For over 6 months we have been on the go. Many backpackers visit all of Central or South America in that time, and some even manage to complete a RTW trip. We’ve visited Mexico and Guatemala… the slow pace has allowed us to explore many parts of each country, and to really get to know each city we visit.
It’s been a wonderful adventure. The first few months, I would often dream about work and find myself thinking about office politics or unsolved technical problems , but no longer. I now consider myself to be fully decompressed. Life is good
While processing our May expenses and looking forward, I predicted that June would be our cheapest month yet. It was! But not due to lack of trying.
As a result of our dining largesse in Antigua, we spent more on food in June than in any other month. In San Pedro, our average food spending was ~$10/person/day. In Antigua, it was ~$25/person/day. The impact to total June spending was nearly $250. Sometimes its fun to splurge, but I think perspective is important. This culinary adventure cost more than our monthly rent in San Pedro
While it is not difficult to eat inexpensively in Antigua, we happened to fall in love with H Bistro and Izakaya, a French and Japanese place, respectively. We had some of the best meals of our lives for reasonable prices, when compared to International standards. Still, it is a bit unsettling to spend twice as much on food as on rent
Food prices weren’t the only thing higher in Antigua. Hotel prices seemed sky high compared to San Pedro. A few friends recommended a hostel or two, but the choices were either $30+ private rooms or beds in 26-person dorms. Instead we found a guestroom in a private home on airbnb.com for $25 a night. The room was great and the shower had great pressure and lots of hot water, a real treat after a month of suicide showers. Our hosts were wonderful people and their cat, Amor, was true to its name
We looked for a private room at Zephyr River Lodge while in Lanquin, but we arrived on a weekend and things were busy. Instead we stayed in the hostel dorm for Q45/person/night (~$5.75), where we had a double bed in a loft with a ton of privacy and a view of the valley below. If you stay 4 nights, the 4th night is free.
Alcohol spending was above average, due to the generous happy hours at Zephyr lodge. And when you stay for 5 days, your 5th day is Happy Day… happy hour prices all day. I had quite a few Dark ‘N Stormy drinks, a delightful concoction of house made ginger beer and rum with a slice of lime, only Q12 (~$1.50) each. Drinking seems to be a way of life at Zephyr, particularly when the internet gets turned off at 7 pm
Transportation costs were way down. Bouncing around Guatemala is significantly cheaper than in Mexico. The shuttle to Antigua from San Pedro was only Q50 per person (~$6.50) and the shuttle to Lanquin / Semuc Champey from Antigua was Q160 per person (~$20.50.)
For a moment, we thought that the San Pedro Vortex might have sucked us in, holding us hostage as it had so many other travelers. The night before our departure it rained heavily, washing out a 6+ meter wide gap in the only road out of town.
Determined to escape, we rode the planned shuttle out of town, hiked 200 meters up a steep hill with our backpacks, and climbed into our waiting escape vehicle. A short while later we had to change vehicles again, as our engine started to smoke and scream.
Our transportation spending also included a few tuk tuk rides around San Pedro and Antigua, and a few boat rides to explore other villages on Lake Atitlan.
Our life is already pretty entertaining, and a large portion of our “entertainment budget” gets spent on food, but we still had some fun expenses this month. A sunrise hike up Indian’s Nose cost Q180 with tip (~$23) and we rented a double kayak for an hour for Q20 (~$2.50.) In Lanquin we spent a sunny afternoon tubing down the Lanquin river, drinking beer, and jumping from trees into the river (Q50 per person, ~$6.50, plus beer)
The Miscellaneous category this month contains laundry and other normal life stuff, and a little shopping spree. A few of Winnie’s shirts were getting holes, and she bought four new (to her) shirts for Q90 (~$11.50) in a small second hand shop in San Pedro. found a small second hand shop where she got four new (to her) shirts for Q90. A flip flop accident also required replacing her sandals for Q30 (~$4.) Winnie also found a beautiful hand woven scarf at a Women’s Coop in San Juan for Q100 (~$13.) The Coop used all natural dyes and everything was hand woven. With all of the great items available, we might have to create an import business. I think I made out pretty well with the wife significantly expanding her wardrobe for less than $30. I also bought a great new pair of pants for Q100 (~$13.)
In a bit of oversight on my part, the great ATM card that refunds our ATM fees expired at the end of May. Our backup card charges a 1% international fee on each withdrawal. Since everything in San Pedro is cash only, we ended up with extra fees and a worse effective exchange rate. We’ll get a new card mailed to us once we have a stable address again, probably in Belize. In the meantime, I’ll follow my own advice of using our credit card for every possible transaction
Other expenses includes another week of Spanish lessons and some mailing and printing costs for immigration processing back home
|Location||Guatemala||San Pedro, Antigua, and Semuc Champey|
|Housing||$366||Apartment in San Pedro, Room in Antigua, Dorm in Lanquin|
|Healthcare||$243||Monthly HDHP fee and some overpriced Emergen-C packets|
|Transportation||$80||Shuttle to Antigua, Shuttle to Lanquin, a few tuk tuks and boats|
|Groceries||$105||$3.50 / day|
|Dining Out||$859||$29 / day|
|Alcohol||$127||$4 / day|
|Entertainment||$40||Hike up Indian's Nose, Kayak Rental, Tubing on Lanquin River|
|Misc||$81||Clothing ($43), ebook ($6.70), Laundry ($25)|
|Total||$1,900||$63 / day|
|Other Expenses||Nonrecurring and atypical travel costs|
|Spanish Class||$217||1 week of private Spanish lessons, 4 hours per day|
|Immigration Processing||$120||Final details of US Immigration processing|
We will finish our stay in Guatemala soon, and then both our travels and our expenses will head north as we venture into Belize.