The cost of travel in Guatemala as of 2020

Guatemalan selling textiles

Read on for our price list for Guatemala, last updated in February 2020!

Arriving in a new country means learning a whole new pricing system, and figuring out the cost of travel in Guatemala can be challenging. Prices vary greatly and your expectations as a foreigner impact what you find acceptable. You can travel cheaply in Guatemala if you’re careful. Getting your bearings quickly and figuring out what prices are fair will go a long way in making Guatemala a cheap country to visit, especially for travelers on a budget.

Guatemala is considered a budget country. How much you should budget varies greatly based on your travel style. To be fair, Guatemala can get very expensive if you are not careful. Despite its initial stereotype of being cheap, it’s easy to spend more than expected in Guatemala. So how much does it cost to travel to Guatemala?

Is Guatemala expensive?

We have both traveled and lived in Guatemala. After so many months, we’ve had ups and downs and we are writing this guide and overview to help you extend your trip for as long as possible. As we love to travel for extended periods, we have learned to be careful with our money. Our method is simple: Spending less money on our trip to Guatemala allows us to spend more time abroad.

When buying avocados, for instance, we still sometimes wonder if we got a legit price or the “tourist special”. The main place you’ll find prices jacked up for foreigners is in markets, particularly markets that sell touristy things, but that’s universal. Still, Guatemala is cheap to visit if you are savvy.

We have a local Spanish teacher in Guatemala who talks about the price he gets for pineapples and shirts at the market, and those prices are decidedly lower than what we’ve been offered. In those instances, bargaining with goodwill seems to have limits.

Prejudices are strong in Guatemala that if you are white you are rich and if you are brown, you are poor. Unlike some Middle Eastern countries where bargaining is wide-spread and fun, in Guatemala locals may be reluctant to lower the price and will let you walk away. But, the price difference between what we are quoted isn’t as huge as we anticipated, and it is still possible to haggle to get a better deal.

Compared to some other countries, we have found Guatemalans to be mostly fair in their pricing. Often their prices are written on a sign near what they are selling, which is comforting. Only once were we quoted a bus fare that seemed unfair, and our gut instinct paid off. We hopped off the bus and took the next one for a fraction of the price. Still, it’s good to have an idea of what the cost of travel in Guatemala is before you go. Cost of travel in Guatemala is certainly influenced by more than the local seller’s nature. To keep it cheap, you will need to adjust yourself to the reality and be travel smart wherever you can.


Tip: check out what other people on the bus are paying, or ask two people sitting around you how much the fare is before you pay.

Not all regions are created equal

As in other countries, Guatemala has areas that are more expensive and areas that are cheaper. Antigua is by far the most expensive and prices per meal can easily reach $15 per person in the city. Lake Atitlan is also considered as one of the priciest places in the country, and popular places like Monterrico and Flores near Tikal can have very expensive lodging. Overall though, prices in Guatemala vary a lot. The cheapest regions really are Dirt Cheap. You can find food for as little as $1.30 per meal on the street and sketchy lodging for $3.30 per person. More info on that in our cost of travel overview.

Here is our guide to the cost of travel in Guatemala. We’ll talk about getting into Guatemala, and then we’ll cover overland travel. We’ve broken down the costs into categories starting with the three biggest expenses for us (food, transport, lodging) and then we added a couple of relevant categories after.

We listed the price in the local currency Quetzales because once you’re in the country, you should be thinking in terms of their economic system. Note that this list is compiled for budget travelers like us. If you go to touristy restaurants, use tourist transportation and stay at nice hotels, your cost will be much higher. Together, these should help you make your trip to Guatemala one of the cheapest in Latin America.

Note: Check out our guide on the best things to do in Guatemala for more inspiration.

Food

Women selling produce at the market in Antigua, Guatemala.
Women selling produce at the market in Antigua, Guatemala.

There is a large gap between the cost of local street food and the more expensive food you’ll find in touristy places. Guatemala has chain restaurants that are considered cheap in western countries. McDonald’s, Subway and Taco Bell are all present. If you calculate the exchange rates, the prices of the food in these chains are the same as your home country, so you won’t be saving by local standards.

Actually, McDonald’s is even considered fancy by the locals. Sometimes, big celebrations and weddings are held within its oily walls with large local crowds gathering for the event.

If you sit down at a table and look around seeing only white people, you’re probably paying too much. Not because they’re not fair. The quality and recipes will probably be similar to what you expect. But it’s not local and invariably, as a tourist, you’ll pay more. Significantly more. Abide by local customs and you’ll be saving money. In places like Antigua, you may find it hard to find non touristy food options. Our insider’s tip: head to La Merced. A bunch of street carts settle there every night and you can find tasty meals for under 15Q.

