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American Express -- Clark Tours (tel. 502/2412-4848; www.clarktours.com.gt) is the representative of American Express Travel Services in Guatemala. Their main offices are in Guatemala City at Clark Plaza, 7a Av. 14-76, Zona 9. They also have desks at the downtown Westin and Marriott hotels. To report lost or stolen Amex traveler's checks within Guatemala, dial tel. 1800/288-0073, or call tel. 801/964-6665 collect in the U.S.

Babysitters -- Hotels offering regular, dependable babysitting service are few and far between. If you need a babysitter, make sure that your hotel offers this service, and be sure to ask whether the babysitters are bilingual. In many cases, they are not. This is usually not a problem with infants and toddlers, but it can cause problems with older children. Babysitters charge between Q15 and Q45 ($2-$6/£1-£3) per hour.

Banks -- You'll have no trouble finding a bank in Guatemala City. Numerous bank branches can be found all over zonas 1, 4, 9, 10, and 13. Banks are usually open Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm, although many have begun to offer extended hours. The most widespread banks include Banquetzal, Banrural (www.banrural.com), Banco G&T (www.gytcontinental.com.gt), Banco Uno (www.bancouno.com.gt), Banco de Guatemala (www.banguat.gob.gt), and Banco Industrial (www.bi.com.gt).

Bookstores -- Bibliophiles might be disappointed in Guatemala City. You'd be better off purchasing any specific reading material, for pleasure or research, before your trip. The best bookstore in the city for tourists is Sophos ★★, Av. La Reforma 13-89, Zona 10 (tel. 502/2419-7070; www.sophosenlinea.com), which also has a lovely coffee shop attached. Gémenis Bookstore, 3a Av. 17-05, Zona 14 (tel. 502/2366-1031); and Vista Hermosa Book Shop, 2a Calle 18-50, Zona 15 (tel. 502/2369-1003), also carry books in English.

Camera Repair -- Some outlets of Quick Photo (tel. 502/2368-0488; www.quickphotoonline.com) and Fuji Film (tel. 502/2420-3900; www.fujifilm.com.gt) have technicians on hand, and carry a limited range of replacement and repair parts. Be sure to call first, to see if they can help your particular situation.

Cellphones -- There are several competing cellphone companies in Guatemala that have numerous outlets across the city, including at the airport. All sell prepaid GSM chips that can be used in any unlocked tri-band GSM cellphone. Moreover, all sell activated new phones for as little as Q100 ($13/£6.50). Storefronts at the airport, and at many hotels around the city, will also rent out cellphones, however, given how inexpensively you can buy a new activated phone, I don't think this is a worthwhile option anymore.

Calling cards, for both cellphones and land lines, are widely available at general stores and pharmacies all over the country.

Your best bet for making international calls is to head to any Internet cafe with an international calling option. These cafes have connections to Skype, Net2Phone, or some other VoIP service. International calls made this way can range anywhere from 5¢ (5p) to $1 (50p) per minute. If you have your own Skype or similar account, you just need to find an Internet cafe that provides a computer with a headset.

Currency Exchange -- All banks will exchange money for a small service charge. Many of the hotels, restaurants, and shops in Guatemala City will also accept U.S. dollars and euros, though many give less than advantageous exchange rates.

Dentists -- Call your embassy, which will have a list of recommended dentists, or ask your hotel. Alternately, you can try Centro Dental de Especialistas, 20a Calle 11-17, Zona 10 (tel. 502/2360-0000; www.centrodental.com.gt).

Doctors -- Contact your embassy for information on doctors in Guatemala City.

Drugstores -- A drugstore or pharmacy is called a farmacia in Spanish. In Guatemala, they are also sometimes called droguería. There are scores of pharmacies around Guatemala City, and most major hotels have one attached or nearby. Ask your hotel, or call Farmacias Meykos (tel. 502/2422-2422), which has numerous outlets around the city and offers 24-hour delivery service for a small fee.

Emergencies -- In case of any emergency, dial tel. 1500 from anywhere in Guatemala. This will connect you to Asistur, which will have a bilingual operator, who in turn can put you in contact with the police, fire department, or ambulance service, as necessary. Alternately, you can dial tel. 110 for the National Police; and tel. 125 for the Red Cross (Cruz Roja, in Spanish). Moreover, tel. 911 works as an emergency number from most phones in Guatemala.

Express Mail Services -- Most hotels can arrange for express mail pickup, or you can contact DHL, 12a Calle 5-12, Zona 10 (tel. 502/2379-1111; www.dhl.com), UPS, 12a Calle 5-53, Zona 10 (tel. 502/2231-2421; www.ups.com), and FedEx, Diagonal 6 12-20, Zona 10 (tel. 502/2411-2100; www.fedex.com).

Eyeglasses -- An eyeglass store is called óptica in Spanish. There are many around Guatemala City, but your best bet is to ask your hotel. If you need to see an optometrist, contact Visión Ingetral, 2a Av. 9-03, Zona 9 (tel. 502/2334-2301).

