great dining options that are a bit more expensive located throughout zones 10, 15, 1 and the Carretera a El Salvador.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Lots! There are some great boutique stores (Organica, Gourmet Center, SuperVerduras) that offer a selection. You have to be patient, but you can usually find the ingredients you are looking for!

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes in the low-lying areas, but definitely not as buggy as some countries!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO...most things arrive pretty quickly -- a week or two from the States!

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, there a number of gyms and athletic clubs. It all depends on what you want to pay.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Lots of places accept credit cards. Think twice about using ATMs, though, as there air frequent reports of theft and card copying scams.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

You should have a decent grasp of Spanish to be able to go about daily living.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It wouldn't be that easy to get around, as sidewalks are uneven.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No trains, and most intra-city buses are off limits. There is an excellent Yellow Taxi/Taxi Amarillo service that is safe and reliable.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, there are a number of providers for around $40 and up.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Most cell phones work and much of Guatemala has 3G capability.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

To some extent. There are jobs at the embassy and some folks work on the local employment market, although pay is not that good.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Absolutely. Guatemala is currently ranked as the seventh most dangerous countries in the world with about 42 murders per week (source: The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development). The security situation has deteriorated with the rise of powerful drug cartels. With that said, one should still take advantage of all the cultural attractions that Guatemala has to offer. Just be careful, don't walk around with flashy clothes, lots of cash and/or a cell phone in view. Americans are not targeted, but may be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Good medical care from a variety of US-trained doctors.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

The air quality in the city isn't so good, but once you get out of the capital, there is a lot of fresh air.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Known as the "Land of Eternal Springtime," Guatemala enjoys a temperate climate. Although, as one of the top ten countries most vulnerable to climate change, Guatemala is at risk of hurricanes, flooding and other natural disasters. As Guatemala is in a seismic zone, there is always the threat of an earthquake.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large!

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2. Morale among expats:

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, all of the above. There are plenty of places to meet people, although a good grasp of Spanish is necessary if you want to meet people outside of the embassy community.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Guatemala is a conservative culture and not particularly friendly for gays/lesbians. With that said, I have several friends who seem to have found their niche just fine.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Touring coffee fincas, exploring both the must-see attractions and those that are off the beaten track, learning about the Mayans and the rich tapestry of Guatemalan history.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Day trips to Antigua, visits to Guatemala City museums, eating at some of the nicest restaurants in Central America, trips to the cushy VIP movie theater, visits to the historic city center.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

There are a lot of amazing things about Guatemala. Definitely lots of beautiful places to see, such as the ruins at Tikal, Lake Atilan, and Antigua. The temperate climate is hard to beat as well. Guatemala City is a large, modern city with many things to do, plenty of amenities and a nice art scene as well too.

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11. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely, although the security situation is definitely worrying.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter clothes, Mac and Cheese (and other US products-you can find most of them here)!

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Guatemala City, Guatemala 05/02/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Madrid, Guadalajara.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

DC, usually connect in Miami, about 5 hour trip total.

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3. How long have you lived here?

7 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Fabulous housing with great views. Most of the people we know live in zones 10 and 14, which have great apartment buildings. Most are highrises.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

It is easy to find most US groceries and household supplies except organic foods. Those can be found at specialty shops such as Gourmet Center, Organica, and Delica. Prices might be a little higher for imported things.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Rock Salt for your ice-cream maker.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are many US fast food chains and Guatemala's own: Pollo Campero. Prices are similar to those in the States.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes. Bring bug spray.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

From the DPO at the embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Help is very available due to high unemployment rates, and costs only about $8-$10 per day.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Futeca Sport in Zone 14. Scandinavian Gyms are pretty good, too. Since there is not a lot going on in the city, going to the gym is one of the more interesting things to do.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Make sure the ATM you're at is well-lit and lots of people are around. You hear stories of people slinking around them and stealing your money when you're leaving. It's best to go to one that has a guard nearby.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Union Church (multi-denominational), and I believe there is a synagogue in English, too.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

