This past November, I solo traveled to Guatemala and spent two and a half weeks backpacking around the country on my own.
I chose Guatemala as my destination for many reasons – the breathtakingly beautiful natural landscapes from volcanoes to lakes to jungles and more; the rich indigenous culture; the fascinating history; beautiful colonial architecture, churches and convents to explore; charming traditional Mayan villages and colourful colonial cities; impressive ancient Mayan Ruins like Tikal; and the relative low cost of traveling there compared to Westernized countries.
I quickly fell in love with Guatemala and I had so many incredible experiences there. I traveled comfortably on a low to mid-range budget (not shoestring type of low) while staying in a combination of hostel dorms, private rooms in hostels, and bed and breakfasts booked through Airbnb; taking local transport; eating lots of delicious vegetarian meals and traditional Guatemalan foods; and finding budget-friendly or free activities but also splurging on worthwhile, unique and authentic experiences.
But let’s get back to my budget and the costs of traveling this stunning country!
The most expensive cost for my trip were definitely the flights, as I was flying from Winnipeg (Canada) and there were very few options available. But aside from that, the costs of traveling through Guatemala were very reasonable and inexpensive! Although I didn’t travel in the cheapest way possible (eating at good restaurants and not street food; taking tourist shuttles and private airport transportation; and staying in some B&Bs in addition to hostel dorm rooms), I feel like I got an incredible value for my money in Guatemala.
In sharing my own travel costs, I hope to show you that travel in Guatemala can be very affordable and doesn’t have to break the bank.
How Much Does It Cost To Travel Guatemala?
In total for two and a half weeks (17 days), I spent a total of $3,541.10 CAD. In this post, you will find a full breakdown of my spending in various categories and how you can spend less and travel for cheaper in order to lower your costs and make a trip like this more affordable for your budget.
In order to save money for this trip (and all of my travels), I took a portion of every paycheck that I received from my full-time job and put it into a separate savings account.
I definitely could have spent less money in Guatemala. I did more shopping than I was expecting to (everything was so beautiful, I just couldn’t say no!), my flights were more expensive than I was hoping, I paid extra for private shuttles to and from the airport and I took a couple of internal flights instead of the overnight bus. If you are on a low shoestring type of budget, you can absolutely spend less than I did when traveling Guatemala comfortably and still have incredible experiences. I will show you how you could do things cheaper than I did after each section/category in this post.
In sharing my budget breakdown, I hope to show you that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune to travel to Guatemala (or anywhere internationally) and you don’t have to be rich to travel in general. If you are currently planning a trip to Guatemala, you can use this budget breakdown as a way to estimate your potential costs and figure out a reasonable budget for how much you will be spending in Guatemala.
Basically, if you choose to travel independently, stay in budget-friendly accommodations, use public transportation, and eat where the locals eat, you can get a lot of value for your money and really stretch your dollar in Guatemala!
Not surprisingly, my flights were the most expensive portion of my budget by far. I flew round-trip with airlines Air Canada and Avianca from Winnipeg (Canada) to Guatemala City with connections in Toronto (Canada) and San Salvador (El Salvador) and my return flight had the same stopovers, in the reversed order. I compared the flight prices on a number of websites and ended up purchasing them from Avianca’s official website. This round-trip flight cost me a whopping $1,101.39 CAD.
I also took two short one-hour internal flights during my trip from Guatemala City to Flores and then back to Guatemala City with Avianca, in order to visit the Tikal Mayan Ruins in the northern Peten region of Guatemala and the charming colourful town of Flores. I paid $321.86 CAD for this round-trip flight.
Total I Spent on Flights: $1,423.25 CAD ($1,067.34 USD)
How To Do It Cheaper?
If you collect points or air miles from one of the many rewards programs out there, you could use those towards your flights to bring the cost down. My flights were super expensive because I was flying out of Winnipeg but if you live in a major US or Canadian city, you will probably be able to find cheaper flights to Guatemala than I did.
