Can I start my classes any day of the week?
Yes, you can start any day – Monday through Saturday. Please let us know at least one week in advance when you want to start.
Can I have my classes in the afternoon instead?
Yes, you may have your classes in the afternoon if you prefer.
Can I pay for my classes in US Dollars, Euros or Queztales?
Due to the Guatemala government’s change in banking regulations, the school accepts payments in Quetzales and credit cards (fees apply). Keep in mind the Guatemala government only allows a tourist to exchange 500 USD/EUROS per person per month. If you bring cash, the bank will only allow new 100 dollar bills, nothing smaller. We suggest you have a separate checking account in your home bank with travel money. There are many ATMs in Xela where you can withdraw cash in Quetzales and avoid the currency exchange restriction. Banking fees may apply.
Is there internet connection at the school?
Yes, there is internet connection at the school.
Is it safe to bring my tablet or SmartPhone?
Yes, but be smart about where you use it! In the school is OK or at your host family’s home. Keep it safely in a secure backpack when walking around town. Do not use them in public such as walking on the streets, on a bus or cab. Exercise common sense as you would in any large city.
Are there ATMs in Xela?
There are several ATM machines in Xela, but the machines do not accept all cards. The ATM cards that are the most accepted are Visa cards/debit cards. There are limited facilities that accept Mastercards. American Express cards are not generally accepted in Xela.
Will my host family be able to cook vegetarian, vegan, celiac or gluten-free food for me?
Yes, the host families we have are very accommodating to strict diets. You will find that the Guatemalan diet is very synergistic to a vegetarian, vegan, celiac and gluten-free diet.
If I want to experience a different teacher is that possible?
Yes. Each Thursday, the person in charge of the office, will pass out evaluation forms to each student. This will give you an opportunity to assess your progress and provide comments on how the classes are going for you. At this time you can select the box that you want to change teachers or that you want to keep your teacher for the following week. You can also comment on your host family if you want. We want to make your experience at SISAI the best!
What is the best way to get to Xela?
Go to the Transportation page for more information.
What is Xela – Quetzaltenango like?
SISAI Spanish School is located up in the highlands of Guatemala in a town called Quetzaltenango or Xela, for short. It is in the highlands of Guatemala where the Maya culture is prevalent. Spanish is the primary language of the teachers at SISAI. Although Xela is not crowded with tourists there is a very active nightlife. There are many cafes, bars, restaurants and dance clubs that offer a wide variety of entertainment experiences at very affordable prices.
How is the climate in Quetzaltenango?
Because Quetzaltenango is in the western highlands area of Guatemala (at an elevation of 7,500 ft / 1.5 miles), it can be cool in the morning and at night all year round. From March to May is Quetzaltenango’s “summer” climate. This is the warmest part of the year, but it never gets too hot. For those who like sunny weather, the best months to visit are October to May. May/June begins the rainy season in Guatemala, so if you’re studying between May-October, be sure to bring a rain jacket and umbrella.Typically, it’s warm and sunny in the morning (approx. 20° Celsius, 70° F) and it rains in the afternoon. It may be the best time (scenery-wise) to visit here because the rain makes the countryside and mountains turn a beautiful lush green color that hopefully you’ll see on the bus ride from Guatemala City. November-January can get quite cold. In December and January it’s common to have ice on the ground in the morning. It can be cold in the morning but once the sun comes out after 10 or 11 a.m. it warms up. There’s no central heating in the buildings. The locals rely on warm clothes, blankets, and hot drinks to stay warm. Since the weather/temperature here can vary a lot, even over the course of one day, we recommend that students bring layers of clothing.
What clothing should I bring?
Here is a partial list of suggested clothing items:
Long-sleeved and short-sleeved shirts
Sweatpants (for comfort and for sleeping in)
Long underwear, gloves and warm hat (if you’re here in the coldest months)
Fleece type jacket
Rain jacket and umbrella
Long pants/ jeans
Good walking shoes (hiking boots if you like to hike!)
You should bring a swim suit:
Xela is situated in the middle of a mountain/volcano range with tons of natural hot springs and hot saunas. Ahhhh, que rico! If you find that you need additional clothes once you arrive here, there’s plenty of used American clothing stores in Xela where you can buy clothes at very cheap prices. The other areas of Guatemala have different climates (warmer), so if you plan on traveling it’s best to have layers of clothing anyway: a bit of everything!
