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What if I don’t have residency?

This is such a common question. People want to move here but don’t yet have residency. They are concerned with the process, what if they move here and don’t get it and so on. Having obtained residency in three Central American countries, I consider myself at least close to an expert.

First, if you don’t have residency and even if you don’t think you won’t qualify for residency, don’t panic. If you love it here, move here. While you will need documents from your home country, you should be able to do all that by mail. 99% of the time, things will work out.

Now, the official scoop can be found at http://www.migracion.gob.gt/ which includes all the residency options, listed in Extranjería. That said, what happens if you don’t have residency?

  1. Assuming you entered on a tourist visa, you can stay for 90 days.
  2. When your 90 days is up, your passport needs to leave the country. I said passport because I know people who pay someone to take their passport to Mexico and back. Legally, of course, you need to go but there are options.
  3. If you over-stay your visa you can be fined. But, apparently the fine is negotiable.
  4. If you never going to leave Guatemala, you can probably stay and just ignore the law. You could “get caught” but, in general, it won’t happen.

OK, bottom line, just do it. Am I suggesting you do something illegal? No. I am simply suggesting that you should worry less and go for what you want. It is extremely likely all will work out.


Talking to William

I was chatting with my friend Dennis and this “Gringo” came up to us to ask some questions. His name is William and he is from Tucson Arizona. He was in a caravan of vehicles headed to Costa Rica. He had just spent the night in Panajachel and was considering abandoning the caravan to stay in Pana.

He had the usual questions. One that led to most of the discussion was “did I know a cheap place to stay with a shared kitchen”. Dennis and I both suggested that it is cheaper to go out and eat in Pana than cook for one. I suggested he check out Villa Lupita as a cheap place to stay. It is a block from the public market, decent rooms, free WiFi and a deck that looks over the town and, as I remember, the lake. Last time I asked a room with a private bath was Q50.

Typical breakfast menu

Typical breakfast menu

Dennis then chimed in about food. While the Desayuno Tipico at Ricasoli’s or Lazaroni’s (same owner and same menu) for Q20 is my choice there are cheaper options near the market. About a year ago I went on a “find the cheapest breakfast” adventure. I was looking for the tipico or something close. That meant eggs, beans, cheese, tortillas and coffee. I found one for Q10 that was skimpy and uninteresting but there are decent choices in the Q12 to Q15 range. But, the Q20 one includes guacamole and fruit as well plus we get to chat with Rosita, possibly the shortest waitress in the area.

So, what about other meals? When I first stayed in Pana for a couple months my tipical dinner was an avocado (Q1 to Q3), four tortillas (Q1) and a beer (Q8 for good beer, Q5 for bad beer). I have since discovered tostadas (Q3) from a street vendor at night, pupusas (3 for Q15), chipilín tamales (Q3 from a lady who sells on the street) and other good street food. There are also food stalls in the public market with inexpensive meals.

So, let’s look at the bottom line:

  • Good breakfast and probably a chance to talk to people who know how things work: Q20.
  • Sit-down lunch in the public market: Q15
  • Make it yourself dinner: Q10

And, yes, you could spend a lot less and even improve the nutrition but even that is a total of Q45. How could you cut the cost?

Skip all restaurant food except possibly a Q12 breakfast. For lunch go to the market and buy fruit, veggies and/or possibly a tamale of two of chipilín. When you are in the market, get some tortillas (4 for Q1) and an avocado for dinner. Toss in something to drink and you are still likely to be under Q25 per day.

As for William, I think he will stay for a while. If he is looking for a permanent move, both Dennis and I feel he will make it. He is a good fit for the Lake Atitlan culture. Good luck.

Yesterday’s San Lucas Adventure

Beach in San LucasYesterday, Rocio and I went to San Lucas. I’ve been there before but this was the first time for a non-market day. Lack of preparation turned the trip into an adventure. Read about it on CasasDeRocio.

Car Title Transfer

In general, I have been satisfied dealing with the government — from Immigration to SAT (the tax folks). Doing a title transfer on a car, however, is a different game. This is my experience. you can decide if it seems reasonable or not.

Step 1 is easy — or, so it seems. On the back of the current car title is the form to fill out to do the transfer. No real surprises there. Basically, the seller fills in his basic info including his NIT (tax number) and they the buyer does the same. (Yes, you need to have a NIT but you need residency to get one–a recent change–so there could be some issues here.) A notary then needs to authenticate the the signatures.

So far, so good except make sure the buyer address matches exactly the address of your NIT. If it does not you get fined Q15. The amount is not the issue but having to deal with it will add 30 minutes or more to your time at SAT.

We (buyer and seller) headed up to SAT in Sololá (you can’t do this at SAT in Panajachel) Friday morning arriving at about 9AM. Oops, too late. They had issued all the “tickets” for the day. In the process of grumbling to each other, a guy came over and gave us his card. The cards are pretty ugly but say “Tramites de SAT Byron” and give a phone number of 5470-5585. His gig is that for Q150 he will do all the possible footwork and be in line at 6AM so you can show up at 7:30AM. Or, if you want him to also do the lawyer step, add another Q100 — a good deal as I paid my lawyer Q150.

