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Getting quetzales while in Antigua

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Freehold, New Jersey
posts: 28
reviews: 2
Getting quetzales while in Antigua

As part of my travel expenses, I'm going to need to pay a considerable cost in local currency. I want to do this with the least amount of risk since, unfortunately, using a credit card or bringing US dollars with me and paying with them aren't options. Would it be more secure to use an ATM and withdraw money, or to bring American money and exchange it in a bank?

Augusta, Georgia
posts: 3
reviews: 30
1. Re: Getting quetzales while in Antigua

No experience that could help you, but I heard Clark Howard once say the ATM is the best bet. However he was speaking in general and not about Guatemala.

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
posts: 7,470
reviews: 148
2. Re: Getting quetzales while in Antigua

I can only get about $200/time from the ATM machines in Guatemala so when I have a big bill (sometimes I have a group of 15 or more in tow) that won't work. Some places accept travelers checks and some banks cash them; it's a bit of a hassle but at least they're safer to pack around than loads of cash.

When are you going? Maybe you could order quetzales online and pick them up at your bank as I've done in the past or exchange $ at the airport.

Bethesda, MD
posts: 1,934
reviews: 24
3. Re: Getting quetzales while in Antigua

I still use travelers checks; I think it's still the most secure way to carry a large amount of cash.

Freehold, New Jersey
posts: 28
reviews: 2
4. Re: Getting quetzales while in Antigua

Unfortunately it needs to be cash, so I don't think travelers checks will work. I will look into ordering quetzales prior to my trip since it's still 2 months away. It is over $200, so that tip was very helpful!

Milwaukee, Wi
posts: 10
reviews: 163
5. Re: Getting quetzales while in Antigua

A couple weeks ago we were able to get $200 worth of Quetzels without a problem from the ATM at the hotel and the next day $200 from the ATM at the bank on the central park. Almost everywhere you are best using the ATM's for exchange. Their rates are tied to the international rates and not someone's calculator which is generally on their side. Bring a calculator or cell phone to check transactions but don't be too flashy with the cell phones to be safe. The bank ATM also has armed guards and Antigua is pretty safe. The airport is more of a problem finding an ATM.

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
posts: 7,470
reviews: 148
6. Re: Getting quetzales while in Antigua

I print out these cool cheat sheets before my trips:

www.oanda.com/currency/travel-exchange-rates

BC
posts: 2,241
reviews: 122
7. Re: Getting quetzales while in Antigua

I was on a 9 week trip, about 4 weeks of it were in Guatemala.

I did not want to use ATMs, just didn't want to worry about that hassle when away for a long time. Having a separate bank account for travel doesn't work in Canada, the fees are way too high.

I carried US dollars cash and US dollars traveller's cheques. My personal limit that I felt comfortable for carrying cash (two women travelling) was $2000, although in other countries I have carried much larger amounts. The balance was in TC.

This worked out very well, it is not a hassle to cash the TC, although with cash you can change with guys at the border and pay for some things with the USA money.

Some banks are better than others for changing TC: try G&T and Banrural--these ones are everywhere. Agromercantil also changes TC, but were a pain as they had a daily limit.

I would not order Quetzales ahead of time, unless you check the rate you are getting and the fees and then if it seems reasonable go ahead.

Dexter, Michigan
posts: 138
reviews: 1
8. Re: Getting quetzales while in Antigua

I can't advise ordering via a bank at home. You will get burned on fees and rates. I often need large sums of quetz for business. I take cash dollars and exchange at banks in country. Antigua is easiest. At the lake sometimes banks will have a daily limit. Seems to depend who is running the country. I supplement by taking out quetz at ATMs. I can usually get about $300 equivalent a day. Important... before going call your bank and let them know when and where you will be. Many banks it is best to call their security dept. Charges from a third world country suddenly showing up can trigger a hold on your account. Also, get a non 800 number to call the bank. That includes 866 and similar. Turns out that a town has to have ATT switching equipment to reach those. Only in a few spots in Guat. Carrying cash has issues. A hotel with a safe is a good idea. Fortunately I don't get robbed.

Dexter, Michigan
posts: 138
reviews: 1
9. Re: Getting quetzales while in Antigua

I'm confused why you can't bring a credit card. I use a paypal card for security. If you have a bank card it is important to contact their security dept. and tell them when and where you are going. Sudden charges from a third world country can cause their security program to freeze your account. Also, get a non 800/866 number for your bank. Some towns in Guat. don't have phone exchanges that can send those calls. While I carry large amounts of dollars, I don't get robbed, but can't advise others to do the same.

Freehold, New Jersey
posts: 28
reviews: 2
10. Re: Getting quetzales while in Antigua

I will have a credit card, but can't use it to pay this bill. I wish I could, it would make it so much easier.