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Guatemala Travel Budget: My Experience


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Horatia Yong



Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice amazing experiences and destinations. With careful planning and some insider tips, you can explore the beautiful country of Guatemala without breaking the bank. From Mayan ruins to breathtaking landscapes, vibrant markets to delicious cuisine, Guatemala offers a multitude of budget-friendly options for the savvy traveler.


Located in Central America, Guatemala is a treasure trove of rich history, diverse cultures, and stunning natural beauty. The country boasts a wide range of attractions, from the ancient Mayan city of Tikal to the mesmerizing volcanic peaks of Antigua. Whether you’re an adventure seeker, a history enthusiast, or simply looking to soak up the local culture, Guatemala has something for everyone.


But how can you make your dream trip to Guatemala fit within a limited budget? Fear not, as in this article, I will share my personal experiences and insights into budget travel in Guatemala. I’ll provide tips on choosing the right time to visit, transportation options, affordable accommodations, budget-friendly dining choices, must-see attractions, outdoor activities, shopping for souvenirs, budgeting for tours and excursions, money-saving tips and tricks, as well as safety considerations.


So, if you’re ready to embark on an adventurous journey through the vibrant landscapes and centuries-old history of Guatemala without emptying your wallet, read on!


Choosing the Right Time to Visit

When planning your budget travel to Guatemala, one of the first factors to consider is the best time to visit. The country experiences a tropical climate, with distinct wet and dry seasons. Understanding the weather patterns and tourist seasons can help you make the most of your trip while keeping costs down.


The dry season, from November to April, is generally considered the best time to visit. The weather is sunny and pleasant during this period, making it ideal for exploring the outdoor attractions that Guatemala has to offer. However, it’s important to note that the dry season also corresponds with the peak tourist season. This means that prices for accommodations and attractions may be higher, and popular destinations may be more crowded. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds and potentially save some money, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of May or October.


On the other hand, the wet season, from May to October, typically sees a higher chance of rain. Although it may deter some travelers, the wet season has its advantages for budget-conscious travelers. During this time, you can find discounted accommodations and travel deals. Additionally, the landscapes are lush and green, providing a unique and beautiful backdrop for your adventures.


Keep in mind that even during the wet season, the rain showers are usually short-lived and followed by clear skies. By planning your activities around the weather forecast and being prepared with rain gear, you can still enjoy the best of Guatemala while saving money.


Lastly, be sure to research any major festivals or holidays that may coincide with your travel dates. While attending these events can be a memorable experience, it’s important to note that prices for accommodations and transportation may be higher during these busy periods.


In summary, choosing the right time to visit Guatemala involves balancing weather conditions, tourist seasons, and your budget. Consider your preferences, prioritize flexibility, and aim to visit during the shoulder seasons or take advantage of discounted rates during the wet season to maximize your budget and enjoy all that Guatemala has to offer.


Transportation Options

Getting around Guatemala on a budget is both convenient and affordable, thanks to the various transportation options available. Here are a few options to consider when planning your trip:

  1. Public Buses: Public buses are the most common mode of transportation in Guatemala. They are not only affordable but also provide a chance to interact with locals and experience the authentic culture of the country. Buses operate on fixed routes and are available in most cities and towns. They are a great way to travel between different destinations within the country.
  2. Shared Shuttles: Shared shuttles are a popular choice for travelers who prefer a more comfortable and convenient option. These shuttles operate between major tourist destinations and offer door-to-door service. While they are slightly pricier than public buses, they are still a cost-effective way to travel, especially if you’re traveling in a group or have limited time.
  3. Chicken Buses: If you’re looking for an adventurous and unique transportation experience, hop on a chicken bus! These converted American school buses are colorful and decorated, providing a fun and lively atmosphere during your journey. While they may not be as comfortable as other options, they are extremely budget-friendly, making them a favorite among backpackers and adventurous travelers.
  4. Taxis and Tuk-Tuks: Taxis and tuk-tuks can be found in most cities and towns in Guatemala. While they are more expensive than buses, they provide a convenient and quick way to get around, especially for shorter distances or when you have heavy luggage. Make sure to negotiate the fare before getting into a taxi or tuk-tuk to avoid any surprises.
  5. Rental Cars: If you prefer having more flexibility and independence, renting a car is an option to consider. However, keep in mind that driving in Guatemala can be challenging, especially in busy cities with heavy traffic. Additionally, you’ll need to factor in the cost of fuel, parking fees, and any additional insurance coverage. Compare prices from different rental agencies and consider the added costs before making a decision.