The internal flight that I took between Guatemala City and Flores could be swapped for an overnight bus, which is much cheaper however it takes approximately 9-10 hours as compared with a 45 minute to 1 hour flight. Because my time in Guatemala was limited, I chose time over money and paid extra for the flights. If I had had a more relaxed and flexible schedule, I definitely would have done the overnight bus instead though.
I stayed in a combination of hostel dorm rooms, private rooms at hostels, and charming bed and breakfasts that I found on Airbnb (sign-up through my link and get a discount on your first stay!) that were reasonable mid-budget prices. When I travel, I enjoy staying in a private room at either a hostel or bed and breakfast here and there in between hostel dorm stays.
The average cost per night for the hostels that I stayed in was $19.52 CAD and the average cost for the bed and breakfasts was $52.10 CAD. Combined, my average accommodation cost per night was $31.03 CAD ($23.27 USD).
Here is a breakdown of the places where I stayed (in order), how long I was there for, the type of room and the cost of each accommodation.
Where I Stayed in Guatemala
Length of Stay: 4 nights
Room: 7-bed Mixed Dorm
What I Loved: This was the first hostel that I stayed at in Guatemala and I chose it after doing lots of research and reading many reviews of hostels in Antigua. In the end, I was very pleased with my choice to stay there! I really enjoyed the laid-back and relaxed atmosphere. It wasn’t a party hostel and I liked that, because I need to get a good night’s sleep, however it was still social and friendly and there were always people hanging out on the comfortable couches in the hostel’s courtyard. I found it to be really easy to meet people there as a solo traveler. I also really loved the courtyard itself which had a stone fountain in the centre and lots of lush greenery; the super fast and reliable Wi-Fi; the amazing homemade breakfasts every morning (included in the price of the room); free purified water; the fact that you could book all of your tours and shuttles from the hostel; the clean facilities; and the comfortable dorms.
Price: Q338 plus a $12.44 CAD deposit on Hostelworld = $73.89 CAD for four nights ($18.47 CAD per night)
Location: San Marcos La Laguna
Length of Stay: 3 nights
Room: 6-bed Female Dorm
What I Loved: Circles was such an adorable hostel in San Marcos! It was located along the main pathway near the local’s area of the village and was easy to walk to and from from anywhere in town. There was a small cafe on the main level of the building with delicious smoothies, cafe drinks, breakfasts, lunches and snacks and a beautiful outdoor area behind the building filled with lovely trees and plants and lots of seating options among the greenery! The hostel was small with only one dorm and a couple of private rooms, both located on the second level of the building. I enjoy relaxing on the couches outside the dorm on the patio which had amazing views of the lake, the volcanoes, the village and the tropical plant life.
Price: Q225 = $40.90 CAD (Q75 or $13.63 CAD per night)
Location: San Pedro La Laguna
Length of Stay: 3 nights
Room: Private Room
What I Loved: Luna Azul was an absolutely beautiful place to stay! I really enjoyed its location along the waterfront in the peaceful countryside, a short 7-minute walk outside of San Pedro La Laguna. The breakfasts were homemade and they were different every day and tasted so delicious! I love my private room and bathroom there and it was simple but comfortable. There were gorgeous gardens just outside of the rooms which were perfect for sitting and soaking up some sun. The two B&B hosts, Erin and Solina, were incredibly helpful, accommodating, friendly and super sweet.
Price: $47 CAD per night for 3 nights plus $18 Airbnb Service Fee = $160 CAD
Location: Santa Cruz La Laguna
Length of Stay: 1 night
Room: Private Room
What I Loved: Santa Cruz is an isolated and very traditional and authentic-feeling village on the northern shores of Lake Atitlan and La Iguana Perdida was an amazing hostel there. I loved the communal dinners each night where everyone would eat a delicious meal together by candlelight. My private room was situated among the tropical trees and it was rustic and simple yet so charming, cute and beautifully decorated. There was no Wi-Fi at this hostel but I really enjoyed being able to disconnect for a little bit and enjoy the company of the other guests. It was easy to meet people and the hostel had a very social yet super laid-back atmosphere. The hostel was situated right on the shoreline of the lake, providing stunning views of the lake and volcanoes and it was the perfect place to watch the sunrises.
