Renting In Antigua Guatemala Like A Local

When I first started looking for an ideal destination for my first stop on the “slow travel” world tour, many cities popped up on the list. Ambergris Caye, Belize, was an early front-runner. English is spoken there, and the beaches are gorgeous. A perfect combo.

I also considered Granada, Nicaragua and either Las Tablas or Boquete, Panama. All great destinations and well worth a stop later down the road. However, they were at a very significant disadvantage.

I’d already been to Antigua Guatemala and had fallen in love with itI mean, look at the picture below. Wouldn’t you also?

Antigua Guatemala rentals

Antigua Guatemala’s gorgeous backdrop

Fast forward to today, and I’m pretty happy with the decision. Antigua Guatemala is a great jumping off point for attractive destinations throughout Guatemala. Stick with this site long enough, and I’ll show you what I mean.

One of the first hurdles I needed to clear was finding a place to stay. I did the first thing a digital nomad would do. I googled.

Eventually, I found a place that so far I’m satisfied with. These are the lessons I learned about moving overseas as a first-time expat:

Avoid Renting in Antigua Guatemala at “Gringo” or Expat Prices

Some websites online will cater to expats and charge a premium, even when the same rental property advertises for less elsewhere. I routinely came across properties that were listed for much, MUCH more on websites aimed at English-speaking readers than what they were listed in the local classifieds.

To avoid being gouged, try two simple strategies when renting in Antigua Guatemala:

1) As I mentioned, search Guatemala online classifieds. The drawback will naturally be that they will often be in the native language, though not always. Fortunately, rental descriptions are pretty easy to figure out (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, neighborhood, and utilities –if any– included).

2) The best investment you can make, money-wise, is to learn the local language. If you or a friend (local or expat) speaks the local language, you’re less likely to be charged a premium if you let them inquire about the property first. You or they may even be able to bargain the price down if you don’t sound like a foreigner. Foreigners are usually thought to be loaded with money.

3) Not all rental agencies – or even real estate agents – are created equally. Because there’s no regulating body for rental agents in Guatemala, anyone can jump into the market and fish for tenants. Marketing agreements are nonexistent, so the same property can be advertised by multiple agencies, with often substantial differences.

Since agents draw their salary from commissions (usually the first month’s rent if a tenant signs a one-year contract), they’re likely working against your interests, looking to get you into the highest-priced property they can.

Don’t rely on their word that the rental price quoted is the lowest price possible the owner will agree to, or that there aren’t any cheaper properties on the market.

It’s Worth Paying a Little Extra if Utilities Are Already Included

Utilities may be hard to hook up if not already in place. I learned this the hard way when I moved into the property I’m at today.

I rented a property with the understanding that hooking up Internet service would not be problematic. I won’t rehash the details, you can read that here, but it wasn’t as easy as was portrayed by the people I rented from.

Keep in mind that to obtain service, you will sometimes need to show proof that you’ll be renting the property for a while. Often you won’t be able to get service at all if you’re a foreigner, for lack of a required document or local bank account.

Save yourself a headache and get as many utilities included in the rental price as possible.

Don’t Rush Into Renting Without Getting a Lay of the Land

At first, it all will seem exciting and new. You’ll want to be in the middle of everything, which is fine IF you’re on a short vacation.

Once you live in the place for an extended time, you may start gaining a new level of appreciation for peace. The crush of tourists usually gets annoying when you cease being a tourist. That cool, happening bar half-a-block away will drive you insane a month later when you need to catch up on some sleep.

Also, desirable locations tend to be much higher priced than cheaper neighborhoods a mile or two from the center of the action. But discovering those rental property gems that combine affordability with accessibility and safety will take a bit of time.

What do I recommend?

Stay for a month in a hostel or hotel that offers monthly rental rates. Not many hotels advertise monthly rates, though some do. You can also try AirBnB.

It never hurts to ask the hotel owner what sort of deal they will make with you. Sometimes you’ll even get daily breakfast thrown into the deal.

