Living in Guatemala for digital nomads (Antigua & Lake Atitlan)
If you are craving for a place where chillness and cheap cost of living combines, Guatemala is the secret gem to go; this Central America country offers a place to work online along delicious food, friendly people and amazing views.
The well-preserved, colonial city of Antigua is unarguably Guatemala’s top tourist attraction. While travelers from all around the world flock to see the marvelous UNESCO world heritage sights it boasts, Antigua is a hidden oasis that has a lot in store for any digital nomad.
For those who likes hiking mountains and swimming in lakes, you can stay in the Lake Atitlan surrounded by water and volcanos.
- Relax environment. The guatemalan people are amongst the friendly people I've ever known, and the vibe around is totally calm.
- Size. Antigua is just the right size to keep you entertained over a long period of time. It’s the perfect walking town − we didn’t require any transport to visit the restaurants, cultural sites, and nature experiences.
- Views. Guatemala is surrounded by active volcanos, so anywhere you look the views are amazing. Specially in Atitlán as the lake is a huge massive volcano crater.
- Cost of living. Prices are affordable here for accommodation, food and even the tours.
- Food. Corn-based and spices, just like the mexican cuisine, the Guatemalan food is actually delicious. And there's a great option of international food such as pizza, gelatos and vegan —even famous fast food chains.
- Safety. As the tourism is big part of their economy, they take care of foreigners so you can feel calm most of the time.
- Wifi speed. There's just a few places, like Selina, where you can find great wifi but besides that, it's hard to find fast speed.
- Poverty. Sometimes it's difficult to see how many people are suffering with low economy, and that also attract petty theft with pickpocketing and bag snatching. But anyone who has lived in a developing country knows that watching your stuff is essential regardless of where you live. It’s certainly not special to Antigua.
- Religious events. As a predominantly Catholic country, there are a lot of religious festivals that get bigger and bigger as the weeks go on. So it's good to see, but eventually you'll get tired of them blocking the roads or hearing fireworks every day.
How to get to Antigua, Guatemala
Antigua is one hour way from La Aurora International Airport (GUA), so it's better to book an shuttle in advance by any tour company online as a private taxi will be very expensive (and you'll have to fluent in Spanish to get a normal rate). If you are staying at Selina, they also offer their own private shuttle directly to the hotel.
The Cost of Living in Antigua, Guatemala
The cost of living is fairly affordable and one can handsomely spend a month under $1,000.
There are many good restaurants around town that serve lunch specials for about $3 USD (Q20). While meal prices in Antigua Guatemala can vary, the average cost of food in Antigua Guatemala is $7 USD (Q69) per day. When dining out an average meal in Antigua Guatemala should cost around $4 USD (Q27) per person. Breakfast prices are usually a little cheaper than lunch or dinner. The price of food in sit-down restaurants in Antigua Guatemala is often higher than fast food prices or street food prices.
Where to wifi in Antigua, Guatemala
The typical internet connection speed in Antigua varies from 4-5 mbps for a home connection or a basic café connection. However, there are faster wifi speeds than this available for the digital nomad Antigua. In some coworking spaces, the fastest wifi in Antigua can reach speeds up to 20 mbps.
Sometimes wifi connections can be spotty in cafes and homes, so coworking spaces are recommended for days when wifi is an absolutely necessity.
Guatemala is known for their delicious coffee beans, so digital nomads will really appreciate their cups of joe here. The wifi in cafes is a great amenity, but can sometimes fade in and out, which isn’t great for internet-reliant work.
An important thing to note is that almost every building in Guatemala experiences power outages from time to time so make sure your laptop is charged before heading to the best cafes to work from in Antigua.
Luckily there are tons of coworking spaces opening to accommodate the arrival of the digital nomad in Antigua! Here's my list of best places in town.
- Selina Antigua - Here’s a co-working space that boasts of the fastest wifi in Antigua with more than 32 mbps downloading speed.
- Impact Hub - It’s a colonial Spanish mansion that opens up into a central courtyard, with views from the roof of the three volcanoes that surround Antigua. Orchids hang from the ceilings and the offices rooms have high ceilings with ancient-looking dark beams that keep the space consistently cool.
- Bella Vista Coffee - Touted as one of Antigua’s most digital-nomad-friendly cafés, Bella Vista serves up your coffee to order, which you can drink amidst stunning rooftop views of three massive volcanoes framing the sky.
- Cafe Boheme - A super cozy café nestled in the heart of Antigua; Boheme is a perfect place to work in a relaxed setting. While it may be little dark, the refined, colorful decoration makes one feel like they’re hanging in a bohemian loft.
