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Cost of Living in Panajachel

Two people recently asked me “what does it cost to live there compared to the US”? Fair question but as I have not been in the US for over 12 years, I am not the expert for doing the comparison. What I will do is offer some data points so you can draw your own conclusions.

Before I get into details I want to say that if you just do straight comparisons you will get a very distorted view. For example, asking what a car and fuel costs will make things look expensive but the reality is that not having a car will likely be a better approach with close to the same level of convenience and much lower costs.

I will list the prices in Quetzales. The exchange rate to other currencies is shown in the box on the lower left of the page. Note that the Quetzal exchange rate against the US dollar is stable with seasonal variations typically between 7.5 and 8 Quetzales to the dollar.


Here are some assorted data points related to food — both to cook and prepared food prices.

  • Strawberries, blackberries, plums — Q5/lb.
  • Broccoli, cauliflower — Q3/head
  • Beans (black, white, red), tomatoes — Q5/lb.
  • Avocados — Q2 to Q2.5 each
  • Fish (dorado, tuna, red snapper) — Q35/lb.
  • Goat cheese — Q22/lb.
  • Shrimp — Q20 to Q60/lb. (depending on size)
  • Bell pepper — Q2 each

There are lots of other things available as similar prices. There are also things such as brown rice, miso, tofu, whole wheat bread, tempeh and much more available. Not necessarily cheap (e.g., a 1 lb. loaf of 100% whole wheat bread costs Q20) but available.

Here are some prepared food prices that are pretty much typical.

  • Complete meal from a street vendor: Q10 to Q15
  • Typical breakfast (eggs, beans, avocado, cheese, tortillas, coffee) Q15 to Q20
  • Big fish (fresh black bass from the lake) dinner in a restaurant with a view of the lake — Q45 to Q60
  • Pupusa plate (two large pupusas with choice of filling and avocado) with a lake view — Q25
  • Medium pizza — Q80 (sometimes 2 for 1)
  • Vegetarian burrito: Q20, vegetarian burrito plate (various places) Q38
  • Frozen banana dipped in chocolate (chocobanana) of OK quality for Q1; big, fresh dipped and rolled in peanuts for Q2.5.
  • Piece of cake or pie (including cheesecakes) and coffee — Q20

Alcohol prices seem to vary a lot. I see a couple of places with tequila or rum shots for Q10. Beer (bad but popular) from Q5. Decent beer at Q10.

If you are a meat eater, chicken is what is cheap. There is a lot of beef in restaurants but pork seems to be very scarce. Seeing prices for whole dinner plates in the Q30 to Q80 range is typical.


If you are in Pana you will seldom need a car. Unless you need to regularly go to Guatemala City or Xela and come back with a carload of stuff, it is unlikely to be worth owning one. You can walk to everything in Pana (or, if you are in a hurry, get a bicycle). Here are costs of transportation for hire.

  • TukTuk to anywhere in Panajachel: Q5 per person and it is amazing what you can put into a TukTuk.
  • Bus to Sololá: Q3; Bus to Guatemala City: Q30
  • TransMetro buses in Guatemala City: Q1
  • Getting a person with a pickup to pick up/deliver things in Pana: Q25 to Q35
  • Boat to other cities on the lake: Q10  to Q25 per person
  • Shuttle to Guatemala City: Q200 per person (or less); complete shuttle from Guatemala City to Pana: Q700

Heating and Cooling

There is no such expense. Check out the weather page to see why.

Rent, house prices, taxes

Rent will vary all over the map. Generally it will be higher in Pana that other villages and a function of how close you are to the lake. You can pay as little as Q1000 per month, find a multi-bedroom house or apartment close in for Q2000/mo and pay almost anything for a mansion with a lake view.

House prices are, as expected, the same as rent prices. For the low-end places prices are usually stated in Quetzales but, for the higher end, in US$. I have seen OK houses for under $20,000 (which generally needed a few thousand in work). Nice houses can cost from $60,000 on up.

Property taxes are downright cheap. Q1000 to Q2000 for a big, nice house.

Hopefully that will answer the question. Feel free to ask others in the comments or add your numbers — both for this area and where you currently live.

3 comments to Cost of Living in Panajachel

  • Cristel

    Thank you for this information! I am considering moving to Central or South America and one of my biggest concerns is if I can afford to live there. You have eased some of my worries. 🙂

  • admin

    There are both expensive and cheap places to live in Latin America. Nicaragua is close the cheapest. If cost of living is the main issue, living in the tropics (where there is fresh local food year round) at an altitude that gives you the temperatures you like is the best choice.

    For more generic information, check out http://a42.com. While there is not a lot of information there yet, it is intended to address why expatriate, where to expatriate and how to expatriate.

  • -El Codo-

    Just read a horror piece about Nicaragua where food prices were stupidly higher than in Mexico. I eat a Mexican diet. For a 1-bdr casita in the sticks, including 2 weekly clothes washing and once a week maid $3600 pesos. Water bill 70 pesos a month. Electrical runs about 200 pesos every 2-months. Peso currently is at 17 to the dollar at the ATM. These prices are 03/2016

    I was thinking of summering at Atitlan, but compared to Mid Baja Pacific coast, those Atitlan prices seem more in line with Chula Vista or Nogales.

    I do remember a one star hotel room in San Pedro la Laguna that was said to be renting for $200 US per month, but I guess that has long been buried.

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