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   Travel tips / Money matters


Guatemala's currency is called the Quetzal (Quetzales, plural). Current exchange is about Q7.58 to $1.00. Dollars can be used in most restaurants and stores in the upscale zones 10 and 14, however you may lose heavily on the exchange rate. Better to use a credit card. Currency converter update at http://www.oanda.com/cgi-bin/travel

Travelers checks are accepted, but more problematic in some places than credit cards, especially if large denominations. If you bring US$ make sure the bills are without rips, tears or defacing, since they may be rejected.

ATMS/Cash machines
Located at the airport, at all major hotels, most banks and UFM campus. You can get cash in both dollars and local currency. We recommend you use these and not ATMs on the street.

Credit cards
Credit cards are usually accepted in tourist areas. Visa and Mastercard are the most common. American Express is less accepted because of its high rate to vendors. In Guatemala's Central Market, some places will take them, but certainly not all.

In stores, if you pay cash, you can sometimes negotiate the price down by 10% to 15%, especially in tourist shops and small boutiques. Some smaller establishments will sometimes add an irritating surcharge of 7 to 10% if a credit card is used. In the markets, try for 50%.

In the local markets, bargaining is much more exuberant. If what I'm after is tourist item, I usually start with a low ball counter offer of 60% to 75% below the original asking price. Happy medium ends up usually between 25% and 50% below asking price. This often works, especially later in the day, and if you walk away feigning indifference.

Rule of thumb is a bit below U.S. standards. Restaurants 10% is usual; 15% if you are exceptionally happy with your service.

Some restaurants have taken up the European custom of including the tip in the bill, usually 10%. Watch for this, otherwise you end up tipping twice.