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Credit card access in Guatemala?

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Jan 10th, 2011, 06:01 AM
  #1
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Credit card access in Guatemala?

How abundant is the ability to use credit cards in Guatemala. I will be in Panajachel, Tikal, and Antigua.

I assume Antigua will be fine, but what about Tikal (Tikal Inn) and Panajachel.

I'm used to booking my tours and using restauraunts with credit card...

I don't like to travel with too much cash, which is why I ask.
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Jan 10th, 2011, 06:16 AM
  #2
 
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If you're planning to book ahead, email the people ahead and see if they accept credit cards. I tend to stay in budget to mid-range places that don't accept them (even in Antigua) but many of the higher end places do. In my experience, many restaurants don't, but higher end ones are likely to. You will usually be charged an additional fee for their use so you might want to ask about that, too. Also, be sure to let your bank know that you'll be using the card out of the country so the fraud alert department doesn't put a freeze on it.

In any event, be sure to have backup resources - traveler's checks, ATM card, some cash - just in case. Good luck!
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Jan 11th, 2011, 04:29 PM
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Stacey, do you recommend ATM as the best bet, along with some cash?
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Jan 11th, 2011, 05:12 PM
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I take some cash (I usually save some quetzales from a previous trip) but rely mostly on my ATM card. I try to use ATM machines inside banks or at least attached to banks; many have armed guards; I've never had a problem other than the ATMs not functioning or being out of money, especially on the week-ends. Check with your bank ahead about ATM fees - some of them charge whoppers. Also, be sure your bank knows you'll be using it outside the US, same as with credit cards.

I also carry traveler's checks as back up and to pay for lodging, Spanish schools, dive packages, etc. when they're accepted (I try to find out ahead). They can be traded for cash in banks (for a fee and sometimes a long wait) but I don't do that unless the ATM isn't working and I'm out of cash. Be sure to keep a list of the numbers separate from them; I scan the number sheets and email them to myself along with the key pages of my passport. Happy trails!
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Jan 29th, 2011, 08:54 AM
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Over the last few weeks there have been reports of ATM fraud at one of the most used bank's ATMs in Antigua. The embassy issued a warning through their warden system to Americans living in Guatemala. Guatemala is also one of the worst countries on US banks' lists for credit card fraud! If you want money from an ATM, it is best to go inside the bank and use a teller. If you want to pay for something with your card, DO NOT let it out of your sight. I never use my US credit card in Guatemala; I had to promise my "banker" that I would not even carry it with me. The bank mentioned above was one with a guard standing over the ATM machines, so just the presence of a guard doesn't mean much here.
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Jan 29th, 2011, 12:52 PM
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I've read about issues like that off and on for years but this one appears to be on beyond just ATM use, a really messed up deal. Here's a thread from the Trip Advisor Forum:
http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic...Highlands.html
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Jan 29th, 2011, 01:21 PM
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So again, what should I do? Travelers Checks? I need to pay a month's worth of school tuitions and various other things, and I don't think I can/should carry much cash. I leave in less than a month.
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Jan 29th, 2011, 02:19 PM
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Ask the school if they'll accept a personal check (happened to me last summer in Mexico) or traveler's checks (every school I've attended in Guatemala). Take your ATM card but get cash inside a bank instead of using the ATM; I'd avoid the BAC bank - seems to be the worst in the current crisis. Traveler's checks will work for cash, too. Expats are saying the ATM at Santo Domingo still seems to be safe. Take some cash to get you started (small bills).

Are you planning to be in Antigua for school the whole time? Which school? Happy trails!
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Jan 29th, 2011, 05:58 PM
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Hi Stacey, I had to change my FB name for a variety of reasons. Ginger=Lynnie. I'm going to Antigua for a week, followed by 3 at cooperativa school at your suggestion. First up, Tikal.

I emailed Olga at Antiguena Spanish Academy today and she said she would take Visa for a 5% surcharge. She felt that the ATMs in Antigua were not a problem though. I think I will take the ATM, use it inside the bank she recommends, or if that seems dicey, just use the Visa card. The Cooperativa School will need a travelers check, so I'll just bring that.
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Jan 29th, 2011, 08:00 PM
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Sounds good - you are a LUCKY DUCK! Be sure to tell everyone at both schools hi from me!
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Jan 30th, 2011, 08:48 AM
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Hopefulist: Is there a reliable ATM at the airport? Or is the place full of money-changers?
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Jan 30th, 2011, 09:19 AM
  #12
 
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BAC (Banco de America Central) (aka Credomatic) is the bank involved in the ATM fraud, specifically the branch located on the central park in Antigua! I've never looked for an ATM at the airport, but there is a bank window along the way to the immigration area.
Hopefulist! Let me know the next time you are coming my way...I am a Duck from Vernonia and Eugene! Coffee at the Condesa?
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Jan 30th, 2011, 12:29 PM
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I'll be in Antigua in July!
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Jan 31st, 2011, 07:51 AM
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Hopefulist....how can we connect?
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Jan 31st, 2011, 08:10 AM
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Email is probably easiest - there's an email address on the contact page of the Beca Project website: www.becaproject.org
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Jan 31st, 2011, 08:13 AM
  #16
 
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Gertie -
I haven't flown into the airport for a year and a half and haven't tried to get cash there. I don't see the money changers there like I do in Honduras, so I guess I'm not much help. I save local currency from previous trips or order online and pick it up at my bank. US small bills in good shape will get you to your destination if you can't figure out how to exchange at the airport. Happy trails!
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