Today’s guest post is from Darcie Connell, co-founder of Trekity.com. She’s been living in Antigua, Guatemala for the past three months and is giving us the lowdown on current prices. While Guatemala gets a bad rap for being dangerous (with a much higher homicide rate than more publicized Mexico), it’s quite safe for tourists if you’re aware of your surroundings and take precautions. Darcie’s never encountered any problems (knock on wood) and feels it’s a great time for adventurous and budget travelers to take advantage of the U.S. dollar’s purchasing power, which is currently equivalent to 7.75 Quetzal. Take it away Darcie!
First, a word on Guatemala.
In my opinion, Central America is the new Southeast Asia. Lively local markets sell everything from tropical fruits to handmade textiles. Beaches feature diving and snorkeling on the Caribbean side, surfing and fishing on the Pacific side.
Central America has most everything a traveler could want: and Guatemala is no exception. Great food, extremely friendly locals, and endless natural wonders – including 37 volcanoes, mountains, lakes and rivers.
All without the well-trampled tourist trails you find in many parts of Southeast Asia.
In short, Guatemala is under-rated. Perhaps it’s because 56.2% of its population lives below the poverty line (making it one of the poorest countries in Latin America). Or maybe it’s due to safety concerns. Or perhaps it’s because travelers haven’t heard much about it.
Whatever the case, those that travel to Guatemala are rewarded with a country rich in cultural history, natural beauty, and budget prices.
Antigua Prices for Travelers
The prices in this article are taken from Antigua, Guatemala (April 2012). Antigua is an affluent tourist town back-dropped by the massive Agua Volcano and sprinkled with Spanish colonial ruins on almost every street corner.
Budget backpackers and vacation value seekers flock to Antigua for several reasons:
- To get out of Guatemala City ($10 / Q78 shuttle van to Antigua).
- To book a tour to see the rest of Guatemala such as the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal ($31 / Q271), Atilan Lake ($10 / Q78), or natural swimming pools of Semuc Champey ($25 / Q194).
- To study Spanish. Antigua is regarded as the best place to study Spanish in all of Latin America. It’s common to see a 15 year old student studying in the cubical next to a 50 year old businessman. There are schools on every block and average prices are $85 / Q650 for 20 hours of one-on-one instruction.
- To eat. Antigua offers some of the best restaurants and cuisine in all of Central America. From hand-made Italian pizza ($8 / Q60) to grilled chicken plates ($3 / Q20), there’s something for everyone at every price. And why not wash it down with a high-quality imported Chilean or Argentinian wine ($4 / Q30)?
The prices in Antigua range dramatically for all types of travelers. Let’s take a closer look.
Antigua has a wide range of accommodations, from five-star hotels with crumbling ruins right outside your balcony to hostels with 3 sets of bunk-beds.
- Upscale Hotel (per night): $100-500 / Q775-3,875
- Average 3-star level hotel (per night): $40-50 / Q310-390
- Average basic hotel, private room with bath (per night): $20-40
- Hostel (per bed, per night): $9-12 / Q75-100
- Home Stay: (per week and includes meals) $50-75 / Q390-580
- 2BR Apartment: (per month) $645-1,290 / Q5,000-10,000
It’s advisable to book ahead of time during the high season, but rooms are generally available last minute if you’re willing to hunt for them.
Restaurant & Cafe Food
Lunch (almuerzo) is traditionally the biggest meal of the day. You can get a full plate of roasted (carne) meat or fish, vegetables, bread potato or tortiallas, and a non-alcoholic drink for $2.60-4.50 / Q20-35.
If you want variety, Antigua is loaded with international restaurants ranging from Italian, Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and French to full-on Argentinian steak houses.
You can spend as little or as much as you want.
- Lunch (Inexpensive) : $2.60-4.50 / Q20-35
- Breakfast (Inexpensive) : $2.60-4.50 / Q20-35
- Dinner (Inexpensive) : $3.90-$6.50 / Q30-Q 50
- Hamburger w/ Potatoes: $3.90 / Q30
- Pizza: $7.75 / Q60
- Chow Mein: $6.50 / Q50
- Coffee / Tea: $0.60 – 2.60 / Q5-20
- Beer: $1.95-3.25 / Q15-25
- Wine: $2.60-4.50 / Q20-35
- Cocktail: $1.95-4.50 / Q15-35
From roasted beef (rez), chicken (pollo), cerdo (pork) to delicious fried treats there’s a lot of variety in Antigua.
