Moving to Guatemala & Living as an Expat
Guatemala lies just hours from a number of mainland US cities by air, ex. 2.5 - 3 hours from Miami, Atlanta and Houston.
Weather - Pleasant and spring-like. You will need a sweater in December. February - April days are like a warm spring. It rains 75% of the days from May to mid-October is rainy season with lots of rainy days .. usually in the afternoon. Rainy season makes the country very green.
Guatemala has a substantial expat population.
Activities available - Traveling the countryside, Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Mayan ruins, Tikal, Lake Panajachel, and villages with indigenous culture and clothing. Mountain biking is good as are some (not all) of the beaches. Horseback riding, swim and racquet clubs. Clubs include the German Club, American Club, and Italian Club. Also movie theaters and bowling alleys
Nightlife - A number of bars, some with live music. Movies, restaurants, and dance clubs in Zone 10.
Security concerns vary depending on location and chance. Pickpocketing, theft and robbery are more common in the cities and remote roadways.
Fast food has long since invaded Guatemala. Fast food is cheaper than the US, and nice restaurants are half the US rates. Most groceries and supplies are commonly available in large cities. US brands have prices similar to the US. Guatemalan food is cheap.
ATM's and Credit Cards - As in any country, always keep your eyes on your credit card. Visa is a little more convenient than Master Card. ATM's are prolific and are the best way to handle and import money.
High clearance or 4 X 4's are the recommended vehicles unless you never plan on going to the countryside. Getting to some good resort areas requires fording streams and bouncing along kilometers of dirt roads. Gasoline as is more expensive than in the US. Guatemalans drive on the right.
Cell phones are widely available. Pradera Mall in the capitol has three phone companies. Buy your phone on the spot and use prepaid for instant gratification. Post-pay requires a 1-2 year contract, a stable address, and slow paperwork.
Domestic help is available and cheap. Depending on location, $150 - 200/month should get you a live-in maid. Gardeners are cheap and easy to find.
Internet access - ADSL is available, about $70/ month for unlimited usage.
Taxis-Be sure to use registered taxis. Match the license plate number and number painted on the taxi.
English-language newspapers & TV - Cable TV with western programming in certain regions.
Working - If you will work for low pay, there are numerous opportunities. NGO's will hire at local wages. Western level salaries are rare and predominantly found in the private sector. English teaching jobs are available.
Medical and health care in the capitol is good to excellent. Dental care is extremely good and costs 1/4-1/2 of US prices. For a very critical diagnosis, consider flying to the US.
Language - One-on-one tutoring is inexpensive, so maybe forget about taking classes. Getting a tutor makes learning Spanish much quicker. Not knowing any makes things harder to figure out and your transition more frustrating.
Disabled - Wheelchair cuts or ramps are nonresistant, however someone usually helps.