Yesterday an American stopped me on the street in Panajachel. He’d seen me a few days earlier and knew that I live here.
“What do you do if you can’t get money from the ATM?” he asked.
Good question. Sometimes you can go to another ATM or ATM network. He’d tried that. The largest ATM network (5B) was completely down. The BI ATM wasn’t working either. The BAC ATM hardly ever works. Oh, and it was a bank holiday, so nothing would be fixed right away.
“How are you supposed to know it’s a bank holiday?” he asked.
Well, I found out from the guy at the coffee shop, but you can check BanRural’s website. I’ve found them to be the only bank to post on their site that they’ll be closed for a holiday.
Usually you wait a day and things are working again. Or not. With time and networking, you learn which ATMs are generally reliable. It helps to have a stash of U.S. dollars you can exchange with a local money changer when there official banking methods aren’t available.
Things you take for granted in the U.S., like being able to get cash from an ATM, simply can’t be counted on here. Expat life demands flexibility.