Eating from local comedors and food carts can be very inexpensive. The equivalent quality in a restaurant will generally cost you 300% more. Buying from a grocery store is also an economical option, although going to the market to get food is even better if you’re ready to haggle and are well prepared.

Tip: Go where the locals go.

Cost of food in Guatemala

We’ve broken down the cost of some popular Guatemalan food and produce to give you an idea of what you should expect to pay.

  • Torta Mexicana: Q10-18 (Processed meat sandwich with cheese)
  • Shuco: Q6-18 (sandwich with guacamole, meat, onions, sauces)
  • Chile rellenos sandwich: Q8-10 (sandwich with avocado, beans and a fried chile relleno)
  • Tacos: three for Q10-15
  • Pizza: one rectangular slice for Q10 (Marketed as 3X10, they cut one piece in 3 squares)
  • Charcoal-cooked meat sandwich: Q12-18
  • Chuchito: Q2-5 (Similar to a tamale)
  • Street tostadas: Q3 (Big chip with some kind of filling, generally had for breakfast in groups of 3)
  • Hot dog: Q6-8 (Cheveres, almost the same as goat in French, sadly)
  • Fixed meal at a sit-down comedor: Q15-20
  • Standard Guatemalan breakfast: Q15-25 (Includes beans, eggs, tortillas, coffee and sometimes juice)
  • Cook-it-yourself Guatemalan breakfast (usually eggs, beans, hot sauce and tortillas): Q5-7

Single items

Most of these prices are from the Antigua market. We went with a local friend to figure out the costs. Without a local with you, you may find prices double, if not more. Not all merchants use the same prices but they give you a fair indication. Pineapple for Q4? We were asked Q15. Q5 would be acceptable, Q15 isn’t. Use this list as a general reference when you are buying from the market.

  • Fresh tortillas 4 for Q1
  • Fresh egg: one for Q1
  • Pan frances: Q2 for a sandwich sized loaf (Same price if stale)
  • Can of ICE beer: Q5 (cheap and watery, beats the tap water)
  • Can of Gallo beer: Q10 in stores, up to Q30 in bars
  • Bottle of craft brew: Q20-40 (If you buy from grocery stores like La Bodegona, La Torre or Caoba farms)
  • Oranges: one for Q1-2
  • Tomatoes from local market: Q2-3.5 per pound
  • Mangoes from local market: Q10 for 7 mangoes
  • Bananas from local market: Q7 for 12 bananas
  • Avocado from local market: Q1-3, often marketed as 5 for Q10 (locally called Aguacate)
  • Onions from local market: Q1 per pound
  • Broccoli from local market: Q4-5 per pound
  • Pineapple from local market: Q4 for one pineapple
  • Green beans from local market: Q4 per pound
  • Multicolored bell peppers from market: Q1.23-1.5 per pound
  • Water: Free (In touristic areas, make use of Ecofiltros. Many restaurants and even pharmacies will let your fill your bottle for free).
  • Bottled water: Two-liter bottle for Q6-12 (Shop around, prices vary greatly and quality is identical).

Transportation

Tuk tuk with a Marvel theme in Chichicastenango.
Tuk tuk with a Marvel theme in Chichicastenango.

Transportation in Guatemala is on the cheaper side, and there are generally budget options going to where you want to go. As with many developing countries, locals are fond of public transport as it’s just Dirt Cheap. A private shuttle may cost a pretty penny, but if you look up chicken bus routes, there is a good chance there are buses going to the same place for a fraction of the price. For instance, getting from Guatemala City to Antigua (a 25 mi or 41 km drive) costs Q10 with public transport, and Q80-Q150 with private transport. We recommend public transport for the extra flexibility you gain.

Private shuttles in Guatemala have a reputation for running late, and sometimes forgetting passengers along the way. Chicken buses have no schedule. They run all day when full. This means that you can leave when you are ready, not when the shuttle driver decides its time. If like us you value your freedom, public transport is the budget-friendly way to travel in Guatemala.

Cost of chicken buses in Guatemala

  • Chicken buses around Antigua: varies. For a ride of only a couple of kilometers, expect to pay Q2. This includes going from Antigua to Jocotenango or San Juan del Obispo.
  • Antigua to Parramos: Q3 (useful if you want to climb Acatenango without a tour!)
  • Antigua to Chimaltenango Q5 (Required to get to Panajachel and Lake Atitlan by Chicken Bus)
  • Guatemala City to Antigua Q10



While some people label chicken buses as extremely dangerous, it hasn’t really been our experience. We rode them for five months and never felt unsafe. Still, we advise caution, especially against bag slashers and pickpockets. You may read our Chicken Bus safety article for more details.