TV, yes. If you get Convergence or Yego for cable, they are connected to US-based antennas. About $50 per month.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It's very helpful to know Spanish. Some people speak English, but not as many as you would think.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

There is an ample amount of wheelchair ramps, but they are very steep and short. I can't imagine how someone in a wheelchair would safely maneuver on them. But I don't think it would be impossible, especially if you live in a highrise with an elevator.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses are not safe due to gang control of them, but yellow and green taxis are safe and well-priced.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Any car is suitable, but an SUV or small SUV is probably best due to questionable road conditions. We have a 4-door sedan that has been pretty appropriate, except for some really high speed bumps. All cars have very dark tinted windows for security.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Same as above.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Don't talk on it in public if possible.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes, the vet right next to Exerzone/Futeca Sport in zone 14 is really good and speaks fluent English.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

No one really wears shorts. Jeans are okay, skirts and dresses, too.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Security is a big issue here but most crimes are targeted. It is best to refrain from using your cell phone or laptop in public to avoid problems, and always carry some cash with you (maybe $5) to give to someone who threatens you if you don't have something to give up. It is recommended to not carry things with you that you won't readily give up.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Hospitals seem pretty good. You can't drink the water, but you want to disinfect all your fruits and vegetables before eating. A doctor's visit costs about $20.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Seems pretty good, though exhaust fumes are pretty nasty when you get behind a bus. We always drive with the windows rolled up and the AC on recirculating air so we're not breathing those fumes.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

They call Guatemala "the country of the eternal springtime" because it feels like spring year 'round. They claim to have only 2 seasons: winter and summer. Winter is during the US summertime and is named that because of the rains that come in the afternoon. Summer is the dry season between October and May. Temperature-wise it always stays the same. It's great!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Colegio Maya, where most international students go, and Colegio Americano, which is significantly larger and 90% Guatemalan. Both schools have advantages and disadvantages but are equally high in quality.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, baseball, soccer, karate, dance, Gymboree. Everything you would find in the States.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

There seems to be a good number of expats.

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2. Morale among expats:

Ok, lots of people are turned off by the crime here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Good restaurants and some fun bars.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families and couples, yes, singles, not sure. There is not a lot going on in the city, so if you like a vibrant night life, it might be hard to find it.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Haven't heard.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Indigenous folks are generally poor and not treated as well.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Lake Atitlan is a fascinating place with a mixture of indigenous groups, Guatemalan ladinos, and tourists. Deep sea fishing (an hour or 2 from the capital) catches Sailfish up to 100 lbs., Antigua is a fun colonial town only 40 minutes from the capital, hiking volcanos, and learning about the people here.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Lake Atitlan, Antigua, Chichicastenango market, Tikal (45 minute flight), IRTRA amusement park, Semuc Champey caves.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Guatemalan textiles, VIP movies, Zacapa rum.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Beautiful scenery outside of the city, incredibly friendly people, nice sites within 0-3 hours by car, neat opportunities to experience Mayan culture, archaeological ruins, unbeatable weather (average daily temperature year-round 72 degrees).

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Expectation that life will be exactly the same as at your home, and expect a new lifestyle which is different, but also very fun and interesting.

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3. But don't forget your:

adventurous spirit -- because Guatemala is exciting, beautiful, and fascinating!

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

The Art of Political Murder, Lonely Planet Guatemala, Silence on the Mountain, Shattered Hope, I, Rigoberta Menchu.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Gerardi.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Guatemala City, Guatemala 03/11/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. I've been to other Latin American and European cities.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 and 1/2 years.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Most connecting flights go through Miami or Dallas, about 2 to 3 hours to either one.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I am affiliated with the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The apartments here are great - there are a lot of new high rises going up all the time! There are also houses but they seem to be older. And it can take a while to get maintenance work done, so I would recommend an apartment. I think apartments also have better security. If you are with the embassy, remember this is an LQA post so you are on your own for finding and furnishing an apartment.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I think it's about the same as in the U.S., although some imported stuff might be more expensive.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Almost everything is available here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Pretty much any fast food you want and they deliver.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