- Café Stela 9 - It’s the perfect spot away from the hustle and bustle of the town. Only main down point is the lack of sockets.
Movistar is one of the major service providers in Guatemala as there are many mobile shops all over town and stalls in the markets where SIM cards and top-ups can be purchased.
Package (data only): We chose 3GB for $12 USD (Q90) over 30 days every month. This was more than enough. No calls were needed because we used our home phone.
It’s important to note that you will need your passport when purchasing a new SIM and recharging. Most of the customer service reps at the mobile stores don’t speak English, so some basic Spanish and pointing will help. Request the list of packages and point to one of them, then they’ll set up your SIM and recharge.
Once the process is complete, a confirmation SMS will be sent to your mobile. I always like to test the data on my phone before leaving the store. This is just an extra precaution because of our bad experiences in other countries, but we haven’t had any issues here.
Where to stay
A private room in a shared apartment can cost between $400 and $900.
If you search in Airbnb you can find spacious 1-bedroom ground floor apartment with all the modern amenities necessary for perfect work and living conditions. Wifi was decent and reliable – no problems with Skype calls or streaming.
Usually the apartments are close to a variety of food options: the main supermarket (La Bodegona) and next to the markets.
If you’re willing to bunk up with roommates or you’re planning on staying for longer than a few months, it’s possible to find a place in Antigua for just a couple hundred dollars per month. Friends of mine had rooms in shared houses for as little as $200 per month and private places for as low as $305.
But remember the best deals are found through the word-of-mouth and getting a feel for the place so you can bargain accordingly.
Antigua is a compact city that is easy to walk around. It’s very easy and actually quite pleasant getting around in Antigua by foot. Most tourist hotspots are nestled in an 8-by-8 block area less than 1 km across. However, the sidewalks are narrow and not always in good repair. So, watch your step!
Another frequent question heard in Guatemala is: is it safe to walk in Antigua? The answer is almost always yes, but certain precautions should be taken. Keep any and all valuables out of sight: laptops, cameras, expensive cell phones, jewelry, watches, etc. Try not to roam the streets late at night and keep your focus on getting to your location so you don’t get lost. The areas off the tourist grid are the areas towatch out for. However, most people don’t experience any threat to their safety, so just proceed with normal caution and you should be fine!
If it is very late or you are unfamiliar with where you want to go, call (or ask a local to call) a taxi or tuk-tuk. A ride anywhere in the city should cost between $2.65 and $4, which is well worth the price ofyour safety. Most of the taxis in Antigua use meters. But somehow if it doesn’t, then make sure you negotiate a firm price in advance.
What to eat
When it comes to food, you can spend as little or as much as you want. There’s a massive municipal market (which is without a doubt one of my favorite places in town) where you can buy everything from dried goods to fresh fruits and vegetables to recently butchered meat at a fraction of the price you’d pay in a supermarket back home.
If you’re not into cooking, there’s a range of restaurants available, starting with super cheap Guatemalan street food all the way up to fancy French restaurants that would hold their own in a major American city.
Antigua may have a high cost of living than the rest of Guatemala, but the digital nomad Antigua won’t break their bank by dining out. It’s still quite cheap to eat here!
- Pepián - Considered by many as Guatemala’s national dish, this hearty meat and vegetable stew can be found everywhere from street vendors (for a few dollars) to restaurants ($5-15) to locals’ homes.
- Rainbow Café and Bookshop - Combining great books with appetizing dishes, exceptional service with inspiring NGO talks on building a sustainable future of Central America, Rainbow is the truest Guatemalan establishment in every sense of the word.
- Sobremesa - Fusing fine art with fine dining, Sobremesa is an art gallery-turned-restaurant nestled in the heart of the city.
- Samsara - Popular vegetarian restaurant. We made our first attempt at being vegetarian and this place was our savior. Try the tacos!
- Taqueria Doña Lupita: Best tacos we had south of Mexico! For a cheap and delicious meal, head to Doña Lupita for tasty food and great service. After your meal is prepared, you can top it off with a variety of fresh salsas from their buffet. They have meat and veggie options.
In addition to providing the best co-working space in Antigua, Impact Hub fosters an impressive digital nomad community that connects 15,000+ Hub members. It’s definitely a good start to meeting your fellow digital nomad Antigua as well as worldwide.
Impact Hub Antigua hosts community events, workshops, and parties where members share their experiences and meet up to share opportunities.
