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Money in Guatemala: Best Way to Exchange Money to Quetzales

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quetzales coin and bills guatemalan currency
While international credit cards are widely accepted in popular areas, exchanging money in Guatemala is a must. Most of the time you’ll find yourself needing local currency to pay for most of your expenses.

Traveling to Guatemala promises an array of unforgettable experiences, from bustling marketplaces (pacas), and sampling local street foods to the natural beauty and culture. 

To truly make the most of your Guatemalan journey, you’ll need to acquaint yourself with the official local currency, the Guatemalan Quetzal (Q).

The Quetzal, named after the vibrant and resplendent quetzal bird, serves as the heart of Guatemala’s economic landscape. 

Credit cards are accepted in many urban areas and tourist hubs, but many of the country’s hidden treasures rely on cash transactions.

Including paying for local arts and crafts in the vibrant markets from street vendors, and local stores, and paying for local transport and tours in Guatemala.

While major tourist areas and high-end establishments might accept credit cards, added transaction fees can be very high.

Having an ample supply of Quetzales (the plural form of Quetzal) on hand can open the door to a more authentic and enriching experience including visiting local markets or pacas, street food, and places that don’t accept credit cards.

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guatemalan coins on top of some money bills
Make sure to exchange your money to Quetzales using ONLY safe places and verified locations, like ATMs, Hotels, banks, or airports.

This article will guide you through the nuances of exchanging money in Guatemala. 

You’ll discover the best places to secure Quetzals, making your journey smoother and more enriching. 

So, whether you’re exploring Guatemala for the first time or returning to its captivating landscapes, understanding how to navigate with the Quetzal in your pocket is the key to unlocking authentic experiences.

Exchanging Money in Guatemala to Local Currency (Q)

The Guatemalan Quetzal, denoted by the symbol “Q,” is the country’s official currency

At the time of writing, the exchange rate hovers around 8 Quetzals per US dollar, but keep in mind that exchange rates can fluctuate.

Named after the Quetzal bird, a creature of exquisite beauty and cultural significance in Guatemala, the Quetzal carries deep national pride and historical importance. 

Guatemala national bird Quezal on top of a tree
When exchanging money in Guatemala remember the Quetzal is not only the national bird but also the official currency.

This feathered icon is revered not only for its resplendent plumage but also for its role in Mayan mythology and folklore. The quetzal bird represents freedom, which is why it has been chosen as the namesake of the national currency.

Understanding the value and cultural significance of the Quetzal is pivotal to truly appreciating the soul of Guatemala. 

As you embark on your journey, embrace the Quetzal as more than just a unit of currency; it’s a gateway to unlocking the cultural riches and vibrant experiences this beautiful country has to offer.

And I highly recommend you take a day tour to Panajachel, the main town of Lake Atitlan, where you spend your Quetzals enjoying local cafes and gourmet restaurants.

Tip: Guatemala is a safe place for tourists, but be aware!

The biggest issue is theft.

Get travel insurance before starting your journey.

I recommend Visitors Coverage.

Best Places for Exchanging Money in Guatemala

When it comes to exchanging money in Guatemala you have a few reliable options to choose from.

While we will provide a few options below, the best exchange rates you will get for cash are in two locations, banks and ATMs.

ATM

The thing with ATMs or money machines is your bank card might charge you fees. 

I don’t believe that there are huge fees being charged with the actual machine. 

They are quite minimal. But your bank is really the one that’s going to be charging you the most amount of fees. 

I know today that there are a lot of banks that work out for you internationally and cover your fees. So you’ll need to take care of that on your own.

But as far as exchange rates, that is definitely the best place that you will get the exchange rate and the banks.

woman using an atm to exchange money in guatemala
Guatemala is safe, but you should always practice common sense, don’t go to an ATM that’s situated in a deserted place, and make sure there’s nothing suspicious about it.

Banks

So the way the banks work is you need to always have your passport. There is up to a certain amount. 

