When we first set out to travel around Latin America we didn’t know one word of Spanish. It was such a spontaneous decision that we didn’t even have enough time to book a place to stay, let alone learn a few common Spanish phrases. However, after traveling through Mexico and using mostly hand gestures to get our point across, we realized that we needed to know at least the basics.
With some research, we quickly learned that Guatemala isn’t just the a great country to backpack but also one of the best places in the world to study Spanish and its cheap. So we decided to make Guatemala our temporary home and went back to school.
Here are some tips on how to choose the right Spanish School in Guatemala:
1. Decide where you want to stay
Antigua is a lovely colonial town located in the highlands of Guatemala. Some of the best schools are located here and the whole city is wired with fast internet, which makes Antigua a popular choice for people who want to study Spanish in Guatemala. After studying you can admire the UNESCO World Heritage City or take part in the many fun things to do in Antigua.
Most popular school: Antigüeña Spanish Academy
Lago de Atitlán
Lago de Atitlán is quickly becoming a popular destination to study Spanish in Guatemala. It’s picturesque surroundings make it the ideal place to lay low for a while and study. Keep in mind that San Pedro, one of the villages on Lago de Atitlán, is known for its wild nightlife so you be the judge about whether you can balance partying like a rock-star and seriously learning some Spanish.
Most popular school: Cooperative School
Quetzaltenango (Xela) is the second largest city in Guatemala and not as charming as Antigua and Lago de Atitlán. However, it is said to be more “authentic” and less party-like than the other two options. Because of this, Xela, might be the best choice for students who are more serious about learning Spanish.
Most popular school: ICA Spanish School
2. Do your research
It is important that you do your research before committing to a particular school long term. Guatemala365 is one of the best online directories of Spanish Schools in Guatemala and has ratings and reviews from real people who have attended those schools. It is a great starting point, however it should only be used as a guide, because booking through them will cost you more than booking directly with the school.
Another option is to ask other travelers what schools they recommend. This will help you narrow down the long list of Spanish Schools in Guatemala.
3. Visit the school directly
We don’t like booking things online because we believe you can make a more educated choice if you visit places. Before we came to our final decision, we went to at least five different Spanish schools in Guatemala and asked if we could see the classrooms, meet some teachers, hear more about their curriculum, and whatever else came to mind.
4. Ask about afternoon activities
Many schools offer free or extremely cheap activities in the afternoon, such as cooking classes, guided tours or salsa classes. Some also offer volunteer opportunities to people who speak basic Spanish and can commit some of their free time to it.
Those are great opportunities for you to practice your Spanish and if you are serious about mastering the Spanish language, you should definitely partake in some of those activities.
5. Negotiate a better price
Don’t take the first price you’re given and call it a day. Instead negotiate a better price, ask for a discount. Schools are likely to give you a 10-20% discount, especially during low season.
Sometimes you also get a cheaper rate if you stay with that school for longer however …
6. Don’t commit long-term to any school
Unless you are a 100% sure that the school you picked is the one, we don’t recommend you commit long-term to any school.
What happens if after a few days you realize that your teacher sucks, change to another teacher, and she sucks too or the school refuses to give you another teacher? What then?
You are going to be stuck with that horrible teacher until the end of your commitment and since you have already paid, there is not much you can do about it. Most schools don’t offer refunds. Just like any investment, you want to know what you are getting yourself into. Test it out first, see if you like it and then invest your time and money.
Save yourself the headache and don’t commit to any school for longer than a week before testing it out first.
7. Look at different accommodation options
Schools often times portray the image of home stays as the ultimate cultural immersion with locals. However, the truth is many students experience something completely different.
Most times it won’t be just you and the host family, it is you, your guest family and TEN other backpackers. Due to this you will probably end up talking about how many countries you have “done” and what country is your favorite instead of practicing your Spanish and learning more about the local culture.
I don’t know about you, but this is not what I was imagining when we first though about doing a home stay. A home stay should be a great learning experience and not feel like a hostel. So before you commit to anything, make sure to find out how many other students will be living with you.
Though we opted out of a home stay, that doesn’t mean you have to too. Weigh out the pros and cons and decide whether this cultural immersion is beneficial for you.
Not all school offer student housing. However, if your school does, checking it out to see if it’s cheaper than staying at a hostel or hotel.
Keep in mind that there are a few different types of student housing. Some offer three home cooked meals a day and come with a share bathroom, while others are more like having your own apartment and come with your own kitchen and bathroom. Make sure to look at the place first, so there are no surprises.
Hostels or Guesthouses
Another option is to stay in a nearby hostel or guesthouse. If you stay for longer than a few days, most places will give you a discount but it is worth considering the study environment you are going to be in. A party hostel will most likely not be right place to study after class.
If you plan on staying in a hostel or guesthouse, check out our article on the Best Places to Stay in Antigua.
So what Spanish School did we chose:
We ultimately ended up going with Antigüeña Spanish Acadmey in Antigua. We went there during low season and found this school to offer the best value for our money.
Our teacher was very patient with us and we learned a lot during those two weeks thanks to her engaging teaching skills. We stayed with a couchsurfer during those two weeks and even he was impressed how committed we were and how much we learned in such a short time.
Overall, we were very happy with our choice and would recommend this school to anybody who wants to study Spanish in Antigua.
We hope you found our tips for studying Spanish in Guatemala useful and will take them into considering when looking for a good school to learn Spanish!
Buena suerte con tu búsqueda! (Good luck with your search!)