How to Choose a Spanish School in Guatemala

This post may contain affiliate links. We may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase. Read Disclosure.

During my three short weeks in Guatemala, I spent most of my time learning Spanish in both Antigua and Quetzaltenango (Xela). It can be hard choosing a Spanish school in Guatemala- there are so many of them, so I’ve put together some tips to help you narrow it down.

Decide where you want to study

There are Spanish schools in pretty much every town in Guatemala, so the first thing to figure out is where you want to study.

Antigua

The most popular option, Antigua, is about an hour from Guatemala. It’s a UNESCO world heritage listed town and appropriately pretty, atmospheric and clean.

The entire centre of town is geared towards tourists and Spanish students – there are all sorts of safe, clean restaurants selling things like bagels, pizza, and fondue, the bar scene is insane and almost the entire town is wired with internet.

Personally, I found it a little too sanitised for my liking. Additionally, most people speak English, making it less likely that you need to use your Spanish for everyday transactions.

Xela

Those who are a little more serious about travel and a little more serious about learning Spanish head to the highland town of Quetzaltenango (Xela).

About four hours north of Antigua, it’s very much a Guatemalan city and much grittier than Antigua, and for me, that was the attraction.

There are still plenty of vibey cafes and restaurants frequented by (mostly American) Spanish students, although things are a little cheaper in Xela.

Not many locals speak English, so basically every transaction or interaction will have you speaking Spanish. There are also loads of hiking opportunities in the nearby hills, and plenty of projects to volunteer with.

Lago de Atitlan

I didn’t study here, but Lago de Atitlan, partway between Antigua and Xela, is quickly becoming a popular location to learn Spanish in Guatemala. The wifi is incredibly fast and the food available rivals Antigua for variety. More laid back and often cheaper, Lago de Atitlan’s picturesque setting makes for a pretty chilled lifestyle.

Talk to people who’ve done it

I chose my Spanish schools in Antigua and Xela based solely on recommendations from other travellers.

I talked with travel bloggers and read posts on Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forums and this helped me make an educated decision. Feel free to ask me questions in the comments below.

Ask about the Spanish teachers

At both my schools, the Spanish teachers were hugely experienced. Both had more than 10 years of teaching Spanish behind them and it showed. Their English was enough to ensure I understood everything we were discussing when necessary.

Ask about the Spanish school’s philosophy, extracurricular activities and volunteer opportunities

Most Spanish schools will organize extracurricular activities that are often free or very cheap such as salsa classes, lectures, film screenings or guided walks.

Many also run projects that are funded by your school fees. I chose my school in Xela based on its philosophy and the fact that almost all of its profits go back into their clinic, stove building project and daycare centre. They also offered volunteer opportunities nearly every day, whether you were studying for one week or one month.

Look at the accommodation options on offer

There are generally three different types of accommodation options when you’re studying Spanish in Guatemala.

Home stay

Particularly popular in Xela, your school can usually place you with a local family for a nominal extra cost. Most families have extensive experience housing foreign students and will cook you three meals a day and you get your own room. I heard some even have wifi. This gives you the chance to totally immerse yourself in the language.

Had I stayed in Xela for two weeks, I would have spent my second week with a local family.

Student house

Not all schools offer this. I stayed in a student house in Antigua and loved it. I made instant friends and it was more comfortable and homey than staying in a hostel, and more flexible and relaxed than a home stay. We were provided with three meals a day. In all honesty, the food wasn’t great, but a lot of the food in Guatemala isn’t brilliant.

Hostel, guest house or hotel

You can also choose to organise your own accommodation and stay in a nearby guesthouse, which was what I did in Xela.

You can look for accommodation for Xela, Antigua and Lago de Atitlan through our Booking.com, or accommodation partner.

Price of a Spanish School in Guatemala

Price may or may not be an issue for you, but I would suggest going with the best Spanish school rather than going with the cheapest.

In Antigua, I paid $250 a week, which was on the expensive side and included 4 hours of private lessons a day, a registration fee and my accommodation and meals in the student house.

In Xela, I paid $145 for 5 hours of private lessons a day. The school waived the registration fee and had I chose to stay with a local family it would have cost an extra $40.

Go with your gut instinct

Because it will rarely get you wrong.

Bio: In 2010, Megan quit her job and left Sydney, Australia to travel solo through Asia and the Middle East. A scribbler of notes, a lover of food, yoga and photography, she’s now traveling through Latin America. Get inspired by her adventures at OnMyWayRTW.com, follow her on Twitter @megan_rtw or catch up with her on Facebook.

