Friday, August 17, 2012

Guatemala Border Crossing

After crossing my fourth border the fear and nervousness that once existed has now been replaced by the intrigue of what new challenges will arise. If I can offer any advice it would be to do your  research on the specific border in preparation for the crossing.

Guatemala Immigration and Customs

Their are two specific areas where this tidbit can be helpful:

1) Money exchangers >  They can be found on both sides of a border so you have a lot  of opportunities to exchange your old money for the new currency. Traditionally these exchangers should offer a rate better or equal to the bank. Check the exchange rate on-line prior to arrival as some will try and rip you off!

Here is how I handled the last shady exchanger. The current Guatemala rate was 1 USA dollar for 7.7 Q and when approached by an exchanger I asked right away "what is your best rate". He said 7Q for 1 U.S. and I said "sorry you lose and walked away" as he begged and upped his rate. I then proceeded to a group of exchangers and said "who wants my business and don't insult me with an offer of 7Q"! They flocked to me like seagulls on a dead fish and I got my rate of 7.7Q.

2) Entry/Exit fees > Know what the OFFICIAL fees are. Guatemala does not have an official entry fee, but I did hear that immigration will tell you there is a 20Q fee. And true to form I watched one tourist after another pay the 20Q fee while waiting in line. When it became my turn I handed my passport over to be stamped and then was asked for the 20Q. I responded in a very kind voice "sure but I will require an official receipt for that" and instantly my passport was stamped and she waved me aside for the next sucker.


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