The local currency is the quetzal, named after the national bird, whose connotations are still ancient and mythical today. One US dollar is equivalent to 7.61 quetzals. US dollars are widely accepted and can be exchanged in most small towns. ATMs can be found in larger towns, but don’t expect to find them in every tourist town. It is quite easy to find yourself in a town without an ATM or exchange office.
Do not expect to be able to exchange travellers’ cheques easily in Guatemala. You may find a few places willing to accept American Express cheques, but all other types of cheques are generally refused. Surprisingly, even the big banks in Guatemala City do not accept VISA travellers’ cheques.
The national currency is the quetzal(es). The exchange rate is about 7.61 quetzales for 1 US dollar and 10.88 for 1 euro (May 2011). In tourist areas it is common to use dollars. You will most likely have difficulty changing currencies other than US dollars, but the euro is becoming more common
It is common to bargain for most purchases in the open-air market. Although you can haggle in other places, be aware that chain shops have fixed prices (you can’t haggle in a Guatemalan Radio Shack any more than you can in an American shop).
Here are some typical Guatemalan items you could buy here:
- Ron Zacapa Centenario – the award-winning rum from Guatemala
- Traditional fabrics and textiles – Traditional Mayan blouses are known as huipiles (whi-peel) and skirts as cortes. Be aware that these garments are almost always entirely handmade and that the price of a high-quality huipil can be up to 1,000 euros.
- Jade – there is a large jade factory in Antigua, but it is of course a very important stone.
- Coffee that is considered one of the tastiest varieties in the world.
- Cardamom – Guatemala is the largest exporter in the world and Coban is the main centre of this trade.