Visitors to the islands of Hawaii, French Polynesia, or the Caribbean may have noticed a few commonalities between these far-flung locations. Island life is gorgeous . . . and expensive. (Often breathtakingly so—on both accounts!) Many islands import almost everything, which means higher costs in nearly every aspect of island life.
If you’re considering a move to Guam, you may wonder what the cost of living is like. To help you put together a budget, we’ll walk you several different categories of expenses—housing, utilities, food, and more. These numbers will give you a good barometer for what to expect when you make the move to Guam.
We’ll start by discussing Guam’s cost of living in broad terms, then we’ll break it down into specific categories.
Guam’s Overall Cost of Living: What’s the Deal?
Precise and accurate cost of living data can be hard to come by. However, one simple standard measurement we can use is the U.S. military’s cost-of-living allowance (COLA).
What is COLA?
COLA is a paycheck supplement offered to servicemembers stationed in higher cost of living areas. The allowance was designed to offset the cost of goods and services to equalize the buying power of servicemembers, no matter where they’re stationed. The U.S. military calculates COLA using both survey data from servicemembers, as well as the prices of a “market basket” of ~120 goods and services.
By looking at COLA data, we can see the differences in overall costs of living, based on the results of the U.S. military’s research.
- COLA does not include housing costs, so those will need to be taken into account separately. (More on that topic below!)
- COLA is not a fixed number. It’s constantly re-evaluated, so this data is subject to changing market conditions.
Guam’s Cost of Living as Compared to Other U.S. Destinations
First, let’s take a look at how Guam compares to what the military calls OCONUS—outside of the continental U.S.
Guam vs. Oahu, Hawaii
12% higher cost of living in Guam vs. Oahu
If you’ve ever been to Honolulu, you’ve already gotten a taste of island life—and the cost of living. The COLA for Guam is ~12% higher than the one servicemembers receive in Honolulu, Hawaii. In other words, goods and services are expected to cost that much more on Guam than Oahu.
Guam vs. Alaska
In contrast, the U.S. military’s COLA for Alaska is higher than that for Guam. In other words, goods and services are expected to cost more in Alaska than Guam:
- In Fairbanks, you’d get a COLA that’s ~67% higher than what you’d get on Guam.
- In Anchorage, your COLA would be ~44% higher than what you’d get on Guam.
Guam vs. High Cost-of-Living Areas in the Continental U.S.
The military also offers COLA for a few areas in the continental U.S. that are notoriously expensive to live in. These include:
- Manhattan – Although you get a pretty nice COLA in the Big Apple—the biggest CONUS COLA available—the one you’d receive in Guam is ~41% larger.
- San Francisco – COLA in San Francisco isn’t as high as in New York, so your COLA in Guam would be ~182% higher than what you’d see in San Fran.
(Remember: COLA doesn’t include housing costs, which are a big part of the cost of living in cities like Manhattan and San Francisco!)
If you’re coming from abroad, let’s take a look at Guam compared to the cost of living in a few international cities.
Guam’s Cost of Living as Compared to International Destinations
If you’re moving to Guam from a fairly pricey city, like London, you might not notice much of a difference in the cost of living—only around 5%, according to figures from the website Expatistan. When comparing Guam to Vancouver, Canada, you’d see a slightly bigger jump. Expatistan’s calculations rank Guam as 11% more expensive than Vancouver.
However, when you compare Guam to several lower-cost Asian cities, the difference is stark. Guam is estimated to be 97% more expensive than Manila, capital of the Philippines, and 93% more expensive than Bangkok, Thailand.
97% more expensive than Manila
11% – more expensive than Vancouver
5% – more expensive than London
93% – more expensive than Bangkok
Now that you’ve gotten a sense for how Guam compares to other destinations overall, let’s break it all down into expense categories, starting with your most basic needs.
How Much Is Housing on Guam?
As we mentioned above, the cost of housing isn’t factored into the U.S. military’s COLA calculations, so you’ll need to evaluate this piece separately.
In terms of housing prices, Guam is similar to many other places: The cost of housing will vary depending on the location you choose, as well as the available amenities. Dededo, Barrigada, and Tamuning-Tumon-Harmon will offer higher-end options on Guam, although you’ll find a mix of prices within most neighborhoods.
In our experience, here’s the range you’ll be looking at when it comes to renting apartments on Guam:
• 1 BR – Vary from $800 to $1,200 to $1,500
• 2 BR – Can range from $900 all the way to $1,200 to $2,500
If you’re in the market to buy, check out the current real estate for sale in Guam on Realtor.com. The listings will give you a sense of the market, including what’s available and how much you can expect to spend.
Next, let’s talk about the costs for living comfortably in your home on Guam.
How Much Are Utilities on Guam?
Utilities are notoriously expensive at many island destinations—especially when you’re talking about power. Let’s take a look at how Guam measures up.
Electricity Rates on Guam
↑ 200% – electricity rates on Guam, as compared to the U.S. average
Like many islands, Guam’s power plants run on imported petroleum products. This contributes significantly to the cost of electricity on the island. In fact, rates on Guam are about twice the U.S. average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That said, the Guam Power Authority is making strides in terms of renewable energy sources, which could deliver some relief down the road.
