What’s it really like living in Antigua, Guatemala?
You might have heard amazing things about this beautiful colonial city but we’re here to tell you the truth and…
…it’s not all rainbows and sunshine living in Antigua Guatemala!
Don’t get me wrong – it’s one of our favorite cities we’ve visited in Latin America and there’s a lot to love about it! But it’s not perfect (like all destinations). We want to share the awesome things about it but also the harsh realities of living in Antigua Guatemala.
In this blog, we are going to explore the pros and the cons of living in Antigua Guatemala. We spent over 2 months and we hope these insights help you decide whether it’s the right destination for you.
Quick Overview of Life In Antigua Guatemala
Antigua, Guatemala is located in Central America. It’s a beautiful city filled with deep history, rich culture and unique architecture. In fact – it’s so stunning and well-preserved that the entire city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Although it’s not the capital city of Guatemala, Antigua is the most popular tourist destination for a traveler to explore.
- When living in Antigua Guatemala, you’ll be about 1,530.17 m above sea level which might take some time to adjust to it.
- The official language spoken is Spanish so you’ll need to know some basic words otherwise there might be a bit of a language barrier.
- Antigua has withstood several natural disasters such as flooding, volcano eruptions and earthquakes.
- Walking around the city is a great thing to do – the beautiful plazas, colonial architecture, fountains and cobblestone streets will keep you mesmerized.
- The cobblestone streets (while very cool) are hard to walk on – you need to be conscious of it because it can be easy to trip over!
- It’s one of the best countries in Latin America for its spring-like weather year-round. We found it’s never too hot or too cold – it’s just right (when it’s not rainy season).
How We Chose To Live In Antigua Guatemala
We lived in Antigua Guatemala in the summer of 2021. Before this, we were living in San Cristobal de las Casas. It’s a small, mountain town located in the hills of Chiapas, Mexico. After being San Cristobal de las Casas digital nomads for nearly 3 months, we started to see where to go next!
Our good friends, Taylor and Heyner, said we should come to Guatemala! We met them back when we were Bali digital nomads and have always talked about meeting up there. We have never been to Central America so we knew it was going to be quite the adventure! Thankfully, it was easy enough to book a van to drive from San Cristobal to Guatemala and off we went!
We spent more than 4 living in Guatemala in total with 2 months as Lake Atitlan digital nomads and the other 2 months living in Antigua. Living in Lake Atitlan was way too slow-paced for us and we couldn’t wait to become Antigua digital nomads because we heard it was the best city in Central America for working remotely!
It’s easy enough to book another shuttle from Lake Atitlan to Antigua and we were excited to start a new adventure. However, there were already some challenges from the start (you’ll see below).
Why Digital Nomads Are Living In Antigua Guatemala
Could Antigua Guatemala be an underrated digital nomad destination?
I say – YES!
For digital nomads, it’s a great place to achieve some work-life balance. There are plenty of cafes and coworking spaces to get productive work done but there’s also so many things to do outside of work (eg. hike a volcano).
The wifi is decent, we got an average speed of 30+ Mbps. There’s a growing digital nomad community – after not meeting so many people in Lake Atitlan, it’s SUPER easy to make new friends in Antigua!
One of my favorite coffee shops ever, Artista de Cafe, is located in Antigua and there’s no shortage of good cafes. As you might know, Matthew’s a bit of a coffee snob and he loved being in a city that was as serious about coffee as he was!
For those reasons, we think lots of digital nomads are going to be living in Antigua, Guatemala in the near future! It has the potential to be one of the top Latin America digital nomad cities.
The Pros & Cons of Living In Antigua Guatemala As A Digital Nomad
For the most part, living in Antigua Guatemala is awesome! We found it hard not to fall in love with this city and even considered staying long-term (👀). We spent 2+ months and probably could have kept going if we didn’t need to go to Europe. How could you not when you’ve got the:
- beautiful colonial architecture
- cobblestones streets
- old church ruins
- friendly people
- volcano views
While all that was great, there were just some things that got to us. Keep reading to find out the pros and cons of living in Antigua Guatemala.
The Pros Of Living In Antigua Guatemala
You can’t judge Antigua Guatemala by what you hear. It’s such a unique destination you have to experience for yourself.
You’ll be enchanted by the cobblestone streets and stunning plazas. While living in Antigua, Guatemala – you can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped back in time!
