Moving to Antigua, Guatemala



Last week I moved to Guatemala. I finally arrived in Guatemala City at 7.30pm, after more than 36 hours of travel, and my friend Izy and her boyfriend Juan met me at the airport. I was so tired I couldn’t see straight, so we stayed at his house in the city that night, and the next afternoon we made the hour long drive to Antigua.

I was a little worried about seeing the town.

Don’t get me wrong, I mean I was excited as well. But since I’ve mentally committed to at least a year here, I was worried that moving to Antigua would be a mistake, and the town wouldn’t live up to all of my expectations.

The thing is, I often have no middle ground. I’m passionate by nature (some would say stroppy), and I either love something or I hate it. My tastes are varied, but once I’ve made up my mind about something I rarely change it.

So while I’d heard amazing things about Antigua, I figured there was a 50% chance I would hate it-either because of its small size, or because everyone I’d spoken to had built it up too much, and it was overrated.

Luckily, I adore it.

It was love at first sight for me and this little town, which was unexpected since I’m a city girl at heart.

moving to antigua
I could take photos of the architechture all day long

I was immediately charmed by the clip-clopping of horses down cobblestone streets. The flowers in windows, the bright colours of the buildings, and the sound of church bells ringing in the distance. Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s simply beautiful.

moving to antigua guatemala
The windows could so easily look like mini prisons, but the flowers soften them up.

Central park is continually full of locals, just hanging out and enjoying the day. It’s this laid-back, relaxed atmosphere that I need right now, and it’s already forced me to slow down, focus on my surroundings, and appreciate the small things. No one is ever in a rush here, and it seems like the people work to live, instead of living to work.

Central park antigua
People chilling in Central Park

Guatemalans are so patient and encouraging when it comes to foreigners. My Spanish sucks, but they let me practice on them without getting annoyed, and instead are simply appreciative that I’m trying. This is the first place I’ve lived where I could see myself actively staying for a long time, and not simply blinking away the months and wondering where the time went.

moving to guatemala
Central Park is one of my favourite places

I’ve spent most of this week working, and I’ve settled in at a great coworking space. I’ve started Spanish lessons, joined a gym, and met some really lovely people, all who motivate me to improve my Spanish as fast as possible. I’m excited to spend this weekend playing tourist, visiting the many cafes, and roaming the streets with my camera.

 

Moving to Antigua
Cobblestone streets-a pain in the ass to walk on, but so pretty to look at.

When I told people in New Zealand that I was moving to Guatemala, they either made a Shortland Street reference (don’t ask), or gave me a horrified look like I had announced that I’d be exploring the Congo by myself. This town is so picturesque, with a European feel, open and helpful locals, and safe streets, and I wish I could bring everyone over here, and simply say “I told you so” (’cause I’m mature like that).

 

18 comments on “Moving to Antigua, Guatemala

  1. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) April 24, 2015 @ 9:06 am

    Antigua looks so lovely! I’m glad to hear that it’s been a case of love at first sight—such a bold move to move somewhere that you’ve never visited before (I know, because we’ve had a few false starts here in Mexico!). I’m excited to see how your impressions of the city evolve over time as you become more comfortable with Guatemala and improve your Spanish.
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Getting the Last Laugh at Bryce Canyon

    • Stacey May 6, 2015 @ 10:23 am

      It’s amazing Steph! It’s funny how it’s simply the luck of the draw sometimes. You can do all the research, read all the blogs, and it’s not until you get somewhere that you immediately know if you love it or hate it. Come down for a visit! We’re practically neighbours :)

  2. Edwin April 30, 2015 @ 1:25 pm

    That is bold! I just discovered your blog through.. jeez, I can’t remember ==but I’m so glad I did. I love the photos of your new area. I understand that being somewhere where you don’t speak the language can get a bit frustrating, have you found others around there that speak English?

    • Stacey May 6, 2015 @ 10:24 am

      Thanks Edwin! Yes there are plenty of expats here who are willing to translate, and you get surprisingly far with a bit of interpretive dance haha.

  3. Justina May 7, 2015 @ 3:39 am

    Hi Stacey

    I just found you and you inspired me sooo much!! I sooooooooo want to quit my corporate job and just travel. When I look at your posts and see you LIVING your LIFE to the fullest I SOOOOOOOOOOO want to do the same. Thank you for lovely tips and enjoy your new home!! One day I will be where you are: :)

    Lots of love

    Justina
    Justina recently posted..How do I love myself..

