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The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 6/8/2004 12:47 AM

Guatemala is the most northern and populous of the five Central American countries. Occupying 42,042 square miles, it is about the size of Tennessee. It is bordered on the north and west by Mexico, on the southeast by Honduras and El Salvador, and on the east by Belize and the Caribbean Sea. Guatemalan coastlines cover about 200 miles on the Pacific Ocean and 70 miles on the Caribbean.

The country is roughly divided into four geographic regions: the central-western highlands, the low northern plateau which is largely jungle, the southern volcanic belt, and tropical coastal lowlands. The temperate mountain regions are the most densely populated.

Guatemala City’s rainy season is May through October, and its dry season November through April. Temperatures are generally moderate during both seasons, ranging from an average low of 53°F in January to 60°F–85°F in April. Frost and snow are unknown, and flowers bloom year round.

Rainfall is heaviest from June through October, and the annual average is about 52 inches. Wet months can cause mildew damage to clothing, shoes, luggage, and upholstered furniture. Frequent airing and the use of heating units in closets help to prevent mildew. Personnel should consider bringing portable dehumidifiers in their household effects (HHE) shipments. During the dry season, days are clear and the sun is hot at midday with chilly to cold mornings and evenings. During these months it is dusty, foliage turns brown, grass and shrubs wither, and gardens must be watered.

Guatemala has 33 volcanoes, 4 within view of the city. Although most are inactive, Pacaya, about 27 miles south of Guatemala City, erupts occasionally with lavaflows to nearby localities. Fuego, about 30 miles from the city, periodically produces displays visible from Guatemala City.

Earth tremors are common. In 1976, a devastating earthquake struck Guatemala. Some 27,000 people were killed and over 1 million left homeless. Damage was greatest in areas with adobe housing. The modern sections of Guatemala City suffered light-to-moderate damage. Before 1976, the last major earthquake to cause considerable damage occurred in 1917. A quake in January 2001 centered in El Salvador was felt in Guatemala, including the capital. It caused deaths, injuries, and structural damage.

Population Last Updated: 6/8/2004 12:48 AM

The 2003 estimated population was 11.5 million — some 3 million of whom live in the capital and its suburbs. The annual population growth rate is 2.7%. An estimated 44% of the nation’s population is culturally indigenous. The remainder, which includes people of mixed or European descent, speak Spanish and wear Western dress. Most of the small population of African descent, the Garifunas, live in the Caribbean coastal area.

Spanish is the principal urban language. A basic knowledge of Spanish is necessary for day-to-day living. At least 4 major Mayan languages and more than 20 dialects predominate in rural villages, especially in the central-western highlands.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 6/8/2004 12:49 AM

Guatemala’s 1985 Constitution and 1993 constitutional reforms provide for a popularly elected President and Vice President, a unicameral legislature representing the country’s 22 departments, and an independent 13-member Supreme Court. Municipal officials are also elected. Executive branch officials and Members of Congress serve for 4 years and Supreme Court magistrates, for 5 years. Departmental governors are appointed by the central government.

The four parties and two coalitions represented in the 113-seat Congress elected in 1999 span a political spectrum from the right to former leftist insurgents. The executive branch consists of 13 ministries: agriculture, livestock, and food; communications, infrastructure, and housing; culture and sports; economy; education; energy and mines; finance; foreign affairs; government; environment; labor and social assistance; national defense; and public health and social welfare.

An autonomous Attorney General, appointed for 4 years, heads the Public Ministry, which houses the prosecutorial function. An autonomous Human Rights Ombudsman, selected by Congress for 5 years, oversees compliance with human rights guarantees in the Constitution. Autonomous or semiautonomous public institutions include the de Guatemala, S.A. Empreso Electrics (EEGSA) and the Bank of Guatemala. As in much of Latin America, the national university, the University of San Carlos, is an institution of considerable importance and provides Guatemala with many of its technical experts.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 6/8/2004 12:53 AM

Textiles and painting are Guatemala’s primary art forms; many artists have gained international renown. “Artesania” thrives across the nation, producing colorful pottery, woodcarving, and other objects. Exhibits by aspiring and established artists are held at the now autonomous Binational Center, Instituto Guatemalteco-Americano (IGA), and in other galleries. The Patronato de Bellas Artes promotes artistic expression and the preservation of Guatemala’s rich heritage of both Mayan and Spanish colonial art forms. To further bolster the arts, the government has boosted funding to the National Theater complex and a corporate entity modeled after the National Endowment for the Arts. The National Symphony Orchestra and the National Ballet Company perform as funding permits. The Biannual Paiz Cultural Festival showcases, every February in odd years, the performing and visual arts. Theater productions consists mainly of semiprofessional organizations whose performances follow no regular season. Productions are held in small theaters, the IGA, or the city’s modern, attractive National Theater complex.

Guatemala’s national instrument, the marimba, known locally as “the voice of the trees,” is played singularly or in groups of up to 20 musicians simultaneously playing five instruments resembling huge xylophones. Though U.S. music, even “rap” with Spanish lyrics, is increasingly heard, marimba presentations still figure prominently in formal shows and at restaurants and theaters.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Guatemalan art and Mayan culture is the profusion of native textiles. Guatemala’s 23 ethnolinguistic groupings exhibit their different roots by distinctive costumes. The intricately hand-woven or embroidered women’s “huipiles,” or blouses, are famous among textile connoisseurs throughout the world. Many are trying to protect both family/community weaving enterprises and this dying art itself from machines churning out lesser quality tourist wares. The modern Ixchel Museum, on the campus of Francisco Marroquin University, not only engages in this endeavor, it houses permanent and changing exhibits of indigenous textiles, and conducts educational programs.

Although most village men have adopted Western dress, interesting men’s costumes can still be seen in the Lake Atitlan Region, Chichicastenango, and in the department of Huehuetenango.

The Guatemalan scientific community is based in the universities, the National Meteorological (INSIVUMEH), and the Academia de Geografia e Historia. Several research centers formed under the auspices of the Central American Common Market, including the Central American Nutritional Research Center, are also headquartered in Guatemala City. Most scientific effort is directed toward economic development.

San Carlos University, the national campus that enrolls upward of 90,000 students for minimal fees, was founded in 1676. The Faculty of Humanities corresponds to a school of liberal arts in the U.S., offering courses in philosophy, education, and literature. Courses in the sciences, engineering, medicine, and law are also available. Beginning in the 1960s, four smaller private universities, Rafael Landivar, Mariano Galvez, Francisco Marroquin, and Del Valle, opened their doors to students and have continued to grow: the four universities sponsor 20-odd “extension” campuses across Guatemala’s departments. In addition, four very small private universities have opened in the past 2 or 3 years.

For decades, scholars, researchers, students, and culturally oriented tourists have been lured to Guatemala for its rich anthropological and archeological attractions. Epigraphers (those who study hieroglyphics) stand awed before the secrets of Tikal, now a national park; historians delightedly burrow through the treasures of the Archivo General de Centro America and the Centro de Investigaciones de Mesoamerica (CIR-MA) in Antigua.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 6/8/2004 12:55 AM

More than 50% of Guatemala’s labor force is engaged in agricultural work. Principal exports are coffee, sugar, meat, cardamom, and bananas. Since 1986, nontraditional exports (e.g., textiles and apparel, fruits, winter vegetables, and flowers) have risen dramatically and account for over one-third of all exports. Corn, rice, and beans are the traditional Guatemalan staples.

The U.S., Guatemala’s most important trading partner, accounts for over 40% of foreign trade. Germany, Japan, and Mexico are other important partners. Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Nicaragua formed the Central American Common Market (CACM) in 1961 and Guatemala’s intra-Central American trade grew dramatically during the 1960s. A series of institutional and political crises, however, curtailed CACM progress. As external tariffs have been lowered recently, intraregional trade has grown even more. Guatemala’s industrial base of textiles, pharmaceuticals, and agroindustry has grown steadily in recent years. Products are aimed at the growing internal market, the CACM countries, other Caribbean countries, and the U.S.

Guatemalans are generally committed to an open, free enterprise economy, and foreign consumer products, especially U.S., are widely available. Their private sector accounts for some 88% of GDP, one of the highest ratios in the world. The Guatemalan Constitution guarantees the right of private property, and government development programs seek to promote private enterprise. No distinction is drawn between domestic and foreign capital. The latter is welcomed for its contribution to the country’s economic growth. Foreign retirees are also welcomed and allowed certain tax benefits.

Since 1947, labor-management relations in Guatemala have been governed by an extensive Labor Code (modeled on the Chilean Labor Code) designed to protect the interests of both workers and employers. Enforced by the Ministries of Labor and the Judiciary, the code provides for collective bargaining between workers and employers to set labor conditions above legal minimums. The code was revised in May 2001 to comply with Guatemala’s International Labor Organization and Peace Accord commitments. Unions have developed unevenly since the code’s enactment and currently represent some 5% of the workforce. Most unions are concentrated in the public sector, in industry, and in commerce, but there are a few in agriculture and in mining as well.

Although Guatemala is the largest Central American country in terms of population and economic activity, its largely rural, Mayan population lives in extremely difficult conditions: an estimated 75% of Guatemalans live in poverty, adult literacy is estimated at 65% (only 30% for Mayan women), less than half of rural Guatemalans have access to running water, only 25% have access to electricity, and less than 10% have access to modern sanitary facilities. Infant, child, and maternal mortality rates are among the highest in Latin America. In the hemisphere, only Haiti has a lower standard of living.


Automobiles Last Updated: 1/20/2005 8:51 AM

Guatemala is a country brimming with natural beauty and color, and travel into the countryside is a welcome respite from city living. Traveling around the country by private or rented automobile, however, requires certain security precautions. All U.S. Mission personnel should submit a Travel Notification Card to the Regional Security Office before traveling outside the city. When possible, travel in groups of two or more vehicles. Thieves posing as military or police officers occasionally set up roadblocks or force single vehicles off the road at gunpoint and rob the occupants. Such incidents sometimes turn violent -- see the public annoucement at the following State Department web page: Travel after sunset anywhere in Guatemala can be extremely dangerous, not only for security reasons but for safety reasons. All travelers should acquaint themselves with the latest Consular Information Sheet (CIS) on Guatemala, available on the Internet, the Embassy’s Web page, or from the Consular Section.

All-weather paved highways traverse the country between Mexico, El Salvador, and both seacoasts. Other roads, which are gradually being improved, vary from two-lane, gravel-topped hard bed to single-lane dirt. During the dry season, most unpaved roads are passable, though often dusty and rough. In the rainy season mountain roads are treacherous because of poor markings, frequent landslides, and washouts. Driving to Mexico City takes about 3 days via the coastal route entering Mexico at Tapachula. San Salvador is about 4½ hours by car from Guatemala City. Armed attacks in 2000 and 2001 on the Pan-American Highway (CA-1) underline the risks to long-distance travel in Guatemala.

Drivers in Guatemala take more risks than those in the U.S.; one must drive defensively whether within the city encountering cars charging up a one-way street the wrong way or along the highways swerving to avoid large semitrailers passing on a blind curve at top speed. Guatemalan law is strict with all parties in an accident, and cars are often impounded. On the other hand, moving violations are rarely enforced.

Although carpools and van shuttle service ease transportation demands somewhat, a car is a necessity in Guatemala; residential districts are located several miles from offices, and public transportation is not recommended. As in any large city, shopping and social obligations are greatly simplified with a car, but limited parking areas and security remain an issue. Vehicles left unattended in commercial or residential areas throughout the city are vulnerable to theft and vandalism, and it is recommended that personal vehicles be equipped with an alarm, fuel cutoff or other security device, such as a steering wheel lock.

The Mission places no restrictions on the make or model of imported cars, except that they should be inconspicuous. Auto theft rings are a very serious problem in Guatemala, and U.S. Mission personnel have been victims. Late model sports/luxury sedans and 4-wheel-drive vehicles have been targets of auto theft. Expensive sport utility vehicles have been targets on open roads, while Japanese sedans and pickups appear to be more at risk in the cities.

