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 and you’ve already figured out two or three favorite restaurants you love to frequent. You’re loving it in Antigua, 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 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 get to. In fact, the three stores mentioned in this post are very close to each other, as is a nearby Sears.
PriceSmart Guatemala City
PriceSmart is open every day, from 10a.m. to 8:30p.m. Monday through Friday, Saturdays 9.am. to 8:30p.m. and Sundays from 9.am. to 8p.m. A word of advice: do your shopping during the week, if you can help it, as these stores get really crowded on weekends.
Yeah, I know the sign says “No Cameras” below, so I took these pics with a cellphone instead ;)
Hours of Operation
Signs are in Spanish throughout, but other than the prices, the store is virtually identical to one 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.
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 requires you to become a member before you shop there. Most people will have to pony up 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 Membership Fees
Next up, the hated/beloved Walmart. If you’re the former, not the latter, skip over 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. Although 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 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 clothing at the Mercado I would not recommend, unless you enjoy purchasing one-time disposable clothing.
Here’s a Weak Attempt at Trying to Make Wal-Mart Look Remotely Interesting
Wal-Mart Gets Very Crowded on Weekends
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 good selection of grills and patio furniture, which unlike in colder climates in the US, will get used year-round in Antigua.
Cemaco Has a Great Selection
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, very nice malls where you can shop that will rival anything you’ve ever seen in the US. These stores what I call the Gringo Circuit, where you aim 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?
Share in the comments below!