When I first arrived in Guatemala about a year ago, I had a small idea of what to expect. It’s quite a leap to move from a mostly wealthy suburb in the US to the seemingly chaotic pace of a Central American country, where I was constantly told there would be danger lurking around every corner. It’s not an easy transition for most Guatemala expats.
It turns out those fears were highly inflated. Perception, from afar, is not reality, and just as I wouldn’t choose to live in Camden, New Jersey, or Detroit, Michigan, there are places in Guatemala one would be well-advised to stay away. That is why I chose Antigua Guatemala as my home-base for exploration, and couldn’t be happier about it.
Antigua Guatemala as an expat destination checks all the boxes for me. It has:
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Antigua Guatemala’s Selling Points
#1 – Wonderful Weather
Dubbed the “City of Eternal Spring,” Antigua boasts year-round temperatures that average in the 70s, which makes the use of A/C or heaters unnecessary. There’s a rainy season that runs from May to November, though the rains are mostly an afternoon event and not an all-day occurrence.
San Jose Cathedral (left), Agua volcano (center), Parque Central (right)
Tanque de la Unión, a public wash basin
#2 – Great Restaurants
Almost every type of cuisine is represented here. Argentinian food? It’s here. Japanese, Indian, German, even Danish? Yup. Seafood is also easy to find (try ceviche (seafood dish) with a cold brew on a hot day… delicious!) Guatemala expats have plenty of options should they become homesick.
Antigua is also a great place to sample some of Guatemala’s best local food. San Felipe, a town within walking distance of Antigua, is a great spot to try favorite Guatemalan street food, like tamales, chuchitos, tostadas, enchiladas, rellenitos, and atoles, the last being a favorite hot beverage made from ground corn.
#3 – Safety
Police presence is very visible here. Because Antigua Guatemala is such a draw for tourism, the government has a vested interest in continuing to keep it safe for tourists that land here. Very rarely do I feel uncomfortable walking the streets at night.
It helps that Antigua has its own Tourism Police (PROATUR), in addition to Guatemala’s National Police.
Parque Central at night
San Jose Cathedral at night
#4 – Beauty
As a UNESCO Heritage Site, Antigua has been protected from overzealous investors. The local government has exercised good care to keep the city in the most pristine state possible. You won’t find a building higher than three stories here, which preserves the magnificent views of the volcanoes for everyone to enjoy. You won’t find gaudy neon signs either, and loud music is well-regulated. In fact, blasting your car horn inside the city is forbidden.
View of Antigua from Cerro de la Cruz
La Merced Church
Compañia de Jesús Convent ruins
#5 – Nearby International Airport
Antigua Guatemala is about 45 minutes away from Guatemala City, which makes flights into/out of the country relatively painless Guatemala expats. Shuttles from Antigua to La Aurora airport are available for about $10 (~80Q). A roundtrip taxi ride to the city will cost about Q500 ($60).
#6 – Easy Internet Access
Awarded the moniker “Digital City,” Antigua has an advantage that because it’s close to Guatemala City, technology makes its way here relatively quickly. Fast Internet speeds of up to 10 Mbps are available here. The Impact Hub co-working space offers a modern, physical office space.
#7 – Culturally Lively
There’s plenty of events going on every week, and live music is easy to find. There are cultural activities on the calendar every month; from religious processions to free concerts, there’s something for everyone.
It’s also a kid-friendly city, and the Spanish Cultural Center (CFCE) has enough free activities on the weekends (puppet shows, movies, plays, etc.) to keep the little ones entertained.
Jugglers, Cooperación Española
Free shows for children, Cooperación Española
Guatemala’s National Ballet Company
Free cultural activities
For these reasons and others (low-cost of food, housing, medical care and relative ease of doing business) I wholeheartedly recommend Antigua Guatemala as an option for short-term and long-term living for Guatemala expats.
Thinking about living in Antigua?
Check out the Living in Antigua Guatemala Guide!