Guatemala City, Guatemala Report of what it's like to live there - 03/06/23
Personal Experiences from Guatemala City, Guatemala
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This is our fourth post. We have lived in South America and Europe previously.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
I am from the United States. It is easy to return home with lots of connections in Houston and Miami.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
We have been here for one year.
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There are really two options for embassy housing. One is Cayala in Las Ramblas. There is a beautiful gated community with a gorgeous pool, an airy gym, tennis courts, several playgrounds, and views of the city and the volcanoes. You can walk to an excellent pre-school. There are playgroups and lots of American kids at the playgrounds and soccer field. They can walk to shops and restaurants and can walk to the embassy in ten minutes. They are close to lots of activities, a grocery store, a print ship...pretty much everything you need. The others might live downtown in apartment buildings with a 1-2 hour commute at night (Fridays are terrible. If it is raining don't even try). Others live in smaller communities without amenities. For $2000 to $3000 this group can join the American club or the German Club or pay to be a member in Las Ramblas and use the pool and gym. Everyone, of course, tries to get into Las Ramblas.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get most things here. Pricesmart (related to Costco) is here and a good option. There are good grocery stores and lots of specialty stores. You can find just about anything here (except brown sugar).
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Brown sugar. Other than that you can find most things here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are lots of restaurants. Some are excellent and some are average. You can find most fast food chains here. You can use Uber Eats and other delivery services for food.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We have had problems with ants a few times. Cockroaches sometimes come in when the neighborhood sprays outside. Regular remedies seem to work.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and pouch. Guatemala does not have a functional mail service. They do have DHL and some other businesses that will ship from the U.S.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
The daily rate for a housekeeper is $25-$40. It is less if you have someone full time. Lots of people use nannies and housekeepers. They are very kind and do excellent work.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Families living in Las Ramblas will have free access to a good gym. You will also find Fitness 1 and other fitness options throughout the city. Some of the apartment buildings have gyms as well.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
Credit cards and ATMs are common and safe.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Speaking at least some Spanish will help a lot. Many people do speak at least some English.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, the sidewalks aren't that great.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Uber is safe but buses and regular taxis are not.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Recommend four wheel drive and high clearance if you plan to travel.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is usually pretty good. Ask your sponsor to help you install it. It can take awhile to get it up and running.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
You can choose between Claro and Tigo. We have been happy with Claro and it works well in the U.S. as well. It is about $25 a month.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
Excellent veterinarians. There are affordable boarding options.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
There are jobs at the embassy. Many people seem to telework. It is hard to find local jobs.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are plenty of volunteer opportunities in senior homes, orphanages, and shelters.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
It is a bit more formal. You would never wear shorts even when it is hot.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
You do have to be careful and aware. This is a dangerous country. If you are careful you will be fine.
2. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
The air quality is good. When the volcano erupts you have to be careful when outside.
3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The climate is glorious. It is generally between 70 and 80 degrees every day. There is a rainy season (May - October).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I haven't had experience with them but I know there are bullying issues with some children leaving for boarding school. It seems to be great for the younger set but harder for high school kids. Colegio Maya is a small and supportive school and most embassy kids seem to go there.
2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
There are good pre-schools and they are very affordable. Many families seem to have nannies.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There are a lot of sport opportunities including soccer, dance, baseball, tennis, and volleyball. I'm sure there are other options.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are a lot of expats in Antigua, it is a popular retirement community. The US Embassy is large.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are a lot of dinner parties. People travel. It is fun to spend a weekend in Antigua, at the beach, or at Lake Atitlan.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for everyone!
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Yes, it is easy to make friends with locals. Most people seem to have some family living in the U.S.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
It probably is not. This is a very conservative country.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
We have loved our trips to archeological sites, to the lake, and to Antigua.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are handicrafts. Beautiful fabrics, paintings, and wood carvings are all available.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Close to the US, close to lots of travel opportunities, ability to quickly reach other Central American countries and Mexico.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
sunglasses and umbrella.