The Cost of Travel in Guatemala: A Detailed Budget Breakdown

I can’t speak highly enough of the time I spent travelling in Guatemala.

Home to volcanoes, lakes, rainforests, colourful architecture, and ancient ruins, there’s an unbelievable amount to see here for such a small country. Throw delicious street food and lovely locals into the mix, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a life-changing adventure.

From the colourful city of Antigua and the awe-inspiring Tikal to the beauty of Semuc Champney and the adrenaline rush that comes from hiking up an active volcano, Guatemala truly has something for everyone. I couldn’t get enough of this country and can’t wait to return.

I found Guatemala to offer up great value for money, too — much cheaper than Belize and Costa Rica — with an array of accommodation to suit all budgets. My husband and I stuck to hotels and guesthouses on a mid-range budget, which worked out to between $25 and $50 a night, and we stayed in some truly wonderful properties.

In this post, I’ll be referencing costs in U.S. dollars, purely because most readers are from the States. The Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ) is the local currency, and at the time of writing this in early 2024, $1 is worth around 8 Quetzales – so it’s not too tricky to convert. 

A quick note before we continue: I paid for everything in the article myself – this is a comp- and press trip-free post.

Couple at Pacaya Volcano Trek in Antigua


Guatemala came near the start of my year-long travel extravaganza, in October. Like I mentioned earlier, we’d been in Nicaragua beforehand, and the States before that, which is where the whole adventure began.

It’s a joy to be able to write about my travels: it brings back such happy memories. But I have to say, our journey into Guatemala from Nicaragua was not my most favourite part of those 12 months. We opted for a small, cheap shuttle van (along with six other people), and what should have been an already punchy 20-hour journey turned into a 29-hour slog.

So when we got to Guatemala City, we weren’t in the best of spirits to say the least. But that changed quickly after a sleep. A long, long sleep.

Now we’ve got the basics and some scene-setting covered, let’s get started. Here’s a quick rundown of how I recommend spending two weeks in Guatemala:

  • Guatemala City: 2 nights
  • Antigua: 4 nights
  • Lake Atitlan: 3 nights
  • Semuc Champney: 2 nights
  • Flores: 2 nights
Semuc Champney from above
The beautiful Semuc Champney from above

What’s Included in This Post

The budget breakdown that follows covers accommodation, transportation, activities, food, and miscellaneous costs.

Flight costs will vary of course, depending on where you travel in from. I recommend using Skyscanner to check availability and costs.

We booked some transport and activities online, but found local travel agencies offered much cheaper prices if we were prepared to shop around and haggle a little. But equally, online booking works well, too.

We got a lot for our money in Guatemala and managed to fit loads in without breaking the bank.

Carry on reading to get the Guatemalan lowdown!

The Jaguar Temple at Tikal
The Jaguar Temple at Tikal

How to Save Money on the Cost of Accommodation in Guatemala

As always with travel, it’s possible to cut your accommodation costs down to zero if you have the time and patience to seek out an offer.

Housesitting is a great option for free accommodation. This is where you’ll take care of somebody’s house while they’re away, and usually look after their pets, too. It’s best for long-term travellers or retirees as you can’t pick and choose dates and destinations, so you need to have a lot of flexibility as to where you go and at what time of year. If you do have that freedom, it’s a wonderful way to cut down your travel expenses, soak up some home comforts, and live like a local for a while. I have friends who have housesat in castles before! For free! Trusted Housesitters is the best site for getting started with housesitting, as they have the highest number of listings.

I’m suspecting, though, that for most of you, you’re not interested in the free accommodation and just want somewhere clean, safe, and affordable to rest your head each night. If that’s the case, there are several options available for you.

The first of these are hostels. In Guatemala, you’ll come across hostels all over the country, finding them on tiny islands, in large cities, and even in the national parks. They’re one of your best options for saving money.

And, of course, there are always hotels. While you can spend hundreds of dollars a night on high-end places if you want to, you don’t have to: good clean, basic rooms go for as little as $25, and I often found really nice mid-range places in good locations for around $70-90. I always use Booking, as they have the most accommodation options for the cheapest prices.

The Cost of Accommodation in Guatemala

Like I mentioned earlier, places to stay in Guatemala were top value. From lakeside properties to city pads, we experienced an eclectic mix.

