Our Morning View

Our Morning View in San Pedro, Guatemala

May was busy.  It’s months like these that make me wonder how I ever managed to find time to have a job.  We started the month at sunrise on May 1st, headed towards the Mayan ruins at Palenque, with stops at Agua Azul and Misol-Ha.  We followed this up with a few days in San Cristobal de Las Casas, before making the border run into Guatemala.

Once on the shores of Lake Atitlan, we passed a few days in lovely Panajachel before taking a boat to San Pedro, where we spent two weeks pounding the Spanish language into our brains for 4 hours a day. We experimented with living with a local family while studying, but were quickly reminded that we enjoy having our own space, so we found a nice little apartment with a stunning view and settled in for a month

Once again we had a group of good people around us, and we spent many an enjoyable evening out for dinner and drinks while trying to decipher the New Zealand, English, and Australian accents.  Fresh mint mojitos sell for 10Q (10 Quetzales, about $1.25) and since they sell for about $8 in Seattle, I’m still trying to figure out if I need to drink 8 of them to get maximum value.  To help with this conundrum, our friend Jake came down from LA on a spur of the moment birthday bash, and days later I’m still recovering

On to the expense details:

We had several living arrangements this month.  In Palenque, we stayed in a private cabana in the jungle near the ruins for $20 a night.  Back in San Cristobal, we stayed in a hostel with private room and bath for about $16 a night.  In Panajachel we found a nice hotel near the lake for 80Q a night (~$10.)  The homestay in San Pedro was $10/day/person for meals and room, or about $10 a night per room.  The apartment we found was 1500Q for a month (~$195), or about $6.5 a day.  Guatemala is definitely cheaper than Mexico.

I’ll share details about our Guatemalan apartment in a future post

We only had 3 bus trips this month.  The first was a windy journey from San Cristobal to Palenque in a small van, with stops at Agua Azul and Misol-Ha.  For 400 pesos a person (~$33), we had a roundtrip to Palenque and admission to the ruins and the 2 swimming spots.   In our case though, we decided not to take the return trip and instead spend a night or two in Palenque.  This turned out to be less than a great idea, so we headed back to San Cristobal the next morning in order to escape the heat and humidity.  The trip back in a big first class bus was a bit more luxurious and set us back an extra 104 pesos per person (~$8.60)

We booked the trip across the Mexico/Guatemala border with a tour company, in order to make the crossing with a large group and a large stack of passports.  The one-way trip cost 350 pesos per person (~$29), plus an additional 300 pesos per person (~$25) for the Mexico exit tax and 20 pesos per person (~$1.65) to enter Guatemala.  Once we got to Panajachel, the main form of transportation changed to a combination of boat and tuk tuk.  A 1-way boat trip to nearby towns costs about 25Q (~$3) and a ride in a tuk tuk is 10Q per person ($1.25) in Panajachel and 5Q per person ($0.65) in San Pedro

The Busiest Street in Town

Tuk tuk Traffic Jam – The Busiest Street in Town

Food expenses in May were about average, about $13.50/person/day, although the average is lower in Guatemala than it was in Mexico.  A typical dinner entree in San Pedro comes in around 35Q (~$4.50), although we’ve dined for both much less than that and also much more.  A great pizza cooked in a wood burning stove costs about 60Q, whereas a bean and tortilla concoction from a street vendor costs about 7Q.  Kitchen use over the next few weeks will bring average spending down, as will the fact that all of our Spanish school friends have now moved on in their travels

Our spending on alcohol set a record this month.  With drinks costing only 10Q ($1.25) or less during the numerous happy hours, how is this possible?  My memory escapes me on this one, although I did somehow manage to write down all of the spending…

In addition to the excessive wining and dining, we also managed to nearly overdose on adrenalin.  Just outside the town of Panajachel, nestled snugly in the Atitlan Nature Reserve, are the Cables X-tremos!  These ziplines are nearly 1 km in length, and span a canyon filled with waterfalls and monkeys.  As an added bonus, it becomes a little more difficult to brake when the cables are wet with rain, and Winnie took advantage of this feature a couple times… once knocking the guide off of the landing platform while losing her helmet over a ridge.  Nobody was hurt, but I tipped extra for that 🙂  All up, the cost of ziplining was about $50 a person, and included this incredible view

View Over Lake Atitlan and Panajachel

View Over Lake Atitlan and Panajachel

In the normal course of life, we also managed to rack up $20 in laundry expenses, another $20 in jewelry and clothing shopping, and various other miscellaneous charges

Included in the “Other” category this month are registration and tuition fees for the Spanish school and our gifts for Mother’s Day and Winnie’s Mom’s Birthday.

DetailsMay 2013Notes
LocationMexico & GuatemalaPalenque, San Cristobal, Panajachel, San Pedro
Housing$311Hostel in Palenque and San Cris, Hotel in Panajachel, Homestay and Apartment in San Pedro
Healthcare$236Our Monthly HDHP premium; Cold medicine
Transportation$179$70 Roundtrip to Palenque; $58 to Guatemala; Various boat trips on Lake Atitlan, a few taxis
Dining Out$752Includes homestay; $24/day
Alcohol$176$6/day; Includes drinks for a friends birthday party
Government Fees$53600 peso ($50) Mexico departure tax; 60 peso ($3.50) Guatemala entry fee
Entertainment$129Palenque, Agua Azul, Misol-Ha ($19); Hot Springs, San Marcos, Santiago Atitlan; Zipline ($101)
Misc$51New shirt and necklace ($20); Laundry ($20)
Total$1,973$64 / day
Other Expenses Nonrecurring and atypical travel costs
Spanish Class$4732 weeks of private Spanish lessons, 4 hours per day (plus registration fees)
Mother's Day and Birthday$251
Total Other$724
Total Spending$2,697$87/day

Just by crossing the border into Guatemala, our expenses have started to come down, from ~$80+/day to $64/day.

One big example is our 1500Q / $195 monthly apartment rental.   It is a huge step down from the average $1000 we had been spending in Mexico, although that does come with a bit more rustic environment.  (Check out the post on Suicide Showers from popular travel blogger Johnny Vagabond to get an idea of what that means.)  We have met others that are spending around $1/day on housing in San Pedro, although we haven’t visited so I don’t know what you can get for a dollar

Food expenses were average for the month, but will likely come down in June as well (although I’ve said this several times now.) Food is just generally cheaper here

Transportation is also substantially cheaper in Guatemala, and when we get back on the road later this month it won’t come anywhere close to the nearly $200 we have been spending on going from place to place

Overall, May was our cheapest month yet and June is looking to be even better in that regard

Retire Early.

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