Most popular makes of cars may be purchased locally, but at prices much higher than in the U.S. Small U.S. compacts offer many advantages over larger models because of serviceability and maneuverability in narrow, congested streets and limited parking areas. Repair facilities are considered fair to good. Spare parts for most popular U.S. and foreign makes are generally available at prices higher than in the U.S., but many must be ordered by the employee from suppliers in the U.S. and sent via APO. Write or call the Embassy General Services Office or the USAID Executive Office for further guidance and information.

Currently, diplomatic license plates (designated “CD”) for two automobiles are obtained free of charge for all accredited Mission personnel, but only one such vehicle may be imported duty free.

The Guatemalan Government includes drivers licenses for official U.S. Government personnel in their carnet or identification card. International licenses are not recognized in Guatemala. Operation of motor vehicles (excluding motorbikes) by minors is restricted to those 18 years old or over. The minimum age of the legal operation of motorbikes is 16. The Guatemalan Government does not issue drivers licenses to dependents who become of age. U.S. or other country licenses must be obtained outside of Guatemala.

Guatemalan law requires that vehicles operated by Mission personnel be covered for third-party liability. Mission regulations require U.S. personnel to provide adequate personal liability insurance for their private motor vehicles. Current regulations require local 3rd party liability coverage for all personal vehicles. Liability policies cost about $250 per year. Insurance rates for collision and comprehensive coverage are much higher than those offered by U.S. overseas insurance companies. Most employees obtain collision and comprehensive coverage from U.S. firms.

Personnel assigned to the U.S. Mission have no special privileges and must comply with, and are subject to, all Guatemalan laws and regulations if they own and operate a personal vehicle. This includes minor offenses such as parking and traffic violations. Immobilizing “boots” (locally called “cepos”) are used to enforce routine parking laws. Even first-time offenders are booted to ensure that they pay the fine.

Local Transportation Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:01 PM

Although private and independent bus transportation is readily available throughout most of Guatemala City, their use is strongly discouraged. Such buses are generally in very poor working condition, overcrowded, and driven by poorly trained drivers. Due to the overcrowding, they also present an ideal environment for pickpockets and robbers. In the capital, service is frequent, but with few buses scheduled after 9 p.m.; “ruleteros” (minibuses) pick up and discharge passengers along major streets until midnight. Taxis are available on a 24-hour basis, but can be expensive and must be called by telephone or picked up at one of the several stations throughout the city. Local taxi service in Guatemala City has improved over the years. At least one company has renewed its fleet and is equipped with radios and meters. Only taxis from reputable companies such as this or those associated with the major hotels should be used. In taxis that are not metered, the cost should be agreed upon before any trip begins. Tipping, though not expected, is always appreciated.

Regional Transportation Last Updated: 7/23/2003 3:21 PM

Interurban bus lines connect most towns and villages within the country. Although serviceable, these buses are often crowded and uncomfortable and are rarely used by American personnel. Numerous tour agencies are available that offer comfortable transportation and guides at a reasonable cost; however, large-capacity rented vehicles and travel agency vans have been targeted by armed highway bandits.

The many interesting places in Guatemala can be visited safely as long as the following recommendations are followed. Personnel are encouraged to register their travel with the Regional Security Office (RSO). The purpose of this system is to ensure that someone knows where you are going, the route that will be taken, date and time of your expected return, and how to get in touch with you. This will facilitate quickly locating travelers who do not return and may need assistance. In case of an earthquake or other natural disaster, this will assist the RSO staff in locating all official Americans as quickly as possible. Resisting criminal attacks usually results in injury or worse.

Infrastructure problems common to many countries are present in Guatemala. Main roads to the larger towns and cities are paved and generally fair though plagued by deep potholes, washed-out bridges, and during the long rainy season, sometimes impassable because of mudslides and large fallen boulders. The major road to El Salvador, along which is located one of the schools attended by Mission children, suffers from erosion and undergoes periodic construction efforts.

Bus service is available twice daily between Guatemala and El Salvador. Bus companies offer service from Guatemala to Mexico and Honduras but may require a bus transfer at the borders. When planning any in-country or international travel, Mission personnel are urged to check with the RSO about criminal activity in the areas through which they intend to drive. When traveling from El Salvador, the border crossing at Las Chinanas, El Salvador/Valle Nuevo, Guatemala, is preferred. When entering Guatemala from Honduras, the border crossings are at either El Florido or Aguas Caliente. With all crossborder travel, travelers need plenty of time to complete border crossing formalities, which can be lengthy, in order to travel to a major town before dark. For group trips, chartered buses are available and border crossings are expedited.

Major car rental agencies, in convenient locations, offer car rental options, but rates are high, between $55–$65 a day for subcompact models. Both collision and liability insurance are required.

There are many daily flights in and out of Guatemala City, which has its airport conveniently located right inside the city itself. American Airlines provides three daily flights to and from Miami. United offers daily service to and from Los Angeles and Continental has two flights per day to and from Houston. Delta offers one daily flight to and from Atlanta. The national airline, Grupo Taca, offers daily service to Flores, Tikal, as well as daily flights to Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami as well as connections to other Central American capitals. Iberia, and several other Latin American carriers, also provide international connections.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:04 PM

The formerly state-owned telephone company, Telgua, was privatized in 1998, and its interconnection agreements with competing international long distance carriers came into effect in mid-1999. As a result, with five different carriers competing (each with a three digit access code) the cost of a daytime call to the U.S. fell to less than 40¢ a minute, cheaper than Sprint/MCI/AT&T phone card calls. There are also competing wireless telephone companies and their services are relatively inexpensive. Digital cellar phone networks are available throughout most of the country and are widely used by Mission personnel. Although the cost of phone line installation has come down, telephones normally remain when tenants depart, and account names are not updated. The demand for new telephone lines and installations throughout the city is heavy and may involve a delay in hookup. Although Telgua is modernizing its telephone network, most telephone lines into homes still support rotary rather than “touch tone” telephones.

Internet Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:04 PM

Dial-up Internet access is available from several companies (often for no monthly charge), although Telgua charges 35 centavos (about U.S.¢ 4.5) a minute for the call. Highspeed cable Internet access is also available for $75–$85 per month including 50-60 channel TV reception. There is no per minute charge and both services include email.

Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:05 PM

Airmail letters to the U.S., via international postal facilities, take 3–5 days; less reliable surface mail, 2–4 weeks or more. There is daily airmail service in and out of Guatemala City and weekly service for surface mail.

The APO facility operates as part of the Army Postal Service under the jurisdiction of the USMILGP. Use of this facility is extended to official U.S. Government personnel (excluding Peace Corps volunteers, contractors, and others without duty-free entry privileges) for all personal mail and packages. Address APO mail as follows:

State, Agriculture, Animal Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Health and Human Services (HHS), National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA), Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Foreign Commercial Service (FCS), Peace Corps (PC/G), Marine Security personnel:

Full Name (Agency) American Embassy Unit Number APO AA 34024

USAID/G-CAP personnel:

Full Name USAID/Office Symbol Unit Number 3323 APO AA 34024

USMILGP personnel:

Full Name USMILGP Unit Number 3301 APO AA 34024

USDAO personnel:

Full Name USDAO, American Embassy Unit Number 3310 APO AA 34024

All agencies have been issued Unit numbers that must be included in the address; check with your agency for its assigned Unit number.

APO mail is received daily by air from the U.S.; mail goes out by air to the U.S. five times weekly. Letter mail and packages sent through APO at surface postage rates go by Air Space-Available Mail (SAM). Packages sent through the APO may not exceed 108 inches in length and girth combined and 70 pounds in weight. Parcel Air Lift (PAL) packages may not exceed 60 inches in length and girth combined and 30 pounds in weight. All packages and letter packages must bear a proper customs label. Content restrictions are the same as for regular U.S. mail; i.e., flammable materials, intoxicating liquors, firearms, ammunition, poisonous matter, sharp knives or tools, explosives, and perishable foods are prohibited.

Because of access to APO service, personnel are not authorized use of Department of State pouch facilities for personal mail or packages, except to receive reasonable quantities of prescription medicines and to send and receive prescription eyeglasses, orthopedic supplies, or other medical items. Maximum weight for pouch mail is two pounds.

Radio and TV Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:06 PM

Guatemala City has more than 75 Spanish-language radio stations. Twenty-five AM and 50 FM stations feature U.S.-style music, mostly of the pop hit parade variety, with some classical and jazz music programs also available. News broadcasts can be heard three times daily on about 10 stations. Shortwave reception of VOA is good during the early morning or late evening hours (transmission is 6 a.m.–6 p.m.). BBC programs (in English or Spanish) are also heard.

Six TV channels, two government-owned, broadcast a daily menu of mixed programs, including Spanish-dubbed U.S. series shows, feature films, Mexican soaps (telenovelas), and music revues. Two channels provide regular news programs in Spanish four times daily, at 12 p.m., 1 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 p.m., and one channel offers an early morning news broadcast from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. More than two dozen cable TV operators serve Guatemala City and offer a full range of U.S. programming in English. Many U.S. cable channels are available through cable.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:07 PM

Five morning and two afternoon papers are published daily in Spanish, including one official gazette. The two largest circulating dailies are Prensa Libre and Siglo XXI, both with ample international wire service news coverage. A weekly news magazine, Cronica, covers Guatemalan economic, political, and cultural news. English-language air express editions of the Miami Herald, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today circulate at major hotels. Latin American editions of Newsweek and Time appear promptly, and many popular English-language magazines and books are available throughout the city, although costs are double the U.S. price. Subscription magazines may be received via APO. Three locally-published English-language news weeklies, The Guatemala Post, Central American Report, and This Week contain regional political analysis. They are usually available by subscription. The Guatemala News and Guatemala Weekly, provide additional current event coverage for the English-speaking community.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:07 PM

Good, reliable medical services are available in Guatemala City. Competent and reputable doctors, dentists, ophthalmologists, and veterinarians are available. Most have studied or been trained in the U.S. or Europe and speak English. Specialization is common in most major fields and one or more physicians are available in each.

The major hospitals, clinics, and diagnostic laboratories used by Mission personnel are adequately equipped. The local supply of medicines, which can usually be bought without prescription, is adequate although expensive and some may be difficult to obtain. If you take prescription drugs, bring a supply with you and arrange to have them sent to you as needed. If special medication is needed, bring a supply and a copy of the prescription to post.

The Embassy’s Health Unit is open 5 days a week. Two American registered nurses provide inoculations and clinical care to Mission personnel.

Community Health Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:08 PM

Guatemala City is about 5,000 feet above sea level. Healthy individuals rarely suffer ill effects from the altitude, though precautions must necessarily be taken to guard against overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays. Guatemala’s standards of sanitation are fair. Sanitation facilities in houses and apartments rented by U.S. employees are satisfactory and quite modern. Generally, health conditions in Guatemala City are good.

Diarrhea and amebic and bacillary dysentery are not uncommon. These illnesses, as well as paratyphoid and typhoid fever, can be contracted from unpurified water and uncleaned vegetables. Hepatitis A is endemic to the region, and Mission personnel have contracted this disease in the past. Mission personnel and their families are encouraged to be immunized against Hepatitis A. Respiratory allergies are very common among Mission families due to high pollen counts from flowers and plants, as well as humidity conducive to mildew and mold. Safe drinking water remains a problem, but many Guatemalan communities are developing adequate supply and purification systems. Tuberculosis is the most serious contagious endemic disease and is prevalent in a large percentage of the indigenous population. Although sanitariums exist, control of those infected with tuberculosis is inadequate, and the annual death rate from the disease is high.

Malaria is prevalent in the coastal and other lowland areas of Guatemala. Although a malaria eradication program is in operation, the incidence of the disease has increased significantly in the past decade. When traveling to these areas, appropriate prophylactic medication should be taken. An effective anti-malarial medication, Aralen, may be purchased locally.

It is important to have window screens in residences to keep out disease-carrying mosquitoes and houseflies, and to eliminate or minimize breeding places in the immediate vicinity. The use of insect repellant is also recommended during times of the year when mosquitoes are more prevalent, and when traveling to lowlands and coastal areas.

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:09 PM

Guatemala City’s water supply is sporadic. During the dry season, water pressure occasionally drops so low that there is little or no water in homes; in rare instances, city water is turned off completely. Processed drinking water can be delivered to the door and may be purchased in 5-gallon bottles for Q10. Most Americans use this or boil tap water to make it safe for drinking.