For the most part, the hotels and guest houses we stayed at didn’t include breakfast, instead offering it as an extra for between $5-$10 per person. As a result, we generally just picked something up while out and about instead, which was cheaper and gave us more opportunity to try some of the great local breakfast and coffee places!

To break it down, these are the specific places we stayed in Guatemala:

Guatemala City: We pushed the boat out here and stayed at this stylish boutique hotel for $89 a night. There are cheaper options, but one of the main reasons we chose this one was safety. Let’s get that bit out of the way first.

Virtually every visitor to the capital has the same question in their head: “Is Guatemala City safe or not?” Historically not so much, but these days there’s no reason not to check it out as long as you have your wits about you and stick to the “safer” zones.

On that, the city is divided into many zones. We opted for Zone 10, one of the “safe” ones. We headed into Zone 1 – the historic centre – during the day for a wander, but don’t recommend staying there, as it can be a little sketchy, especially at night. It’s fine to explore during the day, though.

Back to our snazzy boutique digs. Just a couple of kilometres from Museo Popol Vuh with its collection of Mayan art, and quite close to the airport, our double room was lovely and modern, with wooden floors and little touches of exposed brickwork. There were just 15 bedrooms in the whole place, split across two levels, plus a bar and a cute little garden area. The staff were friendly and super-helpful as well, with all sorts of useful tips and advice for exploring the city.

Antigua: For our four nights here, we stayed at this colourful and happy spot for $89 a night. Super central, it was just one avenue away from Parque Central (Plaza Mayor), the bustling hub of this UNESCO-listed city. Service levels from all the staff really was above and beyond, and I loved the vibrant murals on our bedroom walls and throughout the property so much. It made for such a fun and uplifting stay, and I wish we could have stayed even longer!

Lake Atitlan: Our first two nights were spent at this eco-friendly hideaway in San Marcos on the shores of the lake. With 10 individually designed rooms, we opted for Luz, and despite being the cheapest option for a couple at $67, we wanted for nothing. We enjoyed a large, cool space with funky wooden furniture, high ceilings, and a cute little sitting area. And we were surrounded by thriving gardens filled with colourful flowers and banana trees: it was such a beautiful spot!

For our third and final night by the lake, we hopped on a boat eastwards for the 45-minute ride to Panajachel. Our onward travel to Lanquín was from here, so we thought it made sense to stay there for a night, and we also wanted to check out another part of the magical lake.

Just outside the centre of town and very reasonable at $28 a night, we checked in at this value-for-money hotel, where our room had tiled floors and a, shall we say, eye-catching bedspread. Simple, clean, and only a few minutes from the lake, it was ideal for one night.

Semuc Champey: Okay, so prepare yourself for a bit of a mission to get here, but it’s worth it. We travelled to Lanquín via shuttle: it had been a long – and bumpy – day. And then, another bus ride, plus a half an hour guided hike to get to this peaceful rainforest getaway. But, we had help with our luggage, and when we finally made it, we were so pleased we made the effort. And just $27 a night, too. Think rustic charm, and if that floats your boat, this place is for you.

This tranquil spot in the Guatemalan jungle had a communal kitchen and a well-stocked pantry full of ingredients for guests to buy, both a rarity in Guatemalan hostels. But there was also an on-site chef if you prefer your meals made for you, making the most of the abundant fruit and veg grown in the gardens.

A quick housekeeping note: check the latest time the hostel will let you arrive. As it gets darker, that hike gets more dangerous. You’ll need to factor that into your travel schedule.

We could get to the river directly from the hostel, and a waterfall and natural swimming pool were nearby to enjoy (season dependent). And the glorious aqua pools of Semuc Champney were just 2.4 kilometres away.

If that half-hour trek doesn’t appeal and you’d rather stay in Lanquín instead, a couple we met had stayed at this lovely homestay and couldn’t say enough good things about it. The beds and rooms were apparently very comfortable, there’s a restaurant onsite that’s open all day and has tasty and inexpensive food, and the owner (David) runs great day trips out to Semuc Champney. Best of all, it’s a bargain at $25 a night.

Flores: This cute little town is situated on the edge of Lago Peten Itza, about an hour and a half south of Tikal. We chose to stay just across the lake from Flores at this waterside property, and loved the peace and tranquillity, while still being only a short boat ride from town. It was great value as well, at $39 a night.

