What Will it Cost to Live in Guatemala

This is one of the most popular questions I get asked. If you have never lived in a place such as Guatemala or Nicaragua, the answer will likely surprise you. But I will stick by my answer which is "you can pick".

Let's get the obvious stuff out of the way -- you have a decent income and want to know if you can live like you do in the U.S. That answer is yes. If you live in the U.S. on $5000, $3000, $2000 or even $1000 a month you can easily live in Guatemala for this amount and probably much less. The only real exception is if you want to live exactly like you do in the U.S. For example, let's say you want to eat crab or lobster from the U.S. (While that makes no sense to me, I do know people who import all their food from the U.S.) then you will have a problem.

Let's cover the other end -- you move here with virtually no savings and no income. Then what?

The two main needs are food and shelter. With lots of parts of Guatemala where the weather is always between 10C and 30C 24/7/365 and lots of places where you can just sleep under a bridge, in a part or even under a building overhang, shelter can cost you nothing. While some places will discourage this lifestyle, lots of places don't care. For example, there are people who sleep outside in Guatemala City.

For food, tortillas are 4 for Q1 or about $.12 for the four. If you don't have a way to cook, you can get prepared beans for maybe Q10/pound. Uncooked beans, rice, veggies, fruit, ... are generally Q5/pound or less. A bit of panhandling should easily meet that need.

Clearly there are lots of choices between the two extremes but, seriously, you can pick.

Producing Income

If you have any skills it is likely you can produce enough income go get you a place to live and food. You will see little in the way of government regulation to get in your way. Here are some thoughts:

  • Handyman (I suppose I should say handyperson but it is a lot less likely for a woman to find this work.) -- From painting to gardening to fixing dripping faucets, it should be easy to find some of this work. Even with close to no Spanish skills you should be OK.
  • Something on-line -- If you have some computer skills you should be able to find something you can do on-line and get paid via PayPal. Until you are "set up" you can find Internet cafes for generally around Q4/hour.
  • Delivery person -- On foot or on a bicycle, you can do deliveries.
  • Babysitter, house cleaner, ... -- This can be a job where you are inside, probably get fed and could work into a live-in position.
  • Start a business -- That may sound strange but you can start a business (somewhat illegally) with close to no investment. Because the cost of living is so low here, even a little of capital can get up going for six months for less than what it would cost to live one month in San Francisco or Houston.


There are certainly a lot more options but my point is that if you want to you can support yourself here. As I said, you can choose.