Also Selina Antigua host a lot of events every week, so it's a great spot to chill, work and make friends.
What you need to know
Here is the most important information needed to consider the option to live in Antigua, Guatemala.
- When to go: It's very humid most all year round, so anytime is good to go but you can visit in December if you want to skip cold winter in other places.
- Language: Spanish is the official language spoken by the majority of the population. However, most people working in tourism and hospitality industry speak both Spanish and English. A
- Climate: Antigua has been touted the “City of External Spring” with its warm days, however, it can get cold and fresh as soon as the sun goes down. The wet season is between May and October. The dry season is between November and April. May is the warmest month of the year with an averagetemperature of 30°C (86°F). January is the coldest with 20°C (68°F) when nights get very chilly.
- Altitude: Antigua’s altitude is 5,000 ft (1,500 m), which is mild but some people may need to adjust.
- Safety: Antigua is the safest city in Guatemala, due to its tourism, so it is generally safe. However, for women, it’s best not to walk alone at night. Like anywhere follow extra safety precautions and have common sense.
- Weather - Average temperatures vary very little. Considering humidity, temperatures feel hot all year with a fair chance of precipitation about half of the year. The warmest time of year is generally early to mid March where highs are regularly around 94.4°F (34.7°C) with temperatures rarely dropping below 73.7°F (23.2°C) at night.
- Data - There are big companies like Movistar or Claro with relatively cheap prices for data.
- Visa - ****Most country citizens are allowed to stay from 90 days without hassle.
What to do
There are plenty of things to do in and around Antigua, and I am going to share my favorites so you can experience the best this city has to offer!
- Hike the Volcano Papaya - Is the most accessible volcano, making it also the most visited. The hike to the top covers an elevation gain of around 1,500 feet and takes around 2 hours, depending on your fitness level. And if hiking just ain’t your thing, you can also rent a horse to bring you to the top for around 300 Q (or $40 USD).
- Self-guided Ruins Tour - Antigua was built in an earthquake-prone region, and a massive earthquake in 1773 destroyed much of the town. However, some of the main monuments in town were preserved and can still be seen today. Throughout the city, you’ll find a handful of churches, a monastery, a convent and even a school that date back as early as 16th century.
- Taste real chocolate - Located on the main drag, the chocolate museum is a popular place to stop in while wandering the town. There are exhibits that describe the chocolate making process, and you can of course find all sorts of the stuff to taste and purchase.
- Visit textile traditions - Mayan women have a textile tradition that is completely breathtaking; they spend months making one shirt and wear their clothing with so much pride. While the landscapes of this country are gorgeous, it’s really the Mayan women who make Guatemala outstanding.
- See the city from Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint - For a fantastic view of Antigua, the short walk to Cerro de la Cruz is a must. The name, which translates to “Hill of the Cross” is a pretty self-explanatory description of what you’ll find here. If you’re lucky and are visiting on a clear day, you’ll get a stunning view of the volcano looming in the distance.
- Tour a Coffee Farm - The region surrounding Antigua produces high quality beans that are shipped around the world; and it’s likely that they have ended up in your mug on more than one occasion. Get a deeper understanding of where your favorite morning beverage comes from, and meet the people responsible for bringing it to you.
- Visit the Mercado - You’ll find everything from produce to clothing, to freshly butchered meats and fish. While the market is open every day from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m., the main market days are Monday, Thursday and Saturday, and will be significantly busier.
- Visit Caoba Farms - First, stroll past their beautiful gardens and see how food is grown, and then dine in their onsite farm-to-table restaurant where you’ll get to taste it for yourself.
When you feel like getting out of Antigua, Guatemala offers some of the most stunning landscapes I’ve ever seen. My absolute favorite place is Lake Atitlan, which is about a three hour drive from Antigua. This deep, ancient lake is surrounded on all sides by steep volcanoes and hills, on which you’ll find seven tiny Mayan villages that are primarily accessed by boat.
Grab a tourist shuttle from Antigua (cost: $12), hop off in the port town of Panajachel, grab one of the blue lanchas, and head out to whichever town you choose.
If you don’t fancy the party atmosphere of San Pedro or Panajachel, San Marcos is the perfect place to come. Full of hippies and expats, this tranquil town has more yoga and meditation classes than you can shake a stick at – or for something more original (or New Age-y), there are cacao ceremonies that will certainly leave an impression. Whatever you do here, it’s the place to go to reconnect with yourself and nature.
There you go. Whether you’re a remote worker or a digital nomad, I can’t recommend Antigua Guatemala enough.