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Exchanging Currency

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New York City, New...
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Exchanging Currency

Hi,

I am looking for advice on what form of money to use, as I have heard varying opinions on bringing cash, ATMS, credit cards and Traveler's checks. I am most interested to hear from anyone who has experience exchanging currencies in any of the locations we will be going, especially those in Guatemala (worried about Flores/Santa Elena) Thanks!

Our list of destinations is as follows:

Land in Cancun

Belize city (caye caulker)

Flores (Tikal)

Antigua (Via G.C.)

Panajachel, San Pedro

San Ignacio

Playa Del Carmen

Bethesda, MD
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1. Re: Exchanging Currency

I use a mix of US dollars and travelers checks. I have credit cards for back up at ATMs, but I really try to avoid using ATMs because of occasional reports that they are being tampered with. Cash is fastest and easiest, as long as your bills are in excellent condition -- no tears or deep creases. Last month, Banrural in San Pedro cashed my TCs with no problem at all.

New York City, New...
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2. Re: Exchanging Currency

Thank you! Do you have any recommendations/ideas of exactly where I might exchange cash in any of our locations?

Central America
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3. Re: Exchanging Currency

Ive lived in Belize, live in Guatemala, and travel all over Central America...currently in Panama. I use ATMs almost exclusively w USA and Guatemalan cards. Only ever once had a problem, in San Andres, Colombia (physically in CA).

Here's what I do: I try to use the same machines for the same amount often as possible...this way any unusual txns are obvious when I check my account...and I check my account often...particularly after a txn in a new or questionable place. I keep the paper receipts for about a month just in case I need documentation. The one time I had trouble, I noticed it the same day and my vank credited the funds the next day.

Central America
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4. Re: Exchanging Currency

Belize. No need to exchange dollars in Belize, US$ is in fact prefered. Note: Belize dollar has no value outside of Belize, it is not traded on world markets so neither major currency exchanges nor banks will normally exchange it. You may be able to exchange it at neighboring border crossings. Ideally spend it all in Belize.

Guatemala, any major bank. Currency must be in excellent condition and you will need your passport. You may be able to make limited use of dollars in some places, but usually only Q. Banks often place limits on how much you can exchange.

Edited: 13 August 2013, 19:05
Panajachel...
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5. Re: Exchanging Currency

I'd take a mixture of $ cash, TC and your ATM card. Antigua and Pana both have numerous banks/changing facilities. San Pedro I'm not sure there is an ATM there as there isn't in any other villages around the lake.

When changing cash or using your ATM there is a limit I believe Q2,000/day so approx. ($250). You can get a cash advance on your card for up to Q3,000, sometimes Q5,000 it just depends on the bank, but they charge around 7% to do this, as do most places that take cards....the charges are expensive in Guatemala!

The Dalles, Oregon
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6. Re: Exchanging Currency

San Pedro La Laguna has 2 ATMs, I believe - 1 just above the Pana dock and 1 at the bank near the market. I've only used the latter.

Bethesda, MD
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7. Re: Exchanging Currency

There's also an ATM outside Banrural in Santiago.

Mi Wuk Village...
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8. Re: Exchanging Currency

You hear of periodic problems with ATMs.. mainly in Antigua. Try to get money when a bank is open and go to an ATM inside the bank. Many of the protections that come with credit cards don't apply to debit cards. I often use my Paypal card. Beware of touts with links.

Panajachel...
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9. Re: Exchanging Currency

San Pedro's ATMs only dish out in 100s (unless you just get Q50). I usually just go into the bank right next door and break it (since not a whole lot of places are going to be carrying change for Q100).

There's also a place down by the dock (that doubles as a leather shoe store) that changes pesos and dollars to quetzales... but not the other way around, like I needed. : /

Mi Wuk Village...
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10. Re: Exchanging Currency

Although this happened in San Cristobal it is a warning for Guatemala too. I traveled up from Guat to SC with an Australian. By the time we got there he was almost out of cash. We went to a bank and the ATM ate his card...literally. It was mangled. He called his bank in Oz. They said they would ship a new card immediately. To his home in Sydney. After a lot of time shouting on the phone they finally agreed to send it to Mexico. By regular mail. That could take two weeks. He had $5 on him. It took him all day to get them to agree to DHL a new card to him. Ask your bank about their policy on replacement cards. A lot of the ATM scams now revolve around a new device that can be slipped inside the slot. It reads your strip. Then it is retrieved. With that info they can easily make a duplicate card. Another reason to use the ATM inside the bank. Not just a third world issue. I had a friend whose card was hit at an AM/PM in Modesto, California. They got $14,000 out of her bank account. Happy trailmix. Beware of touts with links.

Edited: 18 August 2013, 03:13