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Money Matters

Alma, Michigan
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138 posts
26 reviews
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Money Matters

Guatemala is a great place to visit but the issue of money matters does make it a challenge. Here are a few thoughts.

First, cash is king in Guatemala. Most businesses do not accept credit cards. Therefore you will need some cash. Most major banks can provide you with quetzales. There exchange rate is bad but you will have cash before you leave for Guatemala. It normally takes a week to get the quetzales unless you live in a major city.

Second, ATM's can be risky in Guatemala but they are very handy and convenient. If you use ATM machine, try to use machines inside banks or major hotels. If you plan to use an ATM, talk to your bank before you leave. Let them know the dates of your travel. Ask that any foreign transactions after your planned trip be denied. Ask about the limits of cash withdraws. You may want to limit the daily withdrawal levels to no more than $200 or $300 per day. Many banks set the default at $1,000 per day. Also, if possible set up an account that is not connected to your savings account or other accounts. This will limit your exposure. If you have trusted family or friends not traveling with you, you may want to lower your balance in your account and have them transfer funds/deposit funds as you need additional funds.

Third, travelers' checks are safer but a pain to cash. I like Citibank traveler's checks because there is a Citibank branch in Antigua. You will need your passport to cash them. Plan to spent at least an hour because of the wait in line and the paperwork involved. Saturday seems to have the longest line.

Fourth, Guatemalan prefer USA currency to Euros or Canadian dollars. They also prefer new USA dollars. Some place will not take torn, ripped or even nicked dollars. They can be fussy. If you know this up front, you can be prepared.

Fifth, the airport have several currency exchange places. There is usually a long line at the first exchange as you leave the airplane. There is another place at the place of the stairs just beyond the first place. I have never seen a line at the second exchange. There is a third exchange past passport control before you get to the luggage carrousel.

Sixth, I try to avoid denominations larger than Q200. For many businesses even making change for Q100 can be a challenge. If you know you have some larger purchases such as hotel stays or school tuition, larger bills are okay. But, for walking around money, the smaller bills are handy.

Seventh, banks will require passports to exchange currency into quetzales.

Mentioned in this post
Guatemala
Guatemala
Central America
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
United States
United States
North America
San Rafael Hotel
San Rafael Hotel
#1 of 76 hotels in Antigua
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The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
Level Contributor
13,016 posts
328 reviews
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1. Re: Money Matters

Some good tips - here are mine:

For money I take US cash in small bills and enough local currency to get me started which I save from previous trips or order online and pick up at my bank. I also take American Express travelers checks for back up (and for places that allow me to pay that way), then use ATMs as I go; in my experience you get the cash in the local currency and the exchange rate is decent.. There are fees involved but that's just a travel expense along with many others; some banks charge more than others. I check out the forums ahead and avoid ATMs in areas with a history of problems.

Remember to notify your bank and card company you'll be using the cards on foreign shores - where and when - and also find out before you hand over your card if there will be an additional fee for charge card use - sometimes 5% or more. I email myself a scan of the travelers check numbers and our main passport pages and pack a copy of them with me, too. I also go to www.oanda.com/currency/travel-exchange-rates and make tiny cheat sheets with the conversion rates for each country to keep handy. Happy trails!

Saint Paul...
3 posts
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2. Re: Money Matters

Hi - Seeing you both recently visited Guatemala - I wanted to reply. My husband and I are traveling to Antigua next week for a friends wedding. After reading all of the travel alerts and tips, frankly I'm ready to cancel. Stories of targeted shuttles from the airport, carjackings/muggings on main highways from the airport to Antigua in broad daylight really scare me. We travel quite a bit but never to Central or South America. We arrive and depart around noon and will be transported by the hotel sponsored shuttle. We do not plan on leaving Antigua the 3 days we are there. Honest advice and recent experiences welcome.

Thanks!!!

Mentioned in this post
Guatemala
Guatemala
Central America
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
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13,016 posts
328 reviews
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3. Re: Money Matters

I visit every year, sometimes for a month or more at a time and have never had a problem. I take groups, travel with kids, take my dad along, travel alone (I'm a small middle-aged woman) - no problems, keep heading back for more.

For someone on such a brief visit my best advice is don't flash a lot of jewelry around and don't take photos of locals without asking. And don't get drunk and follow someone home from the bar - you'll be ok. ;-)

Go and have a wonderful time!

Bethesda, MD
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3,040 posts
38 reviews
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4. Re: Money Matters

"After reading all of the travel alerts and tips, frankly I'm ready to cancel. Stories of targeted shuttles from the airport, carjackings/muggings on main highways from the airport to Antigua in broad daylight really scare me. "

I haven't heard a report of any of that in a number of years. I've been more than 30 times since 1989 and I've never had a problem, even when I was doing things that are generally discouraged.

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Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Philadelphia
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17 posts
3 reviews
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5. Re: Money Matters

Hi, I just got back from two weeks in Guatemala and had a wonderful time and never had a problem or was in an area where I didn't feel safe. Both Antigua and Panajachel were totally walkable and the people were kind and helpful. I live near a large city here in the States and use the same common sense in Guatemala that I do when in the Big City. I also have a lightweight travel vest with inside zippered pockets that I wear in the markets and while shopping so I can keep my hands free.

Guatemala is a beautiful country so go and have a fabulous time.

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Guatemala
Guatemala
Central America
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Panajachel
Panajachel
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Camano Island, Wa.
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5 posts
23 reviews
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6. Re: Money Matters

My wife and I will be visiting Antigua for the day during our Panama Canal cruise. We'll have 5 hours there for independent exploring. I'm wondering if we will need to get some quetzales, or will US currency be fine for just the day. We will be having lunch at a local restaurant (I'm thinking maybe Cafe Condesa), possibly museum admissions, and buying a few inexpensive souvenirs. Will Antigua restaurants take our US currency? And the venders at Nim Po't? Thank you in advance.

Mentioned in this post
Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Cafe Condesa
Cafe Condesa
1,152 Reviews
Antigua, Guatemala
Port Richey, Florida
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2,546 posts
11 reviews
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7. Re: Money Matters

Hi there......I wouldn't worry about having to get quetzales. Vendors and restaurants in Antigua take small US currency.

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Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Camano Island, Wa.
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5 posts
23 reviews
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8. Re: Money Matters

Kyle2009 - Thank you for your help. We're looking forward to visiting Antigua.

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Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Montreal
Level Contributor
17 posts
4 reviews
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9. Re: Money Matters

There is some interresting infos on this

guatemala-times.com/travel/michael-sherer/27…

Even if the article was written in Dec 2011 i would avoid using ATM from

Banco Centro America aka Credomatic, the ATM’s at the BAC branch in Antigua.

I will be there later in Jan 2013 and will report back.

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Antigua
Antigua
Sacatepequez Department, Guatemala
Montreal
Level Contributor
17 posts
4 reviews
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10. Re: Money Matters

And in the article about problems with the ATM at the BAC they mentionne the ATM where inside the bank building even with guard present...