Although several dairies deliver pasteurized milk to homes, for consistency in quality and freshness, powdered or long-life shelf milk is recommended. Locally purchased fresh fruits and vegetables should not be eaten raw, unless they can be peeled. Cooking is the only sure way to disinfect fresh fruits and vegetables. Another effective method is to immerse them in actively boiling water for 1 minute. Leafy vegetables treated in this manner will show only slight wilting on the outermost leaves, and the palatability of other sturdier vegetables and fruits will not be affected. The Health Unit provides iodine tablets that are used for soaking fresh produce. A liquid disinfectant, sold in most supermarkets, works well. Clorox bleach solution can be used also, but affects the taste of the vegetables.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 11/28/2005 4:57 PM

The Embassy's Community Liaison Office (CLO) Coordinator advises family members interested in working and represents their interests on the Post Employment Committee. Occasionally clerical, administrative, and other professional level jobs become available within the Mission. Some of these positions require U.S. citizenship and the ability to obtain an appropriate security clearance in a reasonable period of time. Spouses interested in working inside the mission should watch the internet web site for job opportunities and hand-carry employment records to post. Spanish language ability and computer experience are helpful in seeking employment both inside or outside the Mission.

Employment opportunities for spouses and eligible family members outside the mission are limited due to high local unemployment levels, Spanish language requirements, the lack of a bilateral work agreement and payscales that are significantly below those in the U.S. The Department of State is currently negotiating with the government of Guatemala for a bilateral work agreement, one that would allow outside employment for Guatemalan family members in Washington and for American family members in Guatemala. Some spouses have been able to obtain jobs at the international schools or have worked on a contract basis with USAID, non-governmental organizations or other international donors.

The US mission in Guatemala is part of the regional Strategic Networking Assistance Program (SNAP), which currently operates out of El Salvador and covers the Embassies in San Salvador, Guatemala City, Managua and Tegucigalpa. SNAP is a pilot initiative of the State Department designed to support family members in their search for employment in the host country economy and assist interested spouses in finding opportunities within the local economy or developing home-based businesses. At the current time, funding for this program is available only through FY-2006. For more information regarding the SNAP program, please contact Gail Emrick, Regional Employment Advisor, at

In addition, the State Department's Family Liaison Office (M/DGHR/FLO) is piloting a new spousal employment initiative, the Global Employment Strategy (GES), aimed at creating a network of career-enhancing employment opportunities with U.S. corporations and non-governmental organizations. GES works at the headquarters level with multinational organizations to develop relationships and identify employment leads for embassy spouses. Spouses interested in participating in the GES should send their resumes directly to or to

American Embassy - Guatemala City

Post City Last Updated: 11/18/2004 2:39 PM

Mission personnel are encouraged to check with the Regional Security Office before making any specific tourism plans -- see security section below. In all areas of the city, visitors are safer when traveling in groups, remaining alert and exercising other standard security precautions.

Older buildings are Spanish style, but starkly modern structures are rising rapidly. Residential districts are spreading beyond the outskirts of the city. Newer homes are either modern or Spanish colonial in design. Downtown streets are narrow and congested. Despite one-way traffic control, parking is difficult. Several neighborhood shopping centers away from the city center are popular with residents, as are the modern shopping malls. Streets in the newer residential and business sections are wider and less congested.

The city has a number of interesting old churches. Large daily markets, the main source of fresh fruits and vegetables, are also centers for a variety of native textiles, blankets, and pottery. A large block-sized relief map of Guatemala, the Archeological Museum, the Popol Vuh Museum, the Museo Ixchel, the National Palace, and National Theater are sightseeing attractions. The few parks are always full, especially on Sundays and holidays. Aurora Zoo is small, but worth seeing. Guatemala’s mild temperatures permit much outdoor activity, and sporting opportunities are readily available.

Dining out is a pleasant pastime in the variety of new restaurants in the city. The “Zona Viva,” in which the major hotels are located, offers many elegant restaurants, attractive shopping boutiques, and lively entertainment. Nightlife is active with new bars and discotheques opening every few months.

The cost of living for American employees in Guatemala City is equal to or slightly higher than Washington, D.C. The American community, comprising some 10,000 persons in the country, with the majority living in the capital, is one of the largest expat populations.

Security Last Updated: 2/28/2005 3:13 PM

The Department of state rates Guatemala's crime threat as critical. Violent criminal activity has been a problem in all parts of Guatemala for years, including a high number of murders, rapes and armed assaults. Well-armed gangs that sometimes use massive force and emboldened armed robbers have attacked vehicles on main roads in broad daylight. Travel on rural roads increases the risk of a criminal roadblock or ambush. Travelers must be alert for car-jacking, road robbery and street robbery. Traveling in groups and with multiple vehicles during daylight hours, carrying few valuables and using well-traveled routes are advisable. If confronted by criminals, resistance may provoke a more violent response. Police response is slow, and their capabilities are seriously limited.

Roadblocks and demonstrations frequently appear in Guatemala with little or no notice. Most demonstrations have been peaceful, but some have turned violent. Avoid agitated crowds. Petty crimes are common, particularly within cities and tourist sites. Buses are often the scene of thefts, intimidation and robberies. Taxis should be used with caution; preference should be given to hotel-based cabs and known dispatch services. Mission policy is that any overland travel, except within the Guatemala City metro area or day travel to Antigua, must be coordinated with the RSO in advance.

Prospective travelers should consult the Guatemala Consular Information Sheet at the State Department web site,

In October 2004, the State Department issued a public announcement citing increased risk of violent crime on Guatemalan highways. The annoucement is posted on the Department's consular web site at the following address:

All American personnel planning to remain in Guatemala for 30 days or longer must first receive personal security training, either through the State Department's Foreign Service Institute (FSI) or through an equivalent training program offered by the parent U.S. government agency. Employees who received the training more than five years prior to arrival must take FSI's one-day refresher course before traveling to post.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 11/18/2004 2:45 PM

The Ambassador serves as the authority on foreign policy and such policy direction to all representatives of U.S. Government agencies in the country. As Chief of Mission, the Ambassador coordinates the activities and programs conducted in Guatemala under U.S. Government auspices. The Ambassador is assisted by the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM), who has the diplomatic title of Minister Counselor.

The Embassy’s State Department contingent is divided into Political, Economic, Consular, Public Affairs, Administrative, Security, and Narcotics Affairs Sections. A U.S. Marine detachment of five, plus a detachment commander, provides 24-hour security. The Chancery is located at Avenida la Reforma 7-01, Zone 10, telephone 331–1541.

The Mission office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday. A Marine Security Guard is on duty at all times in the Chancery, and a Duty Officer is on call during nonbusiness hours.

New staff members arriving by air will be met by a member of their respective section or agency if advance notice has been received. Staff should arrange in advance to be met if at all possible. The embassy recommends against taking the taxis available at the airport unless it has been prearranged through a reputable company. La Aurora Airport is a 10-minute drive to the Chancery and the major hotels.

The Chancery, occupied in August 1974, is a three-story structure built to withstand Guatemala’s periodic earth tremors (it survived the 1976 earthquake). Located on a main thoroughfare, it accommodates many elements of the Mission, including the Consular Section, Public Affairs, Defense, Agricultural, and Commercial Attaché Offices, Drug Enforcement Administration, Department of Justice, Health Unit, and APO facility.

The Agricultural Affairs Office (FAS) is staffed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture officer, who has reporting, advisory, food aid, and market promotion responsibilities for Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and El Salvador.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is the chief drug law enforcement agency stationed at the Embassy. The DEA is tasked to provide liaison and training to their Guatemalan counterparts, and to fully assist in the investigation of drug traffickers.

The Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) is responsible for the administration of State Department/International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) programs. NAS works with a variety of primarily governmental entities within Guatemala to promote counternarcotics, criminal justice, and judicial efforts. In doing so, it coordinates and works in conjunction with DEA, USAID, USMILGP, and PAO on a myriad of projects related to counternarcotics and organized crime. NAS counternarcotics assistance is geared toward five primary objectives: deterring narcotics trafficking through Guatemala to the United States; discouraging cultivators from renewing opium poppy production through eradication; developing an effective civilian law enforcement agency; improving judicial handling of narcotics cases; and increasing public awareness of the dangers of drug production, trafficking and abuse. In addition, NAS supports INL initiatives involving illegal arms trafficking, illegal migration, and transborder crime. NAS offices are located at 1 Avenida 7-59, Zone 10, telephone 361–1427/361–1437.

The Foreign Commercial Service (FCS) represents U.S. business in Guatemala by providing counseling, market research and advocacy support. FCS also actively works with Guatemalan buyers to identify and introduce them to U.S. suppliers. FCS has a Regional Senior Commercial Officer, resident in Guatemala City, with responsibility for Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. There are FCS staff in Guatemala and Honduras and there is a partnership post arrangement with El Salvador. Particular attention is paid to regional programs including International Buyer Delegations and market research.

The Department of Homeland Security-Immigration (DHS) adjudicates I-130 petitions for American citizens living in Guatemala who marry Guatemalan citizens and decide to return to the U.S. It also processes over 1,500 adoption cases a year and assists resident aliens who have lost their immigration documents to return to the United States. The office also adjudicates I-601 waivers for persons applying for reentry into the U.S. The DHS office trains host government immigration service personnel in various immigration techniques, to include detection of fraudulent documents and law enforcement techniques.

The Public Affairs Office of the State Department handles information and cultural programs. The public affairs officer (PAO) is the principal public affairs adviser to the Ambassador. The office seeks to foster understanding of U.S. culture, history, and policies through programs such as book and pamphlet distribution; cultural and technical exhibits; presentation of American speakers, artists, and entertainers; film loans; and distribution of information to the press, radio, and TV. The IGA offers language and secretarial training, a library, bookstore, and 400-seat auditorium. Cultural and educational exchange programs are also the responsibility of the Public Affairs Office, formally known as the U.S. Information Service.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) implements America’s foreign economic and humanitarian assistance programs. USAID works in six main areas crucial to achieving both sustainable development and advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives: 1) economic growth and agricultural development; 2) population, health and nutrition; 3) environment; 4) democracy and governance; 5) education and training; and 6) humanitarian assistance.

In support of the Peace Accords, USAID/Guatemala is focusing on four broad categories adopted by the Government of Guatemala and other donors. These are: 1) national reconciliation; 2) education reforms; 3) land title reforms; and 4) modernizing and strengthening the legal system.

In 1998, Hurricane Mitch caused human and property damage on a scale never before experienced in the recorded history of the Western Hemisphere, causing vast economic and social damage, and diverting resources away from the implementation of the Peace Accords and development priorities. It is estimated that 1999 exports dropped $365 million, which translates into the loss of jobs for 35,000 people. USAID/Guatemala plays a key role in Mitch rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts along with other donors and U.S. agencies. In 1999, USAID/Guatemala began a project to help recover agricultural productivity, improve disease control and community sanitation, and support national and community level disaster preparedness.

Another USAID/Guatemala program is the reduction of severe poverty, particularly in indigenous communities. Objectives of this program are: 1) to increase incomes of the rural poor through access to credit, training and markets; 2) to improve quality and access to intercultural bilingual education; and 3) to improve the health of indigenous persons and women.

USAID’s regional Central American Program is managed out of Guatemala. Providing $15 million in annual assistance, the program supports four key objectives; 1) promotion of free trade; 2) expansion of Central American natural resources management and conservation; 3) advancement of regional HIV/AIDS services and information; and 4) assistance to Central America to prepare for future weather-related disasters.