    • Stacey May 8, 2015 @ 1:00 pm

      Hi Justina! Thanks for stopping by. I”m glad I can inspire you! Honestly the hardest part is making the decision to go. Have you thought about giving yourself a deadline? IT can definitely be done :) And if you find yourself in my neck of the woods you definitely have to let me know :)

  4. Harriet June 3, 2015 @ 6:40 am

    Really wonderful there! I feel so inspired by adventurous people like you! Thanks fore sharing! All the best!

  5. John Schnettgoecke January 19, 2016 @ 12:27 pm

    Hey Stacey,

    John, here. I found your blog while looking for some tips on moving to Antigua. I’m considering heading that way in a couple of months, actually. Can you tell me which co-working space you’re using, as well as where you’re taking Spanish lessons? Any tips you could provide would be incredibly helpful :)

    Thanks,
    John

    • Stacey April 13, 2016 @ 9:07 am

      Hi John

      Apologies, I’m a little late with my reply. I use the coworking space Impact Hub, although I have decent wifi at home now so I’m not going too often. I also have a private Spanish teacher which you can find from around 50-60Q per hour. Good luck and maybe I’ll see you around town sometime soon :)

  6. paola August 6, 2016 @ 11:53 am

    Hi Stacey,

    Thank for you sharing you experiences with us. It happens to be that my boyfriend and I are moving to Antigua Guatemala in 4 months. We will be opening a little business there :). Any recommendations as far as settling down when it comes to apartment rentals or anything else. We are from Venezuela but living in Miami USA. We have visited Antigua Guatemala twice :)

    • Stacey August 24, 2016 @ 1:19 pm

      Hey Paola

      Hmmm four months is tricky because most leases would be at least 6 but usually 12 months. You could check out the situation once you get here- we went through Century 21 here but our lease was for a year. There’s a Facebook group called Antigua Guatemala classifieds (check out the real estate one as well) which often has advertisements and you could post about what you’re looking for. Otherwise AIrBnb could be a good option.
      Stacey recently posted..Exploring Mayan Ruins in Tikal, Guatemala

  7. aaron February 21, 2017 @ 7:17 pm

    Hi Stacey,
    I am considering a move with my wife and daughter in one and a half years…..she will be in the middle of 7th grade …considering AIS for schooling…any thoughts? Are there young expat girls her age around town that could help socially as she is coming without siblings..?

    • Stacey March 8, 2017 @ 4:38 am

      Hey Aaron

      I would jump on Facebook- there are a bunch of Facebook groups for expats in Guatemala, including buy, sell and exchange, Antigua Area Classifieds etc. Join a bunch of the groups and ask around- I personally didn’t teach but have heard good things about AIS, the only thing I would say is to make sure she’s prepared for life in Guate- she simply won’t be able to enjoy the same amount of freedom that she did at home as there are completely different expectations (and level of safety) for young girls in Guatemala.

  8. Yoselinne March 29, 2017 @ 1:44 pm

    Hi there Stacey,

    I’m so glad I ran into your website and blog about Guatemala! I’m considering moving to Guatemala in the next year, especially Antigua! I’m a student fresh out of college (major in Spanish, Journalism and a minor in Latin American studies) and I was wondering what you do for a living there! And all the steps you went through to live in Antigua (I just got back from a trip two weeks ago) :)

  9. patricia August 17, 2017 @ 8:38 am

    Hi….i too have a fondness for Guatemala……Antigua is all you said….but there is more…….it is not safe there….esp at night. I have had my bag cut open….camera stolen….got beat for an apartment deposit (an unscrupulous American….who is there for a reason)….ATM compromised…..got a crappy rental in Pana…..ppl never stop asking you for money etc A friend and I coming from the Rainbow Cafe at about 7 30pm….got accosted in a robbery attempt….my friend got her neck circled with the words “dinero”. …..I go there….i like it there….its familiar and I do know some nice people…..the weather is good…..its inexpensive. You have to stay alert and be cautious at night.
    Glad it’s good for you…..will be there next month ……

    • Stacey August 23, 2017 @ 5:27 am

      Hey Patricia

      I actually no longer live in Guatemala- I’m in Budapest, Hungary now. But I do agree, Antigua is much more dangerous than many people think. Most people see the beauty and don’t realise that you can’t walk around after dark at all, and tourists are targeted for robberies and worse. It’s an amazing place, but I’m definitely enjoying the freedom and safety of life in Europe now.

  10. Cynthia James December 2, 2017 @ 7:12 am

    How are you finding Budapest? I recently went there for dental work and I thought the city was wonderful. I’m looking for someplace to move to away from the US. A friend had recommended Antigua, but after reading this, I don’t think that is the place to go. I would prefer Europe anyway, but want to find someplace inexpensive, as I am not independently wealthy!!

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