Here are the pros of living in Antigua Guatemala:
1. Lots Of Things To Do
You won’t find yourself getting bored in Antigua. There are a ton of things to do every weekend! We worked throughout the week and explored on the weekends. Even though we were living in Antigua for 2+ months, we still had a list of things we could have done but ran out of time.
Here are just some of the cool things to do in Antigua Guatemala:
- Hike Volcan Acatenango for close up views of Fuego erupting
- Eat marshmallows you roasted on Pacaya Volcano
- Take a weekend getaway to Lake Atitlan
- Eat your way through the city
- Go on a church ruins tour
- Buy clothes at paca (the local flea market)
- Go on a coffee farm tour and learn about the process
- Hike up Cerro de la Cruz for a view of the city
- Ride the infamous chicken bus
The options are endless! If you’re someone who loves the outdoors, hiking or mountain/volcano views – you’re going to love living in Antigua Guatemala!
2. Great Restaurants, Cafes & Coworking Spaces
Do you love eating out? You won’t have a shortage of restaurants in Antigua Guatemala! We spent way too much money on eating out but it was so worth it! You can have beers on rooftops, eat meals while watching Fuego erupt and so many more unique dining experiences!
Guatemalan coffee is some of the best we’ve had on our digital nomad journey. They are the 9th largest exporter of coffee in the world which is why it’s hard to have a bad cup in Antigua!
If you love coffee as much as we do, you should definitely put Antigua, Guatemala on your list because it didn’t disappoint. We were getting tired of having bad coffee in Mexico – it was like a breath of fresh air in Antigua! The best cafes in Antigua Guatemala include La Vid Coffee Roasters (serves the best cappuccino) and Artista de Cafe (has the best iced caramel lattes). These are also great places to get some work done if you’re a digital nomad.
There’s a growing number of coworking spaces popping up around Antigua Guatemala which is exciting! We went to 2 different coworking in Antigua Guatemala – Impact Hub and El Cubo Center. Both were great for us to get some productive work done!
3. Growing Digital Nomad Community
With more coworking spaces opening in Antigua – it’s a clear sign that there’s more demand for them. This means there’s a growing digital nomad community in Antigua (yay!).
While we were living in Antigua Guatemala, we made so many new friends! It’s very easy in a city where there are travelers of all kinds.
We always say the best part of our travels is not the destination but the people we meet. This was especially true in Antigua as we made so many good friends. We know you’ll also be able to do the same and you don’t need to be scared about being lonely in Antigua.
Digital nomad communities are important as you travel!
4. Beautiful Weather
Guatemala has great weather year-round. Other than the wet season, you’ll enjoy being in spring-like weather which means it’s never too hot or too cold. It’s always just right!
The best time to visit Guatemala is November to May for the dry season. However, this is also peak tourist season which can have its positives and negatives. For example, you’ll probably pay more for your rent but you’ll get to do way more activities.
We were there as it transitioned from dry to wet season and decided *not to climb Acatenango because you weren’t guaranteed clear weather. There was no way we were doing a 6-hour hike without our reward of seeing Fuego erupt (lol)!
5. People Are Welcoming
Guatemalans are some of the nicest people you will meet.
Everyone is friendly, welcoming and keen to show you their country. We felt at home here because of this and we don’t realize how important it was to enjoy a place but it can make a real difference!
Whether you’re buying coffee from a cafe or just passing someone by on the streets, you’ll be greeted with a smile and a ‘buenos dias/tardes/noches’. We loved this!
6. Getting Around Is Easy
Want to get from Antigua to Lake Atitlan? Easy!
Need to get to the other side of Antigua? Easy!
If you’re living in Antigua, Guatemala – transport is super easy here. For one, you don’t need it! If you live near the city center, it’s only a 15-20 minute walk maximum to anywhere you want to get to. For our first month, we barely spent money on transport and just walked everywhere!
The other way to get around Antigua is via Uber. It’s available mainly in Antigua city and the surrounding towns like Cuidad Vieja, etc. It’s super cheap – the average cost for most rides was around $2 USD which is a great price. Our Guatemalan friend, Heyner, told us to avoid getting in the tuk-tuks because they haggle and give much higher prices.
Looking to go to Flores, Lake Atitlan or Semuc Champey? You can easily book tours or shared shuttles which is a cost-effective and convenient way to get around the entire country!
The Cons Of Living In Antigua Guatemala
Now you’ve heard all the pros about living in Antigua, Guatemala but what are the cons?
