Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Money Questions to Think About

As we plan for making run to the border, we definitely have a ton of questions about money. It's a topic we think about a lot, because finances will largely determine when we can go. For P-Daddy, these are generally long-term global questions:
What is the economy like?
How stable is the exchange rate?
What products and services make up the bulk of the economy?
In what ways can we make money in business there?
How much do we need to make in order to live comfortably, save 20% of our income, and have plenty of money in a travel and emergency fund?
For me, on the other hand, I'm more concerned with the smaller day-to-day questions:
What are rental costs like?
How much do staples cost in the market? in the supermarket?
What are transportation costs like?
What monthly salary do we need in order to make ends meet?
What kinds of jobs are available for expats, and do they pay local salaries or more?
Clearly, we overlap in some ways, but we make a good team in terms of planning since each of us is more concerned with different aspects of the financial side of things (I admit that this can be quite frustrating as well at times!). Many of those questions are long-term questions that we are concerned with, but they are ones that we'll answer over time as we plan to head for the border.

Right now, I'm thinking more short-term, since we'll be headed there for a short trip soon, and we are in the process of planning a budget for our trip. As a matter of fact, here are the questions that most concern me right now in terms of money:
What is the current exchange rate?
According to this site, the exchange rate for 7/7 is Q7.88 to 1 USD.
And here is a 30-day graph of the exchange.
Where are the safest ATM's for withdrawing money?
I've heard some horror stories about problems with ATMs, so I'll be reading forums and travelers blogs to see if there are particular ones to avoid in Xela and/or Pana.
What fees will our bank charge us for withdrawals?
According to Wells Fargo, we can expect the following fees:
$5 per ATM withdrawal
3% for withdrawals through a teller
3% for purchase transactions
Should we even consider traveler's checks?
Nowhere in Guatemala appears to take these. The only way to change them is at a bank, with your passport, and it can take quite a while. It's not worth it to take these for spending money, but I'm wondering if it might be worth it for back-up cash in case anything were to happen to the ATM cards. Though let's be honest, if our bag got stolen with credit/debit cards in it, the travelers checks would probably be in there too!
How much more can we expect to pay by using credit cards rather than cash?
For shuttles, Adrenalina appears to charge roughly $5 more per trip.
In hotels, I know that cash discounts are typically readily available.
Many (non-touristy) restaurants don't take credit cards at all.
What's the average cost we can expect to pay for meals?
This appears to vary widely. In some tourist restaurants, and especially in American fast food chains, we can expect to pay the same as we would in the US for a comparable meal. In local joints, it's much more reasonable (a few $ for a meal). I doubt this info is available online, but I'll be looking to see what else I can find.
How much can we expect to pay for hotels?
This appears to vary widely from place to place - I'll be talking more about this in another post
As I find more answers, I'll update here, and if you have suggestions or answers, I'd love to hear them too!

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