Living in Guatemala
Last updated on Feb 10, 2022
Summary: Expats, digital nomads and retirees discuss what it is like to live in Guatemala: Cost of living, Finding a home, Meeting People and more.
What do I need to know about living in Guatemala?
When we asked people what advice they would give someone preparing to move to Guatemala, they said:
"Be prepared to travel by boat as it is only accessible by boat, Understand that it is not a city that offers a great social life but a great community of expats," mentioned another expat in Santa Cruz La Laguna.
"Be prepared to live a different life style. Life is affordable, help is affordable. Slower pace," commented one expat who made the move to Panajachel.
How do I meet people in Guatemala?
When we asked people living in Guatemala about club and activities where newcomers can meet others, they responded:
"There are group of people biking, playing pokers, theatre. Saturday mid day at the center of town big bbq where lots of expats goes. Lots of NGO offering volunteering plans," added another expat who made the move to Panajachel.
"The best thing a new-comer should do is take a 10-15 ride to Antigua there you can meet all the expats you want," explained one expat living in Cuidad Vieja, Guatemala.
What is life like in Guatemala?
When we asked people living in Guatemala what life is like and how people spend their time, they said:
"People are pretty much having a great time having a good life. Not too many expat with families," explained one expat living in Panajachel, Guatemala.
"Lives revolve around families and work. In the case of retired expats, we spend our time doing what we want," said another expat in Esquipulas.
Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Guatemala accepting of differences?
"Locals are very welcoming, lots of businesses are run by expats but locals are slowly picking up. Very tolerant," mentioned another expat in Panajachel.
"There are many Evangelical Church's as well as Catholic Church's. Accepting differences?? Depends how you look at it, for my taste it crosses the line a bit. For example every Saturday you can expect people knocking on my door doing some preaching and fund raising," commented one expat who made the move to Cuidad Vieja.
What are the schools in Guatemala like?
"Check out their web site. Ask to contact parents to share their experience, come and spend some times at the school http://www.lifeschoolweb.com," said another expat in Lake Atitlan with children at Robert Muller Life School.
Is the cost of living in Guatemala high?
We asked people about the cost of living in Guatemala, they wrote:
"As mentioned, it is low for the basics. If you can be happy on a Mayan diet, rice, beans, tortillas, a bit of chicken or pork, eggs, it will cost almost nothing (because the indigenous are a very poor people). If you have to have Campbell's soup or quality tuna fish, you will pay a premium over the prices back home. If you are not an electricity hog, your daily electric bill will be low. Water is not a typical bill as it depends on your source. Internet is pricey and if poor quality. Rents can be found for very cheap. Best to look at Facebook pages for the villages around the lake for a true sense. You can find rustic to luxury. The real estate agents will get good properties but at a high cost (but still lower than 1st World)," remarked another expat in Lake Atitlan.
What type of recreational facilities are in Guatemala?
When we asked people living in Guatemala about recreational activities, they mentioned:
"This is rustic living. There is incredible hiking around the lake and up the sides of volcanoes. Swimming in the beautiful lake. Walking to do your shopping. There are no golf courses or tennis clubs," added one expat living in Lake Atitlan.
What is the weather like in Guatemala?
"The land of eternal springtime. Two seasons: rainy and dry. Rainy starts in April and ends in October. The rains tend to come late afternoon/early evening. The rest of the year is all sunshine. Temps range from a low of 50F (10C) to a rare high of 80F (26C)," commented one expat who moved to Lake Atitlan.
Are there good restaurants in Guatemala?
"This varies by village. Panajachel and San Pedro La Laguna have the most commercial nightlife. Other villages (smaller) have known. I preferred those places where there was none. I don't like the noise. Plus intoxicated gringos attract a criminal element," said another expat.
Where will I buy groceries and do other shopping in Guatemala?
"Most of the staples are purchased in each villages fresh market. The Mayans are farmers and it is a joy to have access to fresh picked veggies and fruits. Panajachel has the widest selection from "stores". There is a Dispensa Familiar (Walmart owned) which is a decent all-things a basic grocery store would have. Chalo's and Sandra's both carry imported goods so you can always get that back home fix (bring money)," remarked another expat in Lake Atitlan.
What are the visa & residency requirements in Guatemala?
"You are allowed to stay in country 90 days before you have to exit country and renew. El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua don't count. So most folks go to Mexico. It is also possible to pay someone to take your passport to the border and get you stamped out and back in. There are people who have lived here for many years doing exactly this. Residency is complex (like almost every country) but if you can qualify as a permanent resident (pensionista) you can obtain citizenship and passport in five years," said another expat.
Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Guatemala?
"My health insurance take care of 2/3 of the bill but still the cost is very low in total and cheap," said another expat.
About the Author
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.
- What should I pack when moving to Guatemala?
- Where should I setup a bank account in Guatemala?
- Will I be able to find a job in Guatemala?
- What is life like as an expat in your area?
- What do expats in Guatemala appreciate most about the local culture?
- What do expats find most challenging?
- Is there a lot of crime in Guatemala?
- Is there a lot of diversity? Are people in Guatemala accepting of differences?
- What are the schools in Guatemala like?
- How are healthcare services Guatemala?
- What are medical services in Guatemala like?
- Are healthcare and health insurance expensive in Guatemala?
- What are emergency services like in Guatemala?
- Will I need to travel to see a specialist?
- Are common prescription medications available in Guatemala?
- How are local medical facilities in Guatemala?
- As a foreigner living in Guatemala, will I have access to public healthcare? What is it like?
- What have your experiences during the pandemic with the local healthcare system been like?