Regardless of the transportation option you choose, always prioritize your safety and be cautious of your belongings. It’s also a good idea to check online forums and travel blogs for updated information and recommendations on reputable transportation providers.


By utilizing the various transportation options available in Guatemala, you can navigate the country efficiently while staying within your budget. Whether you opt for public buses, shared shuttles, chicken buses, or taxis, getting around Guatemala is an adventure in itself!


Accommodation Choices

When it comes to finding affordable accommodation in Guatemala, there are plenty of options to suit every budget and travel style. From budget hostels to cozy guesthouses and even homestays, here are some accommodation choices worth considering:

  1. Hostels: Hostels are a popular choice for budget travelers. They offer affordable dormitory-style or private room accommodations and provide opportunities for socializing with fellow travelers. Many hostels also have communal kitchens where you can cook your meals, helping you save on dining expenses.
  2. Guesthouses: Guesthouses are another great option for budget travelers. These are small, family-run accommodations that offer private rooms at affordable prices. While they may have fewer facilities compared to hotels, guesthouses often provide a more personal and authentic experience.
  3. Apartments and Vacation Rentals: If you’re traveling with a group or plan to stay in one place for an extended period, renting an apartment or vacation home can be a cost-effective choice. Websites like Airbnb and VRBO offer numerous options for affordable rentals, allowing you to have more space and the flexibility to cook your meals.
  4. Homestays: For a truly immersive cultural experience, consider staying with a local family through a homestay program. This allows you to learn about the local customs and traditions firsthand while enjoying comfortable accommodations. Homestays are not only affordable but also provide a unique opportunity to connect with the local community.
  5. Eco-lodges and Farm Stays: If you’re interested in sustainable and eco-friendly accommodations, Guatemala offers various eco-lodges and farm stays. These accommodations allow you to experience the natural beauty of the country while supporting sustainable tourism practices. While they may be slightly higher in price compared to other options, they often include meals and activities, making them a great value for money.

When booking your accommodation, be sure to read reviews, compare prices, and check for any additional fees or hidden costs. It’s also a good idea to inquire about the location and nearby amenities to ensure convenience during your stay.


Lastly, consider staying in less-touristy or smaller towns to find more affordable accommodation options. These areas often offer a more authentic experience and lower prices compared to popular tourist destinations.


With a wide range of accommodation choices available, you can find a comfortable and budget-friendly place to stay in Guatemala, no matter your preferences or travel style.


Food and Dining Options

Sampling the delicious local cuisine is an essential part of any travel experience, and Guatemala is no exception. Thankfully, there are plenty of affordable food and dining options that allow you to indulge in the flavors of the country without breaking the bank.


Here are some tips to help you navigate the food scene in Guatemala on a budget:

  1. Street Food: One of the best ways to experience the local flavors of Guatemala is through street food. From mouth-watering tacos and tamales to freshly grilled meats and flavorful snacks, street vendors offer a wide variety of delicious and affordable options. Just make sure to choose vendors with clean and hygienic practices.
  2. Local Markets: Explore the local markets in Guatemala, such as Mercado Central in Guatemala City or Chichicastenango Market, to find fresh produce, spices, and traditional ingredients. Many markets also have food stalls or small eateries where you can enjoy affordable meals, such as typical Guatemalan stews and grilled meats.
  3. Comedor: Comedors are small, family-run restaurants that offer budget-friendly meals. These establishments serve traditional Guatemalan dishes at reasonable prices, making them a popular choice among locals and budget-conscious travelers. Look for places frequented by locals for an authentic dining experience.
  4. Picnic Style Meals: Enjoy the beautiful landscapes of Guatemala while having a picnic-style meal. Visit local grocery stores or markets to pick up fresh fruits, bread, cheese, and other snacks. Pack a blanket and head to a scenic spot, such as a park or a lakeside, to savor your budget-friendly meal.
  5. Menu del Día: Many restaurants, especially in tourist areas, offer a “menu del día” or a daily set menu. These affordable fixed-price meals typically include a soup or salad, a main course, a beverage, and sometimes a dessert. It’s a great way to try a variety of dishes without breaking your budget.

