7 Reasons to Retire in Guatemala
Guatemala is a growing retirement destination that shouldn’t be ignored. Each year, more and more expats are looking towards Central America in search of the perfect retirement destination, and with stunning scenic beauty and an “eternal spring-like” climate in the mountains, it isn’t hard to see why.
But with so many breathtaking reasons to retire to Guatemala we’ve pared it down to 7 of the most important reasons to retire to this hidden gem in Central America.
1) A low cost of living
Like many places in Central America, the cost of living in Guatemala is quite low, which allows expats to enjoy a comfortable life without having to stretch their pensions thin in order to do so.
Depending on the pace of life desired, most expats coming to Guatemala choose to settle down in either Guatemala City, the colonial town of Antigua, or on the serene shores of Lake Atitlan. Each spot is unique and has something special to offer depending on your personal taste.
The largest of the three, prices in Guatemala City will be a little higher (although still much lower than back home in the U.S.). Here, a fully furnished two bedroom apartment can be rented for $500-700 per month and a three bedroom house anywhere from $1,200-2,000.
Of course, if the city life isn’t for you, the cobbled streets of historical Antigua might be more up your alley. Rent prices in Antigua are roughly 20% lower than in Guatemala City, but prices will shift depending on where in town you choose to live.
And if you are seeking small town serenity, the indigenous villages of Lake Atitlan have homes to rent for $500 a month and up.
Keep in mind, these prices are for homes that meet western standards and if you don’t mind living like the locals (no washer/dryer, cable or hot water), you can rent a home in Guatemala for significantly lower.
All in all, a couple can live comfortably in Guatemala for anywhere between $1,200 and $1,500 a month, and this will include housing, food, entertainment, transportation, utilities and even maid, handyman or gardening services if you so choose.
2) Live among the Maya
Mayan culture is still alive and flourishing in Guatemala today, and–if you choose to make it your home–you will see local Mayan citizens dressed in their traditional, colorful Mayan garb on a daily basis.
There remain to this day, more than 10 million people scattered throughout Central America who were raised with a Mayan language as their native tongue.
And despite the fact that they were largely converted to Christianity when the Spanish invaded, many of the Maya hold on to their beliefs and continue to follow the teachings of their shamans.
3) Immerse yourself in history
Guatemala is rich with history that can be experienced from the Maya-inhabited highlands to the colonial streets of Antigua.
With something to explore around every corner, the town of Antigua will take you back in time. Founded in the early 16th century, many of the town’s most significant monuments have been preserved as ruins, and Antigua today acts as a snapshot, perfectly capturing the Spanish colonial architecture of the past.
Moving away from Antigua, the Tikal National Park is home to one of the largest Mayan archaeological preserves in Central America.
Inhabited by the Maya from 6th century BC to 10th century AD, these haunting ruins provide visitors with the rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of what Mayan life and culture was like in ancient times.
4) Lakeside life
Another thing that is attracting expats to Guatemala, is picturesque Lake Atitlan. Icy blue Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America and is set against a mountainous backdrop of three volcanoes.
Nestled in the Guatemalan highlands, many expats seek out the surrounding villages of Lake Atitlan to experience small town life in a majestic mountain setting.
Considered by many to be the most beautiful lake on the planet, residents of Lake Atitlan spend their days hiking the winding trails, interacting with the local Maya and watching the sun set over the water as they stretch out in a hammock.
5) Don’t forget the beaches
Even though Guatemala has both Caribbean and Pacific coasts, the beaches of Guatemala don’t receive the recognition that they deserve.
Monterrico Beach can be found on the Pacific coast and has gained popularity due to the sea turtle conservation efforts that take place on its shores. Each week newly hatched sea turtles are released onto the black sanded beach as they begin their fight to the sea.
Iztapa Beach is prime for sail fishing, and some of the fishing companies even have accommodations available directly on the beach.
If you’re a surfer, head to either Sipacate or Tilapa to find perfect waves that aren’t yet packed with other surfers. And if you crave the white sand beaches of the Caribbean, palm tree-surrounded Playa Blanco definitely lives up to its name.
6) Close to home
For many expats, one of the most attractive things about retiring to Guatemala is the short travel time to and from the U.S. Many American expats want nothing more than to retire in a tropical climate at a low cost, but that doesn’t mean they want to endure a long, gruelling plane ride in order to get there.
Sharing a border with Mexico, Guatemala provides expats with the best of both worlds. A tropical haven, not yet choked with tourists, conveniently located close to home.
7) Visa options
For those thinking of retiring to Guatemala, the Guatemalan government now offers a Pensionado program, a permanent residency that will allow anyone to live in Guatemala indefinitely.
A Cedula (national identity card) will allow the Pensionado expat to open a Guatemalan bank account without having to show their passport.
The application process will take 7 to 10 days and is strictly for retired or disabled individuals. A monthly income of $1000 per individual and $1200 per couple is required and this income cannot come from an employer. You can however be self-employed or generate the money from private investments.
Although five years is standard, you can apply for Guatemalan citizenship after two years of residency.
Is Guatemala for you?
A beautiful country not yet congested with tourists like other Central American countries, Guatemala is proving to be the perfect retirement spot for many expats.
So before you make the decision to make Guatemala your new home, take some time to explore the country and everything it has to offer you. Experience Guatemala City, soak in the historic beauty of Antigua, and relax on the shores of Lake Atitlan as you search for the ideal spot to settle down.