Guatemala is a beautiful country with opportunities to suit many different types of visitors. There are an array of climates, cultural activities, tourist sights, community outreach and volunteer projects, and adventures to be had, and all can be attained on your budget. Guatemala can feel as foreign or as comforting as you desire, and we at Due South Travels are so excited to answer all of your questions and help you realize your dream to visit this beautiful place and perhaps even make it your new home!
Guatemala is known as the “Land of the Eternal Spring” mainly due to the enviable year-round temperatures ranging between 60-80°F. While there is a definite rainy season from May through November (coinciding with the Atlantic hurricane season), the rain generally spans the late afternoon through evening hours.
Guatemala’s latitude falls slightly south of Jamaica, and although much of Guatemala can be characterized as tropical or sub-tropical, the altitude has more of an effect on temperature than any “seasonal” variation might. In the highlands, it can get a bit chilly some nights (55°F), and although rare, snowfall on the country’s tallest mountain peaks to the southwest is possible.
The coastal areas and tropical northeast can see high temperatures reach 100°F , and high humidity. However, most homes throughout the rest of the country go without heating and air conditioning, which keeps cost of living low by saving on utilities.
Getting to Guatemala
Flights to Guatemala’s La Aurora International Airport will arrive a few miles south of Guatemala City’s center, within an hour’s drive of the tourist hub of Antigua. There is one domestic route flying to Petén, in the northeast. All other public domestic travel is done by bus. Shuttles and taxis eagerly await international arrivals with direct transport to Antigua, and onwards to Lake Atitlán.
Direct flights from the United States leave from New York, Atlanta, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. The longest routes are from NYC and LAX, with a flight time of 5 hours. Other direct international flights arrive mostly from other Central American countries, although there are direct flights from Madrid during certain times of the year.
Lastly, Guatemala follows Central Standard Time year round (-6 hrs) and does not observe daylight saving time changes. Therefore, during the months of March through November, when the United States observes Daylight Savings Time, Guatemala is two hours behind the Eastern Time Zone, and one hour behind the rest of the year.
Guatemala is becoming known as a "medical tourism" destination, due to its cheap and reliable medical care. Many doctors receive an education in the United States (or elsewhere abroad) and speak English, and prices for basic services are a small percentage of what you'd find in America, where average annual healthcare expenses can top $10,000.
Medications that are commonly prescription-only in other countries are administered over the counter from a pharmacist after a brief chat about symptoms. There are very few limitations to this rule, and although some medications may cost more than a normal co-payment at home, because your normal monthly medical expenses are lower (without carrying foreign insurance here), you are inevitably saving money.
Dental care is reliable, affordable, and easy here. Prices can be as low as 20% of the cost of the same services at home. Many dentists are also trained and educated abroad, and the expat community can be a great resource for finding medical providers in any field who speak fluent English and provide safe and economical services.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Guatemala is whatever you want it to be! You can opt for an economical rental, or have a huge home built with western-standard construction and high-end finishes. However, if you're exploring a life in Guatemala it is likely that you may be looking to live more cheaply than you currently do at home. In the center of colonial Antigua, you can find a Guatemalan-style two bedroom, furnished apartment, including utilities, for around 585 USD per month. If you desire something in a gated community outside of town with a little more sparkle, you may pay around 800 USD for the same size place. Keep in mind, you generally do not need a car if living in Antigua or any of the villages at the lake, as in-town transportation and long-distance transportation are both easy, cheap, and well developed. If you choose to live in the city, you also have public transportation and a range of apartment and housing styles to pick from. Many Guatemalans opt for motor scooters or public transport.
Shopping for basic groceries is easy, and much cheaper than at home. A trip to the local market can be an adventure, but you can find anything you'd need there. A week's worth of staples will set you back around 30 USD. There are larger box grocery stores in the bigger towns, and even a number of Walmart stores within the city. You can find any common item that you'd need, and there are a few specialty stores and expat grocery stores that cater to the needs of the international community.