So you’re all settled in Antigua. You found a beautiful house with a courtyard overlooking Agua Volcano, or a terrace where you can catch Fuego Volcano eruptions comfortably and safely out of harm. Life is good, you’ve already figured out two or three favorite restaurants you love to frequent, everything’s new and exciting, and you can’t believe you’ve already moved here after so much planning and daydreaming.

This honeymoon period with Antigua lasts about a month or two because eventually, you’ll start feeling out of sorts. Sure, food’s great, but you can’t keep eating out every day. Soon, you’ll start craving those things you had back home, like Dijon mustard, sweet relish, maybe bacon. Local Bodegona Supermarket has served you well, but the selection starts feeling limited. Shopping at the Mercado is still a bit confusing and because your Spanish is limited, you haven’t gotten the intricacies of bargaining quite right yet.

What you want to do, at least until you get your bearings, is go grocery shopping, Gringo style. Someplace where you can just fill up a cart with all the brands you know and love, whip out that credit card when the bill is due, no need for chit-chat or haggling.

Well, you’re in luck, because only 45 minutes away from Antigua lies Guatemala City, with an assortment of malls and big-box stores to satisfy every need. Just imagine you’re driving a gas-guzzling V8 and you’ll feel like you’re pulling up to a suburban mall parking lot in Anytown, USA. Well, except for the shotgun-carrying parking lot attendant who hands you your check-in ticket.

The three stores you’ll want to be acquainted with at first – and the easiest ones to get to – are PriceSmart, Wal-Mart, and Cemaco, the last one very similar to Target in the US, minus the groceries and with a bigger hardware department. All three stores are accessible from Roosevelt Avenue, which leads directly from Antigua.

Here’s what you need to know to get your grocery shopping done in style:

PriceSmart Guatemala

PriceSmart is a membership club store, just like the ones in the US and very similar to Costco. In fact, I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the two if it weren’t for signage.

There are three PriceSmart locations in Guatemala City, but this one is the closest to Antigua and very easy to shop there. In fact, the three stores mentioned in this post are very close to each other, as is a nearby Sears.

PriceSmart Guatemala

PriceSmart Guatemala City

PriceSmart is open every day, from 10a.m. to 8:30p.m. Monday through Friday, Saturdays 9:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. A word of advice: do your shopping during the week, if you can help it, as these stores get crowded on weekends.

Yeah, I know the sign says “No Cameras” below, so I took these pics with a cell phone instead ;)

PriceSmart Guatemala

Hours of Operation

Signs are in Spanish throughout, but other than the prices, the store is virtually identical to any you’d find in the US. The place was clean, very organized, and disorienting to me because I couldn’t stop gawking at brands and items I thought I’d never see again.

PriceSmart GuatemalaPriceSmart

PriceSmart Guatemala

Clean Aisles

Even the cafeteria was exactly like the ones in the US, offering the same items. And of course, I had to try the US-style hot dogs, which are nothing like the hot dogs they sell in Guatemala. Was not disappointed.

PriceSmart Guatemala

PriceSmart Cafeteria

PriceSmart requires you to become a member before you shop there. Most people will have to pay Q305 ($39USD) for the annual membership, which includes two membership cards. If you can prove you own a business here, your membership will cost Q262 ($35USD). Pricey, if you ask me, but worth it if you love to shop in bulk and crave items that can’t be found anywhere else.

PriceSmart Guatemala

PriceSmart Membership Fees

Next up, the hated/beloved Walmart. If you’re the former, not the latter, skip to this section.

Wal-Mart Guatemala City

Wal-Mart has many locations in Guatemala – the also own Despensa Familiar and MaxiDespensa. Some people still refer to it as Hiper Paiz, as it was known before Wal-Mart bought the Guatemalan chain out. There are still Paiz Supermarkets around, which are very nice. In fact, the closest one is in San Lucas, only 25 minutes from Antigua and in a new shopping mall just off CA-1, the main highway that leads to Guatemala City.

Wal-Mart, like McDonald’s, is a remarkably similar experience no matter where you go – no exception here. Very similar layout and similar products.

Of course, no membership needed here, and prices are decent. Don’t bother at all with produce here or at PriceSmart, as it’s much cheaper at the Mercado.

In fact, during this trip, I saw a bag of avocados at PriceSmart retailing at five per Q30+ ($3.79USD). A steal, right? Except that the next day, a friend bought six avocados at Antigua’s Mercado for Q2. No, that’s not a typo. Literally for $0.25USD. Now, buying new clothing at the Mercado, I would not recommend, unless you enjoy purchasing one-time disposable clothing.