When dining out, keep in mind that local, traditional dishes tend to be more budget-friendly than international cuisines. Embrace the local flavors and try dishes like “Pepian” (a hearty meat and vegetable stew), “Chiles Rellenos” (stuffed peppers), or “Platanos Fritos” (fried plantains).


Lastly, avoid dining in tourist hotspots where prices tend to be higher. Venture into local neighborhoods to find authentic and affordable dining options frequented by locals.


By exploring street food, local markets, comedors, and embracing the traditional cuisine, you can savor the delicious flavors of Guatemala while managing your budget.


Sightseeing and Attractions

Guatemala is a country rich in historical sites, cultural landmarks, and natural wonders. Exploring these sights and attractions is a highlight of any trip to Guatemala. Fortunately, many of these attractions are accessible and affordable for budget travelers. Here are some must-see sights that won’t break the bank:

  1. Mayan Ruins: Guatemala is home to some remarkable Mayan ruins, such as Tikal, Yaxha, and El Mirador. These ancient archaeological sites offer a glimpse into the fascinating history and culture of the Mayan civilization. Entrance fees to these sites are relatively low, and you can explore them on your own or hire a local guide for a more enriching experience.
  2. Lake Atitlán: Surrounded by majestic volcanoes, Lake Atitlán is one of the most picturesque spots in Guatemala. You can take a boat ride across the lake, visit the charming lakeside villages, or hike up the volcanic peaks for stunning panoramic views. The cost of boat rides and transportation is affordable, and you can even find budget-friendly accommodations around the lake.
  3. Antigua Guatemala: The colonial city of Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a must-visit destination in Guatemala. Walking through the cobblestone streets, admiring the well-preserved architecture, and exploring the colorful markets won’t cost you a fortune. You can also hike up to Cerro de la Cruz or visit nearby coffee plantations for a unique and affordable experience.
  4. Chichicastenango Market: Known for its vibrant colors and extensive variety of handicrafts, Chichicastenango Market is a paradise for souvenir hunters. This market offers a fascinating insight into the indigenous culture of Guatemala, and you can find unique textiles, crafts, and traditional clothing at affordable prices. Bargaining is common, so don’t be afraid to negotiate for a better deal.
  5. Pacaya Volcano: For an unforgettable experience, hike up the Pacaya Volcano, located just outside Antigua. The trek to the summit gives you a chance to witness the volcanic activity up close, with stunning views of lava fields and surrounding landscapes. Many tour operators offer guided hikes at reasonable prices, and it’s an adventure that shouldn’t be missed.

Remember to check the opening hours, entrance fees, and any additional costs associated with these attractions beforehand. Some sites may offer discounted rates for students, so don’t forget to bring your student ID if applicable.


Additionally, take advantage of free or low-cost activities such as exploring local parks, visiting art galleries, and attending cultural festivals or events. Immerse yourself in the local culture and interact with the friendly Guatemalan people to truly make the most of your sightseeing experience.


By prioritizing these affordable and captivating sights, you can explore the best of Guatemala without straining your travel budget.


Outdoor Activities

Guatemala is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a plethora of exciting and budget-friendly activities amidst its stunning natural landscapes. From hiking volcanoes to exploring lush jungles, here are some outdoor activities that won’t break the bank:

