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5 Important Tips about Healthcare for Expats in Guatemala

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Summary: Expats in Guatemala have a variety of healthcare options available to them. Understanding what is available is a critical part of preparing to move there. Advice about proximity of care and prescription medications in Guatemala is also provided by expats living there.

Expats in Guatemala - 5 Important Tips about Healthcare for Expats in Guatemala

Expats in Guatemala have options for health care while living there. However, it's important to develop an understanding of what is available in Guatemala, where it's available... and where it isn't.

Universal Health Care in Guatemala

Like many other countries throughout the world, Guatemala's constitution guarantees universal health coverage but is, as of yet, unable to deliver on that promise. The Guatemalan Civil War, which took place from 1960-1996, greatly impacted the development of a health care system capable of providing adequate health care to a large percentage of its citizens.

It still suffers from a significant lack of funding, which continues to impede the ability to expand the public system. Most expats utilize the private sector for this reason.

Right now Guatemala has less than one doctore per 1,000 patients. For comparison, the U.S. has 2.55 doctors per 1,000 patients, while the U.K. has 2.81 and Canada 2.48.

Health System Structure

There are 3 parts to the Guatemalan Health Care system. They are the public sector, non-profit private sector, and for-profit private sector. Both the public and private sectors operate hospital, clinics and offices. The vast majority of Guatemalans use the public option.

Know that the further away from the main cities, such as Guatemala City, the lower the standard of care becomes. Some expats that have developed serious chronic conditions have stated they felt they needed to move back to their home country in order to receive the care they needed. Know your individual situation before you go and respond quickly when this changes once you are there.

Best Hospitals in Guatemala

Centro Hospitalario la Paz (Private)

10a. Calle 2-31, Zona 14
Phone: 2217 0300. Information dial: 1747

Multimedica Vista Hermosa (Private Hospital)

2 calle 25-19 zona 15. Vista Hermosa 1 (2,046.07 mi)
Guatemala City, Guatemala 01015
Phone: 2385-7555/56

Hospital Universitario Esperanza (Private Foundation)

6a. Avenida 7-49, Zona 10
Phone: 2415-9000

Private foundation, affiliated with Francisco Marroquin
University School of Medicine

Hospital Herrera Llerandi (Private Hospital)

6a. Avenida 8-71, Zona 10
Phone: 2384-5959 Emergency: 2334-5955

Sanatorio El Pilar (Private Hospital)

3a. Calle 10-71, Zona 15
Colonia Tec?n Um?n
Phone: 2279-5000 Emergency: 2279-5097 / 98 Ext. 1907 – 1908 and 1911
Private, run by Asociacion Espa?ola de Beneficiencia by nuns of the Anunciata.

More Hospitals in Guatemala

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance in Guatemala

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

Health Care Quality in Guatemala

Expats in Guatemala typically use private international health insurance in Guatemala.

An expat in Guatemala City advised other expats to "Make sure to look for the best doctors, get private Guatemalan insurance to take you [at] the best hospitals... forget about public hospital[s] unless it is for [an] emergency.

Another expat who had emergency surgery in Guatemala shared:

I had an appendicitis last year and was referred to MultiMedica off Vista Hermosa 1 in zone 15 in Guatemala City. It was wonderful!!!! I was referred to an internal specialist who then took me to the small emergency room in the same building (I didn't even know they had one there!). They did a laproscopic surgery within 4 hours of me arriving. I recovered perfectly, had great English-speaking doctors, and best yet, my two scars are the size of hair follicles!! My surgeon (whose office is in the same building) later told me that he is responsible for training many Latin American doctors on laproscopic surgeries. My family and I were shocked that I was able to receive such great care here. I do have international insurance (RPN) so my copay was 20%. I only paid $450 for the surgery and two nights in the hospital AND my prescriptions. I was very impressed!

"My wife and I have lived in Guatemala for 7 years. For most things Healthcare is excellent in Guatemala, costs a lot less than the US and in general, I prefer being treated in Guatemala versus the USA. The key thing is if the treatment or procedure is something the doctor has done 100's or 1000's of times then I prefer getting treated in Guatemala. Most things that come up even major operations are just as good to be done in Guatemala and are available. If you have a unique set of circumstances / complications or require a new procedure than I recommend going to the States for that. Other than for basic stuff like a cold or flu you will need to go Guatemala City," wrote another expat.

Expat Health Insurance in Guatemala

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Expat Health Insurance in Guatemala

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Prescriptions in Guatemala

An expat reporting about health care in Guatemala about prescriptions in Guatemala that:

"So far, we haven't need a Rx prescription for anything. Everything has been just 'walk in and ask' with no doctor's note required. I'm talking about everything from blood pressure medicines to some reasonably heavy duty pain killers. I'm sure there are some classes of medications that require a doctor's prescription, but we haven't run into any yet.

"On a related note, we have also seen very wide variations in how much lower the local prices are than in the USA. Some meds, like generic thyroid medicines, are downright cheap. Others are almost the same as the USA. So it really depends on what you are taking. I will say though that we haven't seen anything cost MORE than the USA. The grand ol' United States of America does hold the dubious honor of most expensive health care and prescription drugs in the world."

Another expat wrote:

"In Guatemala, all farmacias sell medicines. Some very small ones might have only basic medicines like pain medicines and simple antibiotics. Not surprisingly, the bigger the pharmacy, the more variety you will find but also you can expect bigger prices and less generics. (e. g. Carolina & H, Galeno) The 'community' pharmacies (e.g. Similares, Comunidad) generally have everything 95% of people might need, such as diabetes, hypertension, antibiotics, moderate pain, and digestive meds for very cheap prices. For rarer conditions, you may have to hunt around or go to a specialty pharmacy. If you have a particular need, you might want to first find a doctor that treats it and ask them about sources for inexpensive medicine for your case."

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.


William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

Get a quote for international health insurance from our partner, William Russell.
GET A QUOTE

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