Try to bring the rate down by requesting maid service only once or twice a week instead of daily visits. They’ll be very much open to hearing your proposal, especially if it’s the off-season.

Your Rental Deposit May Not Always Be Refundable

In the US, it is often customary to get your deposit back if you leave the rental property in good shape. Understand ahead of time that depending on the country, your deposit may be as good as gone, and you may not see a dime once you move out of the property.

For that reason, be suspicious of owners asking for more than one month’s deposit, or any other exorbitant sum. Be prepared never to see your deposit again, be super grateful if you do get it all back.

Be Wary of Rental Contracts You Don’t Understand

Don’t enter solely into a verbal agreement. Obtain proof, in writing, that you are the occupant of the property, for the length and rate agreed. Having legal backing will protect you in the case the owner decides to raise the rent midway through your stay.

It will also protect you if someone else claims they want to sell the property and need you to move out. By law, they won’t be able to do anything until your lease runs out, provided that you are paying on time and have receipts showing so.

Keep in mind that the contract will likely be in the local language, so bring along someone that knows the language and can translate it for you, if necessary. Also know that in some countries, like Guatemala, a contract written in English is not valid legally, therefore unenforceable and useless.

Hopefully, these tips save you from making an expensive mistake and help you avoid an unpleasant experience overseas.

What has been your experience when renting abroad?

I’d love to hear your comments!


Published by Rich Polanco

Fan of dogs + all things tech. Love a great pizza. My goal is not to travel to every country in the world. I only want to get to know my favorite ones REALLY well. Check out the big bio here. Follow @RichPolanco and connect on Facebook. Currently exploring: Guatemala.

14 thoughts on “Renting In Antigua Guatemala Like A Local

  1. I would love to visit Guatamala and could avoid being scammed by taking my ex sister-in-law who I am still close with. She is native to the country and would be the ultimate tour guide. I miss her a lot. She moved to NY, and I miss her homemade cooking and especially homemade tortillas.

    1. Hi Amberr! Thanks for visiting! I knew next-to-nothing about Guatemala until I visited here, for the first time, a couple of years ago. Hope you catch the travel bug and come down here. Lots to see and do!


    1. Hi Barbara! It’s definitely less, although there are some huge houses with nice courtyards out here that rent upwards of $1,000. But overall? Way cheaper.


  2. Your website is both educative and entertaining. Thanks for all the great articles.

  3. Hola,

    We are relocating to Antigua in July with our 3 daughters. I don’t want to live in a ghost community, I will need a kitchen with cabinets, we don’t need to be in the midst of the bars, and my husband travels 70% of the time, meaning I still want to feel secure. I have schools arranged for my girls, though my little one will be on the Guatemala schedule while the bigger girls are on a US schedule. I am seeing housing listed all over the place price and location. I understand Spanish to a point and speak it haltingly. I can read it fairly well. Any suggestions for specific websites to look for rentals? Anyone or place to specifically avoid? I really appreciate any suggestions and find your blog to be informative and helpful.

    1. Hi Catherine!

      The problem with websites is that they’re irregularly updated. You’ll be better off speaking directly with an agent, who can email you active listings. I can recommend one, if you’d like.

      Sounds like the best option for you will be a gated community, but one that is close to Antigua and not far from civilization. If I were you, I’d avoid sketchy areas, such as Jocotenango, or communities too isolated, such as the ones in Alotenango. It will depend on your budget and preferred method of transportation.

      Email me using the contact link above or through Facebook ( for more specifics :)


  4. Rich, I like your suggestion of letting a native-speaker talk to the owner first. My husband was the one who negotiated the deal for our house and, while small and very simple, it has everything we need at a fraction of the price we would’ve paid if I did the negotiating.

    Also, if someone is going to stay longer than a month or two, looking just outside Antigua still allows them to be able to take in all that Antigua has to offer, yet (most likely) paying less in rent, living in a more peaceful setting, and getting the true flavor of Guatemala by being surrounded by locals. Areas like San Gaspar, San Juan del Obispo, and Santa Ana are great places to try!

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