Price: Q280 = $50.90 CAD for one night
Length of Stay: 1 night
Room: Private Room
What I Loved: I liked that this B&B was located a little bit away from the main touristy area of Panajachel, in a quieter neighbourhood of town. There was a large and beautifully manicured garden and grassy area behind the B&B and my private room was a comfortable place to spend a night.
Price: $60.65 CAD for one night
Length of Stay: 3 nights
Room: 6-bed Mixed Dorm
What I Loved: Los Amigos is hugely popular among backpackers and almost everyone you meet throughout Guatemala has either heard of it, has already stayed there or is planning on staying there. The hostel had a large central courtyard area with lots of seating and tonnes of trees and plants. I loved the jungle-like atmosphere! The hostel was quite large and in the evenings, the courtyard filled up with people, making it really easy to make friends, and the people that I met there were welcoming and friendly. Although it was kind of a party hostel in the evenings with music and lots of people drinking at the restaurant/bar inside the hostel, it generally quieted down by midnight or so and I was able to get a really good sleep there. The dorm was air-conditioned (it was soo hot and humid in Flores!) which was amazing, comfortable and clean.
Price: Q270 = $49.09 CAD for 3 nights (Q90 or $16.36 CAD per night)
Length of Stay: 2 nights
Room: Private Room
What I Loved: Taanah is a friendly bed and breakfast run by a local Guatemalan woman. I loved the location as it was slightly off the beaten path along a quiet residential street and on the north side of Antigua, but still a short walk to everything. My private room was huge with two very comfortable Queen-sized beds, a spacious bathroom and hot water shower! The best part about this bed and breakfast though was the rooftop terrace which had the most amazing views overlooking Antigua and the surrounding volcanoes, comfortable seating and even a bathroom. On my last night in Guatemala, I was even able to witness Volcan Fuego erupting lava for hours all evening! The B&B was inside a large and gorgeous colonial house and I had access to the kitchen and living room area as well. There were also some really adorable cats and a dog living there and I loved cuddling with them!
Price: $41 CAD per night for 2 nights plus $10 Airbnb Service Fee = $92.00 CAD
Total I Spent on Accommodations: $527.43 CAD ($395.53 USD) for 17 nights.
How To Do It Cheaper?
I enjoy staying in a combination of hostel dorm rooms and private rooms at either hostels or bed and breakfasts/independent hotels/guesthouses while sticking to a moderate budget when I travel because as an introvert, I get tired of being around people all the time and need some alone time as well. If you have a tighter budget for accommodations, you can choose to stay only in hostel dorm rooms or try Couchsurfing for free accommodations. Typically, the more beds there are in a dorm room, the lower the nightly price will be (this is good if a lack of privacy doesn’t bother you). Hostels are plentiful throughout the tourist areas in Guatemala and they are very reasonably priced.
Transportation within Guatemala was pretty reasonably priced. I used a variety of the local forms of transportation including shared shuttles, private shuttles (to and from the Guatemala City Airport), taxis, tuk tuks (three-wheeled covered vehicles that are like taxis but smaller and cheaper and operate within towns and villages), and boats.
I spent a total of $295.56 CAD ($221.65 USD) on all of my transportation within Guatemala (including private shuttles) and Q710 or $129 CAD ($96.74 USD) excluding the private shuttles, which is a daily average of $8.06 CAD ($6.04 USD).
The biggest expense when it came to my transportation within the country, were the three private airport shuttles that I took, which cost a total of $166.47 CAD ($124.44 USD) or an average of $55.49 CAD per shuttle ride. When I first arrived to Guatemala, I landed in the La Aurora Airport late in the evening. During the daytime and early evening hours, there are shared shuttles which can bring you to Antigua or Lake Atitlan from the airport but at night, the only options for transportation are taxis and private shuttles, which are pretty much the same price. I had pre-booked a private shuttle with the travel agency Adrenalina in Antigua and the driver was waiting for me outside the terminal holding a sign with my name on it when I landed, ready to take me to Antigua. I also booked a private shuttle to take me back to Antigua after my late night flight landed in Guatemala City from Flores and then a third time from Antigua back to the airport when I had to be there at 4:30 am for an early 6:30 am flight. Even though the shuttles were expensive, they were definitely worth it and I enjoyed having peace of mind knowing that someone would be waiting for me at the airport.
