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Expat Exchange - Pros and Cons of Living in Guatemala
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Guatemala City, Guatemala


Pros and Cons of Living in Guatemala

By Betsy Burlingame

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Summary: If you're moving to Guatemala, it's important to learn about both the Pros AND Cons of living in Guatemala.

Are you considering a move to the land of eternal spring? Guatemala, with its rich Mayan heritage, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, is a destination that's increasingly attracting expats from around the world. But like any country, living in Guatemala comes with its own unique set of advantages and challenges. In this article, we'll delve into the pros and cons of making Guatemala your new home.

Pros of Living in Guatemala

One of the most compelling reasons to move to Guatemala is its breathtaking natural beauty. From the volcanic landscapes of Antigua to the serene Lake Atitlan, the country offers a diverse array of stunning vistas. The climate is also a major draw, with its nickname 'the land of eternal spring' reflecting the mild, pleasant weather that prevails for much of the year.

Guatemala is also a haven for history and culture enthusiasts. The country is home to numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ancient Mayan city of Tikal. The vibrant local markets, such as the famous Chichicastenango Market, offer a glimpse into the country's rich cultural tapestry and are a treasure trove for those interested in traditional crafts and textiles.

Another significant advantage of living in Guatemala is the low cost of living. From housing to food to healthcare, many expats find that their money goes much further here than in their home countries. For example, a meal at a local restaurant can cost as little as $3, while a one-bedroom apartment in the city center might set you back around $300 per month.

Guatemalans are known for their warmth and hospitality, and many expats speak of the strong sense of community they've found here. Whether it's the friendly vendor at the local market or your new neighbors inviting you over for a meal, you're likely to feel welcomed and included.

Finally, for those seeking adventure, Guatemala has plenty to offer. Whether it's hiking up a volcano, exploring ancient ruins, or diving in the vibrant coral reefs off the Caribbean coast, there's no shortage of activities to keep you entertained.

Cons of Living in Guatemala

While there are many advantages to living in Guatemala, it's important to also consider the challenges. One of the most significant issues is safety. Guatemala has a high crime rate, particularly in urban areas, and violent crime, including armed robbery and carjacking, is not uncommon. It's essential to take precautions, such as avoiding certain areas at night and not displaying signs of wealth.

Another challenge is the language barrier. While English is spoken in tourist areas and by some educated Guatemalans, Spanish is the dominant language. If you don't speak Spanish, you may find it difficult to communicate in many situations, from dealing with bureaucracy to simply shopping for groceries.

The quality of healthcare can also be a concern. While there are good hospitals and doctors in the larger cities, the standard of care can be much lower in rural areas. Additionally, many medications that are readily available in other countries may not be available in Guatemala.

Infrastructure is another area where Guatemala falls short. Roads can be in poor condition, particularly in rural areas, and power outages are not uncommon. Internet service can also be unreliable, which can be a significant issue for those working remotely.

Finally, while the cost of living is generally low, wages in Guatemala are also low. If you're planning to work in the country, you may find that salaries are significantly lower than what you're used to. This can be a particular challenge for those who are not able to supplement their income with savings or income from abroad.

Despite these challenges, many expats find that the benefits of living in Guatemala outweigh the downsides. The country's natural beauty, rich culture, and friendly people make it a rewarding place to live. However, it's important to go in with your eyes open and be prepared for the challenges that come with making a new life in a foreign country.

Expats Talk about Pros & Cons of Living in Guatemala

"It's a beautiful country with great people and food. There is not good affordable education for children," commented one expat living in Guatemala.

"The weather is great year round. The city is very affordable, though more expensive then other places in the country. Being a tourist attraction the variety of restaurants is great and there are many other activities available for all," mentioned one expat living in Guatemala.

"Well for starters, I love the people of Panajachel. I fell like I am home there. Life is not expensive. There is lots to do or you can do nothing at all. Lake Atitlan is THE most beautiful lake in the World. All the villages that surround the lake are totally different and fun to visit.. There are 22 different indigenous languages. Travel around the area is very cheap. A car is not necessary. The chicken busses and Tuktuks get you where you need to go on land and the public boats get you across the lake to any village you like for very little cost.( Pana to San Pedro 25 Q - $4. ) It is called the eternal Spring because it never gets over 75F or under 15F. The rain season is tollerable as most the rain comes at the afternoons. You are 2-3 hrs from the airport by shuttle. (aprox $25) Competition for that service allows you to negotiate a better deal. I have used the same service for 6 yrs and they have been very reliable . On time pickup and drop off. Just a note: When going to the city to catch a flight I always go a day before to avoid any delays that can happen between Pana and the airport. I stay a a little hotel where I am again like family and they drop me off for my flight at no cost. When I first started to go to Panajachel I did get annoyed at a few things I saw. After a while I had to realize that It was not my Country and I had to accept the way certain situations are. I would recommend you come to Pana and see for yourself. It may not be everyone's cup of tea. For those of us who live there it is Paradise," said an expat in Guatemala.

"Lake Atitlan is arguably the most beautiful lake in the world. I love the fact there have been very few (if any) tourists over the past year. I have been able to cycle the roads (and off-road), hike the trails & the 2 volcanoes in my back yard 1 in front. Many Mayan artifacts can still be found such as obsidian blades and pottery. I have been able to explore the local area unimpeded by traffic and without being accosted by hawkers. The climate is perfect here in the mountains. Never too hot and never too cold. No heat or A/C required, just add or subtract clothing or a blanket at night. The rainy season is just as fascinating as the dry season. A fresh wind known as the "Norte" blows clouds away. You can only see a few billion stars at night since there is no extraneous or reflected light here. Culturally, there are a few days per year where the locals celebrate by lighting firecrackers and fireworks in the evening and in the early morning. This can be annoying but you learn to ignore it. Also street dogs are everywhere. Once in a while they will congregate and bark all night. Bring earplugs when you move to Latin America for those rare occasions," remarked one expat in Guatemala.

"Love, love, love living in Guatemala. The culture is rich, the people are wonderful, and the weather is almost perfect. It is a land of opportunities and its natural resources are wonderful to experience. It is also rich in history. I've always said, "Guatemala has a way of getting ahold of your heart and not letting go" and it gets proven every day when someone who once visited decides to move here," said one expat living in Guatemala.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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Guatemala City, Guatemala

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