Healthcare in Guatemala


how does the healthcare system work in Guatemala ? Is it efficient ?

What are the main differences between public and private sectors?

Is it recommended to purchase private health insurance in Guatemala?

Thanks in advance for sharing your experience !


Heathcare system varies depends if you use Private or public services. Here's what happen to me: 3 years ago I had a heart attack and was stretched out in the street ambulance came and they brought me to General Hospital in Antigua. To my surprise the medical staff took great care of me as soon as I entered the ER and the MD's were always checking my condition. I don't believe this is the norm so use private hospitals.
Health Insurance is availble and it is low cost, again it depends, for me I'm 54 smoker, diabetic, heart problems ect... so insurance is very expensive for me, so I have Pay as You Go.

Guatemala City's "Centro Medico" offer complete Body Scans with results for about $500 CHEAP, they have the latest medical equipment.

Dentistry: I highly recommend dentistry in Guatemala. I've had numerous extraction $6 per tooth!! Had a new upper and lower bridge $210.00

Meds: Are pennies on the dollar really. I buy a bag full of meds and insulin every month and it cost me abt. $60 for everything. In the States you would pay at least $1000+ for the same thing Buy Generics whenever possible. Farmacias Comunitarias cheapest.
In closing everybody visiting Guatemala

Traveler57 - I am on a couple of medications.  I am wondering how I will deal with this during our extended trip.  I can get a three month supply here in the US.  Have you found that medications are easy to find or should I have my husband plan his trips around my refill dates?

The best advise I can give you is buy your meds here unless you have insurance in the states. Almost everything is available here and you will be a real winner if you can buy Generic. Either which way you win big time.

Are you taking any specialized meds? If so ask your MD about alternatives. Remember doctors work directly with the parm industries to peddle their products hence High Prices.

No they aren't really specialized.  They are both blood pressure medications used to control symptoms of having a kidney disease.

Blood Pressure I take Enalapril, an excellent drug for controlling BP, never had a problem since taking it. And this drug cost a $1.00 for blister of 10 pills. I would not worry much about the medications it's all available here.

Thanks for your posts Traveler57 !

I'm here to help.

Private sector is always costly as compare to Government. Same case is with health department.

See , a group of doctors and tour operators (i am running a local tour operator) specialized in health care ... working very hard on making Guatemala , and specially QUETZALTENANGO the mecca of medical tourism in Central America ...

I will be moving to Panajachel in the near future and I take controlled release morphine for chronic lumbar back pain, scoliosis, necrosis, stenosis and 3 permanant bulging discs which is all inoperable.   

  I have heard that it's nearly impossible to get narcotics for pain management even with a perscription which I have from the VA in the states.

  Does anyone know how people with chronic pain manage it in Guatemala??? Heck it seems you could get heroin a lot easier then a pharmaceutical narcotic but I sure don't want to be detoxing in some Central American prison...:(

We have a friend who had a liver transplant in a Government Hospital 20 years ago. He is still going strong. We have friends there (nationals) who would not darken the door of a Government Hospital. Whether there is reality to their fears, I could not say. I do know that Guatemala has some of the best doctors in Latin America, many educated in the u.s.


In order to help expats and soon-to-be expats, we would like to invite you to share your experience on this topic, with updated info on the healthcare system.

Thank you in advance,

Julie Team

I have lived in Guatemala for the past 22 years. In that time I have had an emergency appendectomy, hernia surgery and kidney stone surgery. All three were at Centro Medico in zone 10. Professional staff, excellent equipment, super knowledgeable doctors and nurses.
My two sons were born here. One in Zona 10 at Cuidad Vieja Hospital and one in Chimaltenango at a hospital our doctor owned. Excellent service at both, I was in the birthing room for both and everything was fine.
Insurance paid for everything less the deductible and 80/20 co pay up to Q10,000.

Public sector works just fine. My "most serious" experience was an appendectomy for my daughter. The story is up on AtitlanLife. No issues. Also, my niece hurt her back and was taken there for X-Rays. Fast, efficient and, of course, free and she was just here on a tourist visa.

The niece of a friend went to the public health clinic (while here on a tourist visa) and got a "five-year" under the skin birth control thingie. Totally free but would have cost her $500 in the U.S.

