About Rio Dulce
Rio Dulce means "Sweet River". It begins in Lake Izabal, the largest lake in Guatemala, and ends at the Caribbean Sea. The river is 42km long and is 1,500 metres across at El Golfete, its widest span. There is no industry along the river and no roads (enjoy the purest air!) so all the transport is aquatic.
The climate is very humid, and much warmer than the rest of the country. The coldest and wettest months of the year are from November to February. The dry season stretches from March to May (summertime). Throughout the rest of the year it rains only at night, more or less. The temperature normally varies from 20°C (November–February) to max 35°C.
The tropical sun is very strong and the reflexion from the water makes it more intense. Even on a cloudy day it is important to use hats and a strong sun protection cream (min. factor 30).
During the winter season (November to February) you will need a good raincoat.
Internet and mobile phone
Catch up with your phone calls (i.e. international) and emailing before coming to the jungle. The mobile phone and internet signal is bad on the river due to the remote location and the tree coverage. The mobile network TIGO is the best provider here and CLARO works in some parts of the river.
We do not offer an internet service on site. The nearest place to check your mail is at Texan Bay Marina (Cayo Quemado) or in Livingston.
Getting a mobile phone is cheap — you can buy one for less than US$10. Tigo has the best network coverage Guatemala-wide. In order to credit your phone, you will need to buy a card available in local shops (value: Q10/Q25/Q50/Q100).
We live in a remote area and the service is limited. There is a healthcare clinic run by Ak' Tenamit across the river and it has 24-hour emergency service but it is very basic. The doctors, although very helpful, are usually young volunteers from the US and Europe.
For the regular assistance you may check with local "Centro de Salud" in Livingston. There are also a few private doctors in Livingston (Dr. Garcia). In case of emergency you will have to go to Puerto Barrios. There is a public hospital (not recommended) and a number of private clinics. Otherwise one of the best places to go is the clinic "El Pilar" in Guatemala City.
Banks and Money
Be prepared. If you have an opportunity, try to get money while in Rio Dulce or Puerto Barrios or exchange on the border. In Rio Dulce and Puerto Barrios taking money from an ATM machine is no problem provided you have a Visa Card (MasterCard is more problematic).
In Livingston there is only one bank called Banco Rural and one ATM machine. The bank has a poor schedule (09.00–16.00 Monday to Friday and 09.00–13.00 on Saturdays) and long queues and the ATM is often not working or runs out of cash (i.e. during the fiestas).
From the ATM machine you can withdraw Quetzals with your VISA credit card. If you have Master Card it is possible to get some advanced cash if you ask inside of the bank. The Pin Cards (Cirus, Maestro) hardly work in the ATM.
You can change US$ in Banco Rural or in Tienda Monica (opposite site to the Municipal building).
In the hotel you can pay in cash using either US$ or Quetzals. For the US$ our exchange rate (roughly 7.5) is not as favourable as the banks' exchange rate and fluctuates by day. We are unable to accept credit cards, cheques nor travellers' cheques as these are too difficult to cash.
In Livingston there are many shops and you can buy lots of things, but it is more expensive than buying in Rio Dulce town or Puerto Barrios. This is due to the aquatic transport and high prices of combustibles.
In Rio Dulce and in Puerto Barrios there is supermarket Despensa Familiar.
The market days for fruits and vegetables are on Tuesdays and Saturdays. However in Puerto Barrios and in Rio Dulce town you can buy fruits and vegetables every day on the street or on the market. If you look for the handmade souvenirs, you can find a fine selection in the shops in Livingston or on the river at the shop of Ak'tenamit.
Shopping for food on the river is complicated. There are few local shops next to us but they have rather little to offer (chips, sweets etc). You will need a kayak to get there.