First things first, Guatemala is on average around 40% cheaper than the United States. The cost of living is one of Guatemala’s siren calls that lures quite a few travelers each year. Land of the Maya, home of the Volcanoes, and the beautiful Tikal, all a splendor to behold. However, today we aren’t going to talk about the sights so much as your wallet. Budget killer or budget safe-haven? Let’s take a look, and break it down.
Virginia to Antigua: Guatemala on a Budget
One of the many laundry services available in Antigua, usually amounting to just $.60 a pound.
|The What||Antigua||Guatemala City|
|Total per Day||Q100($13.33)||Q142($18.93)|
|Total per Month||Q2999.25($399.9)||Q4,260($568)|
To make things simple, here are a few things I will try to cover:
Flight Costs from the US
Flight Costs: Tennessee – Guatemala City
Way back when, more than three months ago now, I settled on google flights to buy my first ticket to Central America. As usual, I browse in advance of the time I’ll be going, and typically find a larger airport to fly out of. For example, when I went to Europe last year, I flew out of JFK to Paris, purely because of the economics.
However, this time was different. I was visiting family in Tennessee, so I opted for the more convenient Tri Cities Regional Airport. Still all told, my flight only amounted to $248 dollars. If I had booked in advance, I could’ve even whittled it down to around $160.
Couple of things to keep in mind:
If you’re flying from the United States, you need to have a return ticket booked. I had no idea about this, so for $127, I booked it right at the airport so I could enter the country. It was scheduled for one month later. As soon as I landed and found my way to the nearest Wifi, I promptly requested a refund. And it was promptly refunded.
If you’re coming from the United States, your visa only lasts 90 days. After that you can go for a one time renewal at the Guatemalan Immigration Office. Another option is doing a border run, which basically just means hopping over to Mexico for a day or two and then crossing back. Pretty simple all around. If you overstay your visa, chillax man, because it’s only Q10 ($1.30) for each day over. You can also pay the fine at the airport on your way out!
My first home-stay experience in Central America.
Location, location, location. Yep, all depends on where you’re at. When you first arrive in Antigua, you’ll notice the abundance of signs saying hostel or hotel. The various options make for an interesting shopping experience for sure.
The first hostel I stayed at was called Jungle Party Hostel, sounds great right? Well, considering I was about to take a month long TEFL course, it was not ideal. Drunk backpackers, loud music, free flowing taps, is awesome and all, just not when I’m trying to study.
On average, hostels ranged anywhere from Q45-75($6-10) a night. The cheapest room I found to rent from a family was Q40($5.33) a night. Very cheap to stay, usually including Wifi, dorm rooms, showers, etc. Of course it’s all shared, but one place (The Yellow House), even serves a free breakfast in the morning for only Q55 a night!
This lovely traditional breakfast only costs Q24($3.20) at Fernando’s Kaffe. It’s even cheaper Without the tomatoes and onions at only Q18($2.40). Delicious!
Food! Something we can’t go without! Typical meals in Antigua are relatively cheap. They usually just range anywhere from Q15-Q55($2-$7.33). For example, a street vendor is going to cost way less than a Subway meal. Most of the time I spent around Q20-Q25 on lunch. The meals are excellent, fulfilling and tasty. And for the most part the prices are unbeatable.
Guatemala City – IMG Credit: Johrling on Flickr.
My current abode.
I arrived in Guatemala city in October. I really needed somewhere to sleep and a nice bed in a hotel seemed like the best option. The first place I stayed at was called the Cenntenial Hotel. A cool $20 and I get a nice bed and cable TV. Unfortunately, Wifi has no place here, but it did come with a free breakfast at Patty’s diner next door. Hotels are expensive in Guate.
The next place I stayed at was a tad cheaper at $15 a night. Unfortunately it did not include breakfast but it did have excellent Wifi and a kitchen! The location wasn’t good for my job so had to move on but I would recommend it, click here if you want to check it out.
The place I’m staying at, at the time of this writing can be checked out here. The first time I payed rent it was just $175 a month. For that I got a single room with a nice bed and free Wifi. They said the kitchen was included but the people are usually gone and they lock the doors to the main house.
After the first month, they raised the rate per month to over $500. Accident or not, I obviously complained and got it for a little bit lower at $236 a month. All in all, nice place but really not worth the money.
Appetizing… I know.
Well, food is a bit hard to compare here. Mostly I’ve eaten fast food, like McDonald’s and Subway while in the city. Only a couple times have I eaten a more ‘traditional’ meal. It really depends on your location. I definitely still see food vendors but they seem to be more of a scarcity, at least in the part of the city I am in. Zone 11 is a little bit more upscale than let’s say Zone 1.
- Traditional lunch at a nearby store: Q24($3.20)
- Big Mac Combo: Q51($6.80)
- Subway Foot Long: Q62($8.20)
- Asian chicken with mixed vegetables: Q49($6.53)
One of the many parks in Antigua.
In conclusion, it’s very easy to live here on less than $20 dollars a day. As with everything, it just depends on how and where you want to live. I personally like Antigua a lot more than the city. Hopefully I’ll be heading back there soon.