There are probably things you want private care for but don't waste your time with health insurance. After all, they are in business to make a profit. Put some money aside and then pick what you want to do if a problem happens.

I had an incisional hernia repair at Hospital Multimedica several years ago and I could not be more pleased with the care I received.  I had obtained an estimate in the States and it was about $12,000. (Hosp, Doc, Anesthesia, etc)  Here the procedure cost $1800.  Extremely professional with personal attention that I never would have gotten in the U.S.  In discussing the overall state of medical care in Guatemala with the doctor, he said the "state of the art" was available in Guatemala, save open heart surgery.

I believe it behooves everybody to have health insurance. This includes Guatemala, even though the services are so inexpensive, compared to the US, for example, that many feel it is not worth it.  My experience in Guatemala has been with the private health industry, with doctors usually trained in the US and some even licensed to practice there as well.  However, Latin American trained doctors are also very good, and in general, the attention is much more personalized than in the US.  Doctors here are also much more focused on improving lifestyle in order to improve health, rather than prescribing medications right off the bat, which was my experience in the US, where my doctor would see me for 10 minutes or less, and give me a prescription or recommend a specialist, and usually that was about it.  Here, the doctor spends up to an hour with one, asking all sorts of questions about one's life, a more holistic approach.  So I like it a lot.  The public system has the same problems that many public systems have, from what I hear, such as long waits and often lack of supplies.  On the other hand, I also hear good things about the ICU at the public hospital of San Juan de Dios, for example, or the Social Security health system that is geared for retired people, with lots of services including exercise and nutrition classes, and all their meds for free.  I am sure that for very complex issues, these are best treated in advanced countries just because smaller, poorer countries won't have the very latest advances in technology except, perhaps, in the most expensive private hospitals.  Or if people cannot afford private care here, it might become cumbersome and a hassle, with all the lines, the wait and the bureaucracy of the public system.  So, those are my two cents, for whatever it is worth.

While I pretty much disagree with everything you said about insurance and such, let's call that difference of opinion. However, you are flat wrong about what you say as " it might become cumbersome and a hassle, with all the lines, the wait and the bureaucracy of the public system."

Don't expect fast service for something that is "not critical" and never expect bureaucracy. For example, the only paperwork involved when my niece hurt her back was a doctor filling out a little piece of paper to tell the X-Ray dude what he needed to take (5 or 6, I forget) and a person asking me my name, relationship to her and where I lived.

As for "lines", in both cases the girls were talking to doctors within five minutes of entering the hospital.

Basically, there is no paperwork here. Yes, there can be lines but if you need help, you tend to get it.

I was talking about the public (government) hospitals when I said that about the bureaucracy and the lines, etc., as per what my employees have to go through every time they use the system. If you had a different experience, good for you, but my Guatemalan employees are not taken care of that speedily when they have to go for routine things or need surgery. More than a difference in opinion, it sounds like a difference in experiences. The private system is a whole different story. I use the private system and I get taken care of very well. I also have health insurance that covers me here and in the US, because I strongly believe that if it is affordable to the person, it is a good thing to have.

I expect most usanos will have trouble understanding the health care system here in Guatemala. The model is pretty typical for Latin America. I wrote up an article on something more generic including information on Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Nicaragua and some comparison to the U.S. system (non-system). You can read it on
For people from most countries the system will not seem that different but for people from the U.S., it certainly will. Hopefully the information will help you make the right decisions.

I agree with you nicafyl, some people just don't know what they're talking about.

Dear All,
I'm looking at accepting a job offer in Guatemala City zone 14. Is this area safe? What would I expect to pay for apartment with a small garden or green space?  Most importantly I need to have health insurance. I'm healthy, any recommendations? Thank you!!!

X Sue Madison

Hi John,
I'm considering taking a job in Guatemala City but struggling as I have a hernia and living in US with no health insurance. I can't accept the job till my hernia is fixed as I'm a teacher with children daily.  Where did you get insurance and what doctor did you see?

Having a few minor surgeries in the States have been horrific care and not very successful to me or my bank account I'm very uneasy about having surgery anywhere. Any advice greatly appreciated!!

X Sue Madison