- Pupusas (traditionally from El Salvador): $0.65-1.30 / Q5-10
- Pollo Plate: $1.30-1.95 / Q10-15
- Taco Plate w/ Meat: $1.30-1.95 / Q10-15
- Empenadas: $0.65-1.30 / Q5-10
- Sandwich w/ Chile Rellano: $1.30-1.95 / Q10-15
- Fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, banano*): $ 0.65-0.90 / Q5-7
- Ceviche: $6.45-7.75 / Q50-60
- Soda/Water: $0.65- 1.05 / Q5-8
* You say bananas, they say bananos – which happens to be one of Guatemala’s main exports.
Supermarket & Market
Supermarkets in Guatemala are a convenient one-stop-shop selling most of what you’d need, including toiletries. However, prices are generally higher than if you were to wander through a traditional local market.
A word of warning: traditional markets can wear you out. Be prepared for a maze of vendors selling everything – from household appliances, clothes, shoes, textiles, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and chicken to the weird and unusual such as dried iguana. Remember the key phrase “Donde es la salida?” which means “Where is the exit?”
Local Markets Prices
- 1 Pound of Tomatoes: $0.40 / Q3
- 1 Pound of Onion: $0.40 / Q3
- 1 Pound of Mushrooms: $2.50 / Q20
- 1 Bag of Spinach: $0.65 / Q5
- 1 Bag of Snap Peas: $0.50 / Q4
- 1 Bundle of Asparagus: $0.40 / Q3
- 1 Head of Broccoli or Cauliflower: $0.50 / Q4
- 1 Banana: $0.15 / Q1
- 1 Whole Pineapple: $1.30 / Q10
- 1 Whole Papaya: $1.55 / Q12
- 10 Small Mangoes: $1.30 / Q10
- 1 Pound of Dried Beans: $0.40 / Q3
- 1/2 Pound of Pasta: $0.30 / Q2
- Small Bread Roll: $0.15 / Q1
- Loaf of Banana Bread: $2.50 / Q20
- Chocolate Muffin: $0.25 / Q2
Dentist Cleaning: $45 / Q350
- Ham (1 Pound): $5.20-5.80 / Q40-45
- Roast Beef (1 Pound): $6.50-7 / Q50-55
- Salami (1 Pound): $3.25-3.90 / Q25-30
- Pastrami (1 Pound): $3.25-3.90 / Q25-30
- Bacon (1 Pound): $4.50-5.15 / Q35-40
- Turkey (1 Pound): $4.50-5.15 / Q35-40
- Deli Cheese (1 Pound): $9.70-12.90 / Q75-100
- Eggs (Carton of 30): $1.90-2.60 / Q15-20
- Bag of Coffee: $3.90-6.45 / Q30-50
- Loaf of Bread: $1.30-2.60 / Q10-20
- Bottle of Wine: $3.90-12.90 / Q30-100
- Bottle of Whiskey (1 Liter): $9.00 / Q70
- Bottle of Stoli Vodka (1 Liter): $15.50 / Q120
- Bottle of Jose Cuervo (1 Liter): $12.90 / Q100
- Bottle of Bacardi (1 Liter): $5.80 / Q45
- Bottle of Soda: $0.65-0.75 / Q5-6
- Can of Soda: $0.40-0.65 / Q3-5
- Can of Beer: $0.65-1.30 / Q5-10
- Bottle of Beer: $1.30-2.60 / Q10-20
Toiletries can be purchased from pharmacies or supermarkets, though are less expensive at supermarkets.
- Shampoo/Conditioner: $4.50-5.15 /Q35-40
- Lotion: $2.60-3.90 / Q20- 30
- Deodorant: $2.60-3.90 / Q20-30
- Toothpaste: $1.30-2.60 / Q10-20
- Sun Screen: $4.50-5.15 / Q35-40
- Toilet Paper (4 Rolls): $0.65-1.30 / Q5-10
Bad (But Fun) Stuff
Gallo is the most popular and cheapest beer for a reason. The micro brews that are common in the U.S. are nonexistent in Guatemala. However, wine imported from Chile and Argentina is consistently good.