Antigua, Flores and the villages around Lake Atitlan were all fairly small and easy to walk around on foot, so I saved money by walking pretty much everywhere. I took public boat shuttles to get from village to village on Lake Atitlan, took taxis back to my hostel in Antigua if I was out after dark, used tuk tuks to get around to a few places at Lake Atitlan, and shared shuttles for longer journeys between Antigua and Lake Atitlan, Lake Atitlan to Chichicastenango and back for a day trip and Lake Atitlan to the Guatemala City Airport before taking an internal flight to Flores.
Total I Spent on Transportation: $295.56 CAD ($221.65 USD) including private shuttles and $129 CAD ($96.74 USD) excluding private shuttles.
How To Do It Cheaper?
If your flight arrives during the daytime, then you have the option of taking a shared shuttle van from Guatemala City to Antigua or elsewhere in the country, which is much cheaper than booking a private shuttle. I would have done this but unfortunately there were limited flight options available from my home to Guatemala and all of them arrived in the late evening when the shared shuttles are no longer operating. Therefore, my only options were taking a private taxi or a private shuttle service, both of which cost pretty much the same price at around $65 CAD one-way (pricey, I know!).
I took shared tourist shuttles to get around Guatemala which are reasonably priced, but you could get around for way cheaper by using the public transportation that the locals take nicknamed the “chicken buses.” You will see these eye-catching buses everywhere as they are old American school buses which have been pimped out with horns and lots of chrome and painted in beautiful vibrant colours. These buses are super cheap and you can get around anywhere using them but they don’t have the greatest safety reputations, on some routes more than others. These local buses are often stopped at road blocks and targeted by gangs to rob passengers and sometimes even murder the bus driver and/or passengers. The buses are also poorly maintained and drivers are often found to be driving way faster than the speed limit or with little regard during bad weather conditions. As a solo female traveler, I didn’t feel safe taking the chicken buses (although I did go on one for a short 10-minute trip from the Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm back to Antigua just for the unique experience and all was fine. It was actually quite fun!) so I stuck to the tourist shuttles. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to travel for cheaper, then the chicken buses are definitely the way to go.
One of my favourite things to do when exploring a new place is to simply wander the streets and local neighbourhoods and take photos and that activity is completely free! I spent a lot of time doing this in the traditional villages and colonial towns and cities in Guatemala. There are lots of fascinating and unique things to do in Guatemala aside from just walking around though like climbing volcanoes, exploring a variety of Mayan Ruins, visiting traditional villages, overnight and multi-day hikes, touring the lakes, participating in weaving or beading workshops and much more.
My biggest expenses for this category were the two tours that I took (Q90 for the guide and shuttle transportation + Q50 entrance fee to climb Pacaya Volcano and Q100 for the guide and transportation + Q150 entrance fee to explore the Mayan Ruins of Tikal) which I booked through local travel agencies and the rest was spent on entrance fees to explore inside colonial cathedrals and historic convents in Antigua and visiting an organic and independent macadamia nut farm outside of Antigua. All of the tours and exploring that I did were very interesting and totally worth the price, however I did feel like the Q40 admission price for most of the convents/cathedrals in Antigua to be a little bit steep!
Total I Spent on Activities: Q722 or $131.27 CAD ($98.44 USD).
Food and Drink
Eating out in Guatemala was pretty cheap compared to the prices in Canada. I ate all of my meals at restaurants with low to mid-range prices and I spent an average of $26.85 CAD ($20.14 USD) per day on food and beverages.
