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Banks and Money

Banks The currency of Guatemala is the quetzal. In February 2009, the exchange rate was 7.88 quetzales to $1 USD. Since exchange rates vary frequently, check on up-to-date conversion rates at the time of your trip. Bank opening hours vary from bank to bank. From Monday through Friday, most banks are open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., with many open until 6 p.m., and a few open as late as 7 p.m. Often, if a bank is open later, it may not exchange currencies up until closing time—in many cases, the exchange service ends at 4 p.m. Most banks are open from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and closed Sundays and public holidays. Some of the bigger banks in Guatemala are Banco Occidente, BAC and Banco Industrial. Most banks have a series of ATMs. You will find ATMs (known as cajero automatico) in most larger urban centers, but not in small towns. You should not rely on being able to draw money out from an ATM in villages and smaller centers. Additionally, over public holiday period, ATMs can empty out, so be sure to be prepared. Common ATMs are Bancared, BI and Credomatic, which accept most card types. Be cautious when you are using ATMs. Always draw out money during daytime hours. If the bank has an ATM inside the bank, use that one, rather than the ATMs outside. Usually the banks are heavily guarded, and if there is a guard outside, it should be safe to use the ATM there. Always get receipts and keep records of money withdrawn, in case of any discrepancies later, which have been known to happen. Note: If you have a 5-digit pin, it will not be possible to use this in Guatemala—the banks are set up for 4-digit pins. Credit Cards In Guatemala credit cards are starting to become more widely accepted, however, you should not assume you can use them everywhere. Visa and MasterCard (and less commonly, American Express) can be used in the more upscale hotels, restaurants, shops and tour companies. Don’t expect to be able to use your credit card at a beach shack or in the mom and pop store. In many cases using your credit card will cost you—often charges of eight per cent or so will be added to the cost of your transaction. Traveler’s Checks Traveler’s Checks can be exchanged at major branches of banks in large urban areas, or areas that are important for tourists. You can occasionally change them in shops or travel agencies, but this is much less common. Always bring checks that are in US dollars—other currencies such as the euro and the pound are notoriously difficult to exchange. Amex traveler’s checks are the most commonly-known brand, so it is better to stick with those. To change checks, you will always need your passport (original, not a copy) and in many cases you will also need your proof of purchase. Don’t forget to keep the check numbers separate from the checks for your own security in case of theft. There are a variety of means of wiring money to Guatemala, and many banks have Western Union as an affiliate because many Guatemalans working abroad send money home to their families. However, you do not need to go through Western Union, as many banks in the US or Europe will wire money to a Guatemalan bank. Before doing so, inquire about exchange rates. Expect the transfer to take at least a couple of days. In emergency situations, US citizens can have money transferred through the US Embassy, for a fee of US$30.

Western Union Guatemala: +502 22 564 741

US State Department's Overseas Citizens' Service: +1-202-501-4444










By Paula Newton
I am V!VA's operations expert. With an MBA and a background in the Interactive Television industry in the U.K. I am the organizing force behind the...
11 Aug 2010




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