So, you’ve decided to travel Guatemala? Get ready for a journey through this land of volcanoes populated by the colorful Maya. You’re all packed up and ready to go, but… have you stopped to consider the costs of traveling Guatemala?
As a growing Central American economy, Guatemala can be a cheap destination to travel. This is especially true if you’re traveling from a first-world economy.
There are, however, some things you need to know before you set off on that trip to this mystical land of the Quetzal.
Some general information about the costs of traveling Guatemala
Dollars are accepted by most brick and mortar businesses. However, the economy is very much still cash-based, which means that if you’re backpacking around and trying to live like a local, most of the expenses you’ll have to make such as bus transportation, food at the open-air markets, crafts made by the indigenous population, among others, will be made in Quetzales, the national currency. Also, be sure to plan a daily budget in advance so you have plenty of cash on hand, as ATM fees in Guatemala can be hefty.
Guatemala is a largely rural economy. This means that, in general, most agricultural products (especially avocados— hurray!) will be cheap. Guatemala, however, imports most everything else from abroad, which means that processed or canned foods will usually be more expensive. This is good if you tend to cook green while you travel. As a general rule of thumb, food in Guatemala is 30% more expensive than Mexico, with some exceptions when locally-sourced products are involved.
Services (anything you need someone to do for you, such as laundry or getting a haircut) will mostly be cheap. Tipping for good service is highly recommended, and would benefit the local economy since most of the Guatemalan population lives in poverty.
Some examples of common expenses
I compiled a list of expenses that I did or saw others do while traveling slow, local and, generally, on the cheap through Guatemala so that you might get an idea for how much you’ll be spending if you’re traveling on a budget.
Note: as of the time of this writing, 1 USD is roughly equal to 7.70 Q.
Bear in mind that these prices might differ depending on how expensive you’re willing to go:
- Single Bed in Hostel Dorm – 60-80 Q
- Haircut at a local barbershop – 10 Q
- A cup of medium black coffee at a café – 10-12 Q
- Bottle of beer at a dance club/bar – 20-22 Q
- Hemming a pair of pants at a local tailor – 10 Q
- Four handmade tortillas – 1 Q
- Laundry 6-8 Q per pound
- Breakfast at a cheaper restaurant 25-40 Q
- Breakfast at midrange restaurant 50-60 Q
- Eating street food anywhere between 5-25 Q
- Renting a small car for a day 300 Q
- Bottle of Quetzalteca at a shop 10 Q
- Meal at a midscale restaurant 40-70 Q
- A two-person meal in a midscale restaurant 200-230 Q
- Chicken bus between towns 3-5 Q for nearer villages (such as from Antigua to Chimaltenango). 20 to 30 Q for longer distances (such as Chimaltenango to Atitlan)
- Avocados 3 Q each in more expensive stores. Sometimes you’ll be able to get them for less in markets or stalls.
- Bottle of Coca Cola at a shop 3-5 Q
What daily budget should I aim for?
For a hostel dorm bed, two meals in a moderately priced locale, transportation by local bus around cities or to nearby villages, as well as some allowance for incidentals such as a cup of coffee and/or a couple of beers, consider a daily shoestring budget as low as 200 – 250 Quetzales (30 – 33 USD) per day.
Take note that going luxury or spending on tours, souvenirs, classes, attending events, and going partying can quickly increase your expenses. 400 Quetzales (52 USD) per day might be a good budget to aim for if you’re not traveling on a restricted budget.