The breakfasts in some of the hostels and bed and breakfasts that I stayed at were included in the price of the room, so that helped to cut down on food costs for sure. Other than that, I ate lunches and dinners and frequent snacks throughout the day (like A LOT of fresh fruit smoothies) at restaurants, because I really wanted to experience the delicious cuisine of Guatemala during my short time there. Had I been spending a longer time in the country, I probably would have bought some groceries and cooked some of my own meals as eating out every day would definitely start to add up!
I am a vegetarian and gluten-free eater and I was pleasantly surprised by how many options there were available in the Guatemalan restaurants! I had no trouble finding plant-based and gluten-free meals to eat, which was amazing. I loved the traditional Guatemalan breakfast which consisted of black beans, scrambled eggs, a chunk of soft white cheese, fried sweet plantains and warm corn tortillas. For lunches and dinners, I ate a lot of vegetarian curries with chickpeas, lentils, vegetables and/or tofu; a traditional Guatemalan dish called Pepian with tofu (it is basically a stew which features vegetables, pumpkin seeds, cumin and other spices and is served over rice); authentic Guatemalan foods like tacos, enchiladas and tamales; and delicious salads.
I don’t drink alcohol so I saved a lot of money in that area and thoroughly enjoyed my fresh fruit smoothies and water instead.
Here are the breakdowns of what I spent as categorized by meals:
- Breakfasts: Q195 or $35.45 CAD ($26.58 USD) – Many of my breakfasts were included in the price of my accommodations, so this price does not reflect everything I ate for breakfast.
- Lunches: Q822 or $149.45 CAD ($112.08 USD)
- Dinners: Q1030 or $187.27 CAD ($140.44 USD)
- Snacks: Q316 or $57.45 CAD ($43.08 USD)
And here are the daily averages that I spent per meal:
- Breakfasts: $2.21 CAD ($1.67 USD) – Remember that this price is not representative of all the breakfasts I ate (see above reason).
- Lunches: $9.34 CAD ($7.00 USD)
- Dinners: $11.70 CAD ($8.77 USD)
- Snacks: $3.59 CAD ($2.69 USD)
Total I Spent on Food and Drinks: $429.62 CAD ($322.18 USD).
How To Do It Cheaper?
If you are staying for longer in Guatemala or if you are just on a low budget and want to save money on food, there are ways to find cheaper food. Street food is super cheap and plentiful and can be found being sold by local vendors in parks, along the streets and in the local markets. I didn’t eat the street food because a lot of is meat and I am a vegetarian and I was also nervous about getting sick from possible unsanitary practices. But if you choose street food vendors where lots of locals are eating from, you should be pretty safe.
Secondly, if you have access to a kitchen (and especially a fridge to store leftover food) in your hostel or bed and breakfast, you could also choose to purchase groceries from the local markets or supermarkets and cook your own food to lower your costs.
I did a fair bit of shopping in Guatemala and spent more money than I was expecting to, but it was so worth it. There were so many vibrant multi-coloured crafts and handwoven products like backpacks, purses, scarves, shawls, ponchos, table runners, blankets and more everywhere. The local women would sell their beautiful handicrafts in the markets, in parks, along the streets and in proper stores. All of the products were just so gorgeous and I wished I could have bought more, but I restrained myself.
I ended up making some great purchases that I was really happy with including a gorgeous handwoven and leather backpack from Chichicastenango, multiple purses with beautiful and detailed embroidery, colourful silk and bamboo scarves from women’s weaving cooperatives, a couple of embroidered headbands, beaded Christmas tree ornaments, and a couple of pretty embroidered wallets.
I did most of my shopping at the large outdoor market in Chichicastenango but also got some great finds at the women’s weaving cooperatives in San Juan La Laguna (they are known for their textiles and you can find lots of women’s weaving cooperatives selling gorgeous scarves and shawls), a fair trade shop in Antigua, weaving cooperatives in San Marcos La Laguna and San Pedro La Laguna, the street markets along Calle Santander in Panajachel and the market in Santiago Atitlan.
Total I Spent on Shopping: Q2732 or $496.72 CAD ($372.50 USD).
How To Do It Cheaper?
You can spend less money shopping than I did or not purchase anything at all.