I want to be clear – we had an amazing time in Antigua and we would go back in a heartbeat! None of these should stop you from visiting this beautiful and unique city.
We just want to make sure we are giving you the whole picture and not just the good stuff because that doesn’t help anyone.
Here are the cons of living in Antigua, Guatemala:
1. Finding (Good/Modern) Apartments Is Hard
It’s hard to find a decent apartment and that’s just the reality of living in Antigua Guatemala.
Disclaimer: As digital nomads, I’m talking about staying in Airbnbs which includes things like electricity and wifi. You can always get a cheaper place by staying 6+ months and going door to door.
If you want to stay in the city center within 10 minutes of walking to everything, you’ll pay at least $850 – $1000 USD for a good 1 bedroom apartment. Even if you snag a great place, it will not be the most modern place and it won’t include things like cleaning or a laundry machine.
We paid $500 USD for our place which was a special deal we negotiated. It was still a very small studio with a double bed, kitchen, couch and TV. It was further out on the west side of the city which meant a 15-20 minute walk to and from the house.
Good deals are out there but you have to search real hard, negotiate and book way in advance!
2. High Cost of Living
Living in Antigua Guatemala might not be as cheap as you think. It’s certainly not giving Bali or Chiang Mai vibes in terms of price or value for money.
As a digital nomad couple, our monthly cost of living was $1800 USD. It was only this low because we found a super good deal on our apartment. Otherwise, you could easily add another $500-$700 USD on top of that.
Whenever we ate out at restaurants, it would cost us an average of $30-$40 USD per meal. This was way more than we were used and the bills added up significantly. You can do groceries which we did but we also found that slightly more expensive than when we were living in Mexico.
We didn’t really know what to expect with costs but all the other blogs say it’s cheap or affordable to live in Antigua Guatemala. However, this was not the case for us! There are some ways to lessen your cost of living but in general, don’t expect it to be cheap while living in Antigua, Guatemala.
3. Speaking Spanish Is A Benefit (Almost Required)
If you’re learning Spanish, Antigua is a great spot to practice and learn!
If you’re not interested in learning Spanish, you might struggle a bit.
We found that a lot of Americans know pretty basic Spanish to help them get around. As Matthew is Australian, he found it very difficult because he didn’t know any words other than ‘hola’ and ‘buenos dias’.
You definitely need to learn the basic conversations and ‘restaurant Spanish’ to get by while living in Guatemala. I can’t remember many people speaking English and you might have a hard time pulling out Google Translate as some people don’t want to bother with it.
4. It’s Noisy
Did you know Antigua, Guatemala is one of the noisiest cities in all of Latin America?
There’s fireworks at any given time which can be annoying when it starts to become your alarm clock in the morning! If you live in the city center right next to a street – you might not get much sleep because it’s very noisy throughout the day with all the cars, motorbikes, etc passing through.
This might be something to consider before booking a place and it might be worth asking your Airbnb host if noise really bothers you.
Our Personal Experience – 2+ Months Living In Antigua Guatemala
After experiencing the slow, lake life we were ready for a faster-paced, city-like experience. There are lots of great reasons to base yourself in Antigua Guatemala and we have met tons of people who have visited Antigua once, fell in love and never left!
As digital nomads, we have a bit of a different experience to expats, retirees and/or travelers. We like to stay in a place for 1-3 months to truly get what it’s truly like to live like a local. With the digital nomad lifestyle, we also work online and need a stable routine to help get stuff done. It’s a great mix of ‘normal life’ while getting to do cool things on the weekends in a new destination like Antigua, Guatemala!
Here’s a quick overview of the 2 months we spent living in Antigua Guatemala as digital nomads.
Finding An Apartment
This was more difficult than we thought! We started looking on Airbnb about 2-3 weeks before we left for Antigua. As we were scrolling through, we couldn’t help but notice how expensive it was to get an apartment in Antigua. More than that, the value for money just wasn’t there! If you paid even $200-$300 more, there was barely a difference in terms of the quality of the apartment.
After mulling it over for a few days, we finally found a small studio on the west side of Antigua city. It turned out to be a 15-20 minute walk to the city center which isn’t so bad. We messaged the hosts and asked for a monthly discount. They were so friendly and helpful – it was great to know we were going to be communicating with nice hosts.
We had a double bed, fully-stocked kitchen, couch, small TV and a little courtyard with a hammock. It was very small for the 2 of us but because we got such a good price – we were more than happy with the place!