Other Recommended Items to Bring:
Towel (your host family will provide bed linens but not towels)
Spanish dictionary and Verb conjugation App on your SmartPhone of Tablet
Backpack, notebooks, pens and highlighter
Water bottle (refillable)
ATM card/Visa card
Present for your host family (This is optional, but many students choose to bring gifts for their families. We recommend that students bring general gifts for the family such as chocolates, nice soaps/lotions/shampoos, herbal teas, etc. These are great gifts because these products are very expensive here and Guatemalan stores do not have the same variety of brands/choices that are available in other countries. Other possible gifts are items from your hometown such as a coffee cup, calendar, t-shirt, baseball hat, book, etc.)
Donations for our Children’s Scholarship Program “Educación para los Niños”: SISAI Spanish School provides educational scholarships for children in low-income families. We provide the children with their school uniforms as well as school supplies. We are always looking for donations for this project, such as
Pens and pencils
Children’s picture books and chapter books (in Spanish)
Art materials (scissors, drawing paper, crayons, etc.
How to withdraw cash in Guatemala?
There are banks in all major cities, for example the Banco de Guatemala and the Banco Industrial. We suggest you set up a separate “travel” account with your home bank before you leave. Deposit your travel money in this account and use the ATMs to withdraw Quetzals. Or you can withdraw money with your credit card. if you decide to bring US cash be aware the bank only accepts $100 bills that are in good condition (no rips) otherwise the bank will not take them. Do not bring anything smaller than a $100 bill. The bank will exchange them for Quetzals, however the Guatemala government only allows a tourist to exchange $500 USD/EUROS per person per month.
What’s your health advice?
As tempting as it is, do not eat the street food.
Do not eat any uncooked food – salad, tomatoes, fresh white cheese
Order drinks without ice (water from the tap is not drinkable)
Have some sort of anti-diarrhea medicine (please consult the travel doctor)
Adapt to the altitude before making exhausting trips. For example hiking the volcanoes
Do I need vaccinations?
Vaccinations are necessary. We recommend Hepatitis A and B and Typhoid. Please ask your healthcare professional in advance. Medication against malaria is not necessary in Quetzaltenango, but recommended for trips to the jungle within Guatemala, or to Mexico, or any other Central American country.
How about the security situation?
Make two photocopies of your documents. Leave one at home and take one with you while traveling. Have the number available to cancel your credit card.
Always take a taxi at night.
Beware of pickpockets.
Do not take tours like volcano trips on your own. Hire a guide.
Do I need a visa?
As a citizen of the EU, the US, Canada or Australia you’ll receive a visa upon arrival, normally for 90 days. It can be extended one time, afterwards you’ll have to leave Guatemala (Central-America) for at least three days.
Where do I find the embassy of my home country in Guatemala?
Check Embassy World for the addresses of various embassies in Guatemala.
Is it true, that a fee is charge when leaving the country?
A fee of 30Q is charged if you leave Guatemala City’s Airport with an International flight.
How to travel around Guatemala.
Normally you’ll travel by bus between the bigger cities. Bus service is available through Linea Dorada or Alamo. One of the staff members at SISA will help you with transportation wherever you need to go. Additionally a lot of mini-buses offer their services, more expensive, but faster and more direct.
How to travel around Xela
Getting around Xela is very easy. In Zona 1, where the school is, it is very walkable. To go from one Zona to another Zona you can take a taxi or you can take a “collectivo”. A collectivo is a mini-van that operates like a bus. There are pick-up/drop-off locations all over Xela. The collectivo will take you in the direction of a designated location, such as Walmart. It makes frequent stops along the way. Collectivos are very safe and great way to get around the city of Xela very inexpensively.
Should I buy a cell phone in Guatemala?
If you plan on being in Guatemala longer than two weeks, we suggest you buy a mobile phone or purchase a chip for your current cell phone. The local Guatemala cell phone carriers are Tigo or Claro. No need to purchase a monthly plan as Tigo and Claro offer pre-paid (or pay as you go) cell service. The staff at the school will gladly help you with this. Or check with your current cell phone carrier for Guatemala cell phone plans.