Some of my miscellaneous expenses in Guatemala included mosquito repellent, a one-hour relaxing massage (Q185 = $33.63 CAD) and a one-hour facial (Q100 = $18.18 CAD) in San Pedro La Laguna.
Before traveling to Guatemala, I purchased an international texting plan from my local phone carrier in Canada ($20 CAD), travel insurance from World Nomads ($134.47 CAD), and Skype credit ($20.97 CAD).
Total I Spent on Miscellaneous Expenses: $237.25 CAD ($177.92 USD).
Total Budget Summary
Here is a breakdown of how much money I spent while traveling Guatemala for two and a half weeks.
After spending a total of 16 days in Guatemala and 2 days on flights getting to and from the country, I spent a total of $3,541.10 CAD ($2,655.57 USD).
- I spent a total of $2,117.85 CAD while traveling in Guatemala excluding flights.
- I spent a total of $1,621.13 CAD in Guatemala excluding flights and shopping.
- I spent a total of $3,044.38 CAD excluding shopping.
And here is a breakdown of my total travel costs by category:
- Accommodation: $527.43 CAD ($397.80 USD) – This includes the hostel dorm rooms, hostel private rooms and bed and breakfast private rooms that I stayed in.
- Transportation (in-country and including private shuttles): $295.56 CAD ($222.92 USD) – This includes boats, tuk tuks, taxis, shared shuttles, and private shuttles.
- Flights: $1423.25 CAD ($1073.44 USD) – This includes my round-trip flight from Winnipeg, Canada to Guatemala City and two internal flights between Guatemala City and Flores.
- Activities: $131.27 CAD ($99.01 USD) – This includes the Pacaya Volcano tour, Tikal Mayan Ruins tour (guide and transport included) and entrance fees for exploring historic convents and cathedrals.
- Food and Drinks: $429.62 CAD ($324.03 USD) – This includes eating out at restaurants and snacks purchased from convenience stores.
- Miscellaneous: $237.25 CAD ($178.94 USD) – This includes mosquito repellent, a massage and facial at Lake Atitlan, travel insurance, international texting plan, and Skype.
- Shopping: $496.72 CAD ($374.64 USD) – I purchased a backpack, some purses, lots of scarves, Christmas ornaments and other beautiful handicrafts.
Total Number of Days: 16 days in Guatemala + 2 days of travel (long flights and layovers)
Total Spent: $3,541.10 CAD ($2,655.57 USD)
Daily Average In-Country Expenses (excluding flights and shopping): $90.35 CAD ($68.14 USD)
My Average Daily Expenses
- Accommodation: $31.03 CAD
- Transportation (excluding flights): $16.42 CAD
- Transportation (excluding flights and private shuttles): $8.06 CAD
- Activities: $8.20 CAD
- Food and Drinks: $26.85 CAD
I loved traveling Guatemala and it was worth every dollar! Guatemala is incredibly beautiful and has so much to offer. I can’t wait to go back and explore more next time.
I hope that this post has helped you in your trip planning process and coming up with a budget for your own adventure and shown you that travel in Guatemala can be very affordable and doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
Planning Your Next Adventure?
Here are some helpful links if you are currently planning your next travel adventure!
Compare prices and book your flights using Momondo. I love the user-friendly design of this website and how easy it is to filter your flights by price, duration, etc. It’s a great place to find the best flight deals!
Use Hostelworld to book a private room or dorm bed at a budget-friendly hostel and browse through listings across the globe. Use Booking.com to find a huge inventory of independent hotels, guesthouses, bed and breakfasts, hostels and chain hotels around the world and for every budget. And if you’re looking for a more authentic and unique experience of staying in a local’s home at your destination, then book your stay using Airbnb (sign-up using my link and get a discount off your first stay).
Click here to read more of my posts about Guatemala to help with your trip planning!
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a travel booking on any of the websites I have recommended, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I use all of these websites for booking my own travels and would never recommend something that I don’t already love.
Have you traveled to Guatemala? Were you able to stick to your budget? How much do you usually spend for your travels? What are your best tips for sticking to a budget?
Thanks for reading!