Walmart Guatemala

Here’s a Weak Attempt at Trying to Make Wal-Mart Look Remotely Interesting

Walmart Guatemala

Wal-Mart Gets Very Crowded on Weekends

Walmart Guatemala

Pet Food Aisle at Wal-Mart

The last store is my wife’s favorite, mine as well.

Cemaco Guatemala City

If you’re a fan of home decorating, Cemaco will be your best bet. This home furnishings store reminds me a lot of Target, except the variety and items are way better and the selection varied. This two-story store sits right across the street from Wal-Mart on Roosevelt Avenue, inside a big shopping mall.

Prices are decent for some things, outrageous for others. This location has a hardware store on the second floor and is a good place to find tools and small appliances you’re having a hard time finding in Antigua. It also has a large selection of grills and patio furniture, which unlike in colder climates in the US, will get used year-round in Antigua.

Cemaco Guatemala

Cemaco Has a Great Selection

Cemaco Guatemala

Christmas is Also a Big Shopping Season Here

So that about covers it for the major stores more readily accessible in Guatemala City. Keep in mind this a minuscule sampling, as there are immense, beautiful malls where you can shop that will rival anything you’ve ever seen in the US. These stores are what I call the “Gringo Circuit,” where the aim is to visit Guatemala City and get your shopping done as quickly as possible before hightailing it back to Antigua.

*****

What’s your favorite store in Guatemala City?

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11 COMMENTS

  1. I’m going to be in Guatemala City and Antigua in a couple of weeks. Hopefully I’ll get to check some of these places out. Thanks for the info!

  2. thanks for info. Was hoping for hours on Cemaco.
    Two years in Antigua and not much now that I can’t find
    Once every two months to Capital for a quick shopping trip is it!!

  3. Hi, thanks for this. I’m going to Walmart near the airport upon arrival to GUA, is it less expensive to buy things like body lotion, shampoo, etc. there or should I bring that from the states? I’ll be living in Pana for 5 months.

    • Hi Jules!

      It certainly would be cheaper to buy at Walmart in Guatemala city before heading out to the lake, although that will depend whether you’re really picky about brands. You’ll be able to find shampoo, lotions, etc, at the lake, though they may not be the brands you’re accustomed to using.

      We’ve always found out that body care items are more expensive here, even when shopping in Guatemala City. So if they are something you care about strongly, I recommend you bring your favorite lotions and similar items from abroad. And of course, make sure you double bag those items in your suitcase or put them in sealable plastic containers, as you don’t want to risk finding a messy – yet wonderfully smelling – suitcase upon arrival. Know this from experience ;)

      -Rich

  4. Hey, Rich! Thanks for this!

    I’ve stayed in Antigua four times while visiting our sponsored children in San Lorenzo, Patulul, and Tecpan. I take the families shopping at Bodegona (or shop on their behalf), which has always been great. We also sponsor three kids in Guatemala City, but we’ve never taken their families shopping (because there are so many fun attractions for kids in the city). When we visit next year, we plan to take them shopping, so I did a Google search hoping to find info on large department stores where we can stretch our money further to purchase useful food supplies/household goods.

    Is PriceSmart enough like Costco in the U.S. that we could use it to buy items in bulk that we could divide between different families? We could take the three Guatemala City kids there for shopping, then go later by ourselves to purchase items to transport to the other 9 sponsored kids in San Lorenzo, Patulul, and Tecpan. In your opinion, will this method save us money as opposed to using the Bodegona Supermarket?

    Thanks for all your awesome research. I’ll be checking out the rest of your site for sure!

    • Hi Mack,

      Thanks for the work you do with families here. As for Costco, yes, it’s a big-box store, just like in the US. Now, with Costco it can be hit or miss based on what you happen to be looking for. I’ve done the math on a few items and some stuff can be purchased for less at Costco, but not always. You really have to know your prices.

      Also, note that Costco usually deals in imported American goods, which tend to be much more expensive and of better quality than that of local name brands. As such, some things might be more expensive, but they might be worth the extra cost. A better bet would be Walmart, as they carry the national brands, making your total bill less than at Costco.

      A reconnaissance run may be in order first to truly gauge whether it will be worth to spend your money at either place.

      -Rich

  5. Perdone. La molestia quisiera saber si ud tienen a la venta cipres italiano Nesesito barios arbolitos de estos si uds serían tan amables de responderme se los agradecería por su atención muy amable

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