I would definitely live in Antigua. It is a beautiful city that is well priced and full of the most hospitable people I have ever met. Let me tell you a little bit about my visit.
While I was at MIT Global Startup Workshop a couple of weeks ago people kept telling me that I MUST go and see Antigua before I left Guatemala. Once the conference was over I mentioned to a girl I had met at the conference that I was going to take a bus there that afternoon (buses go from Guatemala city airport directly to Antigua every 45 minutes, it’s about an hour long ride and will run you $10-15). She insisted that I didn’t need to take a bus and that she and her friend would take me and show me around for the day. So we were off!
I was amazed when I first arrived how similar Antigua was to where I live in San Miguel de Allende. It is a small colonial town that still has all of the architecture and cobble stone streets from hundreds of years ago.
Also, like San Miguel this colonial feel is mixed in with some new and very upscale restaurants and even a chain or two. Here is a picture of the nicest McDonald’s I have ever seen which is a few streets down from the center of Antigua.
After hanging out for a while I realized that it was time for me to find a place to stay for the night. I jumped on AirBnB and although there were several options, one stood out in particular. The offer was $17 a night with three home cooked meals included. I was skeptical at first but the rental turned out to be even better than advertised. The room actually had a king size bed and a desk with high speed Wifi. The family running the BnB was also very helpful.
The day after checking in the younger son walked me around the city and showed me all of the historical landmarks and then took me up to the top of the mountain where you could see the whole city.
After that I decided I wanted to go take a tour of the coffee farm (there are 2 or 3 in Antigua) so he took me on the back of his motorcycle. La Azotea Coffee Farm was very interesting and the tour was only around $7 including all of the coffee you could drink.
Needless to say, after all of that coffee I wasn’t ready to call it a day so I stopped by the most popular bar Cafe No Se.
Within a few minutes at the bar some of the locals had already befriended me and offered to show me around. This turned into a full night of bar hopping. To my surprise this little town has quite the nightlife even on a Tuesday night. We went to around five places, all of them full of travelers from all over the world and locals hanging out together completely comfortably.
After that I continued looking around the town and getting a feel for life for those that live there. Although I didn’t see any large grocery stores there were markets full of fresh inexpensive food.
There was also a chocolate factory that you can take a tour of for around $20.
I was also there to see the beginning of the Semana Santa processions which were taking over the city as I was leaving.
What I mentioned above are just a few examples of why I now consider the Guatemalan people to be the most hospitable that I have run across. I think that as a place to live Antigua is a good option and certainly worth a visit.
The two downsides I found were:
1. In Guatemala all bars must close at midnight. The police actually come in the bar and kick everyone out. This indeed is a very large downside for someone like me. In practice many of the bars just close the doors and continue.
2. The prices for eating out were much more expansive than I am used to (which isn’t saying much since I live in San Miguel de Allende). The prices for going out seemed to be similar to that of your average US town.
One big upside however is that you cannot only legally buy a gun as a resident or citizen of Guatemala but you can get a concealed carry with an afternoon class. They have many gun stores and ranges. This is a big plus for me.
I didn’t have enough time to check out the real estate market and immigration services as much as I would have liked too I did find this company. Although I don’t have any personal experience doing business with them they seem to have all of their bases covered.
Overall it was a very positive experience and hopefully I’ll get to go back sometime soon.