I have APO access. I've heard stories of stuff getting lost/stolen in the Guatemalan postal system and being delayed in customs.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cheap and available - day maids, live in maids, nannies, cooks, gardners, etc.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

You can use them pretty much anywhere. Just be careful - someone who's just used an ATM or is walking out of a bank is a target for being held up! And only use your credit card at reputable places, of course.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Union Church is non-denominational and has services in English (contemporary and traditional). There are a variety of denominations that have services in Spanish.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Cable TV has a ton of English channels - CNN, HBO, etc. I am not sure about newspapers.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It's very helpful to know Spanish. Much of the upper class seems to speak English but for day-to-day interactions you should really learn some Spanish at least.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It would be hard to get around here with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right. But traffic is horrible and people do pretty much drive wherever they think there's a free space.

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2. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Buses are not safe and I would not recommend taking them. Some people do, but only carry very minimal cash. And don't hail taxis off the street - it's much better to call a reputable company. There are no trains here.

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3. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Pretty much anything. If you're going to do a lot of travel outside of the city you might consider a small SUV. Most of the roads seem good but every now and then a SUV is handy, although it would be hard to park one in the city.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, although it can be unreliable. I think it's about US$60 a month or so for the fastest service.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

See above. Get a pre-paid phone card on double or triple days.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype of course, or cell phones. Cell phone companies here have double or triple days - if you buy a pre-paid card, you double or triple your value. If you buy on those days it can be as cheap as 2 or 3 cents a minute to call the U.S.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Good vet care, but I don't think I'd trust the kennels. If you have a maid, which most people do, you can always pay her extra to look after your pet.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are a lot of teachers here. But in general I don't think the pay is very good unless you're at one of the main English speaking schools. You won't make much as a private tutor.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Professional at work, casual outside of work.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy - there is a lot of pollution from buses and other vehicles here.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

There are significant security concerns here. Although I have never personally had a problem, I know others who have been robbed at gunpoint.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Pollution is a health concern. And don't drink water from the tap, and I would recommend washing vegetables and fruits in bleach water or disinfectant. Most people seem to get stomach bugs every now and then. There is good quality medical care - many doctors have trained in the U.S. at good universities and speak English.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

I don't have personal experience with the schools, but Maya seems to be popular.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I don't really know about preschools, but domestic help is cheap here so many people hire nannies.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Big. Lots of teachers, tourists, Spanish language students, volunteers, retirees, etc. If you go to Antigua it seems like there's more English than Spanish speakers.

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2. Morale among expats:

It depends on where you are and who you are. Some people love it and some people can't wait to go someplace more exciting/safer/interesting. I'm happy here.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

It is what you make of it, see my comments above in interesting/fun things to do.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think it's good for all. I'm single and enjoy it here. There are restaurants and bars and things to do although not as wide of a variety as you might find in a larger city. There are a lot of families at post too.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Not sure - there does not seem to be overt hostility but there isn't a lot of openess about sexual orientation either.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

It is Latin America so there is some macho attitude among the guys.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

In Guatemala City there are restaurants, bars, movie theatres and a bowling alley. There aren't a ton of cultural events but some every now and then. I feel there's enough to do, but you might end up going back to the same restaurants or bars fairly often as there isn't that big of a variety. But there is also a lot to do outside of Guatemala City - Antigua is an easy day trip or even easy to get to for dinner/drinks on a Saturday night. And Lake Atitlan is beautiful too, and there are beaches on the Pacific and Atlantic coast.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Local or regional travel and textiles.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you are working at a well paid job. But many jobs on the local economy don't seem to make that much.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, but probably not for more than a couple of years.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Road rage. Traffic is bad, you just have to get used to it.

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3. But don't forget your:

Jacket! Guatemala City is not tropical and you will need a light jacket at night. If you go to the beach it is hot and tropical but in the highlands it gets cold at night.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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