56 thoughts on “How to Choose a Spanish School in Guatemala”

  1. A couple of years ago I had the dream of learning spanish. At the same time I always wanted to go to Cuba, so it made sense I’ll kill two birds with one stone. For me it was the best decision I had ever made and a truly life changing experience. It wasn’t hard to pick a school as in Havana there aren’t too many. I ended up going to Sprachcaffe in Havana (link to the school: http://www.sprachcaffe.com/english/landing_map_live_cu.htm ).

    I enrolled for 6 weeks online and ended up extending it to 8 weeks. A little secret is though to perhaps only book a week or two then extend once you’re there. It will work out way cheaper. They also offer salsa classes for the afternoon. Again book that once you’re already there. You miss out on internet booking fees and higher prices. The best thing about the salsa classes is every friday they head to a salsa club and your profesor/a will go along and make sure you dance. We all know nerves can get the better of us so with a teacher there forcing you up, it gets easier and easier….especially after a few mojitos too. 😉 Here’s a video of me dancing away in the school: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=49070094788&comments&set=o.41073401428&type=1 I HAD A BALL!!!!!

    Like all schools around the world accommodation provided is either a home stay style where you live with a family, a hotel room or an apartment in a hotel. I went with the apartment due to my party habits and I didn’t want to bother a family by getting home late at night. I can’t remember the prices I paid but again always book just an initial week or two the extend once there.

    Now the last thing I have to say is that when you go to a spanish school, don’t hold back. After class go into the streets and talk, then talk some more. Don’t be afraid of getting things wrong. People in general will always help you along the way and correct you as you speak. I have a good vocabulary and bad grammar but that doesn’t bother me. I’ll chew someones ear off at times and others I see with better skills than me not talk at all in the streets. Remember nobody will laugh at you, they’ll only respect you more for trying!

    Buena suerte!

    1. Wow Marc – I never considered Cuba as a place to study Spanish! Sounds amazing. I agree that you really shouldn’t be shy to try it out – I’ve learned so much more just by speaking to people here in Central America outside of classes, everyone – even kids – are happy to help.

  2. Thanks for this post, it isn’t a topic I’ve seen covered much on other blogs and is definitely something we’d like to do on our RTW trip. We aren’t planning on visiting Central America and I had planned to fit this into South America at some point, do you have any experience with countries in SA?

    1. Hey Daniel – I definitely recommend Guatemala as a great place to learn Spanish! It’s quite cheap and you’ll quickly realise how necessary it is throughout Central America – and I assume South America, but I haven’t made it there yet.

        1. Interested in traveling to learn Spanish and to gain higher consciousness is guatamala a good place for both? What are ur rates and course periods?

  3. Thank you!!!! We are planning to travel long-term and our first stop is Central or South America to learn Spanish. Guatamela was actually our #1 choice for Spanish Language School. This couldn’t have come at a better time.

  4. This is a very informative post. The list of things to consider is comprehensive and thorough. It’s actually quite interesting because what you’ve outlined for methods of choosing a language school are not all that entirely different from the procedure I use to decide teaching ESL at a particular institute.

      1. DO you have professional qualifications as a TESOL teacher? Most of the world is quite tired and won’t hire those that are basically only backpacker native speakers.

  5. You had my exact same teacher at Pop Wuj Megan! Wish I would have known, I would have had you say hi 🙂 Glad it worked out so well for you and some great tips here for others planning a trip to Guatemala!

    1. Seriously?! That is so cool!! She was a great teacher. Thanks again for all your great advice on helping me plan my time in Guatemala.

      If anyone is keen to travel to Central America I definitely recommend Shannon’s blog as a starting point.

  6. Thanks for featuring my post, Caz and Craig!

    If anyone has any questions about studying spanish in Guatemala, feel free to throw them my way 🙂

  7. I studied in all three of those locations and had a great, though vastly different, experience in each. I have even written what I think is a useful article, “Tips for Choosing a Spanish School”
    http://www.antigualist.com/content/80/

    I wrote it after only having studied in Antigua (I later returned to Guatemala and studied in Xela and San Pedro). In it I do mention that I chose Escuela de Español “Cooperación” in Antigua. For the record, I also chose ICA in Xela and the Cooperativa in San Pedro. All excellent choices.

  8. Great post. Guatemala is indeed a great place to study Spanish. Whether in Xela, Antigua or a number of other locations, there is something for everyone. This past May we studied at a new school in Antigua, Antigua Plaza – http://www.antiguaplaza.com. It is run by Ana who is extremely helpful and she has some great teachers working for her. We def recommend Ana and her school is worth looking into if you want to study in Antigua.

