Guatemala is considered by many to be the highlight of Central America and comparable (in cost) to South East Asia.
I don’t know who starts such rumours … I can only guess that it comes from a small few with vested interests … and ‘internet plagiarism’ does the rest. This is not what I have found.
If you stick to the ‘beaten path’ you will be unpleasantly surprised about the day-to-day living costs. Whereas in South East Asia you can get a good Breakfast for US$1, you will be paying US$3-4 in Guatemala. Likewise, Lunch and Dinner will cost you about 3x more in Guatemala.
A beer in many S.E.Asia countries will cost you US$0.50-1. You can at least DOUBLE that in Guatemala.
Accommodation follows suit. A decent fan Double Room in S.E.Asia with a Private Bathroom will cost you as little at US$10-15. In Guatemala, you can DOUBLE that price.
Simply put … the COST OF LIVING in Guatemala is DOUBLE what you would pay in a country like Vietnam … and Vietnam is safer.
RULES OF THUMB:
When you arrive in a strange country it is helpful to have some ‘rules of thumb‘ to ensure that you don’t get over-charged.
Transport costs should be as follows:
Luxury / Aircon Bus: GTQ35 / hour.
Local Bus (around town): GTQ5 / trip (up to 10km).
Tuk Tuks: GTQ5 for the first 1km (for the Tuk Tuk … not per person) plus GTQ2.50 / km thereafter. E.g. to go 10kms, offer GTQ27.50 (or no more than GTQ30)
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO PAY:
Outside of the main ‘Tourist Traps’, expect to pay GTQ100 / night for a GRANDPAcking Double with fan and hot water ensuite. Add GTQ50 / night if you want aircon. Breakfast is usually NOT included. A decent Buffet Breakfast (if included) is worth GTQ20 / person.
HOW TO GET A BETTER PRICE:
If you get on the internet and search hard across multiple hotel search sites you should be able to find a deal that discounts these rates down to GTQ85 and GTQ125 respectively.
CABLE TV or GOOD WIFI:
Many hotels offer Cable TV with up to 100 Channels. Unless you speak good Spanish, this is of little use / value … all of the channels are in Spanish or ‘dubbed’. You may be lucky and find 1 English speaking channel … this is, usually, the HBO Movie Channel.
You are better off getting a cheaper room WITHOUT Cable TV but with GOOD WIFI. With the latter, you can stream programs and movies off the internet.
You can always find ‘cheap eats’ on the streets:
- Tacos: 3 for GTQ12-15
- Tortas: GTQ15-17
- A typical meal from the ‘lower quartile’ of the menu: GTQ20
- An ‘average’ meal: GTQ30.
- A typical meal from the ‘lower quartile’ of the menu: GTQ30
- An ‘average’ meal GTQ50-60.
TIPS, TRICKS, AND TRAPS:
There is very little difference between search sites with sites like BOOKING.COM and AGODA.COM often listing the same hotels at the same prices. But, in my experience, BOOKING.COM usually has more listings.
Other sites like HOTELS.COM and EXPEDIA.COM etc tend to only list mid-range hotels which are out of GRANDPAcker price range.
AIRBnB.COM also has quite a few properties listed but they are almost always over-priced with many places wanting DOUBLE what you can pay in a hotel … but, in AIRBnB you just get a Private Room in someone’s house.
Forget them. The only TTs that the Guatemalan banks will exchange are American Express … and, even then, you will have to go to quite a few banks before you find one that takes TTs.
If you have any other sort of TT on you … they are just dead luggage.
Never accept transport from touts inside an Airline or Ferry Terminal.
Always walk out of the Terminal to get better prices.
Often, you will find a Bus Terminal or Minivan Terminal within walking distance of a Ferry Terminal.
Always negotiate and agree a price BEFORE getting into the Taxi.
Always try and go to a Taxi Stand to catch a taxi. Try not to ‘flag down’ taxis on the street unless you have to (it is ‘flagged down’ taxis that contribute most to the ‘bad stories’ that you find on the internet).
TIGO is known to have the widest coverage. But, CLARO are not far behind.
If you plan to travel and / or go to more remote locations, you will need either TIGO or CLARO.
A new SIMcard will cost you about GTQ50. A monthly Social (‘Mes Social’) package that includes a reasonable amount of ‘local’ calls and texts along with 1.5GB of data will cost GTQ100.
The service providers are constantly running ‘TRIPLE’ promotions … usually at least once per week. If you top up your balance on these TRIPLE days, you will get triple talk and text credits (but NOT triple data) for the period that you purchased. For instance, if you re-buy the month ‘Mes Social’ package on a TRIPLE day you will get GTQ300 worth of call credits that expire after 1 month.
Also, you can DOUBLE or TRIPLE your balance when they have an Online Credit Card promotion; i.e. if you top up at their website using your Credit Card. However, their system is focused on USA-style addresses and ZIP codes … so their system will not always accept Credit Cards from other countries (because you cannot enter your Billing Address details in a way that can be verified by your card issuer).
GRANDPACKING RETIREMENT LOCATIONS:
The cost of accommodation in places like Antigua means that GRANDPAckers cannot afford to live there.
Places like Guatemala City are best avoided. Places like Livingston and Flores are now just Tourist Traps.
Other well known places like Monterrico are too rustic for GRANDPAckers … and are, still, focused on the Backpacker market.
I suggest that you look at:
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