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Moving to Guatemala

With a topographically diverse and spectacular landscape, rich culture, storied history and warm people, it's no wonder more and more expats are choosing Guatemala. From its tropical jungles and vast plains to soaring mountains and mysterious underground rivers, there is much to explore in Guatemala.

Living in Guatemala as an expat

The expat population in Guatemala is relatively small but is growing steadily as it becomes a popular retirement destination for those from North America and Europe. Some travellers settle in Guatemala for a shorter period to work, learn Spanish and use the country as a base from which to explore the Americas. Most expats living in Guatemala settle in the capital, Guatemala City, or Antigua.

Naturally, new arrivals may face culture shock when relocating to Guatemala – but it's all about perspective. Guatemalans are known for their kindness and generosity, and while the inequality is striking, the people are generally warm, friendly and welcoming. Learning about the culture and having at least a basic knowledge of Spanish (and the local slang) will make the experience all the more pleasant.

Guatemalans are resilient and hardworking, but expats will likely find that lifestyles are simpler here, with little appetite for the long workweeks and rushed deadlines associated with major world cities – though the perks of high salaries and glamorous employment packages may have to be sacrificed as Guatemalans' incomes are much lower.

Cost of living in Guatemala

On a global scale, the cost of living in Guatemala is low. Mercer's 2023 Cost of Living Survey ranked Guatemala City as 136th out of 227 expat destinations worldwide. Local salaries tend to be low, but Guatemala's gentle cost of living affords expats who earn a foreign currency luxury accommodation in complexes with 24-hour security systems and world-class amenities.

Families and children in Guatemala

A great place to raise a family, Guatemala offers good private healthcare, a selection of excellent international schools (mostly American and German), and presents endless options for fun weekend trips. For those interested in history and culture, Guatemala has a host of fascinating Mayan archaeological sites, colonial cities and art galleries to visit. 

Climate in Guatemala

The country’s favourable climate serves to draw foreigners looking to settle down in the land of perpetual spring and to enjoy its ceaseless availability of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. The country's climate is lovely year round and is generally hot throughout the county. The rainy season is usually from May to November, with average temperatures of 72°F (22°C). Climate varies more due to altitude than season.

While Guatemala is still developing in some respects, it's easy to see why its popularity as an expat destination is growing. For those who are flexible and open-minded, Guatemala offers a great lifestyle and an abundance of opportunities.

Fast facts

Population: Around 18.5 million

Capital city: Guatemala City

Neighbouring countries: Bordered by Mexico to the west and north, Belize to the northeast, and Honduras and El Salvador to the southeast. Guatemala also has coastal regions to the south and the east.

Geography: Most of Guatemala is mountainous with some patches of desert and several lakes.

Political system: Unitary presidential republic

Major religions: Christianity, principally Roman Catholicism

Main languages: Spanish

Money: The Guatemalan quetzal (GTQ), divided into 100 centavos. ATMs are easy to find in Guatemala, and foreigners can open a bank account without much problem.

Tipping: Guatemalans don't generally tip, but with good service, a tip of 10 percent can be given

Time: GMT-6

Electricity: 120V, 60Hz. Plugs have two or three flat blades (Type A and B)

Internet domain: .gt

International dialling code: +502

Emergency numbers: Police: 120; Ambulance: 122 ; Fire: 123

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road and can easily be rented from international rental agencies. Public transport in Guatemala is limited, but recycled US school buses called chicken buses can be found, as well as private intercity buses.