What to expect when moving to Guatemala

Hello everyone,

Is there anything you wish you had known before moving to Guatemala? For example, transportation, internet speeds, types of housing, aspects of the culture or social life.

In your opinion, what's the most important thing to know about Guatemala?

When would you recommend someone should begin planning their move to Guatemala?

What were the most helpful ways you found to get organised? For example, did you use a checklist, were there any particularly useful websites or apps?

What advice would you give to future expats preparing to move to Guatemala?

Thank you for sharing your experience.


In my case, and this was around 2008 when shipping rates were really very cheap because the government had not yet entered to clean up the corruption in Guatemalan customs, I shipped way too much furniture and books I should not have.  Because I have a Kindle and other tablets, I can now subscribe to US magazines and newspapers and no longer need to ship them all the way here every so often, and one can find perfectly decent furniture --even nicer, oftentimes-- and no need to bring over anything like that from the US.  During these years, I have been seeing more and more imported goods from the US in local stores such as Walmart, Pricemart, and just national chains as well.  So what to bring?  Just those things that cannot be found here or which would be too expensive, like particular vitamins, for instance, or some exotic spice or what not.  Things changed very fast and I used to ship boxes a couple times a year with all sorts of things I no longer have to: hair products, magazines, etc.  It all changed right on time, because shipping into Guatemala more than doubled since then and now it would just be silly to pay those prices for such ephemeral stuff.  What I do find essential in Guate is to have medical insurance here.  It is cheaper than in the US and doctors spend more time with one than in the US. There are all types of medical insurance, including some very decent HMOs that are not expensive and provide really good attention at their clinics, such as CIAM.  I have worked here for a couple of organizations, but I have never been eligible for coverage by their health plans, so we have my own.  Other things you learn as you go. Vegetables here are bigger and fresher but last a shorter time, so I buy less when I go grocery shopping than when I am in the US. And I have come to learn that yes, crime rates are high, but people can become more paranoid than necessary.  I live in the capital city and love it, I walk everywhere around me. I also walk around downtown often. I have just learned the lay of the land and to be prudent. I just hate Guate traffic so much I prefer to walk or take Uber than to drive, but that's me.

Learn as much Spanish as you can before you get here.
Google everything! Find out as much as you can before you come. Ask questions on these forums or on Facebook forums. Find real blogs by real people who have done it.
You can find anything you need here in Guate but may have to travel to a big city.
Have more than one bank account or means of getting money. Bank machines go down, or you can get scammed.
Public healthcare is free. Private doctors and hospitals cost money but give better care.
Be prepared for crappy Internet in the smaller towns.
Moving to a new country is not as scary as it seems! Just do it! (You can always move back.)

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