  9. Earlier this year I studied at Cambio Spanish School in Antigua. Pretty much ticked every box. It’s a nonprofit school so I felt my money was going to a good cause, and the teachers and the price were first rate. I stayed in a guesthouse, but felt taken care of all the way. So definitely my tip in a highly competitive language school market. Suerte!

  10. Hi

    I recommend San Pedro Spanish School, which is based in A small town in Lake Atitlan.

    The school is very well and professionally organised, with after class activities to further practice your Spanish. The schools setting is beautiful and although San Pedro does get more English speakers than other ‘pueblos’, in general very few speak English here. There is not loads to do so it’s tranquilty helps you immerse yourself in the language.

    I stayed with a family at the edge of the town, about 10 min walk from the school. I could not recommend this family (Vikki & Rafael, who also run a shop called Tienda Jacqueline) enough. The food they cooked me was amazing and they were very hospitales at all times. They also have a young daughter who always wants to chat. Perfecto no?!

    http://www.sanpedrospanishschool.org/en/home.php…

    Felipe

  11. Thank you so much for this post. I’m thinking of studying in Xela later this year. Do you have any recommendations for guest houses or other places to stay?

  12. Thanks for a great post. It was really useful when I research Spanish schools for my travels. I eventualy settled on going to San Pedro Spanish school, in San Pedro town on Lake Atitlan. My 2 weeks easily turned into 6, and I had a fabulous time there! I made so many friends, learnt what feels like a lot of Spanish (and forgot some too…) lived with a fantastic host family, and learnt so much about the culture and the history of Guatemala and San Pedro too. I definitely recommend the school. I’ve posted about it on my blog, and included a link to this page as it was so useful to me!

    http://gemmajaneadventures.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/san-pedro-escuela-de-espanol/

    Thanks, and good luck to those searching for a Spanish school in Central America!

  13. Lynn Hutcheson

    I am a 63 year old female. I am eager to study Spanish in Xela. Because of work and family considerations, I can only do so for a time period consisting of one to one and a half weeks. I have a basic reading knowledge of Spanish but have trouble communicating orally. I would love some suggestions regarding appropriate schools. Thank you.

  14. Hey Megan, thanks so much for the post, it’s given my friend and I (we’re also from Sydney) a lot of clarity. We seem to share your philosophy on travel, and the school you stayed at in Xela sounds ideal. Could you send us a link so we can find it? Thanks a lot! Andrew

  15. Great post!I totally agree with you regarding Antigua, however we had a wonderful time there as we took our Spanish lessons from a local who was from Ciudad Vieja and he took us to the surrounding villages rather that spending too much time in Antigua itself. There are alot of real cultural experiences to be had around Antigua. We had traditional lunch in his home and visited tons of unique spots that were not geared toward the usual Antigua tourists. Our teacher was Marcos from http://www.marcosspanishlessons.com . I highly recommend this type of Spanish lessons if you want a more cultural experience in Antigua.

  16. Johan Jörgensen

    I have just spent a few great weeks at Kie Balam Spanish School in Xela. I would definitely recommend this city since it’s more genuine, local with lower prices and better environment to practice Spanish!

    This is a small school run by a local family and the school facility is located conveniently close to the city. There are only four permanent teachers so normally there are only four students at the same time, however they bring in more teachers if necessary. All of them are really good from what I heard from the others and I was definitely happy with mine!

    If you’re after a school that arrange parties and big activities, this is probably not the place for you. However they can offer a brilliant opportunity to learn Spanish and about the Guatemalan culture!

    The daily activities are good and more personal since there as many students as teachers on the trips. On bigger schools they normally have a dedicated coordinator who takes all the students on the trip, here you go with your teacher.

    There is a nice sunny and leafy courtyard if you prefer to study outside. If not, there is plenty of space per student inside without having to disturb one another. There is also a space with pool table and table tennis to hang out after class or in breaks. I found this better than the other bigger school I joined and in the break they always offered a snack like fresh fruits or cakes, something the big schools don’t offer.

    The only slightly disturbance is between 8-9 in the morning when the aerobic class in the next building is on. However it is possible to start at 9 instead if you want to avoid this.

    Many people don’t dare to try this school since it’s so small but I found Kie Balam to be a better option for me compared to Sol Latino where I first studied. Both schools have good teachers but Kie Balam is not only cheaper but gives you better service and value for money overall. The home stay that was arranged was miles better and they have the flexibility to personalise the activities for you which the big commercial schools can’t do.

