In this report we cover the Antigua Guatemala Retirement Desirability and Costs.
I first came to Antigua Guatemala in 2012. I had heard about how beautiful and cheap a few of the cities were in central America so I came to see for myself.
At the time I wrote the following in my personal blog as follows:
One of the questions people seem to ask me is … what is your favorite place in the world? I used to answer that question but now it doesn’t really make sense to me. I think the shift in my thinking is a convolution of prolonged travel to incredible places and living in the now. If you really are living in awareness, your favorite place in the world just may be where you are sitting. Even if you had to fool yourself to believe this, which I haven’t, you’ll have the best seats in the house.
The rug has been pulled from beneath me and the comfort I once found in familiar places and with familiar people has been replaced with a new kind of comfort. This new comfort comes in experiencing a new place with wide eyes of youth. Discovering a charming new place with the awareness of the present moment.
I have learned to experience new places from an empty slate. Things are so different in India from the USA, and it still somehow works, that I have been shocked into giving up on the idea that there is a better way, a better place, or a correct way. With this empty slate, I get to see a new place and fall in love with her like a first love. I study the curves in her face, how she giggles and walks; she is my first love. There was no love before her. There is no room for the past when you love that intensely.
Have I become a serial monogamist of travel. Have I cast away my attachment to one place? I no longer long for returning to the past? I have no first or true love? Instead, I become so engulfed in the nuances of each new place that I don’t compare or think of old? I no longer compare a new love to a past love, but I see it as a first love?
Am I stuck on my present love, Antigua? Or, am I stuck on the excitement of discovering my next love? Next week, I head to meet my new love, Flores, Guatemala. If I am able to love Flores without suffering the loss of Antigua, will I then be a confirmed serial traveling monogamist? Will I ever long for an old favorite again?
I typed these words nine years ago and they are no less true today. And, of course, the answer is yes. I long for almost all of the places I have ever loved as soon as I started planning my return. Like returning to Antigua today, I look forward to all of my favorite places whenever I start planning my return.
I remember how I learned about Antigua. I was visiting my mother in California and she was watching a TV show that was showcasing various places where Americans were buying homes overseas. I think the episode I saw was a couple that was moving to Granada Nicaragua.
I remember thinking, “Who the hell would move to Nicaragua for their retirement?” But it was a beautiful colonial-era town with horse-drawn carriages trotting around the central park. It looks so much more appealing to me than I thought possible.
So I read online to see if there were other places nearby that I could visit. One article was by a couple that couldn’t decide if they like Granada Nicaragua or Antigua Guatemala more. So a few years later when I was investigating Costa Rica as a potential retirement destination, I decided to see both Antigua Guatemala and Granada Nicaragua while I was in Central America.
So when I finally went to visit all three countries in 2012, I was surprised that I preferred both Antigua Guatemala, and Granada Nicaragua to any of the cities I saw in Costa Rica. It is true that many more Americans prefer the beach towns in Costa Rica, but I was not one of them.
You see, by 2012, I had already seen the most beautiful beaches in the world in Quintana Roo Mexico, the Caribbean, SE Asia, Brazil, and the Mediterranean. And the beaches of Costa Rica couldn’t hold a candle to those beaches, whether because of crystal clear water or because of white sands with turquoise blue water, I had seen around the world.
But the colonial era charms of Antigua and Granada in Central America really impressed me. Plus, the people that were attracted to these colonial-era cities, whether local or expats, seemed to be more interesting in general to talk to. So I never really thought of returning to Costa Rica again, but I will visit both Antigua and Granada whenever I am in Central America.
If you follow our travels, you know that we just spent a few weeks in Lake Atitlan Guatemala. We really loved that place also. If you get a chance, check out our reporting about Lake Atitlan also.
Of the two, Lake Atitlan and Antigua, I think I would live in Guatemala and just visit Lake Atitlan for a few weeks per year plus any long weekends when I needed to connect with nature.
For all of these reasons and more, Antigua Guatemala was then and remains now, one of the first places I think about when I consider retiring cheap in Central America. But we have a few more stops on this tour before we make a final decision about the best places to retire cheap in Central America.