When we arrived in Flores we were boated across to the hotel for free, and the super hospitable staff just couldn’t do enough for us, going the extra mile to help us with trips and give us info. Our room was colourful (there seems to be a theme!) and comfy, and we loved being right by the water.

The Cost of Transportation in Guatemala

We travelled by shuttle bus through Guatemala, and while it perhaps wasn’t the most comfortable option, it was certainly cheap. These small white buses were for tourists, and different to the colourful chicken buses and collectivos that predominantly transported locals around.

That’s not to say you can’t use chicken buses and collectivos as a tourist, mind you – we did now and then. They were even cheaper than the tourist shuttles, but less comfortable and with little room for luggage. We found them best for shorter journeys or day trips when we didn’t have our bags with us.

To reiterate something I mentioned at the start: shop around for transport prices – there were deals to be had. In general, we booked our transport through travel agents (there were plenty), but in some of the more remote places like Semuc Champney, our hostel booked shuttles for us. It wasn’t a case of simply jumping on: we booked specific days and times in advance.

Also, something we were becoming used to by that point in our travels was to keep in mind that the shuttles often took much longer than advised. The roads were in quite poor condition at times; it was slow going and bumpy.

The trick? Don’t rush, and build lots of extra time into your itinerary. If you try to cram too much in too quickly and are relying on onward connections (and shuttles arriving when they say they will), you’re going to feel stressed, and will inevitably miss connections.

Here’s a breakdown of our journey costs:

  • Shuttle bus from Guatemala City to Antigua: $15 per person.
  • Shuttle bus from Antigua to Lake Atitlan (Panajachel): $20 per person.
  • Boat from Panajachel to San Marcos: $3.30 per person
  • Return boat from San Marcos to San Pedro: $3.60 per person
  • Boat from San Marcos to Panajachel: $3.30 per person
  • Shuttle bus from Panajachel to Lanquín: $45 per person
  • Shuttle bus from Lanquín to Flores: $44 per person

There are other modes of transport if shuttle buses aren’t for you, such as taxis and private cars. It’s also worth firing up the Uber app: the ridesharing service is available in an increasing number of places in Guatemala, and in some cases can be cheaper than a shuttle bus for two or more people traveling, even between cities.

The Cost of Activities and Entrance Fees in Guatemala

Oh my, Guatemala has some great activities on offer, from volcano trekking and swimming in the jungle to exploring ancient ruins. Here are some of the things we particularly loved doing, with prices:

Museo Popol Vuh, Guatemala City: $6 per person. Home to a major collection of Mayan art, we took in pre-Columbian and colonial pieces.

Pacaya volcano trek, Antigua: $20-30 per person (included transportation, the entrance fee, and obligatory guide). This walk was so worth it, with amazing views throughout, plus petrified lava! Touching it felt hot, and we toasted marshmallows on it! Carry plenty of water, and if you do a sunset tour like we did, make sure you have a torch, or at least plenty of battery life left on your phone – it was dark by the time we walked back down. Also, we found the hike to be medium difficulty, in case you’re wondering if it’s for you. As always, shop around the travel agencies when you get to Antigua. Oh, and just a note that tours don’t always run, depending on volcanic activity.

Finca Filadelfia coffee plantation tour, Antigua: $20 per person. We enjoyed a tour of the plantation just north of the city, where we heard all about the bean and roasting process, and sampled some of their rather wonderful products.

Mayan Kitchen Cooking Class, San Pedro Lake Atitlan: $35 per person. Westwards around the lake from San Marcos, we learned all about Mayan cooking. This was right up our street – we love to cook and we love to eat. Venturing to the local market to buy ingredients with our guide Anita, we then went back to her kitchen. There, our group whipped up regional plates such as pepián, tortillas, and guacamole.

Natural pools, Semuc Champney: $20 per person for a day trip from Lanquín, including Q50 ($6.50) entrance fee to the National Monument. Cascading down one after the other, the turquoise pools were begging to be jumped into – and we did. It’s a 45-minute uphill trek through lush jungle from the carpark to the scenic natural wonder, and I’d definitely recommend you wear proper shoes for it (not flip flops like we foolishly did). We walked via an impressive viewpoint (‘El Mirador’) before spending a few hours chilling and swimming down at the water. We decided against tubing, but that was on offer for Q50 ($6.50) if the mood takes you.

