What $7.50 Gets You in a Guatemalan Supermarket

Guatamala travel prices

Often when I visit a country I take a stroll through a typical supermarket looking for the screaming bargains. What’s a deal here?

I’m in Guatemala right now, which is certainly one of the cheapest places to travel and one of the cheapest places to live. Here’s what I picked up yesterday in a supermarket one block off the square in Quetzaltenango, also known as Xel-Ha.

That photo at the top is what I bought for the equivalent of $7.50. Now keep in mind I was staying at a hotel and couldn’t cook, and it was Saturday night after a tough bike ride. So unlike a mom cooking for kids, I had no reason to take advantage of the carrots (three pounds for a dollar), potatoes (2.5 pounds for a dollar), rice (60 cents a pound), bananas (40 cents a pound) or beans (65 cents a pound). I also didn’t buy juice, which was less than a dollar a liter.

Here’s what I walked out with though, with all prices in quetzales, currently fetching roughly 7.5 to the U.S. dollar.

16-ounce Brahva beers: 4.85 each
Pound of premium coffee to take home: 18
Quetzalteca hooch, tamarindo flavor: 7
Barbeque peanuts 80 grams/2.8 oz: 5
Pack of Clorets gum: 3.25
Chocolate bars: 3.8
Glue stick & eraser: 3 for both (so cheap, I bought them to take home)

Yeah, a strange and random assortment I know. If you want the real bargains, go to a market and buy local fruit and vegetables, which are so cheap it’s hard to believe. Or get a local sandwich roll for 1Q: less than 1/7th of a dollar.

No, not everything is a bargain. Odd things like toilet paper and toothpaste cost more than they should. Overall, I’d say Guatemala is pretty much on par with Mexico right now in the cost of many goods and services, but maybe a bit less when it comes to gasoline (under $3 a gallon) and household help. Lodging is cheaper too if you’re a traveler, as are Spanish lessons. If you get out of Antigua, rents are pretty cheap, but in the country’s prettiest city, the monthly housing costs are not really a bargain if you want to be in a convenient spot.

Want to get more detailed info? This post is a few years old but from what I saw this week, is still spot on: Travel Prices in Antigua.

The really good news is, this post I wrote in 2007 while traveling with my family is not too far off either. A few things are a little more, but the strong dollar has erased most inflation.

If you’re part of my Committed or All in Groups for A Better Life for Half the Price, watch for a video soon where I interview five Antigua expats who are raising a family in Guatemala. If you’re not, get on board here!

Comments
  1. Dean

    Who could relate to a purchase like this one? This is a joke, the rice was no bargin at .60 a pound either. It is true that some basic staples cost less in Guatemala but if you price everything a normal gringo would use you come out behind. ‘You get what you pay for’ rings true in Guatemala. I have spent a couple of months in Antitua, Lago Atitlan and Quetzaltenango and I can tell you that although some things are cheap, the danger factor in Guatemala makes you wonder if it is worth it!

    • Tim Leffel

      Then don’t go back, right? Based on your collective comments on this blog Dean, you don’t seem very cut out for the expat life. Very bitter about every place not being as dirt cheap in every way as you expected. Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not reality. Every country has some great bargains and some things that are inexplicably expensive, out of proportion to local incomes. I go over that extensively in the book. And in some past posts, like this one from years ago: https://www.cheapestdestinationsblog.com/2012/07/10/not-everything-is-cheaper-in-cheap-destinations/

  2. Marco

    I am actually disapointewd with what I have found in this post/maybe even with the whole website. The prices given by you are just the same prices you can see in “99p” stores in Britain. I would expect you can find “deals” like these in US as well if you only try. Mind you do you really expect countries where people earn 50 maybe 150 dollars a month to be expensive? It is not a rocket sience to see there is a relation between earnings and costs of living in various countries. It is more than probable that if you go to Africa (for example Egypt, Marocco where you have been), Asia (Malaysia, Thailand, Bali you have visited them as well) or Latin America you will find hotels for 25 or 35 dollars a night and it should not be a surprise for anybody. If you have created something like numbeo then I would have appreciated it. What I have found in this post is just common sense.

    • Tim Leffel

      What’s obvious to your brilliant self is not so obvious to the masses Marco. Otherwise I’d never have any blog visitors or sell any books. But thanks for the feedback.

  3. Ian

    Ignore the grumpy old men Tim. I live in England and no way you can get a pound of rice or a pint can of beer ANYWHERE for 40P. These prices look to be about 1/3 or less what I would pay, 99p store or not. And I loved the random assortment—fun haul!

  4. Uptourist

    It’s fascinating how many you can buy in another country. It is surprising how often we dismiss the money that we have only to see it has so much value in another place.

  5. Big Dave

    I can’t seem to find a date – when did you make these purchases? I’m planning on a trip to Guatemala later this year, and I am a huge coffee fanatic, and want to buy some Guatemalan coffee to take home with me.

    • Tim Leffel

      January, 2015. The very best beans are probably exported, but I was happy with what I drank and brought back.

  6. Jessica

    Hello im trying to move to Guatemala Is it cheap to buy a house there I’m so sick of living in amarican ..can you give me some info on living there that would be wonderful thank you so .much

    • james adams

      Don´t go to Guatemala. it is expencive, at last in Antigua, food´s also expencive but at the market, where you will find great prices but for locals, we got usally the gringp price. besides, everyone, lovcals too,have to be carefull as robbers are watching your every move. Public transport?? only if you have the steel nerves of a formula one driver and want to share the 2 persons seat with 3 other fellows. I know some romantic dudes love the easy going and “Trills” of the place, but if you feel like you need a more normal life, go somewhere else.

      • Tim Leffel

        Antigua has gotten more expensive, but I was in Atitlan last year and it’s one of the world’s best bargains. You can take a tourist shuttle there for $12 and skip the chicken bus. Food in the markets was cheaper than Mexico and that’s saying a lot. What’s “normal”? To an expat or long-term traveler the answer is very different than a PTA mom in the suburbs of Missouri.

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