Cost of other means of transportation in Guatemala

  • Uber: Highly dependent on place and time of day, with luck, under Q15 anywhere within Antigua and under Q20 to Jocotenango
  • Tuk tuk: Q5-15 for up to 4 kilometers. Always agree on the final price before you sit down. Watch out as some drivers will end up saying the price was per person and try to con you into paying Q30 for a 5 minutes ride.
  • Charter bus: Pricey, but it’s the best choice for getting from Guatemala City to Tikal as it is too far for chicken buses. This will set you back between Q130-Q300 each way. Chose wisely! We had good experiences with Fuente del Norte contrary to some reviews… by far cheapest but totally fine.
  • Private shuttle: From Antigua to Lake Atitlan (65 mi or 104 km) expect to pay about Q80-125 per person
  • Rental Car: Q80-Q5000. As most people have put it, full of surprises. Prices are initially interesting but rumor has it they always find a way to charge you more in the end. Way more.
  • Taxi: Probably your most expensive option apart from buying a car, but sometimes the only one. Bargain before you sit in the cab if you must use one. We haven’t needed them in Guatemala.

Keep in mind that these prices are to give you an idea. Individual articles on specific locations will always have the most up to date and thorough information to help you travel economically.

Cheap flights to Guatemala

Okay so you’ve heard prices in Guatemala are pretty reasonable by western standards, but how cheap is it to get there? Coming from North America, the major hubs that serve Guatemala are Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, and Chicago. Of these, Houston is commonly the cheapest, but that could have something to do with it being the shortest distance. Speaking of which, Mexico is a Dirt Cheap flight from Guatemala city all the time.

United, American Airlines, and Avianca fly most often to Guatemala from the United States, with Iberia and Air France popular to come from overseas. Budget carriers Copajet, Interjet and Spirit are also common, although we don’t recommend Spirit because of their hidden fees and poor service.

When comparing flight prices, remember to take into account baggage fees and any other fees that you may have to pay. Sometimes it adds up to about the same price as a standard carrier, without the comfort. Other tips on getting cheap flights to Guatemala: if your dates are flexible, search flight prices for several dates.

Keep in mind high season is December through March, and the four weeks leading up to Easter week (Semana Santa) will be particularly pricey for both flights and lodging. Low season is from mid-April to November and things will be cheaper, but also rainier.

Once you’re in Guatemala City, you may want to get out quickly (it’s known to be a bad place for tourists), and going straight from Guatemala City airport to nearby Antigua is a common strategy.

Note: Check out our in-depth manual on how to get from Guatemala City airport to Antigua. It’ll guide you every step of the way.

Lodging

The African Place Hotel in Livingston, Guatemala
The African Place Hotel in Livingston, Guatemala is both cheap and unique.

How much does it cost to stay in Guatemala? Lodging largely depends on the city. In very touristy areas or areas without many options, prices tend to be higher. Still, you can generally find reasonable prices for hotel rooms if you don’t mind sacrificing a little comfort and doing some research.

Cost of lodging in Guatemala

  • Small budget hotel room, shared bath: Q50-Q150 for two people (lowest we found: Q25 each!)
  • Small budget hotel room, private bath: Q80-Q200 for two people
  • Hostel dorm: Q20-Q100 per person. Choose wisely, the cheap ones ARE out there!
  • Couchsurfing: Free and a great way to meet and experience the local culture
  • Volunteering: Depends on the program. Many offer food and lodging as compensation, but some charge a small fee to volunteer. Try Workaway and HelpX for starters.

Electronic devices

If you are looking to buy electronics, this is not the place to go. The current post system makes sending or receiving anything quite difficult (Amazon doesn’t even ship to Guatemala), and therefore the cost of electronics is higher than in western countries. You can find flip phones from a decade ago here for cheapish (Q95), but for anything beyond that, buy it in-store or online in your home country.

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Hygiene products

If you’re traveling long term, you’re eventually going to run out of your shampoo, soap, toothpaste or other basic hygiene products. You can find the simplest items in Guatemala for a reasonable price (a bar of soap is about Q7 and toothpaste is Q10), but for anything even remotely fancier, try to bring it with you. This includes decent quality lotions, hair products, razor blades, make-up and laundry soap. Check out our backpackers packing guide for what toiletries to bring.