Jorge’s Rope Swing, Flores: $3.30 entrance per person. Eastwards of our hotel, we chilled on the hammocks and braved the swing into the lake – a fab way to spend an afternoon.

Tikal Mayan citadel: $20 per person entrance fee. We marvelled at these ancient ruins as we toured the site, exploring the archaeological remains of the ancient Maya civilization. A cultural and natural preserve, the area was declared a National Park in 1955 and designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Get there early for dramatic views over the jungle and to beat the heat later in the day.

We also loved a range of free activities, including: 

Wandering the cobbled roads of Antigua: Despite the city’s somewhat touristy feel, we loved, loved, loved it. It was just so attractive, with a real holiday vibe to it, and we wiled away a lot of time strolling the maze of streets, dipping in and out of the many chocolate shops.

Cerro de la Cruz, Antigua: Up we went to the ‘Hill of the Cross’ viewpoint, and boy were we hot by the time we reached the top 20 minutes later! The spectacular vistas were worth it, though.

Ambling the shores of Lake Atitlan: North west of Antigua, this crater lake was surrounded by natural beauty. Hills dotted the landscape and volcanoes loomed in the background. The word Atitlan is Mayan for ‘the place where the rainbow gets its colour’.

The Cost of Food in Guatemala

Being total foodies, my husband Ryan and I are always excited to try new cuisines. Guatemalan food ticked that box – it was a whole new experience for us, one that we found to be both cheap and tasty. We mainly ate street food and at budget-friendly local restaurants, but of course, if you have the cash to splash, there are more expensive options.

In Guatemala, Mayan culture merges with Spanish heritage, making the local cuisine interesting and flavourful. Here are a handful of dishes we ate across our fortnight in the country, along with the average price.


Known for its coffee culture, we started most days with a brew. There were many cafés to try; we generally picked a different one each day. Fernando’s Kaffee – also a roastery and chocolate shop – was our favourite place in Antigua where we paid $2 per cup for an Americano and $2.50 for a latte. We pulled up a pew in the pretty courtyard garden, or got a takeaway and sipped as we strolled.

Some days we didn’t feel especially hungry at breakfast time, so a coffee did the job. On other days, we opted for tasty fresh fruit, which set us back just a dollar or so from a local market, while if were feeling hungry, a traditional Guatemalan brekkie of ‘desayuno chapin’ did the job nicely.

Desayuno chapin: This filling meal consists of scrambled eggs with tomato, red or black beans, plantain, cheese, and tortilla, usually with a side of avocado and cream, and it’s a cheap and delicious way to start the day. We usually paid $3-4 for it.

Other breakfasts we enjoyed were:

Huevos Motuleños: Originally from the eastern part of Guatemala, it includes black beans, fried plantains, sausage, chopped tomatoes, avocados, and fried eggs on a bed of tortillas. This typically set us back $3-5.

Tamalitos: If you’ve ever had a tamale in Mexico or elsewhere, these are the Guatemalan equivalent. Typically smaller than their Mexican cousins, these steamed parcels of corn masa and fillings come wrapped in banana leaves. You can get them for any meal, but a typical breakfast version has vegetables, chicken, or pork, plus a sauce of some kind. They cost $1 or less from street vendors.


Noodle tostadas: This street food dish was an unusual mix of cuisines, consisting of a crisp tortilla topped with guacamole, chopped tomatoes, salsa, onions, and noodles – double carb me up! These came in at around $1 and were super tasty. One of the most authentic places we enjoyed the snack was Lake Atitlan, where a young boy carrying a cooler stopped us as we wandered the narrow maze of pathways surrounding San Marcos. He offered to make us a portion from scratch while we watched – enterprising or what? A flavour bomb, too.

Pupusas: Half-moon shaped tortillas filled with shredded meat, beans, and cheese, then fried, these filling snacks came in at about $1.50 each a portion and were yum. Served with salsa and cabbage, they served us well for dinner sometimes, too.

Empanadas: You can’t travel in Latin America without enjoying a (un)healthy dose of empanadas, and we didn’t even try! Crisp pastry filled mainly with veggies such as potato and spinach, and topped with guacamole, tomatoes, onion and coriander, these were moreish and gone in seconds. Price-wise, they were around $1.50 a portion.