Best Area to Stay Antigua Guatemala
For your first visit to Guatemala, I recommend staying within 5 to 6 city blocks of the central park, “Plaza Mayor.” Once you have feet on the ground, you will be able to locate what area feels right for you. Everything fun to do, day and night is walkable from the area. So your initial experience of living close-in should help you adjust quickly to the beautiful life here.
Cheapest Flights to Antigua Guatemala
We almost always get our cheapest flights on this Skyscanner. They have a web crawler that is constantly looking for the cheapest prices all over the world. As usual, we found the cheapest flight on Skyscanner.
Antigua Guatemala Livability Factors
Here are some of the factors I think about when I consider each place for retirement potential. After I discuss each factor I will assign an overall desirability score to Antigua.
Walkability: High. If I were to live in Antigua in the red circle above, I would be able to walk to restaurants, fruit and vegetable markets, and the two large grocery stores. If you have too many groceries to walk home, you could get an Uber taxi for about $2 USD. You won’t even need a bicycle, everything is so close. In fact, it would be hard to ride a bicycle on these cobblestone streets. The entire red area is cobblestone streets.
Internet: High. We had no issues with the Internet speeds in Antigua. Here is the ATT Speed Test results for the private router we had in our studio apartment.
Food: High. It is hard to imagine a town of this size anywhere in the world with such a great assortment of foods, both local and international. So if you are a fan of foreign foods I would rate the food you will love this place. However, the prices in the international food restaurants are quite high so if you are trying to stay within a budget like we are, you may need to cook more at home and consider eating out as a once or twice a week treat.
Weather: High. The best weather in Antigua is December through April when it is cooler and dryer. December through April average 74-80 F (23-27 C) in the days with nighttime lows average 54-58 F (12-14 C). The rainy season is May through October with the strongest rain in June through September. The daytime temperatures are roughly the same during the rainy season but the nights do not cool down as much, averaging 60F (16C) nightly.
Things to Do: High. This is a beautiful colonial-era city with a large diversity of restaurants, arts and crafts stores, and coffee shops. There is Yoga, salsa dancing, martial arts, gyms, visiting Caoba Organic Farms, visiting the chocolate factory and Cerro de la Cruz viewpoint, visiting Mercado Central, hiking mountains and volcanoes, visiting Lake Atitlan, visiting Semuc Champey, visiting Flores and Tikal, visiting the Pacific and Caribbean oceans, photographing ruins of Churches in Antigua, visiting nearby countries in Central America.
Social Considerations: Medium. You will want to learn Spanish if you decide to settle here and date the locals. Antigua is well known for its Spanish schools. Qiang studied Spanish at this school and loved it (link provided). Many locals speak some English since this is a tourist town, but when in Rome do what the Romans do. Learn some Spanish and you will have a more full life.
Expats: Medium. We saw many ex-pats walking around Antigua while we were there. Of course, Antigua has been well visited and loved by foreigners for decades. If you like hanging out with ex-pats, you will find them through various Facebook pages: 1, 2. Facebook is a good place to go if you have a very specific or odd question I have not answered here.
Real Estate: Property in the area starts at around $100k USD but you can easily spend $250k USD for a 2 bedroom house. I never recommend buying until you have lived somewhere for at least 3 years. Read this to better understand why I don’t recommend buying outside your home country.
Medical: Guatemala is ranked 99th in the world for healthcare, so you may consider visiting nearby medical tourism countries in the event of threatening medical conditions, such as Costa Rica, Panama, or Mexico.
Antigua Guatemala Desirability Score: High. Antigua is one of my favorite places in all of Latin America. The people are very friendly there and it is just a very friendly and beautiful colonial-era town. The food choices are above and beyond what you would expect in a town this size. And the ex-pats in the area seem to be well-traveled before showing up in Antigua and are willing and able to integrate into the local environment and are less interested in importing their home country culture into Antigua. The prices in Antigua are higher than in other parts of Guatemala, but we were able to live a good life while staying at our budget of around $1500 USD per month.
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