  1. Hiking: With its volcanic terrain and diverse ecosystems, Guatemala offers fantastic opportunities for hiking. Climb one of the country’s volcanoes, such as Pacaya or Acatenango, for breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences. Many hikes can be done independently, but if you prefer guidance, there are affordable guided hiking tours available as well.
  2. Swimming and Kayaking: Guatemala is home to many beautiful lakes and water bodies, perfect for swimming and kayaking. Enjoy a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear waters of Lake Atitlán or take a kayak out for a peaceful paddle on Rio Dulce. These activities are relatively inexpensive and offer a chance to cool off while surrounded by natural beauty.
  3. Exploring National Parks: Guatemala has several stunning national parks that are ideal for outdoor adventurers. Semuc Champey, for example, offers opportunities for hiking, swimming in natural pools, and exploring limestone caves. The entrance fees for national parks are usually affordable, and you can spend an entire day immersed in nature’s wonders.
  4. Bird-Watching: With its abundance of diverse ecosystems, Guatemala is a haven for bird-watchers. Whether you’re an avid birder or just starting out, you’ll be amazed by the array of bird species you can spot. Grab your binoculars and visit places like the Mayan Biosphere Reserve or the Laguna del Tigre National Park for a memorable bird-watching experience.
  5. Zip-lining and Canopy Tours: For an adrenaline rush, try zip-lining or canopy tours in Guatemala. Soar through the treetops, zipping from one platform to another, and catch breathtaking views of the surrounding landscapes. Many adventure parks and tour operators offer these activities at affordable rates, providing an exhilarating and memorable experience.

As with any outdoor activity, it’s essential to prioritize safety. Research the trails or activities beforehand, bring necessary equipment and supplies, and consider hiring a local guide if you’re unsure about the terrain or conditions.


Remember, some outdoor activities may require permits or equipment rentals, so it’s important to factor these costs into your budget. Additionally, check for any seasonal restrictions or weather conditions that may affect certain activities.


By taking advantage of Guatemala’s natural beauty and diverse landscapes, you can enjoy a wide range of outdoor activities without putting a strain on your travel budget.


Shopping and Souvenirs

Exploring the markets and shops of Guatemala is an exciting part of any trip, allowing you to bring back unique souvenirs and handicrafts that reflect the country’s rich cultural heritage. From vibrant textiles to intricate pottery, there’s something for everyone. Here are some tips for shopping and finding affordable souvenirs:

  1. Local Markets: Visit local markets such as Chichicastenango Market, Mercado Central, or Mercado de Artesanías in Antigua to find a wide variety of traditional Guatemalan crafts and souvenirs. These markets offer a treasure trove of handmade textiles, colorful fabrics, hand-carved wooden items, and vibrant woven goods. Bargaining is common, so don’t be shy to negotiate for the best price.
  2. Cooperatives and Fair Trade Shops: Support local artisans and communities by shopping at cooperatives and fair trade shops. These establishments ensure fair wages and sustainable practices while offering high-quality handicrafts. Not only will you find unique and authentic products, but you’ll also contribute to the local economy.
  3. Street Vendors: Keep an eye out for street vendors selling handmade items and souvenirs. From jewelry to keychains, you’ll find a variety of affordable options. Engage with the vendors, learn about their crafts, and choose items that capture the essence of Guatemala.
  4. Textiles and Embroidery: Guatemala is renowned for its stunning textiles and intricate embroidery. Look for traditional huipils (blouses), colorful belts, or beautifully woven scarves. These items make for wonderful souvenirs, showcasing the artistry and craftsmanship of the indigenous communities.
  5. Coffee and Chocolate: Guatemala is famous for its coffee, so consider bringing back a bag of locally roasted beans. You can also find delicious Guatemalan chocolate, which makes for a sweet and affordable gift. Look for sustainable and fair trade products to support local farmers.

When shopping for souvenirs, keep in mind that quality and authenticity can vary. Take your time to compare prices and check the craftsmanship of the items. If you’re unsure about the authenticity of a product, don’t hesitate to ask the vendor for more information or recommendations.


Lastly, consider the size and weight of the items you plan to buy, as well as any restrictions or customs regulations in your home country. It’s always a good idea to leave some space in your luggage or consider shipping larger items to avoid any hassle.


By exploring local markets, supporting fair trade shops, and choosing unique handmade items, you can bring home a piece of Guatemala’s vibrant culture and create lasting memories of your trip.