I hate lines and decided Q150 was a good investment. (The seller asked me, “do you think he is honest”. My reply was that a crook would not be handing out business cards to everyone with his phone number.) I gave him the old title, my DPI and money — for him and for SAT. He quickly got the paperwork ready to submit and the two payments to SAT (Q500 and Q120) done, plus a copy of my DPI. That was it until the line Monday morning.

I arrived at about 0715. Byron was there as promised. We waited until the gate was opened at 0750. They we made a mad dash for a row of chairs and I negotiated back into my position as number 4.

At 0800 a SAT guy and two guards came out to “see what we had” and, if it looked good, staple a “ticket” to it. I passed this initial check. A few minutes later the first couple of people were allowed to enter (there were apparently a few leftovers from Friday as well). The women in front of me and I were told “come back at 1030”. Grumble.

So, I went off and ate breakfast (Q13 in one of the stands on the side of the park) and did some shopping. Arrived back a bit before 1030. At 1030 a few of us were told we could go inside. Wow, we now got to form a queue in a different set of chairs. I was number two.

The time at the window was mostly non-verbal. The guy looks at your paperwork and a computer monitor and puts red checkmarks for all the correct stuff. In my case, he pulled out the yellow highlighter which I had previously been told was a bad thing. Sure enough, my address didn’t match 100% with what is on my NIT.

When he was done check-marking he printed out another form — with my mistake. I was sent off to another line where I could give the mistake form to the guy and he would print out “a bill”. Twelve people later plus the only guy serving the queue running off to the bathroom I had the next piece of paper.

Off to the bank queue. In a few minutes I got to pay my Q15 and return to the first inside line. I again got to watch the man at the window type and check but he was slower this time as he was talking on the phone with, I assume, his lover. Eventually we finished, he went off to laminate my new curculation card and I was done. It was about 1230.

Public Ministry Raids Radio Juventud in Solola

This story is from Cultural Survival. It is one of the typical “unlicensed stations gets shut down” stories. You can see these in the US as well as here in Guatemala.
The article goes on to explain the public outrage because Radio Juventud really is a useful community service, particularly for the indigenous community. It sounds likely that it will get re-opened. But, there is a bit more to this than one unlicensed station getting shut down.

Continue reading Public Ministry Raids Radio Juventud in Solola

Gringo insights

Seriously learning Guatemalan culture.

Seriously learning Guatemalan culture.

This morning I was heading to the public market when I passed a gaggle of Gringos walking down Calle Santander. Clearly some sort of organized gaggle as they had a handler leading them. That is, a person pointing out things to them in, of course, English.

There were probably 20 people, most of them well beyond retirement age. But, what is there to point out along Calle Santander at 9AM on a Saturday. That is, what needs to be said other than “yes, folks sell clothing” and “there are some stores here”?

Well, apparently one of the couples, a young one probably only in their 50s, was apparently having the same problem. They were pretty much at the back of the pack and didn’t seem to be listening to their handler.

Continue reading Gringo insights

Where do you buy “ordinary stuff”?

Sure, I know where to buy local artisan products, groceries, beer, … I know of a lot of ropa usada stores, hardware stores, motorcycles, … If you have been here, you get the idea. But, what I would consider ordinary stuff seems to be harder to find. I am going to list a few items — mostly so you get the idea. Where do you buy them? Locally? In Guatemala City? On-line?

For extra credit, does Pana need an “ordinary stuff” store?

Continue reading Where do you buy “ordinary stuff”?

What’s it cost to stay in Panajachel?

Typical breakfast menu

Typical breakfast menu

One of the people asking about our rental unit asked this question. As there is no kitchen in the unit, the question was inspired by the cost of eating out but I have decided to be a bit more comprehensive. The information is also much more generic as the rental unit is very central so you will have the same experience if you are staying in a nearby hotel such as Hotel Regis.

The short answer is “as little or as much as you want”. I almost suggested this was obvious but there are lots of tourist destinations where your only options are tourist locations accompanied with all too typical tourist prices. This is not the case in Panajachel. That is because “local folk” live very near the tourist locations. Thus, it is more a selection of the tourist where to go/eat/buy than in most places. That said, let’s look at some numbers.

Continue reading What’s it cost to stay in Panajachel?

Linux in Panajachel

Just another system running Linux.

Just another system running Linux.

The system in the picture is running Linux. In my house that’s the norm — with the exception of Rocio installing Skype on “my” tablet, there is no Microsoft software here. Tablets and phones run Linux (Android), desktops and laptops run Ubuntu or Mint Linux.

That’s the norm in my life. Long ago I wrote about how children in Nicaragua were doing just find with Linux systems. The difference was that these kids were younger (most were 5 to 8) and, to the best of my knowledge, none of them had used a computer before. (They were all kids from a very poor barrio of Estelí.) Jessica, a 12 year old, became their teacher after she figured out how to use the Linux system herself. But, here we are talking about 16 year olds.

Continue reading Linux in Panajachel

How about a small motorcycle?

When I moved to Nicaragua in 2004 I bought a small motorcycle. A “Brand X” 150cc one that was really a Chinese clone of a Honda 125 with a motor with a bit more displacement. It was a decent bike. As I remember, it cost $1900. It was from the influx of cheap junk motorcycles.
Moving forward, I decided to look at what exists in Panajachel. So, I took some time and looked around. This is the basic look at what you can find.
Continue reading How about a small motorcycle?