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Why This Cheap Central American Country Is A Top Destination For Digital Nomads

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Though it was never a traditional digital nomad destination, Central America is proving to be increasingly popular with remote workers, especially now that long-term stays in Europe are being curtailed, and Asia continues to impose complicated visa requirements on Westerners.

Colonial Era Street In Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala, Central America

Backpackers have roamed the narrow isthmus connecting the Americas for years, but now it's ‘workcationers' who are joining them in exploring the densely forested territory, and a growing number of them are concentrating in this lesser-known yet remarkably cheap country.

This year, Guatemala is finally positioning itself in the nomad race, and if Airbnb‘s latest figures are anything to go by, these young adventurers are taking the bait:

Guatemala Is One Of The Trendiest Destinations On Airbnb

cultural center of guatemala with national flag outside

According to Airbnb's first 2024 report, Guatemala is the tenth trendiest country on the platform right now, as well as the only Central American, and by extension, Latin country to feature: its nearest competitors, namely Costa Rica and Panama, are nowhere to be seen in this ranking.

Though looking at Airbnb trends in itself is not enough of a parameter to determine a particular destination's popularity in the nomad scene, the fact that the list is made up partially of digital nomad hotspots leads us to believe there may be some hidden link.

viewpoint from hill of the cross, Antigua de Guatemala

Albania is currently Europe's top nomad hotspot, having toppled the overdeveloped West thanks to its affordable rates and laid-back living, and it appears at number three, while up-and-coming remote work hub Taiwan places in the runner-up slot.

Just above Guatemala, there is Thailand, every nomad's go-to country in Southeast Asia, and this is not coincidental: Airbnb continues to be the main booking platform used by long-term travelers to find accommodation for extended periods of time.

Smiling Female Digital Nomad, Remote Worker Working From Her Computer In An Alfresco Cafe As She Ships On Some Tea Or Coffee, Unspecified Location

That is because nomads are typically more budget-conscious and avoid overpriced hotels like the plague, leaving affordable sublet rooms in residential areas and hostels as options, and unless they are openly looking to socialize, they will take the former.

Airbnb's figures are relevant, but they are not the only factor that helps us conclude Guatemala is poised for an increase in ‘workcations' in the coming months: Central America as a whole is bracing for a surge in nomad bookings, and this tiny, overlooked nation is one of their best bets.

man with his luggage at an empty airport

Why, you may wonder? Well, it is home to truly magnificent nature, people are welcoming, it is a treasure trove of culture, and it is dirt cheap.

Let's discuss each and every one of these points in further detail.

An Abundance Of Natural Landmarks

A huge percentage of nomads, particularly those coming from the United States and Europe, are actively seeking an entirely different landscape than their home countries, and if coming from a big city, they are often craving for some quality time in the great outdoors.

Cascades National Park Guatemala, Central America

Fortunately for them, Guatemala is all that and then some, what with its unspoiled tropical wilderness, year-round sunny coasts – yes, plural, as it straddles both the Caribbean and the Pacific – and volcano-dotted reserves.

Be it bird watching around El Peten, exploring the hidden forest trails around Lake Atitlan, or swimming in the turquoise, limestone pools of Semuc Champey, it is the perfect destination for escaping into the wild, especially if you dream of having a towering volcano surrounded by verdant vegetation as ‘today's office view'.

Friendly Locals

Then, there is the warm hospitality that just seems to come naturally to Guatemalan locals. None of the eye-rolling pleasantries and small talk, fake smiles, and everything you've grown wary of, living in an uninspiring suburb in the States.

People in Guatemala are genuinely kind and open-hearted towards foreigners, and if you befriend them, they will go out of their way to make you feel welcome, whether it's in assisting with government bureaucracy, which can be plentiful if you're relocating, or ensuring you stay out of trouble.

antigua de Guatemala market, Central America

Additionally, the expat community in Guatemala keeps increasing, and it's not without explanation: many North Americans end up falling in love with the more laid-back life they lead here and, overall, the fascinating culture.

A Unique Cultural Heritage

When it comes to cultural heritage, it is incredibly diverse, being a nation influenced by both its Native American origins and Spanish colonization.

Not that many travelers who are just passing through are aware of this, but some of the most impressive Mayan ruins are located in Guatemala.

two travelers ascend the steps at tikal maya ruin in guatemala

That is because, prior to there being sovereign states, the ancient people roamed the Central American isthmus freely and, in fact, established as strong a presence in the region as they did in Yucatan, in modern-day Mexico.

One could even argue Guatemala was at the heart of the lost civilization, laying claim to over 1,500 Mayan archaeological sites, including the world-famous Tikal, with its majestic step pyramid that towers above an abandoned city in the jungle.

Panorama Of Tikal, Guatemala, Central America

For admirers of colonial architecture, Antiga Guatemala should not be missed. A UNESCO World Heritage Site recognized for its well-preserved 18th-century buildings; it is an important relic of the extinct Transatlantic Spanish Empire in the Americas.

Guatemala Is Dirt Cheap

Finally, nomads will love Guatemala for its affordability. The capital – Guatemala City – is where a majority of them will be based due to the wide availability of services and the connections it offers to the entire country, and it costs only $1,451 to live there.

Aerial View Of Playa Cayala, The Main Square In Guatemala City, Central America, Latin America

This can sound like a lot to the average Guatemalan, but it's one hell of a bargain for Northern Hemisphere citizens desperate to ditch their inflation-hit, unliveable countries:

If you earn anywhere between $1,046 and $1,536, you can live comfortably here.

Earning above average? Then you can count yourself truly lucky: your living standards will increase dramatically after relocating to Guatemala.

colonial architecture in antigua the old capital of guatemala

According to Numbeo, a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant costs $46.34, while cheaper eats are a nearly negligible $6.39, and rent in Guatemala City in particular can be 65.8% lower than the median market price in a developed country such as France.

The main downsides nomads tend to pinpoint are the decreased perception of safety – urban crime and pickpocketing are still issues in Guatemala – and poor internet access in rural areas, but the benefits still far outweigh the moderately higher risks.

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