USAID/Guatemala is located in the Plaza Uno Building on 1a Calle 7-66, Zone 9. The telephone number is 011–502–332–0202, and the fax is 011–502–331–1151. The Mission Director and two Deputy Directors (one for the Guatemala program and another for the Central America Program) oversee the offices of Democratic Initiatives, Health and Education, Income and Natural Resources, Trade and Economic Analysis, Central American Regional Environ-mental Program, Rural Housing and Urban Development, and the support offices of Program Development and Management, Regional Legal Adviser, Financial Management, Regional Contracting, and the Executive Office.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) maintains cooperative animal and plant health programs with each agricultural ministry of Central America to prevent the introduction of exotic animal and plant diseases into Central America, a natural corridor to the U.S. Two of their more visible programs are the screwworm eradication program and the medfly program. Through its fruit and vegetable preclearance and export certification programs, APHIS encourages industry to take the responsibility for working closely with their local governments to build plant health infrastructures, train inspectors, and pass regulations in harmony with those of their major trading partners. APHIS Regional Medfly Offices are located at 4 Ave., 12-62, Zone 10, telephone 332–2037, 331–2036, 332–2153, 331–2156, 332–6459. Their Methods Development Science and Technology Laboratory is also located at the same facility.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, supports tropical disease research and training at the Medical Entomology Research and Training Unit — Guatemala (MERTU/G), which are located at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala City. MERTU/G conducts basic and applied research on important tropical diseases in the region (e.g., malaria, onchocerciasis, leishmaniasis, geohelminths, and chagas), provides technical assistance to the ministries of health for Mexico, Central American countries, and Panama, and offers both academic and applied technical training courses on topics related to tropical diseases. The MERTU/G is located at 19 Ave., 11-65, Zone 15, telephone 369–0791–5, 364–0336–40, ext. 313–315.

Peace Corps/Guatemala, (P-C/G) began its program in 1963, providing skilled manpower and technical assistance in a variety of public and private sector development activities. Since then, more than 3,700 PCVs have served, providing assistance almost exclusively to rural communities in the largest Peace Corps program in the world.

Each Peace Corps volunteer works directly with a public or private host institution on a specific project for 24 months. PC/G devotes its efforts to four major development sectors: agriculture (46% of PCVs) focuses on the small farm family, carrying out integrated projects involving animals, improved grain production and storage, diversified fruit/vegetable production coupled with marketing; environment (19% of PCVs) is directed at the conservation of natural resources, agroforestry/reforestation, soil conservation, and water; health (15% of PCVs) addresses problems of malnutrition, debilitation diarrhea, and sanitation; and small business/municipal development (20% of PCVs) focuses on cooperatives and small enterprises to increase rural income and employment and technical assistance to municipalities.

Activities are tied to defined needs as identified by PC/G in close coordination with different Guatemalan host institutions. The PC/G Office, located at 8 Calle, 6055, Zone 9, telephone 334–8263–9, is staffed by 2 direct-hire Americans, 8 direct-hire Guatemalans, 17 Guatemalan contractors, and 2 American contractor nurses/medical officers. Currently, some 200 PCVs work throughout most of the country.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is a Department of Defense combat support agency and a member of the National Foreign Intelligence Board. NGA provides assistance to foreign governments in the development of their national mapping programs in return for geospatial data acquisition and collection. The mission of the Central America and Caribbean Regional Office in Guatemala is to coordinate, implement and manage NGA’s portions for the Department of Defense (DOD) global geospatial information and services (GGIS) requirements, specifically, nine major coproduction mapping programs in its area of responsibility. The NGA Regional Office is located in the Instituto Geografico National (2nd. Floor), Avenida Las Américas, 5-76, Zona 13, telephone 332–1102/332-2770; fax: 362–7985; e-mail:

The U.S Military Group (USMILGP) represents the Commander in Chief, U.S. Southern Command, and the Department of Defense. Its primary function is to support U.S. goals and objectives on defense issues through U.S. military engagement with the Guatemalan Armed Forces. The Commander of the USMILGP is also the U.S. Defense Representative in country for administrative, force protection, and security matters for all DOD personnel. The group consists of the Army and Air Force Sections, which comprise an Operations Officer, NCO, and administrative support staff. Each section is responsible for working with their respective service counterparts with a number of additional responsibilities, such as training, humanitarian assistance, counterdrug, and associated Traditional CINC Activities (TCA) programs. In addition to the permanent staff of the USMILGP, a Tactical Analysis Team (TAT), and a Joint Planning Assistance Team (JPAT) element is assigned to the organization. These teams assist in the planning and coordination of all counterdrug related activities with the Embassy and host nation.

Additionally, the USMILGP provides support to the Embassy through the Army Post Office (APO), for mail service. The offices are adjacent to the Chancery at Avenida La Reforma, 7-45, Zona 10, telephone 331–1542, ext 4212/3/4.

The U.S. Defense Attaché Office (DAO) is an element of the worldwide Defense Attaché System. The Director, Defense Intelligence Agency, is responsible for the overall management of the Defense Attaché System. The DAO's mission is to diplomatically represent the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Services Chiefs of the Armed Forces; serve as the Ambassador’s military adviser; serve as a member of the Country Team; and report on in-country and regional political-military activities. The DAO, Guatemala City is an eight-person station consisting of: a Defense/Army Attaché; a Naval/Marine Corps Attaché; an Assistant Army Attaché; an Operations Coordinator; a Non-Commissioned Officer Operations Coordinator; and one part-time U.S. secretary. All military personnel are diplomatically accredited to the host country. The DAO, Guatemala City, is not assigned duties for security assistance issues in Guatemala.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:37 PM

Arriving personnel assigned to any of the Mission’s agencies may be temporarily housed in one of the five government-leased, -furnished transient apartments. Preference is given to employees of agencies that have subscribed to this ICASS service. Pets are permitted in the transient apartments at an additional cost of $45 a month to cover fumigation. If an apartment is not available, reservations will be made at a nearby hotel. The hotels most used by the Mission in Guatemala City are the Camino Real, Marriott, Intercontinental, Princess Reforma, Casa Serena, and Clarion Suites, all located within ten minutes of the Chancery. Rates at these hotels are within the temporary lodging allowance. A small, less expensive hotel, La Casa Grande, is located one block from the Chancery. All of these hotels offer restaurant dining and have a number of recommended restaurants within walking distance. Comfortable apartment/hotels are also available, some allowing pets.

The transient apartments are comfortable accommodations located in a residential area five blocks from the Chancery. Each apartment has two baths, three bedrooms (plus maid quarters, including bathroom), and a fireplace. They are equipped with all furnishings, linens, towels, kitchenware, a TV, and a telephone. While reservation preference is given on the basis of family size, an employee without family may be given the option of moving to a hotel so that an employee with family can be accommodated. Only a firm arrival date, flight, and/or time received in writing, by cable, e-mail, or letter, will be used in making assignments on a first-come-first-served basis. If an apartment is not available upon arrival, employees will be placed on a waiting list.

Permanent Housing Last Updated: 11/12/2004 2:27 PM

The only U.S. Government-owned residences are the Ambassador’s and the DCM’s. The Ambassador’s residence, located about 7 minutes by car from the Chancery, is a two-story stucco house in modern Spanish colonial style with a landscaped garden in front and spacious grounds behind. The house includes a large entrance reception hall, powder rooms, living rooms, library, family dining room, and a sunroom opening into a large enclosed terrace. The kitchen, pantry, laundry rooms, storage rooms, and servants’ quarters complete the first floor. The second floor has four bedrooms (one with a fireplace), a study with fireplace and three baths. At the rear of the garden is a heated swimming pool, a cabana with dressing rooms, and a lighted tennis court, which is available for use by American personnel.

The DCM’s home is located in the mountainside neighborhood of San Rafael just above the Vista Hermosa area of Zone 15, about 15 minutes by car from the Chancery. The first floor has entertaining areas with additional patio/balcony space off the living and dining rooms. The first floor also has kitchen and pantry areas and a library/guest room with a full bath. The living quarters on the lower level consists of four bedrooms, a large family room, a separate sitting room, and three baths, with patios and access to the large backyard.

The Marine Security Guard detachment and the detachment commander are provided government-leased quarters. Government-leased housing is also provided to the USAID director. Some government-leased houses are provided to the heads of other agencies represented at post. All other Mission personnel locate and lease their own housing under the Living Quarters Allowances (LQA) program. Most employees are able to locate suitable quarters within 1–3 months of arrival.

Airgram A-171, dated June 5, 1991, contains the standards that govern the size of quarters that an employee may lease. The U.S. Mission housing policy follows those standards. For security reasons, American officers are restricted to four specified residential zones. Employees may lease single-family homes, apartments, or townhouses in these areas. Although apartments are considered more secure, it remains the employee's individual choice what kind of housing to lease and occupy. Major appliances (refrigerator, freezer, stove, washer, and dryer) are provided to all employees whose agencies have subscribed to this ICASS service.

Rental contracts are required by all lessors and normally run for 1 year with renewal rights. Sample contracts are available from the General Services Office (GSO). Employees are advised to incorporate the “diplomatic clause” (30-day transfer notice) in their leases: this clause is accepted by most lessors. Contract fees and real estate agent’s commissions are generally absorbed by the lessor; however, any question should be settled before signing the contract. Housing must be measured by the GSO, and surveyed and approved by the RSO before a lease can be signed.

Furnishings Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:40 PM

All Mission personnel, unless otherwise advised by their agency, should bring all their household furniture and furnishings, since the choice of unfurnished quarters is far greater than that of fully or partially furnished quarters and rental cost is significantly less. Loaner furniture is available for use pending the arrival of your HHE.

Light fixtures are provided in most houses, as are curtain rods. If not installed, you should discuss the installation with the lessor when negotiating the lease and defer curtain purchases until a home has been found, as window shapes and sizes vary. Many attractive materials are available locally or can be ordered from the U.S.

Locally manufactured furniture is satisfactory. Tropical hardwoods are available, but are usually unseasoned and may warp. Occasional pieces such as end tables, chairs, or record cabinets are sold, with craftsmanship fair to excellent. Secondhand furniture suited to American tastes is primarily available from departing personnel. Many persons enjoy purchasing antique furniture and collectibles that are available on the street and in shops. Local climate has little adverse effect on furniture or furnishings, except for leather items that mildew during the rainy season. Good reupholstery service and custom carpentry are available at reasonable cost.

Guatemalan stores carry a good line of U.S.-manufactured housewares, but import duties make prices considerably higher than in the U.S. Bring rugs, china, silverware, glassware, bed and table linens, kitchen utensils and cutlery, an iron, and other small appliances. Locally made blankets and wool rugs of good quality and interesting design are available at reasonable prices.

USAID/Guatemala provides residential furniture and equipment for all direct-hire and PASA employees. A drapery allowance of $1,400 is also authorized. Materials for draperies can be purchased locally. The following items are normally provided:

Living Room: 1 sofa, 1 loveseat, 2 armchairs, 1 occasional chair, 1 corner table, 1 coffee table, 2 side tables, 2 bookcases, 1 hall table with mirror, 3 lamps, and a rug.

Dining Room: dining table with 8 chairs, china cabinet, buffet, and a rug.

Master Bedroom: 1 queen-size bed, 2 night tables, 1 dresser, 1 mirror, 1 chest of drawers, 1 bedroom chair, 2 lamps, and a rug.

Children’s Bedrooms: 2 twin-size beds, 1 night table, 1 dresser, 1 mirror, 1 desk with a chair, a bookcase, 2 lamps, and a rug.

Guest Room: 2 twin-size beds, 1 night table, 1 dresser, 1 mirror, 1 lamp, and a rug.

Family Room: 1 sofa or loveseat, 2 armchairs, 1 occasional chair, 1 coffee table, 2 side tables, 1 desk with chair, 2 bookcases, 2 lamps, and a rug.

Appliances: refrigerator, freezer, electric stove, washer, dryer, vacuum cleaner, heater, and a dehumidifier.

Other items include: 1 porch set (table and 4 chairs), 1 kitchenette set (table and 4 chairs) or a card table set, 1 ironing board and cover, 1 clothes hamper, 1 fire extinguisher, 1 ladder, 1 trashcan, 1 rake, 1 spade, 1 sprinkler, 1 hose, 1 lawnmower, 1 emergency lamp, and 1 gas stove with cylinder. When needed, cribs with mattresses and baby changing tables are also provided.

USAID personnel should bring personal items such as bedspreads, pillows, bed and table linens, glassware, china, silverware, small appliances, iron, tools, stereo, and TV equipment, home computers, etc.

A Hospitality Kit is provided for employees until their personal effects arrive. It includes bed linens, blankets, pillows, bedspreads, towels, an iron, cooking and eating utensils, and some cleaning equipment. Residential furnishings are not provided for servants’ quarters. Simple, inexpensive furniture may be purchased locally.

Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 3/2/2005 5:06 PM

Hardware stores, including U.S. chains, sell the tools and equipment necessary to hang curtains and pictures and to make minor repairs and alterations. Prices of these items, however, are higher than in the U.S.

Families, other than State, DAO, FAS, APHIS, and USAID may find it practical to bring a freezer unit. Electricity in Guatemala is 110v, 60-cycle, AC, same as in the United States. If required, 220v service for heavy-duty appliances can be wired into homes. Many homes do not have grounded electrical circuits (with three-prong outlets), so incoming employees should ship a supply of plug adapters.

Surge protectors are strongly recommended for any electronic items (computers, stereos, microwaves, TVs, VCRs), as thunderstorms are a frequent occurence in the rainy season. Incoming internet cables should also be protected by surge protectors -- several newcomers have lost new home computers to power surges that came in over the internet lines, versus the power lines. Mission personnel are also urged to purchase rechargeable camping lanterns and flashlights for use during power outages.

Water heaters are already installed in most dwellings, but tenants should insist that the lessor provide an auxiliary water tank and pump because of periodic water supply and pressure problems during the dry season. Air-conditioners are not needed. Since central heating is nonexistent, fireplaces and portable electric heaters are often used during chilly evenings and the prolonged rainy season.

Surface shipment of effects from the U.S. takes 8–14 days. An additional 1–2 months are required for transportation within Guatemala and customs clearance. Employees sometimes locate permanent housing before the arrival of their HHE. The Embassy has a small amount of furniture to help employees through the period between occupying a house and arrival of HHE. Once your shipment has been delivered to your residence, all loaned furniture and furnishings must be returned to the Embassy. Include in unaccompanied airfreight a minimum supply of towels, bed linens, blankets, and basic cooking and eating utensils. Airfreight usually takes 10–15 days from the U.S., depending on the shipment origin and time of year.

Food Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:43 PM

Dairy products, meat, and fresh vegetables are adequate and preclude the need to import food. Local supermarkets carry many U.S. products and a variety of European products as well. Bulk retailer, PriceSmart has recently opened and many Mission families are members. Fresh meat is always available on the local market, but cuts are somewhat different from those in the U.S., and in most cases are not aged. Good quality fresh fruits and vegetables available throughout the year include oranges, bananas, melons, pineapples, mangoes, papayas, and other tropical fruits, string beans, peas, carrots, corn, beets, several types of squash, black beans, turnips, potatoes, cucumbers, celery, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and some tropical vegetables unknown in U.S. markets. Care must be taken to disinfect, peel, or cook all fruits or vegetables before consumption. Good bakeries are readily available.

Many businesses offer regular delivery service. Fresh bottled juices, sodas, fruits and vegetables, dairy and bakery products, and even canned goods can be delivered directly to your door. Prescription medicines can also be ordered for home delivery. Even fastfood can be delivered to your home, fast!

The American Embassy Association (AEA) runs a small commissary, gasoline pump, and a parking lot. There is a staff of three Guatemalans and a nine-member Board of Directors. Membership in AEA is limited to those Americans with duty-free privileges. Membership is $25 for singles and $30 per family and entitles the individual(s) to shop in the commissary and place special orders for caselots of American products.

The commissary is located in the basement of the Chancery. The shop carries liquor, some dairy/refrigerated items, snack foods, hard-to-find American products, and Embassy souvenirs. Prices are higher than in the U.S. because of transportation costs. Since most American products are available on the local market, the commissary concentrates on providing snacks, souvenirs, and those American items that cannot be found elsewhere. Special orders are placed about every 6 weeks and merchandise is either shipped (dry goods) or flown (dairy/refrigerated) to Guatemala from Miami, Florida.

The AEA runs a “vendor” program in which local vendors are invited to come and sell their goods across the hall from the commissary every 2 weeks for 1 day only. These vendors sell locally made clothing, tablecloths, table runners, placemats, suitcases, purses, fanny packs, ceramics, manmade paper, wooden apples, etc.

The AEA also operates a parking lot, referred to as the “Bamboo Lot,” that is located on the back street behind the Chancery and has 25 spaces, most of which are rented monthly by government agencies such as INS, DAO, FCS, etc., and a few spaces are rented by private individuals. Security is provided around the clock by the local Embassy guard force.

Clothing Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:44 PM

Guatemalan society is quite fashion conscious and stays current with international style trends. The secret to comfortable dressing in this varied climate is to wear layers of clothing that can be added or removed during the day as the temperature changes.

Because the climate is moderate to warm, spring/summer clothing is best for year-round wear. Men find lightweight, synthetic fiber or light wool suits comfortable; women wear synthetic, cottons, and silks, and an occasional sweater for most daytime activities. Light, summer clothing is useful for trips to the tropical coastal and jungle areas or to neighboring countries, but heavier clothing is comfortable in the mountain regions. Children use sweaters and jackets at school and warm pajamas from November through February. Bring a year’s supply of clothing and an adequate supply of shoes. American-made clothing, some Italian and American-made shoes, and Italian, German, and French sweaters can be bought locally, but supplies and sizes are limited and prices are high. Catalogs are available for loan from CLO for telephone or Internet orders. Clothing ordered from the U.S. arrives within 1–3 weeks by APO.

Local tailors and seamstresses do fair work at reasonable prices. Attractive imported silk, cotton, wool, and synthetic fabrics are available locally, though prices are relatively high. Locally woven cottons are popular for both casual and dressy wear and can be bought by the yard in a variety of patterns.

Men Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:45 PM

Men generally wear the same type of clothing throughout the year. For everyday office use, synthetic fiber or lightweight woolen suits in medium or dark tones are ideal. Lightweight sport jackets, sweaters, and slacks are useful. Informal sports clothes are appropriate for off hours. Tweeds are fine from December to February.

Hat, overcoats, and topcoats are seldom worn, but a lightweight raincoat is useful and an umbrella is essential.

All officers should have a dinner jacket (black tuxedo) and at least one dark suit. Midnight blue, oxford grays, blues, or browns are appropriate for semiformal functions.

Only senior diplomatic officers may rarely have occasion to wear a black or oxford gray morning coat and striped trousers. A short, single- or double-breasted black coat and striped trousers are used infrequently for the less formal state occasions. Currently, a male wears morning coat and striped trousers when presenting his credentials. Formal clothing can be rented locally.

Military officers should have at least one service dress uniform, in addition to the normal complement of duty uniforms. Appropriate civilian clothing is worn for travel and daily office use.

Certain brands of American-made shoes can be purchased locally at prices considerably higher than similar brands in the U.S. Although some find locally made shoes acceptable, bring an adequate supply to post. Although clothing accessories, such as socks, ties, handkerchiefs, cuff links, shirts, and underwear are available locally, prices again are inflated. Cotton underwear and pajamas are comfortable year round; flannel is comfortable only from November through February.

Women Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:46 PM

Cottons, polyesters, or other synthetic knits, and lightweight woolens are appropriate for the mild Guatemala City climate. For visits to the coastal areas and neighboring tropical countries, lightweight clothing is desirable; the country’s cool mountain areas call for warmer wear.

Blouses and skirts, casual dresses, and slacks are recommended. A wide variety of native fabrics is available for casual clothing. Tailored dresses, blouses, skirts are suitable office and daytime wear. Bring at least one tailored black or other dark-colored dress. Cocktail dresses are most useful for eveningwear. Although many are available locally, they are generally expensive. Dresses with sleeves are more comfortable, as evenings can be cool.

Cocktail or formal dinner dresses are required for the infrequent formal dinner parties. Bring at least one long formal evening dress; senior officers need more formal eveningwear for formal state and diplomatic functions. Sweaters are useful during the cooler season and most mornings. Woolen stoles (available locally) or jackets are sufficient for evening. Heavy wool coats are rarely worn and are best placed in storage before coming to Guatemala, where the dampness and moths are harmful. A lightweight coat and/or raincoat is useful, and an umbrella is a necessity. Hats are rarely worn and gloves are a matter of preference.

Shorts are acceptable only for tennis or in swimming areas. Slacks and swimsuits are useful, and many are available locally. Since camping, hiking, and climbing are popular diversions, bring sturdy shoes or boots and a weatherproof jacket.

Bring a full supply and selection of shoes. Although some American-made and European shoes are sold locally, they are considerably more expensive than in the U.S. and styles and sizes are limited. Locally made shoes are plentiful and reasonably priced, but will not suit everyone’s needs or style preferences. Shoes can also be made to order at reasonable prices.

Most lingerie is imported and expensive; bring a good supply. Locally made stockings and panty hose are of fair quality and moderately priced.

Children Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:47 PM

The same weight factors that apply to men’s and women’s clothing also apply to children’s apparel. Girls wear cotton, dresses, skirt-blouse-sweater combinations, and jeans or pants to school; boys wear khaki or denim jeans, T-shirts or cotton sports shirts, and sweaters or sweatshirts. It is often cold at the schools located up on the hillsides, so pack a good selection of sweaters and light jackets. Light-weight raincoats, boots and sweaters are essential.

Children wear closed or semiclosed shoes most of the year. The dampness of the rainy season wears out shoes quickly, so bring extra pairs. Some locally available shoes and inexpensive sneakers are satisfactory, but the more popular sports shoes cost considerably more locally.

Supplies and Services

Supplies Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:47 PM

Most medicinal needs can be filled at local, modern drugstores. Quality controls in Guatemala, however, are not equal to those in the U.S. Many name-brand cosmetics are available locally at significantly higher prices than in the U.S. African-American hair care products are not available and should be brought to post.

Bring hangers, shower curtains, special holiday decorative items, and greeting cards for special occasions. Although available here, such items are expensive. U.S. brand diapers are available at a higher price, however, they are of a slightly lower quality. Parents of school-aged children may wish to bring a supply of toys to be used as gifts for the frequent birthday parties. Locally made toys are inferior to American brands. Imported toys are available, but can be expensive. Most shops (including grocery stores) offer free gift wrapping. For items bought online, you will need to bring wrapping paper as wrapping paper for all occasions is hard to find in larger sizes.

Recreational equipment such as a ping-pong table or basketball hoop, fishing gear, and sporting goods equipment are always popular. Electronic equipment and computer software are available, but considerably more expensive to purchase locally. Many goods can be purchased through U.S. companies that offer mail-order service.

Basic Services Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:48 PM

Several good commercial laundries are available, but most personnel have maids who wash and iron. Dry cleaning facilities are fair to good, prices are reasonable, and most offer home delivery service. Shoe repair facilities are generally good, and prices are reasonable. Dressmakers in the city vary in quality. Suits (for men and women) may be tailored locally. Selection of cotton and polyester suit and dress materials is good. Beauty and barbershops compare favorably with smaller shops in the U.S. in price and in service.

Domestic Help Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:50 PM

Most domestic employees speak only Spanish and are uneducated and untrained. Good cooks can be hard to find. It is preferable to seek a servant who has worked for other Americans and has references. Laundresses, nursemaids, and general cleaning maids are available but inexperienced; full-time, reliable, servants are becoming increasingly scarce. Trained nannies are rare. The CLO maintains lists of domestics seeking work.

Wages for a full-time household servant, based on ability and experience, range from Q800–1,600 a month. Families, as well as single personnel occupying apartments, should have domestic help to take care of marketing, cleaning, and errands. Most importantly, it is unwise to leave a house or an apartment unoccupied for even a short period of time. Many single employees living in apartments hire a part-time, all-purpose maid who sleeps out. Most houses have servants’ quarters, but some apartments do not. Day maids receive about Q75 per day.

It is customary to provide locally made uniforms, although some maids prefer to wear their own clothing. A servant is expected to attend to minor medical problems, but if major medical attention is required, a local physician should be consulted before using the state-operated hospital facilities. Servants are entitled to 15 paid vacation days’ each year. Upon discharge, employees are, by law, paid 1 months’ salary for each year of service or a pro-ration for time worked. A Christmas bonus, equal to 1 months’ salary (the so-called “aguinaldo”) is mandatory. A compulsory, 14th-month bonus (“bono catorce”), equal to a full month’s salary, is also paid to an employee on June 30, contingent upon completion of 1 year of employment by that date. For an employee working less than 1 year on June 30, the payment is proportional.

