Waking up in Antigua wasn’t quite as scary of a sight as the night scene made it out to be. Since we’d agreed to pay for our room in cash to save on taxes, we went off in search of currency exchange place first thing after grabbing a coffee..
Easily navigated, Antigua city is mostly on a grid system with prominent sights demarcating the direction.
Travel tip#1: the best way to exchange money in Guatemala isn’t at the ATM’s but at the bank itself. In Antigua, foreign currency is only accepted by the two banks located at the Parque Central, one is PanAmerican and it only exchanges 200$ at a time at (roughly, 1 USD=7.5 Q as of Dec 2015) while the bank on the side street that has a courtyard entrance, exchanges up to 500$ at a time and offered 7.6Q for each dollar (exchange rate inquired about within 5 minutes of each other). Both do not charge any bank fee and only require you to present your passport at the time of transaction. I found this to be a much better option that ATM’s, where the machine limit is 2000Q, roughly equal to 266$, but considering the bank fees on both sides, you are getting 7.4Q per dollar at best.
Travel tip#2: If you are going to use the ATM at all, at least use BI machines (white/silver) and not the 5B yellow ones-known to be less reliable and charge 2.5$ more-so you’re losing a large cappuccino each time, in transaction fees alone!
Travel tip#3: If you are travelling to stay at the Lake Atitlan for a while, beware that there are no banks or ATMs in any of the villages with the exception of Panajachel (do not use the ATM at the dock!) and San Pedro (same thing!)-better off to find the bank and either exchange currency inside or use the ATM’s located inside. In both cases, foreign exchange transaction is limited to 200 $USD per person per day.
This can become important if, for example, you need to pay for a yoga or other course in cash, or decide to rent on a monthly basis from a private host. Guatemala is still a largely cash-oriented economy and ATM’s do go out of order, run out of money, etc, especially around the holidays, so it’s always better to be prepared!