Budgeting for Tours and Excursions

While exploring Guatemala on your own is a great way to save money, there are certain tours and excursions that offer unique experiences and insights into the country’s culture and natural beauty. Here are some tips for budgeting and finding affordable tours and excursions:

  1. Research and Compare: Before booking any tours or excursions, do thorough research and compare the prices and offerings from various tour operators. Read reviews, check their reputation, and inquire about any hidden costs or additional fees. By comparing options, you can find the most value for your money.
  2. Group Discounts: Many tour operators offer group discounts, so consider traveling with a group of friends or joining other travelers to take advantage of these savings. Group tours often include transportation, guides, and sometimes meals, making them a convenient and cost-effective option.
  3. Local Guides: Hiring a local guide can enhance your experience and provide valuable insights into the history, culture, and natural surroundings of Guatemala. Local guides are often more affordable compared to international tour companies, and they can personalize the tour to your interests and budget.
  4. Combine Multiple Activities: Some tour operators offer combination packages that include multiple activities or attractions in one tour. By bundling activities together, you can save money compared to booking each activity individually. Look for packages that align with your interests and make the most of your time in Guatemala.
  5. Off-Peak Discounts: Consider traveling during the off-peak seasons or weekdays, as tour prices are often lower during these times. Tour operators may offer discounts or promotions to attract more customers during quieter periods, allowing you to enjoy the same experiences at a lower cost.
  6. DIY Excursions: Some excursions and attractions can be done independently with a little bit of planning and research. For example, visiting the stunning Semuc Champey or exploring the colorful markets of Antigua can be done without a guide, saving you money on tour fees. Just ensure that you have the necessary information, maps, and transportation arrangements beforehand.

Remember to consider additional costs such as transportation to and from the starting point of the tour, entrance fees, and any meals or equipment rentals that may be required. It’s also a good idea to set aside some extra cash for unexpected expenses or optional activities that may come up during the tour.


By budgeting wisely and doing your research, you can find affordable tours and excursions that allow you to experience the best of Guatemala without overspending.


Money-saving Tips and Tricks

When it comes to budget travel in Guatemala, every penny counts. Here are some money-saving tips and tricks to help you stretch your budget and make the most of your trip:

  1. Eat Like a Local: Opt for local street food and eateries instead of tourist restaurants. Not only is the food delicious and authentic, but it’s also more affordable. Look for comedor-style restaurants or stalls frequented by locals for the best deals.
  2. Stay in Budget Accommodations: Choose budget-friendly accommodations such as hostels, guesthouses, and homestays. These options are not only cheaper than hotels but also provide opportunities to connect with fellow travelers and locals.
  3. Use Public Transportation: Utilize public buses or shared shuttles to get around the country. They are cheaper than taxis and private transfers and offer a chance to experience the local culture. Chicken buses, though basic, are an adventure in itself.
  4. Travel in Off-Peak Seasons: Consider visiting Guatemala during the shoulder seasons or low-demand periods. Prices for accommodations, tours, and flights tend to be lower, allowing you to get more value for your money.
  5. Bargain at Markets: When shopping at local markets, don’t be afraid to negotiate prices. Bargaining is common practice in Guatemala, and you can often get a better deal by haggling with the vendors.
  6. Carry a Reusable Water Bottle and Filter: Instead of buying bottled water, bring a reusable water bottle and a portable filter. You can fill up your bottle from tap water (if it’s safe) or use the filtered water to reduce unnecessary expenses and plastic waste.
  7. Take Advantage of Free Activities: Guatemala offers several free or low-cost activities. Wander through local parks, visit art galleries, or explore nature trails without spending a dime. Research free walking tours or community events happening during your visit.
  8. Plan and Book in Advance: By planning your itinerary and booking accommodations, transportation, and tours in advance, you can take advantage of early bird discounts and secure better deals, ultimately saving money.
  9. Learn Basic Spanish Phrases: Knowing a few basic Spanish phrases can go a long way in Guatemala. It can help you communicate and negotiate better, as well as avoid any misunderstandings that might lead to unnecessary expenses.
  10. Withdraw Cash Wisely: While credit cards are widely accepted in tourist areas, it’s advisable to carry some cash for smaller establishments and local markets. However, be mindful of ATMs and withdraw cash from reputable establishments to avoid excessive fees or scams.