Most families occupying housing with even a minimal amount of garden space employ a gardener for lawn maintenance. Gardeners, generally employed for 1–2 days per week, earn approximately Q70–100 per day for a full day’s work.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:51 PM

Roman Catholicism is the principal religion, although a large and growing percentage of the population has converted to Protestantism. Catholic churches are located in residential areas throughout the city, and masses are celebrated in Spanish. Protestant worship in English is offered by the Union Church, an interdenominational church that offers contemporary (at 8:15 a.m.) and traditional worship (at 11:00 a.m.). Sunday school classes are held for children and adults, and there are midweek bible studies and meeting opportunities for men, women, youth, and preteens. Nursery care is provided at all services and events. Union Church traces its origins back to 1882 when English services began. The congregation worships in a beautiful neocolonial renaissance sanctuary near the Plaza España in Zone 9, 6 blocks from the Embassy. An Episcopal parish also offers English services and Sunday school. German and Spanish services are offered by the Mormon Church. The Seventh-day Adventists and a Christian Science group offer services in Spanish. Three Jewish congregations (Sephardic, Orthodox, and Reform) hold regular services.


Dependent Education

At Post Last Updated: 1/19/2005 4:48 PM Many private elementary and secondary schools operate here, and the private educational system in Guatemala City is considered good. The Guatemalan school term begins in mid-January and ends the latter part of October. Schools attended by US government dependents normally follow a US-style schedule, with classes beginning in mid-August and ending in early June. Most schools require a birth certificate, health records, vaccination records, and previous school transcripts. Some require pre-admission placement tests. Most U.S. Government dependent children attend the Mayan School (Colegio Maya), the Equity American School, or the American School (Colegio Americano). All three are private schools, so enrollment is not necessarily assured -- parents must apply well in advance and plan to undergo admissions interviews or other screening procedures after their arrival at post. Plan to arrive several business days before the beginning of the school year so that all admissions requirements can be met before the first day of school.

The Colegio Maya offers American-style instruction for nursery (age 3) through grade 12 and operates on the U.S. school calendar (mid-August to early June). It is a cooperative school sponsored by parents, administered by an elected board of directors, and fully accredited under the U.S. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). The director and most teaching staff are U.S. citizens with U.S. teaching certificates. The enrollment in 2002–2003 was 355, with 40% of the students American citizens and the rest of mixed nationalities. Courses are taught in English with one class per day in Spanish. The curriculum focuses on academic preparation for college entrance and offers a range of enrichment and advanced placement courses. Athletic activities include basketball, volleyball, baseball, soccer, and other team sports. A gymnasium and tennis courts were recently completed, and a fine arts center is under construction. Playground equipment is available for smaller children. The school provides bus transportation.

The American School (Colegio Americano) offers kindergarten through secondary school instruction. Despite its name, it is mostly attended by Guatemalan students, with American administrators and some American teachers (about 18%). Enrollment in 2002–2003 was 1,460, of which about 12% were American citizens. Classes are conducted in both English and Spanish, and students may elect to be taught in either language. The quality of instruction at all grade levels is considered adequate by U.S. standards, and the secondary school is accredited by SACS. Athletic activities include baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball, basketball, water polo, and swimming. An active intramural and playground recreational program is offered. Bus transportation to and from school is provided.

The Equity American School (EAS) is a small privately-owned school located in a residential neighborhood. The EAS offers very small classes (maximum 12 students per class) for preschool through grade 12, and encourages motivated children to move at an accelerated pace. Classes are taught in English, with one class per day in Spanish or French. Its elementary school is located in a separate facility, and both campuses are converted residences. Total enrollment for 2002–2003 was about 132, with about 38% American citizens. The school has an American director and mostly American faculty, and runs on the U.S. school calendar.

Colegio Maya is the current reference school for allowance purposes -- education allowances are tied to the fees charged by this school. The allowances normally cover most (if not all) costs for other private schools. Additional information on these and other schools may be obtained through the school web pages as follows: Colegio Maya; Colegio Americano; and Equity American

Away From Post Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:54 PM Most families find the local primary and secondary schools adequate; however, some have chosen to send their children to boarding schools in the U.S., absorbing the additional expense themselves. The Mission’s CLO has useful information that can be of assistance in choosing education alternatives away from post.

Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 6/8/2004 1:54 PM

Spanish classes are provided by the Embassy, using FSI methods, textbooks, and course materials. Instruction is provided by Guatemalan tutors. Low-cost courses are also offered at IGA. Four universities in Guatemala offer Spanish courses, as do a number of private language schools. Intensive weekly courses in Spanish are offered in Antigua, about a 40-minute drive from the city. Most of the language schools offer programs with one-on-one instruction, in addition to classroom and home-stay options.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 7/23/2003 5:08 PM

Frequent national and international soccer matches dominate spectator events, but less standard sports such as bicycle and car races are available. Baseball and softball are increasing in popularity and are played year round. Joggers and competitive runners are seen often in the city, and several organizations sponsor races throughout the year.

Although the city has only two commercial facilities, bowling is quite popular. Several city leagues are available, and frequent national and Central American tournaments are held. U.S. Mission members have formed basketball, soccer, and softball teams that play each other, other embassies, and Guatemalan teams. The Marines have a volleyball court on the grounds of their residence and arrange games among Mission personnel. Mission members can sometimes join local basketball, volleyball, and soccer teams, which play in organized Guatemalan leagues. Private clubs sponsor tennis tournaments in competition with other clubs, and the Embassy has organized tournaments among Mission personnel and other embassies.

Private clubs include Club Americano, which has two lighted tennis courts, one squash court, swimming and diving pools, playgrounds, and snackbar. Inscription fees are $1,500, plus Q575 per month; Club Von Humboldt (German Club) has a swimming pool, six tennis courts, and a football field. Annual fees are $520 with a refundable deposit of Q8,000 and Q610 monthly dues. The Camino Real and Marriott Hotels offer club memberships for full or partial use of their facilities, which include heated swimming pools, tennis courts, exercise and equipment rooms, and saunas. Classes in aerobics, swimming, and tennis are also offered. There are many less costly specialized clubs around town for weightlifting, aerobics, swimming, tennis, squash, dance, gymnastics, soccer, and volleyball. Golf is an expensive hobby to maintain in Guatemala. Although there are two private golf clubs, both offering scenic courses, swimming pools, tennis courts, and clubhouse facilities, membership in 2003 is $2,000, with a several hundred-dollar refundable deposit.

Surf and deep-sea fishing may be enjoyed on either coast where tarpon, barracuda, shark, sailfish, red snapper, bonito, blue marlin, and tuna are common. Puerto Ixtapa, on the Guatemala's south coast, has one of the most famous catch-and-release sailfish fisheries in the world. Lakes and rivers provide freshwater fishing. Sailing and windsurfing are available on lakes and at the Atlantic coast. Whitewater river rafting expeditions from Class I to IV, day trips, and extended weekend trips, are possible from Guatemala City through a local tour agency. Open-water scuba diving courses and excursions are offered through PADI certified instructors.

Near Guatemala City, the volcanoes Pacaya (8,345 ft.), Fuego (12,851 ft.), and Agua (12,307 ft.) attract climbers and provide rewarding views on clear days. Pacaya, which is active much of the year, provides the unique opportunity for climbers to stand on one peak and view close at hand volcanic activity. Organized climbing and hiking parties have been suspended at times because of the increased occurrence of violent criminal activity on the volcanoes. The Embassy's Security Office should be consulted prior to climbing or hiking around the volcanoes.

Wild game is generally scarce. Hunting is prohibited in most of Guatemala, and hunters should obtain permission to hunt on private land.

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 1/20/2005 8:55 AM

Guatemala is a physically beautiful, culturally rich country. Mayan ruins, dramatic mountain ranges, and picturesque indigenous villages offer great attractions to the tourist or casual visitor. Travelers should routinely notify the Regional Security Office (RSO) before leaving Guatemala City. When traveling to any of these destinations, mission members should travel in groups, stay on the main roads, avoid driving after dark and take other security precautions recommended by the RSO -- see transportation section above.

Antigua, “"Ciudad de Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala,” is less than an hour by car from Guatemala City over a four-lane highway. It is a picturesque city of ruins and old, restored homes. The capital was moved to Guatemala City in 1773 when an earthquake damaged Antigua. The city has good, attractive hotels and restaurants well suited to the tourist market. Shopping in Antigua is delightful and leisurely. During “Semana Santa,” the week preceding Easter, townspeople and tourists flock to the streets to view the colorful carpets, intricately created from sawdust and flowers, that pave the way for the processions carrying religious images from the churches.

Lake Amatitlan, 25 minutes from Guatemala City over a fair road, is about 40 square miles in size. Public picnic grounds are available, and a scenic cable lift to the United Nations Park is operable. Sailing and boating are popular; the lake is badly polluted, however, and swimming is no longer safe. Native skin divers have found well-preserved relics of Mayan religious ceremonies that took place at the natural hot springs that empty into the lake. Many Guatemalans own second homes in the lake area.

Lake Atitlan is 2½ hours from Guatemala City by car over a good but winding road. Atitlan is considered the most beautiful lake in the country. It can be visited as part of the “must” excursion to Chichicastenango. Three large volcanoes are nearby. Encircling the shores of the lake, 5,500 feet above sea level, are 12 indigenous villages named after the Twelve Apostles. These villages can be reached by launch from the hotel area; however, strong winds and choppy water across the lake in the afternoons, as well as security concerns, limit access. Several good tourist hotels with panoramic views are located on the lakeshore in the town of Panajachel. Swimming and boating are pleasant pastimes.

The town of Chichicastenango is the center of the Quich‚ Mayan culture and a principal sightseeing attraction. It is 7,000 feet above sea level and about 3 hours from Guatemala City. The road to Chichicastenango is good, but steep in some places. Two first-class hotels and several good, inexpensive pensions are available. On market days, Thursdays and Sundays, the town is crowded with Mayans dressed in their colorful clothing. On Sundays, they practice their traditional religious rites in the two Catholic churches on the main plaza.

For birdwatchers and naturalists, the Biotopo of the Quetzal is a 2,900-acre sanctuary founded to protect the Resplendent Quetzal, national symbol of Guatemala, and its cloud forest habitat. Located approximately 2½ hours from Guatemala City, the park has well-kept trails for hiking and campsites. Comfortable hotel lodging is nearby. While the forest is beautiful, finding a quetzal is a challenge here.

Approximately 4½ hours by car from Guatemala City, Lake Izabal is the largest body of freshwater in the country and is a popular weekend getaway for fishing, boating, water skiing and all other types of water sports. The Rio Dulce, offers comfortable hotels along its shores and islands. Tourist attractions along the river’s lush jungle shores include bird watching and photography; Aguas Calientes hot springs, a beautiful hot waterfall flowing into a cool jungle pool; the Castle of San Felipe, a national historical monument built by the Spaniards in the 17th century to protect their possessions from frequent pirate attack; and Livingston, a seaside town situated where the Rio Dulce empties into the Caribbean.

Puerto Quetzal, a commercial port on the Pacific Coast, is 2 hours from Guatemala City over a four-lane paved road. The nearby beaches of Chulamar, Likin, and lztapa offer limited surfing and swimming because of a strong undertow and occasional sharks. The beaches are black volcanic sand, which is extremely hot when the sun is shining. Hotels at Chulamar and Likin have filtered fresh and saltwater pools. Boating and fishing are possible on the canal and river that empty into the Pacific near lztapa. Deepsea fishing excursions can be arranged.

Quetzaltenango, the second largest city in the country, can be reached in about 4½ hours by the highland route over the Pan American Highway, which is paved all the way and generally good. The city, at about 7,600 feet, has a cool, invigorating climate and clear air. On the first Sunday of each month, the central square offers a festive market of goods from surrounding villages. The city, a textile center, is also noted for its nearby hot sulfur baths and mineral springs.

Several restored sites of Mayan settlements lie within a day’s drive of Guatemala City. Iximche, the ancient capital of the Maya-Cakchiquel kingdom, and where the first capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala was founded, and Mixco Viejo, a fortress city of the Maya-Cakchiquel empire, are located within the Department of Chimaltenango, approximately 2 hours’ drive from Guatemala City. Quirigua, within an hour’s drive of Rio Dulce a short distance from Puerto Barrios, is the site of some of the tallest stelae of the Maya civilization. K’umarcaaj, an archeological site also known as Utatlan, is approximately an hour’s drive from Chichicastenango (3 hours from Guatemala City). It was the capital of the Quiche Kingdom and has a visitor’s center and small museum.

