Guatemala shopping can be quite rewarding, not only for the unique items you will find, but quite often as well for the accompanying atmosphere. The Guatemala markets that characterize the Mayan towns in the highlands can be especially enjoyable and colorful. The quality of the textiles you will come across while Guatemala shopping is top rate, as are many of the hand-crafted items you can purchase. While you will find more modern shops in Guatemala City selling everything from toiletries to expensive crystals, it is often the native arts and crafts that attract the most buyers. Most representative of Mayan traditions and culture, native goods range from beautiful tapestries and weavings to primitive paintings. Leather goods, jade and silver jewelry, ceramics, and wood carvings are among some of the goods that you will come across while shopping at Guatemala markets.
Before you start Guatemala shopping, it is important that you know something about the Guatemala currency. The currency of Guatemala is the Quetzal, and it takes its name from the country’s national bird. The Resplendent Quetzal bird was considered by the ancient Mayas as the “god of the air”, its green tail feathers highly prized by ancient Mesoamerican rulers. The Resplendent Quetzal bird is such a figure of Guatemala history and culture that it also appears on the national flag. First introduced in 1925, the currency of Guatemala comes in 100 centavo divisions and serves in tandem with the United States dollar. It was in 2001 that the U.S. dollar became the second legal currency of Guatemala. At many ATM’s, especially in Guatemala City, you can choose to take money out in both forms, and both currencies are widely accepted. At modern establishments you can also pay for goods with a major credit card and travellers cheques. Exchange rates vary daily, meaning you will have to inquire about the rates that apply during your visit.
Shopping in Guatemala City, you will not exactly come across the colorful and festive Guatemala markets that can be found in smaller towns and villages across the country. That does not mean that you won’t have the chance to purchase indigenous crafts and clothing items, as Guatemala City’s markets do present these items. They just don’t exactly match the character that other Guatemala markets have outside the capital. Before you start Guatemala shopping, you must know that bargaining is common at most marketplaces. You should never expect to pay a product’s original asking price and often you will surprise yourself with the actual price you pay in the end. Guatemala City has a good amount of modern shopping stores, where bargaining, unfortunately, is not the norm. The New City’s Zona Viva, or Zone 10, is where you will find the majority of upscale shopping options in Guatemala City. For a different experience, head to the Old City’s Zone 1, where you can find almost anything. The “typical goods”, which are the textiles, hand-crafted wares and other items sold mostly by the indigenous peoples, are of exceptional quality in Guatemala City.
The Thursday and Sunday market at Chichicastenango is the most famous of Guatemala markets. This is the place to go for the best Guatemala shopping experience. The Chichicastenango market is noted for drawing in sellers from all over the country, and its mix of indigenous groups is impressive. The Thursday and Sunday Chichicastenango Guatemala markets are colorful, somewhat chaotic and marked by the different dialects and rich, food smells that permeate the air. While the hand-crafted goods you can find here are too many to list, you can expect high-quality weavings and women’s blouses, as well as wood-carved items that continue to gain increasing notoriety. Chichicastenango is about a 2-hour drive from both Guatemala City and Antigua, and can reached in less than an hour from Panajachel and Lake Atitlan. Guatemala markets dot the countryside, so you will have plenty of opportunities to purchase the many fine items that offer insight into the country’s enduring Maya culture. The local textiles you will find at each market often display hundreds of different color schemes and styles.