Chicken pepián: Super delish, this spiced stew fuses Spanish and Mayan cuisine, and was packed with fruit and veg such as squash, carrot, and pear alongside the chicken. I really loved the sauce it came in: it was slightly different each time, but always great! Served with rice or tortilla, it set us back $4-6 a portion.

Kak’ik: We loved this dish of Mayan spiced turkey soup sprinkled with coriander. I’m a sucker for achiote and there’s plenty of it in this dish, which is what gives it its distinctive red colour. Costing around $4 a pop, it was a cheap and flavoursome bowl. The spiciness level varied quite a bit, though: sometimes it had only a mild heat, other times there was a real chilli kick to it!

Grilled meats: We regularly devoured the likes of chorizo and thin slices of steak on the street and in budget restaurants for no more than a couple of dollars a portion, although you can certainly pay more in higher-end places. Filling and delicious: what more needs to be said?


Tap water generally isn’t safe to drink in Guatemala, so we drank lots of bottled water throughout our stay, plus coffee, beers, and the odd mezcal here and there.

A large water cost us about $1 from a convenience store, while large bottles of local beer came in at about $1.50, and mezcal around $5 a shot – sip, don’t slam! One recommendation that I have to mention: Café No Sé in Antigua for mezcal, and the fab staff who let me get behind the bar after I’d had a few!

Tasty and excellent value for money, we thoroughly enjoyed the food and drink of Guatemala.

Cost of Travel Insurance in Guatemala

If you’ve read any other posts on Never Ending Footsteps, you’ll know that I’m a great believer in travelling with travel insurance. I’ve seen far too many Go Fund Me campaigns from destitute backpackers that are unexpectedly stranded in a foreign country after a scooter accident/being attacked/breaking a leg with no way of getting home or paying for their healthcare. These costs can quickly land you with a six-figure bill to pay at the end of it.

In short, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

Travel insurance will cover you if your flight is cancelled and you need to book a new one, if your luggage gets lost and you need to replace your belongings, if you suddenly get struck down by appendicitis and have to be hospitalised, or discover a family member has died and you need to get home immediately. If you fall seriously ill, your insurance will cover the costs to fly you home to receive medical treatment.

I use SafetyWing as my travel insurance provider, and recommend them for trips to Guatemala. Firstly, they’re one of the few companies out there who will actually cover you if you contract COVID-19. On top of that, they provide worldwide coverage, don’t require you to have a return ticket, and even allow you to buy coverage after you’ve left home. If you’re on a long-term trip, you can pay monthly instead of up-front, and can cancel at any time. Finally, they’re more affordable than the competition, and have a clear, easy-to-understand pricing structure, which is always appreciated.

With SafetyWing, you’ll pay $1.50 a day for travel insurance.

How Much Does It Cost to Travel in Guatemala?

After adding everything up, here are our daily per-person costs for our time in Guatemala!

  • Accommodation: $63.70 per day between two ($31.85 each)
  • Transport: $8.90 per day
  • Activities: $12.70 per day
  • Food and drink: $13.40 per day
  • Miscellaneous: $4.50 per day

Grand total spent in Guatemala: $71.35 per person per day.

Our Guatemalan expedition was full of fun and adventure and great value for money, to boot. With varied and beautiful landscapes, a wide range of interesting sights and activities, flavourful food, and a mixture of quality and reasonably-priced places to stay, I can’t wait to go back!

Related Articles on Guatemala

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😂 The Belize-Guatemala Border and the Worst Bribe Attempt Ever

About the author

Lauren Juliff

Lauren Juliff is a published author and travel expert who founded Never Ending Footsteps in 2011. She has spent over 12 years travelling the world, sharing in-depth advice from more than 100 countries across six continents.

Lauren's travel advice has been featured in publications like the BBC, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Cosmopolitan, and her work is read by 200,000 readers each month. Her travel memoir can be found in bookstores across the planet.


  1. Brianna
    April 10, 2021

    This cost breakdown is so helpful! I’ve always wanted to go to Guatemala :)

  2. Akshay Sawant
    April 15, 2021

    Hi, I think Guatemala is one of the best places for tourists to visit again and again. Next year I’m going to visit there. Thank you & keep traveling.

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