Tikal, the largest and one of the oldest of the ancient Mayan cities, is located in the midst of a dense tropical rain forest in the Department of Peten in the northeastern section of Guatemala. There are several daily flights and occasional special tourist or charter flights to these magnificent ruins within short flying time of Guatemala City. Overnight accommodations with meals are available at either of two adequate, but non-luxury, hotels near the ruins, or more comfortable lodgings with lakeside recreation facilities located farther from the park.

During their various patron saint festivals, indigenous communities throughout the country offer unique opportunities to experience the flavor of the Guatemalan heartland and its hospitable people. These fiestas, which usually begin a few days before the actual saint’s day, are characterized by dances, processions, and a profusion of decorations, as well as firecrackers, native marimba or other instrumental music, and often a lively market. Information about fiesta days and descriptions of the more interesting festivals can be found in New World Guide to Latin American Republics, Volume 1, Central America and Mexico, Duel Soal and Piece, 1950.

Although there are very few restrictions on taking photos apart from common sense, special care must be taken around children. Foreigners have been killed by paying too much attention to babies in small towns. Only photograph children with the clear approval of the parents and/or other adults present.

For those who want to become acquainted with Guatemala, the country, and its customs, the Trekkers Club offers frequent weekend group trips at minimum cost. The club is international in membership. Annual fees are Q50. Meetings feature speakers, movies, and/or slide presentations on such subjects as Maya archeology, folk customs, myths and legends, or simple travelogues on places of interest. Members share the responsibilities of organizing and leading excursions, as well as serving on the board of directors.

Entertainment Last Updated: 6/14/2004 11:05 AM

Recent U.S. films are shown at a number of movie theaters in Guatemala City, usually with Spanish subtitles. Mexican, Italian, French, and Argentine films are also offered, though less frequently. Admission to the best movie theaters is Q10-25. The IGA, and occasionally local art galleries, screen films of a less current vintage. Children’s films, both in theaters and on tape, are usually dubbed in Spanish. A good assortment of videotapes and DVDs are available from local video clubs at reasonable rates.

Guatemala City boasts a 2,000-seat National Theater that hosts plays, dance performances, and concerts. In recent years, world-class cultural attractions such as the Moscow Ballet, National Ballet of Spain, and Berlin Philharmonic have included Guatemala in their itinerary. The National Symphony Orchestra and the National Ballet each have a wide repertoire that is expanding each year. Several small city theater groups perform everything from musical comedy to serious drama. Guest artists and performers, often traveling under U.S. Government sponsorship, are well received and add further dimension to the performing arts in Guatemala.

Guatemala’s art world is quite lively, especially painting and sculpting. The IGA has at least a monthly exhibit and frequent exhibits are held in the National Bank Building, the Museo lxchel and other smaller museums, and numerous city galleries. The National Palace is decorated with vivid murals depicting the area’s precolonial and Hispanic history. Several newer government buildings are decorated with facades of attractive modern sculpture.

One of the best sources of reading material is the IGA library, which has a collection of over 12,000 volumes in English and Spanish and a bookstore offering current material. The Union Church also maintains a library. Books are also available in commercial bookstores at import prices. Located on the lower level of the Chancery near the cafeteria is a lending library of paperback books open during Embassy operating hours. CLO also has a very good resource library, both print and videocassette, on topics specific to Guatemala and to today’s lifestyles and concerns in general.

Restaurant dining is a pleasant pastime in Guatemala City, particularly in one of the many restaurants in the “Zona Viva,” an area close to hotels that is the leading center of entertainment. In addition to the dining rooms of the major hotels, many good restaurants offer specialties ranging from typical Guatemalan dishes to French cuisine and Middle Eastern food, and are generally moderate in price. Several popular restaurants specialize in “Argentine-style” and, more recently, “Southwestern U.S.-style” beef. The American food chains, such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Domino’s, Taco Bell, TGI Fridays, Chili’s, etc., as well as Pollo Campero (Guatemala’s version of Kentucky Fried Chicken) and other local fastfood restaurants, successfully compete for the market.

Social Activities

Among Americans Last Updated: 6/14/2004 11:12 AM The American Society is an organization of U.S. citizens living in Guatemala. Membership includes official personnel, members of the business community, and others. The society endeavors to improve Guatemalan-American relations at the local level and performs important welfare functions. The group also sponsors several social events each year.

In recent years, the Colegio Maya has staged an annual musical production for their students, parents, and faculty and has invited the participation of other members of the American community. An English-speaking amateur theater group in Antigua also performs throughout the year.

International Contacts Last Updated: 6/14/2004 11:13 AM Guatemala is a very friendly country, and Americans establish lasting friendships with Guatemalans. Many speak excellent English, having been educated in the U.S., and many others study English at IGA and other institutions. Newcomers have ample opportunity for social contacts, both private and official. Social contacts between the American community and other foreign groups can also be interesting and rewarding. Guatemala City has an active Rotary Club and Lion’s Club, and an English-speaking Masonic Lodge.

Although the primary aims of the American Chamber of Commerce of Guatemala are business and investment oriented, the group has a large and active membership of firms and individuals who maintain a high community visibility. Their frequent luncheon meetings are open to the public, and their programs and service activities promote excellent, broad based relationships. Membership fees are reasonable.

Official Functions

Nature of Functions Last Updated: 6/14/2004 11:13 AM

Diplomatic staff members receive occasional invitations to official and private receptions and cocktail parties. Dances are infrequent, with the exception of those at private clubs on special occasions.

Diplomatic officers should bring a minimum of 200 calling cards, their spouses 100, for exchange with other diplomatic corps members and for use in making calls. Fold-over cards (informals) are used for extending invitations to large nonofficial functions. Invitations to small dinners, luncheons, and cocktail parties are usually verbal. Invitations to receptions and official dinners are by formal cards, which may be printed locally.

Standards of Social Conduct Last Updated: 6/14/2004 11:16 AM

All U.S. Government employees and their family members are, of course, expected to observe appropriate standards of behavior and courteous conduct in their official and personal lives. They should conduct themselves in accordance with the American values of justice and democracy, obey local laws and regulations, avoid any action that could be interpreted as taking advantage of any special status they enjoy, and assist in maintaining and strengthening the good relations that now exist between the U.S. and Guatemala. Mission personnel should remember that they are guests in a foreign country and official U.S. representatives.

Protocol requirements vary in the different Mission agencies and between offices in the same agencies. Junior officers and staff employees have far fewer protocol requirements than heads of sections. Courtesy calls on the Ambassador and DCM should be scheduled by all employees shortly after arrival. Newcomers’ receptions are held to acquaint families with the Ambassador and spouse at their residence.

Importance is attached to certain special occasions such as baptisms, first communions, Quince Años (15th birthday for girls), weddings, and funerals. Except for funerals, these occasions are usually celebrated by a family party. An invitation extended to anyone outside the family should be considered a compliment. A gift and/or flowers are customarily sent by anyone invited to such events. Birthdays may be celebrated on the actual date or, occasionally, on the Saint’s Day. Children will receive many invitations to birthday parties. The “piñata” is an established custom, and children invited are expected to bring an inexpensive gift. As funerals are arranged on short notice, because of local laws that require burial within 24 hours of death, it is not always possible to attend. Attendance is expected when possible. A call at the house of the deceased and flowers sent to the home or the funeral parlor are appreciated by the family.

In Guatemala, social events often begin later than the time indicated on the invitation. Formal receptions normally begin on time, but guests sometimes arrive at dinner parties half an hour to an hour after the appointed time. When invited to the Embassy residence, however, Mission members are expected to be punctual and to arrive 10–15 minutes early to assist the Ambassador in receiving the other guests.

It is customary to shake hands when greeting or taking leave of an individual or group. When entering a room, both men and women are expected to greet every guest, shaking hands with each one when the group is small. Except for the most formal occasions, Guatemalan men usually kiss one (and only one) cheek of women they meet, even strangers.

Guatemalan businessmen prefer dark suits and women prefer somewhat formal dresses or suits during the working day. The same attire is customary for most evening social affairs; more casual clothes are worn to weekend and daytime social events. (See also Clothing.)

Special Information Last Updated: 6/14/2004 11:20 AM

The Government of Guatemala requires that all adults residing in the country, including official personnel of foreign diplomatic missions, carry official identification at all times. The appropriate “carnets” or “tarjetas” will be requested for new arrivals by the Mission personnel offices. The Mission also issues ID cards to its official personnel and all dependents over age 14. Photographs can be taken at Post.


Discussion of post conditions would be incomplete without discussion of the current crime conditions. Guatemala has a serious crime problem. Violent crime has grown in the past few years throughout the country. The incidence of armed assaults and carjackings continue to pose a threat to Mission personnel, and heightens the need for security awareness. The primary security threat in Guatemala is general street crime – both violent and petty. Special care of passports, identification papers, and credit cards is essential. Clever pickpockets and muggers haunt the market areas and are also busy among crowds at holiday festivities, parades, and sports events. One should avoid carrying wallets and large hanging purses, and it is not recommended to be out on the street alone after dark anywhere in the city. Daytime travel in some areas is also unwise. Children and servants should be alerted to security procedures at home and in the street. Security briefings are given by the RSO to all newly arrived employees and their families, and periodic briefings and updates are held throughout the year.

Conditions in Guatemala necessitate travelers being aware of the current security situation in outlying areas. Key political events and an increase in criminal activity raise the need for security precautions. Large demonstrations occur throughout Guatemala, where they can cause serious traffic disruptions. While most demonstrations are peaceful, violence is increasing, and travelers should avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place. New arrivals should pay strict attention to the instructions contained in briefing materials or provided orally and consult the Regional Security Officer if in doubt.

The Mission adheres to a strict housing policy requiring RSO inspection and approval of all prospective housing. Employees are not permitted to move into housing until all security upgrades are complete and it has been certified for occupancy. Most prospective housing will require grills, reinforced doors (both exterior and safe haven) and the installation of lock hardware, door viewers, and razor wire on the top of exterior perimeter walls. The employee must negotiate most necessary upgrades with the landlord, with the landlord absorbing the cost.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 10/19/2004 11:43 AM

Most personnel assigned to Guatemala arrive by air, although a few have driven their own vehicles from the U.S. It is essential that anyone contemplating driving to Guatemala from the U.S. call the RSO for a security update and briefing on travel conditions. Overland travelers should also review the Consular Information Sheet (CIS) for both Mexico and Guatemala, located at the State Department web site In addition to the possible criminal threat en route, drivers are cautioned that during the rainy months (May–October) the roads in Guatemala can be treacherous because of washouts, landslides, and earth tremors that create temporary impasses. An alternative is to drive to Miami, arrange for shipment of the car via the US Despatch Agent and fly to post.

Incoming personnel should inform the post well in advance of their arrival so that adequate temporary housing arrangements can be made. Department of State employees should arrange through HR/CDA to send a formal arrival notice telegram

All unaccompanied air baggage (UAB) and household effects (HHE) of Mission personnel, other than USAID, should be consigned to the Embassy followed by the name of the owner in parentheses, as follows:

American Embassy

Avenida la Reforma, 7-01, Zone 10

Guatemala City, Guatemala

(name of employee)

Airfreight and HHE shipments of USAID personnel assigned to Guatemala should be marked as follows:

USAID/Guatemala, c/o Executive Office

1a. Calle 7-66, Zone 9

Guatemala City, Guatemala

Telephone: 2332–0202

(employee name)

UAB should be banded. Surface shipment boxes, lift vans, and packing cases should be waterproofed and sufficiently strong to withstand rough handling. If effects are likely to arrive in Guatemala during the rainy season, request tin roofing and soldering of seams of cases and vans for additional protection.

Standard-size lift vans can be accommodated at either of two Guatemalan ports — Puerto Santo Tomas de Castilla on the Caribbean coast or Puerto Quetzal on the Pacific coast — from where they are trucked to post. The Embassy recommends the use of Santo Tomas de Castilla, a recently constructed port with modern facilities and warehousing. If shipments must come via Puerto Quetzal, it is preferable to use small liftvans since large cargo must be unloaded offshore onto lighters. When shipping an automobile, easily removable items, such as cigarette lighters, mirrors, floor mats, radio antenna, and hubcaps, should be packed and shipped separately to prevent pilferage.

