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Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

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San Diego...
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Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

Hello,

Reading all the posts about folks who got ripped off at the ATMs in Guate, I certainly don't want to use them!!!

So, now I am really stumped about the safest way to get local currency. Is there naywhere to get Quetz in the US? I checked with Amex and they don't exchange that currency or offer travvler's checks in that currency.

Is my best bet to bring some USD and travellers checks and cash them at a bank in Antigua? We are arriving on Good Friday and my expectation is that the banks will be closed that day and all through the weekend. Surely we will need local currency.

All good advice is appreciated. Thank you!

Port Richey, Florida
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1. Re: Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

I don't know how they got ripped off because I naver have. Believe it or not there is a bank at almost every corner in guatemalan. So, I always use the ATM.s outside the bank and if have any kind of trouble I go inside and ask for assistance at the courtesy desk. Then they make up a form for you to withdraw your cash at the window. But in guatemala a Visa debit and credit card is easier to use than MC.

Lake Atitlan
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for Lake Atitlan
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2. Re: Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

I agree with Kyle. While some folks have been ripped off, it is easy enough to protect yourself. Read other post about this for more details (keep a low balance in that account, and transfer funds in from another account as you need). Especially on Good Friday and that weekend, the banks will be a challenge.

You may still want to bring some AmEx travelers checks for later in the trip.

Pittsburgh PA
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3. Re: Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

My husband shared your concern about ATMs and insisted on bringing down a bunch of travelers checks. Unfortunately, in Antigua as well as Lake Atitlan, the bank would only cash up to $200 in a 24 hour period. Each time he went to the bank, it took forever as he had to stand in one, and sometimes 2, long lines. As we had agreed to pay our guide/driver $1000 in cash this took up a significant amount of time. If we had to do it over, we would use the ATM.

NYC
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4. Re: Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

I used 5B atms ..... and haven't had a problem so far!

Antigua, Guatemala
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5. Re: Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

Listen, I live in Antigua and know dozens of people who have lost money using the ATM's in town over the last 5 months. This problem is still going on, in some cases to people who used the machines several months ago and are just losing money now. It is not safe to use the ATM's and the banks here are doing nothing about this problem.

Antigua, Guatemala
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6. Re: Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

I too live in Antigua and almost everyone I know that has used an ATM with a foreign card has had unauthorized withdrawals from their accounts. The US Embassy has had two meetings here in Antigua with INGUAT and bank representatives and has posted alerts regarding this problem. The meeting held last week had at least 50 people attending that had unauthorized withdrawals made.

This morning outside of the BAC (Banco America Central) branch near the Central Park I overheard a group of tourists discussing whether or not they should use the machines located there or not. This is the bank where the majority of the problems happen from what has been discussed at the Embassy meetings.

So far (frantically knocking on wood) nothing has happened to my husband and I but we both use a Guatemalan bank card, use it only for emergencies and don`t use it at the banks where most of the problems occur. I feel that it`s only a matter of time before we get hit by this fraud and who knows if our Guatemalan bank will do anything for us to recover our losses. It doesn`t appear that the banks have done much over the past six months since this started.

NYC
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7. Re: Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

I used a 5B machine inside a phamacy about a block away from the Park.

Back now a couple of weeks ........ but rather than wait for any surprises, I went into my bank and canceled the ATM card I used while in Guatemala, and got a new one.

Jacksonville...
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8. Re: Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

Just returned from 7 weeks in Guatemala. I brought Am Ex travelers checks -- Banrural would cash up to $300 in one visit, with a limit of $1000 in one month. It usually took 45 minutes to an hour in lines. I used an ATM once in San Pedro at Lake Atitlan, and will be replacing my card to prevent any problems.

Before I left I was able to buy quetzales from Bank of America via phone. The exchange rate was decent and I just paid an overnight fee to pick them up at my local branch the next day.

San Diego...
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9. Re: Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

Thanks everyone. I ended up getting a combination of traveller's checks and quetzales from my bank. They gave me an exchange rate of $6.7 GTQ to $1 US, plus handling and shipping costs. I did not think this was a very good rate but it was safe and convenient and took a load of concern off my mind.

Sydney
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10. Re: Do I use Travellers Checks? Where do I get local currency?

We travelled for 16 days in Guatemala. We had prepaid a lot of the trip to the local Antigua travel agent covering hotels, transport, excursions, so we only needed money for food (for 4) and souvenirs (quite a bit considering we love the textile in the Highlands). We used mostly USD cash that we exchanged in banks along the way (note: banks limit the amount you can change in one go - varies between 300 USD and 500 USD generally, the Citibank in Antigua is the best place for larger transactions) and also credit cards (for example for all the meals at Casa del Mundo Lake Atitlan, accepting credit cards - Visa - no problem). Of course always an element of risk with cash (loss, robbery) but we did not encounter any danger and always left the cash in a locked pocket at the hotel's reception safe. Banks were definitely opened on Saturdays in Antigua (and possibly even also some on Sunday morning) but not sure about the Easter week-end. Good luck.