Expat Exchange
Guatemala City, Guatemala

Moving to Guatemala

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Sep 23, 2022

Summary: Moving to Guatemala: Expats, retirees and digital nomads talk about everything you need to know before moving to Guatemala.

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What do I need to know before moving to Guatemala?

When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Guatemala, they said:

"I would advise someone moving to Panajachel, Guatemala to rent first, read the Facebook expats group, read expats' blogs, pack lightly, use a lawyer for any relation with locals and use a translator to understand what's going on when you sign a contract or deal with locals," added another expat who made the move to Panajachel.

"Find a home that is closer to town that way you will have electricity, water, etc... Make sure you are close to a bus route," explained one expat living in Salama, Guatemala.

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How do I find a place to live in Guatemala?

We asked expats how they chose their neighborhood and found a place to live. They answered:

"By accident.. renting a place and discovering the area. Arrived without knowing the area, first struck by the climate and then by the locals. I found my house by world of mouth," remarked another expat who made the move to Panajachel.

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What is a typical expat home or apartment like in Guatemala?

"A vacation rental, because I arrived for vacation but then moved to a locally built house not specifically for expats. I would say that's what happens with others expats," remarked another expat in Panajachel, Guatemala.

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What is the average cost of housing in Guatemala?

If you are thinking about moving to Guatemala, cost of living in probably a key consideration. Expats commented about the cost of housing:

"Hi. Regarding outdoor activities, a good application, if haven't already downloaded it, is Wikiloc. Members post info about treking hiking and biking trails in places all over the world, with practical information. Degree of risk, length, time to cover and features. Could be helpful for discovering what is good in Guate," explained one expat living in Guatemala.

"The housing costs in Guatemala are much lower. You can get a 2 bedrooms houses for around $500 per month," said another expat in Panajachel.

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What should I pack when moving to Guatemala?

We asked people living in Guatemala to list three things they wish they had brought and three they wish they had left behind. They responded:

"I wish I had brought a LED Flash light, portable water filtering device and portable solar phone charger when I moved to Guatemala. I wish I had left behind extra clothes, luggage and prejudices," commented one expat who made the move to Panajachel.

"Comfortable (Flat-Soled) shoes, boots and a fan. 3 Things I wish I'd left at Home:
High heels, perfume, lotions, powders, etc..," remarked another expat in Salama, Guatemala.

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What cultural faux pas should I try to avoid making in Guatemala?

We asked people in Guatemala if they could share any humorous cultural blunders they commited. For new expats, keep in mind that these incidents are an inevitable part of expat life. Learning to laugh about them is the key!:

"Blunders all humans commit wherever they are. No one else notices so get over it. I think the one blunder I personally notice a lot is how LOUD many Americans talk. Be aware of this and attempt to chat quietly. Whenever I saw 2 or more Americans I heard them first! Whatever you think you have to say.... remember to say it quietly," said another expat in Quetzaltenango.

"Sure, such as being at the cash register and telling the cashier when she was bagging the carton of eggs,"Ten cuidado con mis huevos" which translates to be careful with my balls. Foreigners tend to put the possessive on things, like my car and my eyes and my this and that which translates certain phrases differently in Spanish as noted in my example," added another expat who made the move to San Pedro La Laguna.

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Why do people move to Guatemala?

When we asked people why foreigners move to Guatemala, they responded:

"There are several reasons people relocate to the Lake Atitlan area:

  1. Low cost of living. Nearly everything is substantially less than what one would pay in the 1st World. That is the necessities: food, housing, transport. If you want 1st World conveniences you will pay a premium... internet, television, foods from home.
  2. The location. Situated at 5000 feet (1524 m) above sea level, this is not the hot tropical jungle one usually associates with living in Central America. We call it the land of eternal springtime. Bring a sweater. And bring a camera...this is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
  3. Lifestyle. You can be retired and as lazy or active as you want (lots of volunteer opportunities). If you have a New Age orientation, the lake area is a vortex for seekers and practitioners of every sort.
  4. ," mentioned another expat when asked about moving to Lake Atitlan.

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    How are healthcare services Guatemala?

    When we asked expats and global nomads about the quality of medical care in Guatemala, they replied:

    "Most expats in Lake Atitlan probably you will be using private medical services. Always make sure to have a clear view of the cost prior engaging in any intervention unless it is an emergency. If you have an insurance check what is taking care or not..," said another expat.

    "Make sure to look for the best doctors, get a private Guatemalan insurance to take you the best hospitals.. forget about public hospital unless it is for emergency," said one expat living in Guatemala City, Guatemala.

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    "45 minutes into Guatemala City provides you with world class healthcare at a fraction of the price," remarked another expat in Antigua.

    "For myself I bring enough of my meds from Canada to hold me over. Any other first aid or illness I have been able to get what is needed, either for me or my neighbours kids who may need meds or see a Doctor. As most Pharmacies are owned by Doctors ,it is convenient and easy to receive treatment," added one expat living in Panajachel.

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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.

Guatemala City, Guatemala

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