Clothing

You can find inexpensive clothing in Guatemala
You can find inexpensive clothing in Guatemala

When we were in Guatemala, Cass developed this skin irritation that led her to a dermatologist. He forbid her from wearing any fabric except cotton until the rash healed up. Well shoot, she didn’t bring a single clothing item that was cotton. All her clothes were travel clothes designed to dry quickly, last longer between washes, and take enormous abuse. But, she was desperate to get rid of this rash, so off to the market she went.

You can get clothes from conventional stores that will sell for the same prices as what you’d see at home, but if you head to the local street markets, that’s where you’ll find the real deals. Cass found basic cotton t-shirts for Q15 each, and that’s without haggling! The price was already posted above the clothing. If you want anything fancier, though, you could pay a lot for very poor quality clothing. A shirt that was only mildly fancier was Q70, with no price marked, so it’s likely that a local would have been charged much less. Cass had to buy basic heels for an impromptu event, and although she got them new, the straps on both of the heels broke within an hour of walking in them. Q130 down the drain, because they don’t really do returns, at least not in local markets. There are sometimes extensive used clothing sections in markets that have good deals. In less touristy towns, you may find decent-looking clothing for just Q2, but more likely you’ll be overcharged.

ATMs fees in Guatemala

ATM’s, or cajeros in Guatemala, are widespread through most cities. The safest ones are inside pharmacies, grocery stores and banks. Don’t use the outdoor ones as card fraud is common. Despite the rumor that some ATM’s don’t charge a fee, in our Guatemalan travels we have always had to pay a fee between Q35-45 per transaction. This means, don’t walk in to pull out Q100 for the night. Stock up for the following days. We pull Q1000-2000 per time. Be careful on how you stash your money to avoid robbers however. Our Ultimate Packing Guide has some essential tips you may find useful on the matter, and so does our Safety on chicken buses article.

Cost of things to do in Guatemala

Now that you know what you’ll be paying for the basics, what about the prices of things to do? Museum entry fees range widely depending on the popularity of the site and the city. The popular ruins in Antigua generally cost Q40-50, which is pricey, whereas the Military Museum (Museo del Ejercito and Ex Fuerte San Jose), in not so popular Guatemala City, costs only Q10 for foreigners. Be prepared to be welcomed by an overly enthusiastic staff thrilled to finally get tourists!

Tikal is one of the most expensive things to do in Guatemala, but it is one place we urge you to splurge on. With its towering temples and jungle setting, it is worth the Q150 entrance fee you have to pay (plus the additional cost of transport there and back). There are many other notable archaeological sites in Guatemala worth going to, including the much cheaper Zaculeu.

Free things to do in Guatemala

For free stuff, check out major holidays in Guatemala. Just being present among the festivities is a treat, and you can find live music and dancing in the streets. Mid-March through Easter holds loads of carnivals, processions and intricate street art that you can marvel at for free. Churches are also free to admire, just be respectful of their photography rules.

Definitely check out a couple of cemeteries while you are in Guatemala, they’re free! The one in Quetzaltenango (known as Xela in Guatemala) is particularly impressive.

Free walking tours are options in Antigua but don’t forget to tip the guide.

Climbing Volcano Acatenango near Antigua can cost up to Q750 if you go with a big agency or as little as Q100 if you do it without a guide. Check out our guide on how to climb Acatenango without a tour.

In the end

Like many developing countries, Guatemala is pretty inexpensive to Western tourists. This means if you’re careful, you can see all the best things to do in Guatemala on a decent budget! The cost of travel in Guatemala varies by your travel style, but the exchange rates treat foreign tourists particularly well in this Central American gem. Guatemala is a very cheap country to travel to if you are careful. If you are not, you may find many places will cost just the same as your home country.

Just don’t travel here to buy fancy things, because the cost of import means you’ll pay a lot more than you should for a new camera or phone. Otherwise, if you’re careful, you should be good on a budget! Check out our article Simple ways to travel for cheap to learn tips and tricks for saving money while traveling.

What is the daily budget to travel to Guatemala?

All this combined means you can expect to pay as little as 7$ per day in Guatemala, under dire survival conditions. This includes the cheapest room we’ve encountered (along with all odd insects) and three street food meals. A standard day will likely cost you a bit more but even then traveling under 15$ per day in Guatemala is entirely possible. A splurge day, including a clean room (fancy!), some transport, activities, holy beer and at least one overpriced meal in a tourist area could still cost you under 35$ per day, the cost of a dorm bed in most Western countries.

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