Our Guatemala trip was not only tons of fun, it also ended up having a very reasonable price tag: our Guatemala travel budget reflects the lowest cost per day of anywhere we have been since starting to travel full-time!
Though we did do several things to keep prices low, we didn’t hold back on the experiences: swimming in Semuc Champey, hiking (and camping on) a volcano, riding horses to beautiful lookout points on Lake Atitlan, and studying Spanish with private tutors for a week were all part of our Guatemala experience!
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Guatemala Trip Length: 29 full days
Guatemala Trip Cost: $1900.18, $65.52/day, $32.76 person/day
All prices are in USD.
The best part about staying in Guatemala for 29 full days is that we can get a clear and easy look at “monthly” expenses. $745.39 in “rent”, including all utilities, wifi, and some toiletries isn’t bad!
Our most expensive lodging (and food, and mere existence) in Guatemala was in Flores, where we spent around $40/night for a mediocre room. Our most affordable was at Lake Atitlan, where we rented a stunning Airbnb for $20 night in the tiny village of San Pablo.
Where We Stayed in Guatemala
Flores: Hotel Villa Margarita — If we had to sum this hotel up in a word, it would be “bland”. It wasn’t good enough to rave about (and the shower mildly electrocuting me a couple of times definitely dampened any goodwill I felt for the place), but there was nothing terrible about it either. I would consider this a solid choice for a quick stay in Flores, but don’t expect to be wowed.
Lanquin: Vinas Hotel — Located less than a 10-minute walk from the center of town, the only issue we had here was with the lack of electricity for most of our stay–but there wasn’t anything the hotel could do about that. The room was clean, property well kept, and the restaurant had good food at low prices. We would not hesitate to stay here again if we returned to the area!
Here are two similar properties we would consider staying at these days (highly rated, with private rooms, wifi, and an excellent location):
Casa Gitana (9.3 rating on Booking.com) — Just 400 meters from Antigua’s central plaza, you can’t find a better location in Antigua. A shared kitchen is also available.
Un hotel en la Antigua (9.0 rating on Booking.com) — Perfect for someone who’s looking for a quiet place to stay not far from the action, Un hotel en la Antigua is located a 7-minute walk from the main plaza, while still being located in the heart of downtown Antigua.
Lake Atitlan: Stuart’s Airbnb — We loved this bungalow on Lake Atitlan! The views were incredible, there was plenty of hot water, there was decent enough wifi considering the location, and the host was wonderful. This was an incredibly comfortable place to work and relax. The downside was that it’s in San Pablo, a tiny village on Lake Atitlan with no tourism infrastructure whatsoever. To experience the best of what Lake Atitlan has to offer to tourists, you’ll need to visit some of the other villages by tuk tuk or lancha.
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Most of this cost on our Guatemala travel budget came from the use of shuttles: just under $15 per person took us from Flores to Lanquin and from Lanquin to Antigua in bearable comfort. Our shuttles from Antigua to Lake Atitlan and visa versa ran around $10 USD per person, each way.
The rest of our transportation expenses were made up of tuk-tuk rides, primarily in Lake Atitlan, where we commuted to San Marcos for Spanish classes for five days and visited the larger village of San Pedro a couple of times.
Restaurant Food: $362.95
There is an enormous problem with this number in our travel budget for Guatemala: not only is it extraordinarily high for where we were, it includes way too much American fast food. We’ll just chock that one up to personal failures and giving into temptation a few too many times.
Groceries in Guatemala were reasonable, particularly in the markets and at food stalls where we were able to get fruits, vegetables, and eggs for reasonable prices.
As in most places in the developing world, there was a premium on boxed goods and familiar Western brands, though we didn’t find the markup to be nearly as dramatic as what we saw in Belize.
Our total food cost on our travel budget for Guatemala, including both restaurants and groceries, came to $19.89/day, or $9.95/person/day.
Tours & Excursions: $377.60
About $220 worth of this number in our travel budget for Guatemala is accounted for by our week attending Spanish school in Guatemala (including the tips that we gave our teachers at the end of our classes).
The rest of it is a hodgepodge of costs, notably including our hike up Volcano Acatenango, Jeremy’s hike up Volcano Pacaya, and horseback riding at Lake Atitlan (at under $15/person for 3 hours of riding, including tip, this was a fantastic deal!).
There’s a fairly obvious attraction missing from our travel budget for Guatemala: Tikal National Park. We fully intended to visit (it’s why we went to Flores!), but by the time we got there, we had seen oodles of ruins in Mexico and were not remotely interested in paying around $30/person to drive two hours each way in a van and check out even more ruins–no matter how stunning they are supposed to be. Who knows, maybe we’ll come back to see them one day!
We also didn’t pay for a tour at Semuc Champey, opting to explore independently instead.
A little over half of the miscellaneous cost ($46.05, or $23.03/person) on our travel budget for Guatemala is from getting our teeth cleaned in Antigua–our first small foray into medical tourism!
The rest is made up of small odds and ends: laundry, hats and walking sticks for our hike up Acatenango, and replacing the HDMI cable we lost a while ago, for example.
What to Know About Managing a Travel Budget in Guatemala:
Guatemala uses the Guatemalan quetzal, available at any ATM (our preferred method for getting cash abroad. Foreign debit cards are easy to use with ATM machines.
Guatemala is a very cash-based country, so don’t expect to use your credit cards for much of anything while on your trip.
Like in most developing countries, you can book tours and activities online in advance–but you will pay a steep markup. If you’re traveling Guatemala on a budget (or simply don’t like overpaying for things), negotiate all tours and activities in person once you arrive.
The big reason for the low price tag? Slow movement. We spent a full 14 days of this time at an Airbnb in Lake Atitlan, where we not only snagged a discount for staying for two full weeks but also had access to a kitchen to lower our temptation to eat at restaurants. Because of this, we didn’t go to every place we were interested in while in Guatemala… but the tradeoff was absolutely worth it.
While I can virtually guarantee that our price tag in Honduras was higher than in Guatemala (hello, diving!), we would love to recapture numbers reminiscent of our travel budget for Guatemala again in several spots around the world!