We paid $550 USD for 1 month (with a discount). We have heard our friends pay almost double that for just an ‘okay’ place in the city center. Living in Antigua Guatemala can get very expensive if you’re not careful which brings me to my next point…
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Antigua Guatemala is much higher than you’d expect! A lot of people think that because it’s located in Central America that it might be as cheap as other places but it’s not.
Here’s our monthly cost of living in Antigua Guatemala for 2 people:
|Activities & Entertainment
While it’s not horrible expensive like NYC or London, it’s not as cheap as Bali or Chiang Mai. You could say it’s affordable but it’s definitely on the higher end of that statement with much less value for money.
We loved eating out at all the different restaurants in Antigua! You could have a beer on rooftops, eat farm-to-table food and enjoy your meal with a view of Volcan Fuego erupting. There’s nothing like the restaurant scene in Antigua, Guatemala!
Here are some of the best restaurants Antigua Guatemala has to offer:
- Toko Baru – best cheap eats & curry spot
- Rincon Tipico – popular Guatemalan lunch spot
- Caoba Farms Market & Restaurant – organic farm to table with great ambiance
- Kombu Ramen Shop – authentic Japanese ramen bowls
- Cerveceria 14 – outdoor garden, craft beer, good food & live music
We spent way too much eating at all the restaurants in Antigua (which is reflected in our budget) but it was so worth it! If you can try any of these 5 if you visit, they are awesome!
Want more recommendations? Check out our restaurants Antigua Guatemala guide!
Coworking Space & Cafes
This was one of the best things about living in Antigua Guatemala! There were so many good cafes to choose from. Whether you’re going just to enjoy a delicious cup of Guatemalan coffee or you’re planning to work from a cafe for the morning/afternoon – you’ll have a great time!
Here are some of the best cafes Antigua Guatemala has to offer:
- Artista de Cafe (get the iced caramel latte !! )
- La Vid Coffee Roasters
- Cafe Boheme
- Fat Cat Coffee House
Working from cafes not your thing? We love coworking spaces because you can bet they have fast wifi, good desk and chairs and the possibility of a good digital nomad community to connect with.
Here’s the best coworking spaces in Antigua Guatemala:
- El Cubo Center
- Impact Hub
We loved working remotely from Antigua Guatemala because it’s actually set up to handle digital nomads. We could see signs that there was a boom of digital nomads and more coworking spaces were popping up around town!
There are 2 seasons – the wet season and the dry season. What could this mean? To put it simply, if you visit during the dry season you’ll get plenty of sunshine and if you visit during the wet season you’ll get plenty of rainy days.
The best time to visit Guatemala is from November to May. You’ll get the most amount of sunshine giving you plenty of opportunities to do all the cool outdoor activities in Antigua. We were there as it was transitioning from dry season to wet season. We had a couple of rainy days but it was more like afternoon showers. In the morning, it didn’t rain so that’s pretty great compared to monsoon season in Southeast Asia (iykyk).
The weather is amazing in Guatemala because it’s never too hot or too cold. If you can’t stand humidity, Antigua might be a great destination for you!
Is there a big expat community or maybe even a digital nomad community in Antigua Guatemala?
We’re happy to report – yes, there’s a thriving community of both!
After being quite lonely in Lake Atitlan for 2 months, it was a breath of fresh air to meet people who also wanted to make friends. We met people from our coworking space, church (Shoreline City Antigua) and randomly at cafes/on tours too!
Here are some useful Facebook Groups to join:
- Guatemala Digital Nomads
- Expats Living in Guatemala
- Lake Atitlan Guatemala Travel
- Girlfriends in Antigua
The people living in Antigua Guatemala whether they are local, expats or digital nomads are very welcoming and friendly! It’s the main reason we enjoyed our time so much but that’s how it always goes with us.
Is Living In Antigua Guatemala Good For Digital Nomads?
For some, it’s a dream vacation and for others, it can be a nightmare – which one will it be for you?
We loved living in Antigua Guatemala! It’s one of our favorite digital nomad cities in Latin America. There’s good coffee, a great work/life balance, plenty of things to do and a growing digital nomad community. The biggest downside for us was the high cost of living and that we just didn’t get great value for money.
Have you tried living in Antigua Guatemala? What are your thoughts about the pros and cons of this beautiful city? Comment below and let us know!