Remember, budget travel is all about making conscious choices and prioritizing your spending. By implementing these money-saving tips and tricks, you can make your trip to Guatemala more affordable without compromising on the quality of your experience.


Safety and Security Considerations

While Guatemala is a beautiful and welcoming country, it’s important to prioritize safety and take necessary precautions to ensure a hassle-free and enjoyable trip. Here are some safety and security considerations to keep in mind while traveling in Guatemala:

  1. Stay Informed: Before your trip, research the current safety situation in Guatemala. Stay updated on travel advisories and consult reliable sources for information on the areas you plan to visit. It’s also advisable to register your travel plans with your embassy or consulate.
  2. Blend In: To avoid drawing unnecessary attention, dress modestly and try to blend in with the local culture. Avoid displaying expensive jewelry, gadgets, or large amounts of cash. Always be aware of your surroundings and trust your instincts.
  3. Transportation Safety: Use officially licensed taxis or ride-sharing services for transportation within cities. If using public buses, keep an eye on your belongings and beware of pickpockets. Avoid traveling alone at night, especially in unfamiliar or poorly lit areas.
  4. Secure Your Belongings: Keep your valuable belongings, such as passports, cash, and electronics, locked in a hotel safe or secured in your accommodation. When out and about, carry only necessary items and keep them close to your body. Use a money belt or a hidden pouch to store your valuables.
  5. Be Cautious with ATM Usage: Use ATMs located within reputable banks or secured areas. Be cautious of your surroundings and shield your PIN when entering it. If possible, withdraw cash during daylight hours when the surroundings are more visible.
  6. Health and Hygiene: Ensure you are up to date on routine vaccinations before traveling to Guatemala. Drink bottled or filtered water, and be cautious with street food to avoid food-related illnesses. Carry hand sanitizer and practice good hygiene to minimize the risk of infections.
  7. Cultural Sensitivity: Respect the local customs and traditions of Guatemala. Dress modestly when visiting religious sites and be mindful of cultural norms. Seek permission before taking photographs of individuals or religious ceremonies.
  8. Learn Basic Spanish Phrases: Learning a few basic Spanish phrases can help facilitate communication and navigate unexpected situations. It not only shows respect for the local culture but also allows you to seek assistance or ask for directions if needed.
  9. Travel Insurance: Purchase comprehensive travel insurance that covers medical expenses, trip cancellations, and personal belongings. Read the policy carefully and ensure it covers activities and destinations you plan to undertake in Guatemala.
  10. Local Advice: Seek advice from locals, hotel staff, or reputable tour operators about safe areas to visit and any potential risks. They can provide helpful tips and insights to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in Guatemala.

Remember, these safety considerations are general guidelines, and it’s important to assess risks based on your personal travel style and preferences. By staying informed, using common sense, and being aware of your surroundings, you can minimize potential risks and have a worry-free trip to Guatemala.



Traveling on a budget doesn’t mean compromising on the quality of your experience, and Guatemala is the perfect destination to prove just that. With its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture, Guatemala offers a plethora of affordable options for the savvy traveler. By following the tips and insights shared in this guide, you can make the most of your budget while exploring all that this beautiful country has to offer.


From choosing the right time to visit and utilizing various transportation options to finding budget-friendly accommodations and enjoying delicious local cuisine, there are countless ways to save money without missing out on the best experiences. Whether you’re exploring ancient Mayan ruins, immersing yourself in breathtaking natural wonders, or shopping for unique souvenirs, Guatemala caters to every interest and budget.


As with any travel destination, it’s important to prioritize safety and take necessary precautions. By staying informed, blending in with the local culture, and ensuring the security of your belongings, you can navigate Guatemala with confidence and peace of mind.


So, pack your bags, prepare your itinerary, and get ready for an unforgettable budget travel adventure in Guatemala. Immerse yourself in the vibrant colors, indulge in the flavors, and embrace the warmth of the Guatemalan people. With careful planning and an adventurous spirit, you’ll create memories to last a lifetime without breaking the bank.