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Moving to Panajachel, Guatemala

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William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance
William Russell Health Insurance

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Feb 03, 2023

Summary: Expats move to Panajachel, Guatemala for its stunning natural beauty, its vibrant culture, and its friendly people. The town is situated on the shores of Lake Atitlan, surrounded by three volcanoes, and offers a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, and swimming. Panajachel is also known for its colorful markets, traditional Mayan villages, and its unique cuisine. Additionally, the cost of living is relatively low, making it an attractive destination for those looking to live a more affordable lifestyle.

What do I need to know before moving to Panajachel?

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

"Before moving to Panajachel, it is important to know that the city is located in the southwestern highlands of Guatemala. It is considered to be a popular tourist destination and a center for Mayan and Spanish culture. Panajachel sits on the shore of Lake Atitlan and is a small, yet bustling city. The cost of living is low and it is very easy to get around by foot or by the local tuk-tuks (motorized tricycles). However, Internet and cell phone service is limited in the town so it is important to plan accordingly. Additionally, due to its proximity to the lake, it can be quite humid and it is necessary to prepare for mosquitos in the warmer months. There is a diversity of people from all around the world that live in the city, which makes it a great place to be immersed in different cultures. All in all, Panajachel is an extremely welcoming and friendly community and it is sure to provide an amazing beautiful life experience," said another expat in Panajachel.

"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," remarked another expat who made the move to Panajachel.

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How do I find a place to live in Panajachel?

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

"There are several accommodation options available in Panajachel. You can stay in a hotel to experience the bustling atmosphere of town, for a more secluded retreat rent a vacation home with a stunning view of Lake Atitlán, or for an even more authentic experience there are homestays available with local Guatemalan families," remarked another expat who made the move to Panajachel.

"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," explained one expat living in Panajachel, Guatemala.

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

"A typical expat home or apartment in Panajachel will typically be surrounded by lush jungle and feature amazing views of either Lake Atitlan or the town itself. The homes are mostly constructed with sturdy, concrete block walls and feature colonial-style windows that open up to the outdoors. Inside, modest furnishings and decor provide a livable, comfortable environment. In newer-built homes, electricity and lighting is usually installed, and modern conveniences such as a dishwasher, dryer, and stove are also available. Finally, due to Panajachel's expansive yet very tourist-friendly market, a range of fresh produce and other items are easily accessible," remarked another expat in Panajachel, 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," said another expat in Panajachel.

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What is the average cost of housing in Panajachel?

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

"The average cost of housing in Panajachel can vary depending on location and amenities. Prices range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per month," commented one expat who made the move to Panajachel.

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

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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

Should I buy or rent a home in Panajachel?

If you have not spent a lot of time in Panajachel, you should rent before even thinking about buying. We asked expats there about the buy vs. rent decision:

"If you are intending to stay in Panajachel for an extended period of time, it may be more cost-effective to buy a home rather than renting. Buying a home will give you more control over the living environment, such as providing the choice of decorating and remodelling. Owning a home also allows you to benefit from potential increases in value over time and build equity that can be used as a financial resource in the future. In contrast, renting allows you to move more easily and avoid the responsibility of dealing with maintenance and upkeep of the property. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide whether buying or renting is the best option for you, based on your situation and financial circumstances," added another expat who made the move to Panajachel.

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What should I pack when moving to Panajachel?

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

"Clothing suitable for a tropical climate, waterproof shoes, insect repellent, sun protection items including hat, sunscreen and sunglasses, passport, Any medications or medical items, adapters for electronics, maps, guidebooks, local currency, basic medical supplies, cash and credit cards, flashlight, flashlight batteries, laptop and phone chargers, toiletries, first aid kit, batteries for camera and/or other electronics," explained one expat living in Panajachel, Guatemala.

"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," said another expat in Panajachel.

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

We asked people in Panajachel 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!:

"In Panajachel, it is important to be aware of your dress and behavior. Avoid wearing revealing clothing in public places, as this is considered disrespectful. Also, it is important to take your shoes off before entering someone's home. Avoid discussing sensitive topics such as politics, religion, or ethnicity as people have very different beliefs in the area. Make sure to ask permission before taking photographs of people or properties. Lastly, be mindful of the pace of Panajachel which tends to be more relaxed than in other cities, and avoid being loud and aggressive," remarked another expat who made the move to 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.

William Russell Health InsuranceExpat Health Insurance

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