-This post is written by Claire of Claire’s Itchy Feet –
Being from the UK when researching learning Spanish I immediately researched language schools in Spain. My first thought was – “wow that’s pretty expensive!” Followed by – “yea, maybe I’ll just have to learn as I go”.
My reason for wanting to learn Spanish was mostly to get me through an extended backpacking trip through South America. I’m not sure why I didn’t think about learning there initially (possibly as Spain is so close to the UK) but I stumbled upon a post in a travel group asking advice about learning Spanish abroad. Scrolling through the two places that came up top over and over again we’re Colombia and Guatemala.
My first thoughts were 1. I’m not going to Colombia it’s unsafe and 2. Where the hell is Guatemala?
So I began to research both places. I quickly discovered that Colombia is not as unsafe as it was a few years ago, It’s Lonely Planet’s top destination to visit this year in fact. When I began looking into Guatemala in spite of its troubled past with a civil war that lasted a long time, Guatemala is mostly safe and well on the road to recovery. Plus Guatemala had fantastic reviews for its schools. It’s also super cheap!
There really isn’t much between Colombia and Guatemala, my decision was based on geographical location. This learning experience would be the first of my trip so I decided to start in Guatemala and work my way down. Rather than starting in Colombia and then having to go back on myself.
So here are my list of reasons to consider learning Spanish in Guatemala.
- It’s really affordable. Price fluctuates slightly between the three main towns. San Pedro is the cheapest, the Xelia and then Antigua. Antigua is the main ‘tourist town’ so everything there is slightly more expensive. (Here is a city guide if you are wondering what to do in Antigua, Guatemala.)
- In Guatemala they speak with a relatively neutral accent. If you choose to learn in San Pedro Spanish is actually their second language so they also speak a little slower.
- All classes are 121. Sometimes I felt this was great, other times I would have really likes to be in a class with other learners. But either way having 121 classes means you can really focus on the areas you need to focus on.
- You can climb active Volcanoes in your free time. Guatemala has 29 volcanoes! Three of them Pacaya, Fuego and Santiaguito are active AND you can climb and camp on them. There are lots of tour companies that will take you up there very cheaply. If you are wanting to camp though I would be very careful about who you go with I did all my trips with OX Expeditions and 100% recommend them as they take your safety very seriously.
- You will HAVE to speak Spanish. Most native Guatemalans do not speak English. Therefore you will have no choice but to speak Spanish. Not all countries are like that and it’s one of the reasons I chose to come here. It’s easier to speak English in Antigua so if you really want to push yourself then go to San Pedro.
Guatemala is on the up. More people are starting to visit here, especially thrill seekers looking for some serious hiking. So my advice is to go now before the crowds! If you are traveling to Guatemala check out this backpacking Guatemala guide or this Guatemala travel guide.
Schools I can recommend:
Claire is a full-time traveler and digital nomad. Currently exploring Central and South America whilst attempting to learn Spanish and the art of packing light. At 34 Claire sold all her worldly possessions that wouldn’t fit into 3 boxes or her backpack and hit the road. With no plans to stop anytime soon Claire is always looking for her next adventure be it attempting to surf or climbing a volcano she’ll try (almost) anything once!