  17. Selecting the right Spanish school can be a big challenge. There are dozens of schools in Antigua. Think about how you learn; you must choose a school that best suits your learning style. Not everyone studies in the same way. For example, my wife and I study in two different schools because we do not have the same learning styles and because we have different ways of achieving our academic goals. No school is right for everyone.
    Different schools have different educational philosophies. Some schools are highly structured with formal lessons and fixed textbooks that they use; they tend to give you homework. People who love this type of structure will love this kind of school. This approach often utilizes tests for assessment purposes. This is ideal for those who plan to study Spanish for several months and wish to take a final exam that will certify their level of language skill.
    The second approach is to adapt the instruction to the student with a dedicated program of study. Some people would have only a week or two to study and want to study specific aspects of a language, for example basic vocabulary for travel, medicine, law, or other specialty. The teacher will focus on what is important for the student and facilitate conversation around certain topics as a result. These courses will be less formal and more fun. Students learn at their own pace; the teacher adapts to the knowledge and desires of the student.
    All the schools in Antigua offer one-to-one instruction; this is a huge advantage in terms of efficiency! The teacher can easily keep track of student progress in this way, and guide the student to more challenging material when the time is right to move on.
    Personally, I prefer the second approach. I wanted to improve my conversational skills. I did not want to spend two weeks studying the difference between ‘por’ and ‘para’. For me, I made the right choice. In my class, we spent the first four hours studying grammar, verb conjugation, and vocabulary. The final two hours, after lunch, was spent just making conversation, pronunciation practice, reading, and playing games like Scrabble. I loved my class and I thought that my teacher had done a fantastic job.
    The choice of the city is also important. I fell in love with Antigua the first time I studied there; it is a wonderful, colonial city with romantic ruins and cobblestone streets. I felt as if I was living in a museum when I was there; the whole town exudes a very romantic and peaceful ambience. There are many churches to see, and it is a great town in which to walk. It is a safe place as well, and security is good as there are especially trained Tourist Police to keep visitors safe. Antigua is called the Land of Eternal Spring because of its moderate climate; it is never too hot there, nor is it too cold, even at night.
    The homestay is very important too. I requested a comfortable homestay with few other student guests, where the family shared some of their time practicing Spanish with the students who were their house guests. I specifically said that I did not just want a simple guest house with meals, but rather a place where I could interact with a family. It was more expensive, but it was worth the extra money and I was not disappointed. I lived in a traditional colonial house where I had a bedroom with a private bathroom, cable TV in the room, wi-fi. It was very comfortably furnished. I discovered that watching Guatemalan TV is an excellent and enjoyable way to improve my listening skills in Spanish. My family always ate with me and always spoke Spanish during the meal; we had some very interesting conversations.
    Most students elect to study for four to six hours per day, which is a perfect amount of time to study. If you study only in the morning, you are finished by lunch time and have time in the afternoon to relax, volunteer, shop, or go sightseeing around Antigua. Many schools offer local trips in the afternoon, or dancing or cooking lessons. Local excursions might include a visit to a local village craft market or a coffee plantation. Some schools offer to place you as a volunteer with a local charity; the best schools will offer this service for free. Beware of the schools that want to charge you to help you find a place to volunteer.
    There are many good schools in Antigua. My favorite school is Don Pedro Spanish School.
    http://www.donpedrospanishschool.com

    Choose the one that best suits your needs and your philosophies, remember that no one school is right for everyone. On this site you can find the majority of addresses of the Spanish schools in Antigua. Good luck, and good study! http://www.123teachme.com/search.php?utf8=%E2%9C%93&relCityID=2

    Andre Marti:[email protected]

    1. Hi, I just saw this exact same post with a different name on Trip Advisor. Maybe its a true story, or maybe an advertisement…

  18. This year, during my travels in Central America I`ve decided to take a longer break and study Spanish somewhere. Guatemala seemed to be a good place to learn and I was about to cross the country anyway… I started to browse the internet, check out the guide books and ask fellow travelers about their experience…Antigua, Quetzaltenango (Xela) and Lake Atitlan came up the most frequent…one girl though mentioned a recently opened school in Livingston which I`ve never heard before (neither the town nor the school)…
    I like experimenting with new things so I gave it a try and as it turn out I found a hidden gem. I had a blast during my two weeks at Casa Iguana Spanish School. The school offers accommodation in two places: one is right by the Caribbean in a stunning location, 15 minutes walk from the town center, the other is in Casa de la Iguana hostel which is the only hostel in town so most of the young backpackers are staying there. The teachers are really good and flexible, they come to the location where you`re staying at and speaking English as well (it was really important for me since I`m a beginner so I needed further explanations in grammar details etc). They offer various types of activates, my favorite was the shopping tour when we went out on market day with my teacher, bought the stuff and then cooked it together. In just couple of hours you learn so much about the language, the country, the culture etc. in such an engaging way.
    Moreover they offer online lessons as well so once you get back home you can continue practicing the language for dirt cheap with the same teacher you started with. I think that`s a really innovative approach teaching languages.
    So people out there who are trying to find a really good Spanish school and like to go on the hidden path take Casa Iguana Spanish School in consideration as well.
    http://casaiguanaspanishschool.com/

