Should you visit Guatemala City or Santa Elena?
Should I visit Guatemala City or Santa Elena? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which city is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the data, which all comes from actual travelers.
Referred to by the locals as "Guate," Guatemala City is the largest and most modern city in Guatemala, as well as its capital. While the atmosphere of the place is big, dirty, and dangerous with city fumes and skyscrapers, it is the hub of the country. It is the place where travelers first step foot into Guatemala and, though it is a place of modern chaos, it does have some of the best galleries and museums as well as a selection of bars, cafes, and restaurants.
Santa Elena is a cute town, and the closest to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. It's one of the most popular destinations in Costa Rica, and is a great place to experience the cloud forest and see some of country's unique wildlife.
In the Monteverde Cloud Forest you have a good chance of seeing rare quetzals which are the national bird of Costa Rica. Other common animals include white-faced capuchin monkeys, howler monkeys, orange-kneed tarantulas, any of 8-9 species of hummingbirds, and sloth.
Santa Elena is about 1,400 meters above sea level and has a humid and damp environment. The average yearly temperature is 64 degrees Fahrenheit and the average rainfall is 3,000 millimetres. Humidity can be anywhere between 74% and 97%.
Which city is cheaper, Santa Elena or Guatemala City?
These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.
The average daily cost (per person) in Guatemala City is $35, while the average daily cost in Santa Elena is $60. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each city. Below is a breakdown of travel costs for Guatemala City and Santa Elena in more detail.
If you're traveling alone, you may be able to find a budget hotel or hostel for around $19. But for two people in a standard two-person hotel room in Guatemala City the cost is $38 on average.
For a normal double-occupancy room in Santa Elena, $72 is the average cost for a hotel room. Also in Santa Elena, the typical price for a place to stay for one person is $36, such as in a hostel.
On average, meal and food prices in Guatemala City cost around $12 per person, per day. While this price can vary widely by location, the type of restaurant, and the amount of food ordered, a typical meal often costs around $4.80.
Santa Elena food costs typically run travelers around $15 per day. Eating every meal in a nicer restaurant will drive the cost up, and grabbing fast food or casual meals will help you save money.
Meals for one day
Guatemala City $12
Santa Elena $15
Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Guatemala City
Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Guatemala City.
Taste Antigua Guatemala Walking Food Tour:
Guatemala Food Tour from Guatemala City:
Small-Group Cooking Class in Antigua from Guatemala City:
Antigua Market, Cooking Class and Choco Museum from Guatemala City:
The average price of local transportation around Guatemala City is $4.95 per person, per day. As this average includes both taxis and public transport, keep in mind that the prices of private drivers and taxis are significantly more expensive than public transportation.
Santa Elena's transportation costs can vary by the type of transport chosen by visitors. Naturally, taxis and private drivers cost much more than public transportation options. On average, visitors spend $7.22 per person, per day on transportation in Santa Elena.
Hired Cars and Shuttles in Guatemala City
Some specific examples of transportation prices in Guatemala City:
Private Transfer from Guatemala City to Coban:
Ground Transfer Guatemala City To Panajachel, Lake Atitlan:
Private Transfer from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlán:
Transfer from Airport to Antigua:
Private Airport Transfer: Guatemala to La Aurora International Airport (GUA):
Private Transfer from La Aurora Airport to Antigua Guatemala:
Airport transfer from Guatemala City airport to Antigua:
Collective Transfer From Guatemala City to La Aurora Airport:
Shared Arrival Transfer: Guatemala City Airport to Antigua:
Shared Arrival Transfer: Guatemala City Airport to Hotels:
Shared Departure Transfer: Guatemala City Hotels to Airport:
Hired Cars and Shuttles in Santa Elena
Also for Santa Elena, here are a few examples of actual transportation services:
One Way Private Transfer from Monteverde to Samara:
One Way Private Transfer from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio:
Is it cheaper to fly into Guatemala City or Santa Elena?
Prices for flights to both Santa Elena and Guatemala City change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.
Guatemala City's costs for entertainment, tickets, attractions, and tours will often cost around $0.97 per person, per day. This cost can vary widely by the type of activity, however, as this includes admission tickets, day tours, museums, and other things to do.
Sightseeing, admission tickets, things to do, and other entertainment expenses in Santa Elena can vary widely by price. On average, visitors spend around $19 per person, per day on entertainment and sightseeing here.
Tours and Activities in Guatemala City
Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Guatemala City are as follows:
11-Day Mayan Ruins Tour: Guatemala and Copán:
2 Day Tour Share and Private to Copan and Quirigua:
2 Day Tour: Chichicastenango Market and Lake Atitlan from Guatemala City:
2-Day Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan Tour from Guatemala City or Antigua:
2-Day Tour: Auto Safari Chapín Zoo and Monterrico Black Sand Beach from Guatemala City or Antigua:
3-Day Tour of Cobán and Semuc Champey from Guatemala City:
4-Day Tour: Guatemala City, Antigua, Chichicastenango Market and Lake Atitlan:
5-Day Tour from Antigua, Chichicastenango, Panajachel and Santiago Atitlán:
6-Day Tour: Traditional Guatemala Including Antigua, Chichicastenango Market, Lake Atitlan and Tikal:
8-Day Best of Guatemala Tour: Antigua, Pacaya Volcano, Lake Atitlan and Tikal Ruins:
Acatenango Volcano Overnight Adventure from Guatemala City:
Antigua City Tour from Guatemala City:
Tours and Activities in Santa Elena
Also, here are some specific examples of entertainment, tickets, and activities for Santa Elena.
The Original Canopy Tour Monteverde:
Night Walk Tour:
Coffee Tour 3 in 1 (Coffee Chocolate and sugar cane):
100% Adventure Park Combo: Zipline, Superman, and Mega Tarzan Tour in Monteverde:
Monteverde Cloud Forest Canopy Tour:
Horseback Riding Tour in Monteverde:
Tikal Sunset Tour in Small Group from El Remate:
Tikal Sunrise Tour from El Remate in Small Group:
Ceibal Day Tour from Flores:
Tikal Guided Sunrise Tour in Small Group from Flores:
Night Walk Tour plus Coffee Tour 3 in 1(Coffee Chocolate and sugar cane):
Canopy Tour Plus Night Walk:
The average person spends about $5.49 on alcoholic beverages in Guatemala City per day. The more you spend on alcohol, the more fun you might be having despite your higher budget.
Alcoholic beverages can often be a significant portion of a traveler's budget, and the costs can vary greatly from person to person. In Santa Elena, the average amount that a visitor spends on alcoholic beverages per day is $4.03.
When we compare the travel costs of actual travelers between Guatemala City and Santa Elena, we can see that Santa Elena is more expensive. And not only is Guatemala City much less expensive, but it is actually a significantly cheaper destination. So, traveling to Guatemala City would let you spend less money overall. Or, you could decide to spend more money in Guatemala City and be able to afford a more luxurious travel style by staying in nicer hotels, eating at more expensive restaurants, taking tours, and experiencing more activities. The same level of travel in Santa Elena would naturally cost you much more money, so you would probably want to keep your budget a little tighter in Santa Elena than you might in Guatemala City.
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