Hospitals -- Hospital Centro Médico, 6a Av. 3-47, Zona 10 (tel. 502/2279-4949), is an excellent private hospital, with English-speaking doctors on staff. Alternately, the Hospital General San Juan de Dios, 1a Avenida and 10a Calle, Zona 1 (tel. 502/2220-8396), is the biggest and best equipped public hospital in the city.

Internet Access -- A good number of hotels and restaurants around town provide free wireless access. Internet cafes are very common in Guatemala City. Rates run between Q3 and Q15 (40¢-$2/20p-£1) per hour.

Laundry & Dry Cleaning -- Most folks rely on their hotel's laundry and dry-cleaning services, although these can be expensive. You can also try the Lavandería Interdry, 18a Calle 11-12, Zona 1 (tel. 502/2251-4063) or 5a Calle 3-28, Zona 9 (tel. 502/2339-2111).

Maps -- INGUAT (tel. 502/2421-2800; www.visitguatemala.com) will provide you with a pretty acceptable map that has the entire country on one side and Guatemala City and Antigua on the other. The map is free, and you can pick one up at their booth at the airport or by visiting their downtown office at 7a Av. 1-17, Zona 4. You can also buy good detailed maps in most gift shops and at Sophos, Av. La Reforma 13-89, Zona 10 (tel. 502/2419-7070; www.sophosenlinea.com).

Newspapers & Magazines -- La Prensa Libre is the country's most highly regarded daily newspaper, with an outstanding investigative reporting staff. The lower-brow Nuestro Diario has the highest circulation. There are several other daily papers, including Siglo XXI. There are currently no English-language newspapers. The free, monthly Revue Magazine (www.revuemag.com) is the most valuable locally produced information source, with museum, art gallery, and theater listings. It's widely available at hotels and other tourist haunts around the country.

Photographic Needs -- While I recommend bringing as much film as you foresee needing, and then waiting until you return home to develop it, those who can't wait can head to Quick Photo (tel. 502/2368-0488; www.quickphotoonline.com) and Fuji Film (tel. 502/2420-3900; www.fujifilm.com.gt), both of which offer 1-hour developing service, as well as digital printing services, and carry a wide range of film, camera accessories, and replacement parts.

Police -- In case of an emergency, dial tel. 1500 from anywhere in Guatemala. This will connect you to a bilingual operator at Asistur who can put you in contact with the police, fire department, or ambulance service. Dial tel. 110 or 120 for the National Police, and tel. 125 for the Red Cross (Cruz Roja, in Spanish). As in the U.S., tel. 911 works as an emergency number from most phones in Guatemala.

Post Office -- A post office is called correo in Spanish. The main post office, 7a Av. 12-11, Zona 1 (tel. 502/2232-6101), is a beautiful building. It costs around Q7 (95¢/45p) to send a letter to the U.S. or Europe. Postcards to the same destinations cost Q5 (65¢/35p).

Restrooms -- There are few public restrooms available around town. Most hotels and restaurants will let travelers use their facilities, although they are happiest if you are a paying client.

Safety -- Safety is serious issue in Guatemala. In Guatemala City, I highly recommend that you stick to the most affluent and touristy sections of town highlighted in this book. Basic common sense and street smarts are to be employed. Don't wear flashy jewelry or wave wads of cash around. Be aware of your surroundings, and avoid any people and places that make you feel uncomfortable. Basically, it is unwise to walk almost anywhere except the most secure and heavily trafficked tourist zones after dark. Rental cars generally stick out and are easily spotted by thieves, who know that such cars are likely to be full of expensive camera equipment, money, and other valuables. Don't ever leave anything of value in an unattended parked car.

Taxes -- There is a Q225 ($30/£15) tax that must be paid upon departure. This is often included in your airline ticket price. Be sure to check in advance. If not, you will have to pay the fee in cash at the airport. There is an additional airport security fee of Q20 ($2.65/£1.35).

A 12% IVA (value added) tax is tacked on to the purchase of all goods and services. An additional 10% tax, on top of the 12% IVA, is added to all hotel rooms and lodgings.

Time Zone -- Guatemala is 6 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time, which is equivalent to Central Standard Time in the United States. Daylight saving time is observed by setting clocks ahead 1 hour from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.

Useful Telephone Numbers -- For directory assistance, call tel. 2333-1524; for an international operator and directory assistance, call tel. 147-120, while for local operator assistance, dial tel. 147-110. To make a direct international call, dial tel. 00 + the country code + the area code + the phone number. To get the current time, dial tel. 333-1526.

Water -- Drink only bottled water within Guatemala City and be especially careful to do so when traveling outside the capital, as waterborne diseases are very common in this country.

Weather -- The weather in Guatemala City is mild year-round, with an average daytime temperature of around 70°F (21°C), and a rainy season May through October.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.