Frequent cargo service is available from Miami to Puerto Santo Tomas de Castilla. Normally, all shipments are routed through the Miami Despatch Agent. Ships bound for Puerto Quetzal leave San Francisco about every 25 days. Service is even less frequent from the South. Once shipments have arrived at the port, lengthy and complicated customs procedures can delay final delivery for 4 - 6 weeks. HHE documentation must include a complete packing list. Vehicle documentation must include an original bill of sale or title certificate.

HHE and UAB that arrive in advance of their owners will be stored in a commercial warehouse, as the Mission has no storage facilities. Personnel should attempt to coordinate the arrival of their HHE and UAB shipments to coincide with their own arrival at post, since the clearance process cannot begin until the employee's arrival. Insurance of personal effects while in transit and while at post is strongly recommended. A transit policy should cover theft and water damage.

Most housing in Guatemala is privately leased, with costs reimbursed under the Living Quarters Allowance (LQA) program. Individuals subject to the LQA program are allowed the full HHE shipment of 18,000 pounds. Some agencies provide government-furnished quarters for their personnel; they are authorized only the limited shipment allowance (7,200 lbs.). Employees should check carefully with their transportation, personnel, or executive offices to determine their exact shipping/storage allowances. The employee, not the packing company, is responsible for ensuring that the authorized net weight of effects shipped and/or stored does not exceed the authorized weight allowance.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 10/19/2004 11:09 AM

American personnel of all U.S. Government agencies assigned to Guatemala for a standard tour of duty are entitled to duty-free importation of household and personal effects, including one automobile. Personnel without diplomatic status have this importation privilege at “first arrival” only, interpreted by Guatemalan officials to mean within 6 months of an employee’s arrival in the country.

Each accredited employee, both diplomatic and non-diplomatic, may import one duty-free vehicle. Motorcycles and mopeds are classified as vehicles for duty-free importation purposes. Any additional duty and registration fees connected with the importation of additional vehicles are chargeable to the employee. All personnel importing a vehicle (including a motorcycle) must present an original bill of sale or title certificate and an original bill of lading in order to obtain license plates. Employees driving to Guatemala must also carry proof of ownership of the vehicle. Officials at the border will issue a 30-day entry permit, which must promptly be presented to the General Services Office upon arrival. Personnel importing boats, airplanes, campers, trailers, or other special purpose vehicles must pay full duties and have written authorization from the administrative officer.

Passage Last Updated: 10/19/2004 11:09 AM

Entry visas are not needed for U.S. Government personnel entering Guatemala. Employees and family members may enter the country upon presentation of valid U.S. passports, one per person. After arrival, all passports should be presented to the Human Resources Office, who will request a multiple-entry visa for the duration of the employee's tour of duty. The visa application should be submitted to the Foreign Ministry within 30 days of arrival.

Pets Last Updated: 11/28/2005 5:05 PM

U.S. airlines have instituted restrictions on carrying pets during the summer months. Regardless of the time of year, travelers should check and re-check with the airlines to be sure they will be allowed to board with their pets. This is especially important during the summer embargo months.

All incoming pets must have a proof of rabies inoculation and a health certificate issued by a veterinarian within 15 days of travel. The health certificate should be prepared by a licensed veterinarian and if possible, certified by the Department of Agriculture or equivalent agency in the country of origin. This process can take several days, so the certificate should be issued no later than one week prior to departure.

There are no quarantine requirements for dogs or cats in Guatemala. It is preferential to bring your pet with you on the same flight, as customs formalities are easier to complete when pets are accompanied.

If unable to travel on the same flight, you may ship your pet as air cargo using a licensed pet shipping company. In this instance, send a fax at least 5 days in advance of the pet's arrival to the Embassy’s Customs and Shipping Section explaining your plan for shipping your pet to Post. Include in your fax a copy of the Airway Bill (AWB), Health Certificate and Pet Owner’s Passport. The fax number is (502) 331–3186 or (502)333–0052. These documents are required in order to prepare the customs clearance in advance of the pet’s arrival. Without advance clearance, there is a possibility that it could take 2–3 days to get an unaccompanied pet out of the local customs office.

Pets are permitted in the temporary apartments for an additional fee of $45 per month. Some local hotels and apartment hotels will allow small pets. Pets can be boarded at reputable kennels for a daily fee of about $15.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 6/14/2004 11:26 AM

It is the intent of the Ambassador to strictly control the number of weapons imported into Guatemala by Mission employees as well as to limit the number of persons receiving Ambassadorial approval to possess and/or to carry a weapon. Importation of firearms is restricted by Guatemalan law to the following types of nonautomatic weapons:

Types of Arms Caliber Pistols 22,25,32,38,380 Revolvers 22, 32, 357, 38 Rifles 22,32,222 Shotguns All gauges

Firearms may be imported with HHE, not as part of unaccompanied baggage shipments. Inform shipping companies so that these items may be listed in the shipping documents. Employees must obtain COM authority to import a firearm prior to arrival at post. This can be done by contacting the RSO office directly at 502–331–3243 or FAX 502–334–8472. For detailed information on the post firearms policy, consult the RSO before importing a weapon.

Importation by individuals of ammunition or cartridges of any type and caliber is strictly forbidden; ammunition is imported only through facilities of the Government of Guatemala. Ammunition for the firearms listed above is available locally from commercial sources at prices 30% to 70% higher than in the U.S. Shipment of firearms and ammunition by diplomatic pouch or APO/FPO facilities is strictly forbidden. Importation or carrying of the following items is prohibited: daggers, blackjacks, brass knuckles, swords, pocketknives with blades exceeding three inches in length, and similar weapons.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 6/8/2004 12:45 AM

The Guatemalan unit of currency is the Quetzal (Q). The Quetzal is printed in paper form in denominations of Q5, QIO, Q20, Q50, and QIOO. Coins are made in denominations of Q1 and 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos. In July 2003, the exchange rate was about 8 Quetzals to one U.S. Dollar.

Various systems of weights and measures are used in Guatemala. Pounds and kilograms (2.2 pounds) are the most common weight units, but more exotic units, such as the “quintal” (100 pounds), are also used. Gasoline is sold by the liter (slightly more than a quart). Common units of distance include centimeter, inch, foot, yard, “vara,” meter, kilometer, mile, and “legua.”

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 6/14/2004 11:28 AM


All personal property, including vehicles imported duty free into Guatemala by U.S. personnel and commissary articles, must be for the personal use or consumption of employees and their dependents and may not be imported with the intent to transfer or sell.

On arrival at post, request a copy of the regulations pertaining to importation and disposal of personal property applicable to and binding on all U.S. Government personnel, including USAlD contractors. Disposal of property other than automobiles will normally be approved only in connection with an employee’s permanent departure from Guatemala.

U.S. Mission employees assigned to Guatemala are authorized to import one vehicle duty-free. A vehicle may not be sold partially or fully exempt from duty earlier than two years from the issue date of the exemption document, which is usually several weeks later than the date the vehicle entered the country. An exception to this two-year rule may be made in the event a vehicle is destroyed and is being sold for scrap, or upon permanent departure of the employee from Guatemala.


Arrive at post with an adequate supply of currency and personal or travelers checks to cover the usual heavy initial expenses. Employees are paid bi-weekly; salary and prorated allowances are included. Most civilian agency personnel are paid from the Department’s finance center at Charleston, S.C. under a centralized payroll system. Most employees find it convenient to have their salary deposited directly to a U.S. bank. Many use the allotment system for regular direct payments to designated payees. A dollar checking account with a U.S. bank is recommended to facilitate financial transactions, particularly those involving firms and individuals outside of Guatemala. Dollars, travelers checks, and personal dollar checks may be cashed for Quetzals at Mission facilities, where U.S. dollars can also be obtained.

Local banking facilities are good. Citibank and the Banco Uno have branches in the Chancery. Many employees find it convenient to maintain a local Quetzal checking account.

Major credit cards are recognized and accepted at hotels, most of the better restaurants, gas stations, and many local business establishments. Cards most commonly honored are American Express, Visa, Diner’s Club, Mastercard, and Carte Blanche. Gasoline credit cards, however, are not accepted.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 6/14/2004 11:30 AM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published in this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Adams, Richard N. Crucifixion by Power.

Aguirre, Lilly. The Land of Eternal Spring.

Aguirre, Lilly. Guatemala, My Beautiful Country.

Area Handbook for Guatemala. American University. U.S. Government Printing Office: Washington, D.C., 1984.

Arevalo, Juan Jose. The Shark and the Sardines.

Asturias, Miguel. El Señor Presidente.

Bricker, Victoria Reifler. The Indian Christ, The Indian King.

Brigham,William. Guatemala, Land of the Quetzal.

Burgos-Debray, Elizabeth. I, Rigoberta Menchu.

Carmack, Robert. Harvest of Violence: The Mayan Indians and the Guatemalan Crisis.

Coe, Michael P. The Maya.

Daniels, Anthony. Sweet Waist of America: Journeys Around Guatemala.

Department of State (1954). Intervention of International Communism in Guatemala.

Dodge, David. How Lost Was My Weekend.

Dosal, Paul J. The Rise of Guatemala's Industrial Oligarchy, 1871–1994.

Gleijeses, Piero. Shattered Hope.

Goldman, Francisco. The Long Night of the White Chickens.

Handy, Jim. Gift of the Devil: A History of Guatemala.

Henderson, John S. The World of the Ancient Maya.

Huxley, Aldous. Beyond the Mexican Bay.

Immerman, Richard H. The CIA in Guatemala.

Kidder and Samayoa. The Art of the Ancient Maya.

Latin America: Hemispheric Partner. U.S. Department of the Army, Pamphlet 550-1/.

Lorange, Mary. Footloose Scientist in Mayan America.

Manger-Cats, Sebald Godfried. Land Tenure and Economic Development in Guatemala.

Moreley, Sylvanus. The Ancient Maya.

Nash, Manning. Machine Age Maya.

Osborne, Lily de John. Indian Crafts of Guatemala and El Salvador.

Perera, Victor. Unfinished Conquest.

Poponoe, Dorothy. Santiago de los Caballeros de Guatemala.

Rodman, Selden. The Road to Panama.

Schele, Linda and Freidel, David. A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya.

Schirmer, Jennifer. The Guatemlan Military Project; A Violence Called Democracy.

Schneider, Ronald M. Communism in Guatemala: 1944–1954.

Sexton, James. Ignacio: The Diary of a Maya Indian of Guatemala.

Simon, Jean-Marie. Guatemala, Eternal Spring, Eternal Tyranny.

Stephens, John L. Incidents of Travel in Central America.

Stoll, David. Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala.

Stoll, David. Rigoberta Menchu and the Story of All Poor Guatemalans.

Tedlock, Dennis. Translation of the Popul Vuh.

Thompson, John E. The Civilization of the Mayas.

Thompson, J. Eric S. Thomas Gage’s Travels in the New World.

Vargas Llosa, Alvaro. Riding the Tiger.

Von Hagen,Victor M. Mayan Explorers.

Warren, Kay B. Indigenous Movements and Their Critics: Pan-Maya Activism in Guatemala.

Whetten, Nathan L. Guatemala: The Land and the People.

Woodward, Ralph Lee, Jr. Central America: A Nation Divided.

Wright, Ronald. Time Among the Maya: Travels in Belize, Guatemala and Mexico.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 11/3/2004 10:46 AM

U.S. Mission offices in Guatemala observe both American and Guatemalan legal holidays by closing to the public. Following are the Guatemalan holidays:

New Year’s Day Jan. 1

Holy Thursday variable Good Friday variable

Labor Day May 1

Army Day June 30

Feast of the Assumption Aug. 15

Independence Day Sept. 15

Revolution Day Oct. 20 All Saints’ Day Nov. 1

Christmas Eve (Half Day) Dec. 24 Christmas Day Dec. 25 New Year’s Eve (Half Day) Dec. 31

Personnel should avoid arriving at post on a holiday because of the unpredictability of transportation and other services.

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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