Exchanging Money in Guatemala: What You Need to Know

Exchanging Money in Guatemala: What You Need to Know

Where to exchange money in Guatemala?
Discover Guatemala's currency, the Quetzal (GTQ), and learn about exchanging money, banknotes, coins, and cash-based society. Connect with our experts for a seamless trip experience.

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Learning Center > Guatemala FAQ

A journey to the scenic, culturally-rich land of Guatemala demands certain preliminary knowledge and preparation to ensure you enjoy the experience to its fullest. Most crucial among these is a clear understanding of Guatemala's local currency and the subtleties involved in exchanging money during your stay. In this blog, we delve deeper into this essential topic.

The currency that forms the heart of Guatemala's economy is the Quetzal, denoted as GTQ. It’s named after the national bird of Guatemala, considered one of the most beautiful and symbolically important birds in the ancient Maya culture. The Quetzal is further divided into 100 centavos, much like a dollar is divided into 100 cents. You can identify Quetzal banknotes by their distinct denominations of GTQ1, GTQ5, GTQ10, GTQ20, GTQ50, GTQ100, and GTQ200. Coins, too, circulate widely in denominations of GTQ1, GTQ5, GTQ10, and GTQ20.

However, navigating the currency landscape of Guatemala isn't simply about identifying the banknotes and coins. One needs to understand the nuances of exchanging foreign currency into Quetzals. Money can be exchanged at various institutions - banks, specialized currency exchange offices, and occasionally, at hotels. Most of these establishments will exchange major international currencies, such as US dollars, euros, and British pounds. However, it is always prudent to confirm in advance whether the currency you hold is accepted at the institution you plan to use for the exchange.

Guatemala largely operates on a cash-based system. Despite increasing globalization and digitization, cash remains king here, so ensuring you have enough on hand for daily expenses is crucial. This is particularly important in rural areas where card acceptance might be low or non-existent. While major tourist areas and high-end establishments might accept credit cards, the added transaction fees can be quite hefty. Hence, we recommend you exchange a reasonable amount of money before embarking on your trip. Keep a portion of it in small denominations for minor transactions or emergencies.

We recommend you use ATMs to withdraw your cash. If your card is set up with a 4-digit PIN and you've let your bank at home know you're traveling to Guatemala, you should be all good. You will incur a small fee from your bank for the exchange but you are guaranteed to receive the correct exchange rate as dictated by the Central Bank. We recommend you only withdraw $300-400 USD (Q2,300-Q3,100) at a time and then withdraw once that money has been spent so that you aren't carrying around wads of cash.

If you are apprehensive about navigating the foreign exchange process in Guatemala or need further clarification about any other aspects of your trip, our team of experienced travel experts are here to guide you. They have extensive first-hand experience traveling in Guatemala and are equipped to offer personalized advice. This can range from tips on obtaining the best exchange rates, to locations with readily available exchange facilities, or even ways to safely carry and use your cash during the trip. Reach out to us today and start planning your dream Guatemalan adventure with the right financial guidance.

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