Every bank is going to be different. Some banks can only permit you to do $200, or $500. I don’t believe there’s any that would give you more than $1,000. 

And if they do, those banks usually give you the worst rate. So you need to do a little bit of due diligence.

Banks in Guatemala, I don’t want to list them all because there are quite a few to choose from, and they’re so easy to find. 

Wherever you go, you will find many different banks right there for you to look through, but they will give you the best rates.

Airports

Major airports like La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City provide the convenience of currency exchange desks. 

So if you do not have any Quetzals on you when you touch down in Guatemala it is convenient to change a little of your currency to Quetzals at the airport. 

Money out of an envelope after exchanging it for local currency
Airports are the top choice to exchange money, it’s the first place you get to visit and will let you grab enough local currency for a few days.

This way you have at least some local currency for some costs on arrival like transport.

But exchange most of your cash using the two options above (ATMs and Banks) as the rates at airports may not be as favorable as other options.

Currency Exchange Offices

In tourist areas and cities, you’ll come across currency exchange offices, often with competitive rates. 

These establishments specialize in exchanging foreign currency for Quetzals and can be a convenient option.

But currency exchange offices are not as easy to find as Banks which is why I recommend Banks as one of the best ways to exchange money in Guatemala.

Hotels and Resorts

Some hotels and resorts in Guatemala offer currency exchange services for their guests. 

Exchanging your money for Quetzals at hotels or resorts can be very convenient, but the rates often are less competitive than at Banks or ATMs.

Using Credit Cards in Guatemala

Some places take credit cards and charge you between 3% to 5%. 

However, I would say the majority of places are converting to credit cards. The restaurants, hotels, and stores do. And a lot of them don’t charge you that 5%. 

And I will tell you this, your credit card will give you the absolute best exchange rate possible depending on your credit card.

For me personally, I have found American Express in Guatemala gives me the best exchange rate.

However, when I traveled to Spain, my visa, American Express, and Mastercard gave me the same. So that really is going to depend on your credit card. 

But you will still get the best exchange rate, even if you go to the bank and exchange your money in Guatemala.

Best Currency to Exchange for Guatemalan Q’s

The best way to exchange money in Guatemala is using American dollars

So if you’re coming from any other country, I would recommend dollars.

The Euros are the second best and that’s it. 

USD bill on top of other countries's bills
USD and EURO are the best currencies for exchanging money in Guatemala

From there on, you will get crap exchange rates. So make sure that you use one of those two currencies to get the best exchange rates. 

Hopefully, that makes sense because those are really the two main currencies that are accepted, and the first is always going to be the dollar. 

The dollar is still the strongest here as far as what is used because most people send dollars from the banks.

Best Way to Exchange Money in Guatemala

Exchanging your money for Quetzals in Guatemala can be a straightforward process with the right approach. 

Here are some helpful tips To make the most of your currency exchange experience, consider these valuable tips:

Carry U.S. Dollars as Backup

While Quetzals are essential, it’s a good idea to keep some U.S. dollars or another major international currency as a backup. These are widely accepted, and having them on hand can be a lifesaver in case of emergencies or when you can’t immediately find a currency exchange facility.

Notify Your Bank

If you plan to use your credit or debit card in Guatemala, notify your bank or card provider about your travel plans. This helps prevent any unexpected issues with your card being blocked for suspicious activity while abroad.

Avoid Street Vendors Offering Currency Exchange and Unofficial Sources

Be cautious when approached by street vendors or individuals offering currency exchange services. Using unofficial sources can expose you to the risk of scams, counterfeit money, or poor exchange rates.

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Verify Rates and Count Your Money

Before finalizing any exchange, confirm the current rate with the service provider. Additionally, count your money before leaving the counter or vendor. Mistakes can happen, and it’s essential to ensure the accuracy of your transaction.

Use Reputable ATM Locations

When withdrawing cash from ATMs, choose machines located in busy, well-monitored areas, and opt for those affiliated with major banks. Inspect the machine for any unusual devices or signs of tampering.

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Last Updated on January 30, 2024

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