Money and Costs
Budget: Less than Q400
- Dorm bed: Q60–100
- Budget hotel double room: Q130–200
- Set meal in a comedor (cheap eatery): Q30–45
- Three-hour 'chicken-bus' ride: Q20
- Hotel double room: Q200–550
- À la carte meal in a local restaurant: Q100–130
- Archaeological site admission: Q50–150
- Three-hour shuttle-bus ride: Q150
Top end: More than Q1000
- Superior hotel double room: Q550 or more
- Meal in an elegant restaurant: Q150 or more
- Guide at archaeological site: up to Q450
- 4WD car-hire per day: Q650
Haggling is pretty much a national pastime in Guatemala. Treat it as a game, and if you feel you’re getting ripped off, just walk away. Don't haggle in small stores and restaurants; always haggle in markets and with taxi drivers.
Banks change cash but casas de cambio (currency-exchange offices) are usually quicker and may offer better rates. ATMs widely available. Credit cards accepted in many hostels and most midrange and above hotels and restaurants.
Guatemala's currency, the quetzal (ket-sahl, abbreviated to Q), has been fairly stable at around Q7.5 = US$1 for years. The quetzal is divided into 100 centavos.
You'll find ATMs (cajeros automáticos) for Visa/Plus System cards in all but the smallest towns, and there are MasterCard/Cirrus ATMs in many places too, so one of these cards is the best basis for your supply of cash in Guatemala. The 5B network is widespread and particularly useful, as it works with both Visa and MasterCard cards.
Be aware that card skimming is a problem in Guatemala. Avoid ATMs that are left unguarded at night (ie those in the small room out the front of the bank) and look for one that is in a secure environment (such as those inside supermarkets or shopping malls). Failing that, keep your hand covered when entering your PIN and check your balance online.
Cash is king in Guatemala, although carrying too much of it makes getting robbed a bigger pain than it would otherwise be. Some towns suffer from change shortages: always try to carry a stash of small bills. Keep a small supply of low-denomination US dollars (which are accepted pretty much anywhere, at various rates of exchange) as an emergency fund.
While everybody accepts dollars, you will almost always get a better deal by paying in quetzals.
Currencies other than the US dollar are virtually useless, although a small handful of places now change cash euros.
Many banks give cash advances on Visa cards, and some on MasterCard. You can pay for many purchases with these cards or with American Express (Amex) cards – particularly in higher-end hotels and restaurants. Paying with credit card can attract service charges of up to 5% – be sure to ask if there is a recargo (transaction fee).
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
A 10% tip is expected in restaurants (often automatically added to your bill in tourist towns such as Antigua). In small comedores (basic, cheap eateries) tipping is optional, but follow local practice and leave some spare change.
- Homestays Better to buy a gift than give cash.
- Hotels Q10 per bag.
- Restaurants 10% maximum (if not already included).
- Taxis Not customary.
- Trekking and tour guides Q50 per person per day (optional).
If you're not packing plastic, a combination of Amex US-dollar traveler's checks and some cash US dollars is the way to go. Take some of these as a backup even if you do have a card. Many banks change US-dollar traveler's checks, and tend to give the best rates. Amex is easily the most recognized traveler's check brand. Few businesses will accept traveler's checks as payment or change them for cash.