  19. After choosing a Spanish school in a town on Lake Atitlan (the town was Panajachel) I found that my Spanish teacher was both a good teacher and a terrific person who would share candid information giving me an insight into indigenous Mayan life. When I returned to Pana this past Spring, I took private Spanish lessons with her which were cheaper than any school could offer. I will give her contact info to anyone who contacts me. But as a second option, if you can find cafes that cater to tourists, you might ask for tutor references, by-passing the formal school programs. Although you would think that schools offer a chance for interaction with other students, basically they offer one on one tutorials.

  20. Thanks for sharing. I’m in guatemala at the moment (been here a week already) just starting my travels in central and south america and i’m really considering taking spanish class to make my travels here easier. i plan at least 2 weeks of spanish lessons (5 days a week, for a total 10 days). i’m wondering base on your experience if that is enough. i completely understand if people say 1 year isn’t enough. but i don’t have time to spend 1 month learning spanish. my spanish proficiency is at a beginner’s level despite having took 2 semesters of spanish in high school.

  21. I studied in this school for two weeks with my husband; we had studied before in Mexico in a group lesson, but the one teacher to one student ratio at Don Pedro Spanish School is definitely more quick and effective when learning the language. The atmosphere at the school is wonderful, with the lessons being given in a lush, green garden setting where tables were provided for the individualized coursework. There are many activities for students that are offered throughout the week. Lunch is provided for students on Tuesday and Friday, and on Thursday night there is a dinner fiesta which includes music, dancing, and drinks, including La Cuba Libre, the local name for rum and coke. These meals provided a great social time to get to know the other students and teachers in the school. We were also given the opportunity to take salsa dancing lessons during these parties, and that was great fun!

    During the first week, my husband and I studied for six hours. We studied for four hours each morning with one teacher, then in the afternoon after lunch we studied with a second teacher for two additional hours. During the second week, we chose to study only five hours per day so that we had time in the afternoon to volunteer with the charitable project that is sponsored by the school; it is called the Tikal Association. A group of around 15 poor children from a small local village come to the school each afternoon to eat their lunch and to do their homework with a dedicated teacher. After that, some volunteers help with the children. Sometimes there are English classes for them that are taught by the volunteers, and sometimes we go swimming with them or play football outside. We had a lot of fun with the kids, and the experience also provided us with an opportunity to practice our Spanish.

    Our teachers and also our host family were excellent; all were very professional, and we became very friendly with them. We chose this school because we had read very good reviews beforehand in the Tripadvisor forum and on the Facebook page of Don Pedro de Alvarado Spanish School. The reviews were accurate; we had an excellent time at the school in all regards. If you decide to study at the school, we recommend that you stay with our host family, Irma. Both Maria and Rosy are great teachers. You won’t be disappointed.

    http://www.donpedrospanishschool.com/

    1. Hello Elisa. Is this a good place to go if you are a beginner, and also if you are 50 years old? Also, in two weeks, did you find your spanish was much better?

  22. I am 50 years old and a beginner to spanish. Where would you suggest that I go so that I fit in with other beginners that are not part of a party scene. I don’t need to necessarily be with other seniors, I am very young at heart, but I don’t want a party or bar scene. Also, will two or three weeks be sufficient to get a good base for learning more when I return to Canada?

  23. Sorry but I can’t tell which school you chose in Antigua? Would be keen to know as I would love to stay in a guesthouse rather than a family stay. Thank you

  24. Mrs khilood stroehl

    Hi
    My name is khilood I am 63 years old and I am German living in Berlin.
    I wish so much all my life to learn Spanish .
    Do you think it is possible with 63 to come in a Spanish course? Or the schools are only for younger people ????
    The country I wish is Guatemala

    Thank you

    I wish you can answer my question and may b you have an ideal

  25. Hello 🙂
    This year I will visit Guatemala in order to improve my Spanish, this is the second year that I travel to a Spanish speaking country to speak better and get to know the culture. Last year (the first year I traveled to learn Spanish) I visited Barcelona. I was at the Barcelona Plus school http://www.barcelonaplus.es because it has an incredible location to do tourism just after school, it is between El Born and the Gothic Quarter. I decided for this school because the treatment was very close and the teachers have a lot of experience teaching Spanish. Does anyone know any school of this type in Guatemala City? Something nice and well located.

    Thank you!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.