Dwindling Fortunes Update: December 2013
The cost of living in Guatemala
We’ve spent the entire month of December in Guatemala, mostly enjoying the quiet shores of Lake Atitlán, with the occasional escapade to Guatemala City to keep us sharp. Although staying put usually means less money spent, we’ve actually saw a bit of a drain in our finances due to my ongoing exploration of the medical routes of Central America.
Discover the world? Feel the salty breath of the ocean on my cheeks and dive into the mysteries of the world at large? Nah, I’ll just try a doctor in every country we visit and spend a bunch of money on medication. My body is a cage…
Still, we’re happy to report Guatemala can be just as cheap as Mexico, although perhaps not as gastronomically diverse and less prone to random outbursts of firework extravaganzas.
Anyway, on with the data:
For the purpose of tracking our expenses we purchased a brilliant app called Trail Wallet, available for all gadgets starting with “i”.
The procedure is simple: we input our daily budget, fill in our own currency (EUR) and also choose the currency of the country we’re in (currently, GTQ). We then enter our purchases in GTQ, and the app will let us know how much we are spending in EUR and how we are faring in regards to our daily budget. We can also assign categories to our outrageous lifestyle. Here’s how it looked on the last day of December:
Our daily budget is 50 EUR total. We averaged 25.88 EUR for the month of December, which means we spent 52% of our allocated budget. The good news is that we’re consistently under budget, the bad news is that it could have been a lot better if my sorry excuse for a body didn’t feel the need to collapse and convalesce and collapse again as if it were on a roller coaster.
On with the financial data then. Unless specified otherwise, all numbers refer to our total costs as a couple.
Below is the general chart for the month of December.
Each lovely color represents a category. We’ve added the following:
We used to also have the Entertainment category, to account for alcohol and such, but since we never do much of that, we decided to combine it with Cult… er, I mean Miscellaneous.
Most of the money we spent in December went for Accommodation, Food, and… Health!
Remember when we used to spend 600 Euros per month on accommodation? Well, we do. At least in this department, we’ve managed to make quite some progress. We hope to explore some other options in the future, but for now we’re patting ourselves on the back for the deals we’ve encountered.
Below is the daily rate of the two places we’ve stayed in. The exchange rate is approximate, since the Euro is a bit like that crazy uncle with narcolepsy. You know the one.
70 GTQ (7 EUR) – Apartamentos Don Moisés (apartment, Panajachel)
450 GTQ (42 EUR) – Casa Blanca (hotel, Guatemala City)
Please note the ridiculous difference between our lovely place in Panajachel and a mid-range hotel in Guatemala City. The amount we paid for one night inside a small room in the city is nearly as much as we pay for an entire week inside an apartment with all amenities included, not to mention a glorious vista of Lake Atitlán.
Did I mention we have a kitchen?
Granted, eating out in Guatemala does not have to be a monetary free fall, being possible to enjoy a good meal for less than 5 Euros, but considering that amount is worth a week of scrumptious meals at home, well… you do the math.
We are fond of the bustle of local markets – the smells, the colors, the people, the ceaseless haggling – and are able to bring home the fresh produce and fruit we had missed so dearly while living in Amsterdam. Here, a real, tasty avocado will cost us 1GTQ/0,10 EUR and a juicy carrot half of that amount.
As a side note, potable water is a bit of an issue throughout the Central American lands – meaning it’s mostly non-existent -, so bottled water is the safest way to go. Another money-saving benefit of having our own place is being able to buy 20 L water bottles for 20 GTQ/2 EUR, which lasts us a little over a week.
The only reason our food budget isn’t even lower is due to heavy consumption of ice-cream (1 cone, 2 balls for 13 GTQ/1 EUR of utterly fresh deliciousness) and occasional splurges on chocolate and other delectable treasures. Yes, we suffer from Sweet Tooth Syndrome.
I won’t go into the details of my body’s many failings again, but suffice to say it’s getting on my nerves…
After consulting with a lovely specialist in Guatemala City, I have been put on a very expensive medication regime in order to see if I can get rid of whatever is trying to bring my mojo down. Basically, I’m popping pills like there’s no tomorrow.
How I long for the days when this category was mostly comprised of toothpaste and the odd bar of soap…
The remaining categories were responsible for 17.2% of our total costs.
Culture was a no-show this month. There were no museums or ruins to visit, and therefore no money spent. Nonetheless, our daily contact with locals and trips to the market also count as culture in our book, so we’re good.
Lifestyle is a fancy word for nicotine addiction. We’ll drop our cancer sticks as soon as the new year begins. Not sure about which year though…
Transport costs were a tad high for a predominantly static month, but we visited Guatemala’s capital twice and the expenses add up rather quickly. Here is more info on transport from Panajachel to Guatemala City.
Miscellaneous can be anything, and this month it was mostly a staggering phone bill (holiday season oblige) and the occasional handmade bracelet or postcard.
Summing up: if my body had gotten over itself and started behaving its age we would have had a fantabulous month. Alas, one must always allow space in our lives for the unexpected – but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.
As for Guatemala itself, only good news so far. Food is yummy and cheap, public transportation a bit mad but also cheap, and there are fantastic deals to be found where accommodation is concerned. On top of that, the people we’ve met so far have been remarkably friendly and welcoming, so we may stick around for the entire duration of our visa (3 months).
In the end, we feel it’s a great place to enter 2014 in style…