- Beer at a bar: $2-7.75 / Q16-60
- Wine at a bar: $2-7.75 / Q16-60
- Cocktails at a bar: $2-12.90 / Q16-100
- Pack of Cigarettes: $1.90-2.60 / Q15-20
Like a lot of places in the world, Guatemala’s cities can be dangerous at night… especially if you’ve been drinking. If you do go out at night, don’t bring a lot of money or anything of value. Also, walk in the center of the street instead of down dark sidewalks.
The health care system in Guatemala is based on Western medicine and is very affordable compared to the U.S. In fact, many U.S. medical students volunteer in Guatemala.
- Doctor Visit: $50-65 / Q400-500
- Dentist cleaning/checkup: $45 / Q350
- Chiropractor: $10-13 / Q75-100
- Gym Membership (1 Day): $4.50 / Q35
- Gym Membership (1 Week): $15 / Q110
- Gym Membership (1 Month): $30 / Q225
Public transportation (aka Chicken Buses) in Guatemala are very inexpensive, but can be dangerous. If you take public transportation, don’t put your bags on the top or back of the bus. Keep them in your lap no matter how uncomfortable.
- Public Bus to Guatemala City: $1.30-3.90 / Q10-30
- Taxi to Guatemala City: $32.25-38.70 / Q250-300
- Shuttle Bus to Airport (One-Way): $9-10
- Shuttle Bus to Panajachel (One-Way): $10-15 / Q78-117
- Shuttle Bus to Chichicastenango (One-Way): $10-15
- Shuttle Bus to Monterrico Beach (One-Way): $15-20
- Shuttle Bus to Coban, Guatemala (One-Way): $25-35
- Shuttle Bus to Flores Near Tikal (One-Way): $35-40
- Shuttle Bus to Copan, Honduras (One-Way): $20-25
- Shuttle Bus to Lanquin (One-Way): $20-25
- Shuttle Bus to Semuc Champey (One-Way): $25-30
- Shuttle Bus to San Marcos or San Pedro (One-Way): $10-15 / Q78-117
- Shuttle Bus to Rio Dulce (One-Way): $20-25
- Shuttle Bus to Belize City (One-Way): $65-70
- Flight to San Jose, Costa Rica (Round-Trip): $475
- Flight to Managua, Nicaragua (Round-Trip): $ 360
- Flight to Panama (Round-Trip): $475
- Flight to Miami (Round-Trip): $575
- Flight to Flores Near Tikal (Round-Trip): $240
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for on tours.
My husband and I (and one other couple) hired a personal guide for the Pacaya Volcano tour. He provided comfortable transportation, snacks along the way, gloves in case we fell on the sharp rocks, and marshmallows for roasting off hot volcanic rock. We also arrived very early to catch the sunrise and enjoy the volcano hike without hordes of people who arrived later on a large tourist bus.
- Pacaya Volcano Tour: $10-15 / Q77-117
- Antigua Village Tour: $40-45 / Q310-350
- Antigua Walking Tour: $15-20 / Q117-155
- Coffee Tour: $10-15 / Q77-117
- Canopy Tour: $60-65 / Q465-504
- Horseback Riding: $15-20 / Q117-155
- Bird Watching: $50-55 / Q388-427
- Bike Tour: $45-50 / Q349-388
- Guatemala City Tour: $75-80 / Q582-620
- Spanish School (San Jose El Viejo 40 Hours Per Week): $120 / Q930
- Spanish School (San Jose El Viejo 20 Hours Per Week): $85 / Q660
- Men Hair Cut: $3.25-4.50 / Q25-35
- Woman Hair Cut: $10-13 / Q75-100
- Manicure / Pedicure: $2 -4 / Q15-30
- Massage (Head, Neck, & Back): $2-4 / Q15-30
- Massage (Hot Stone): $2.50-5 / Q20-40
- Salsa Lessons: $3.90 / Q30
- Ice Cream in a Shop: $1.30-2.60 / Q10-20
- Handmade Textile: $20-130 / Q150-1,000
- Postcard: $0.30 / Q1
- Internet 60 Minutes: $1.30 / Q10
- Laundry / Pound: $0.65-1.30 /Q5-10
- Public Toilets: $0.60 / Q5
Darcie Connell is CEO of Trekity.com, a travel website that helps you find, plan and share your next adventure, and co-founder of TravelBloggerAcademy.com. Follow Darcie on Twitter here.
[First, third, and last photo by Tim Leffel, all others by Darcie Connell.]
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