Additionally, Guam isn’t the most expensive destination for power in the U.S. You’d think Guam’s power rates would be comparable with Hawaii, which consistently has the highest electricity costs in the nation. However, Hawaii charges higher rates than Guam—and it’s not alone. There are several other states with higher rates than Guam’s.
During December 2021:
- Guam’s average rate per kilowatt hour was higher than 36 U.S. states.
- States that charged higher electricity rates than Guam: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
During June 2021:
- Guam’s average rate per kilowatt hour was higher than 33 U.S. states.
- 17 states charged rates more expensive than Guam’s, including New Mexico, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota.
In other words, there are several U.S. states in which you’ll pay more per kilowatt hour than in Guam.
The question, of course, comes down to usage. If you’re someone who needs to run the A/C all the time, year-round, you’ll likely see a pretty big bill each month in Guam.
Looking for an All-In Cost for Utilities on Guam?
According to the Guam Chamber of Commerce, basic utilities for two people in a 900 square foot apartment will run about $350/month.
Next, let’s cover another basic necessity: groceries on Guam.
How Much Does Food Cost on Guam?
Since almost everything has to be imported, food costs are higher on Guam than in the continental U.S. (Just take a look at the cost of a gallon of milk below!)
However, we said “almost everything!” You will find fresh produce grown on Guam, and it can often be cheaper than what you’ll find in the grocery store. If you’re moving from the mainland, some of the fruits and vegetables may not look familiar to you. If that’s the case, head to a farmer’s market and talk to the produce vendors. They’ll be happy to introduce you to some of the less-familiar produce that flourishes on Guam. Bitter melon, okra, Chinese cabbage, and jackfruit come to mind.
Popular Farmer’s Markets on Guam
- Wednesday Night Market at Chamorro Village
- Farmers Co-Op Market in Dededo
- Dededo Flea Market on Saturdays and Sundays
- Farm to Table Guam has also started a CSA Subscription Program
Even if you frequent farmer’s markets, you’ll still need to shop at our local grocery stores. Let’s do a quick run-down of the prices you’ll see, so you can compare them to the prices in your local grocery store.
Grocery Store Prices in Guam
- 1 gallon of milk – $13.49
- 12 eggs – $4.29
- 1 lb. of butter – $6.95
- Loaf of bread – $2.79
- 2-liter bottle of Coke – $3.35
- Half-gallon of orange juice – $6.49
- Oranges – $1.79/lb
- Apples – $1.79/lb
- Lettuce – $2.29/lb
- Ground Beef – $3.99/lb
- Boneless Chicken Breasts – $4.79/lb
(Source: Pay-Less Supermarket, June 2022)
Finally, now that we’ve covered your basic needs, let’s take a look at the fun side of Guam.
How Much Do Restaurants, Movies, and Other Entertainment Options Cost on Guam?
First and foremost, if you’re on a budget, remember that Guam’s beautiful beaches are free. Pack a cooler and a chair, and you’ve got a cheap and memorable way to spend the day on gorgeous Guam. The same is also true for boonie-stomping. (That’s what we call hiking here on Guam!)
Practically, the only thing that these adventures will cost you is the gas to get you there.
Gasoline Costs on Guam
In the last six months, the price of gas on Guam has been between $1.20 and $1.60 more expensive per gallon than the national average.
For those used to cheaper gas prices—Texas residents, for example—the prices on Guam can create some serious sticker shock. (Note: If you’re a member of the U.S. military with commissary and exchange privileges, you’ll have access to the cheapest gasoline on island on base!)
However, if you live in a state with hefty gas taxes, the price of gas on Guam might feel comparable. California, for example, often posts retail gas prices higher than those in Guam.
Next, let’s talk about how much a meal out (or a whole night out!) will cost you.
Restaurants on Guam
If you’ve ever lived in a tourism destination, you probably already know this. However, we figured it can’t hurt to remind you: Food outlets on resorts will be some of the most expensive options on Guam.
Outside the resort areas, you’ll find more budget-friendly restaurants. As a result, you’ll see some pretty wide ranges for meal costs below. However, these can give you an idea of both the fancy and budget-friendly options you’ll find on Guam.
Average Sit-Down Prices for Guam Restaurants
- Lunch entrée: $15-25
- Dinner entrée: $20-50
Movies on Guam
Finally, if you’re a fan of seeing movies in the theater, you’ll find Guam’s prices for the movies pretty comparable to those within the continental U.S.:
Evening Movie Prices on Guam
- $10.50 – Adult Ticket
- $7.50 – Senior Ticket
- $7.00 – Child Ticket
If you were born and raised on the U.S. mainland, living in a far-flung destination like Guam can sometimes come with a little homesickness. There’s no better cure than an evening at the movies! Plus, you can rest easy knowing it won’t cost you much more than your friends in the continental U.S.
Ready to Make the Move to Guam?
Now that you’ve got the goods on the cost of living on Guam, are you ready to take the plunge? Or do you still have some more research to do? If you want to know more about the day-to-day on Guam, check out our Insider’s Guide to Living on Guam. We’ll answer any lingering questions you might have about the transition. We’ll also give you some additional insider info on where to live, work, and have fun on the island.
If you’re ready to relocate, we’d be happy to help you make the move! Just reach out to our Tamuning-based team for a complimentary quote for your Guam relocation. We’ve helped families and individuals move to Guam both from the U.S. and abroad, and we’d love to assist you.
Tell us about your move!