Reduce your roaming rates by using a local telco deal.
Want to see the heart of the Maya civilization? Or do you just plan to travel around Central America? Either way, using your home phone in Guatemala can work out to be expensive. A top tip for saving money and reducing roaming rates is to switch to a local SIM card to take advantage of cheaper deals, tariffs and plans. Guatemala has some of the best SIM card deals in Central America and you can get 1GB of data for as little as GTQ25 ($4.35). So, cut down your costs by comparing SIM card options on finder.com.au.
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Telco providers in Guatemala
There are three main providers in Guatemala: Tigo, Claro and Movistar. All three have been tried and tested by both locals and travelers, and they can be trusted. Guatemala is renowned for offering some of the best options in Central America at really good rates. According to OpenSignal’s country coverage map, Guatemala has good coverage in urban areas, but as you venture further inland, catching a good signal could be a little tricky.
About Guatemala’s telco operators
Tigo is the market leader with the best coverage, followed by Claro and Movistar. All three operators offer customers prepaid SIM cards and you can buy them from supermarkets, kiosks, drug stores and official outlets as well as at the international airport. 2G, 3G and 4G plans are available on all networks for unlocked GSM phones. You can purchase a SIM card by showing your passport, and your telephone number is already active when inserted into the phone. To add credit, there are several kiosks around various towns and cities, and scratch card vouchers are stocked in stores and supermarkets. Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Guatemala.
Tigo is the largest provider in Guatemala. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers and credit can also be picked up from the same retailers. Your passport must be shown to the retailer before the SIM card is activated. SIM cards can be bought for GTQ50, which comes with GTQ20 credit and 200MB of data. Credit can be purchased in the form of credit vouchers which can be found in most stores, or by using your credit card online. Top-ups can be added in amounts between GTQ10 and GTQ100. Dial *120# to check your balance.
The following “paceticos” data packages can also be added:
Dial *123# <call> to select the relevant plan.
There is also a data-only SIM card available:
Tigo’s APN: broadband.tigo.gt, website: http://www.tigo.com.gt/
Claro is the second largest operator in Guatemala. Claro has the best coverage on 4G/LTE and is very popular with the younger crowd who are looking for good prepaid deals. Most retailers will sell SIM cards, but it’s always better to buy them at official stores so they can be registered properly by using your passport. You can purchase credit from most retailers or you can use your credit card to buy credit online. Prepaid SIM cards are available for GTQ30 and come with that same amount of credit, 150MB of data and 30 domestic SMS. The first time you top-up by GTQ10 or more, credit will be quadrupled. Credit can be purchased in varying amounts between GTQ5 and GTQ200.
The following data superpacks can also be added:
Dial *555# to select your preferred plan.
You can only activate these packages online.
Claro’s APN: internet.ideasclaro, website: http://www.claro.com.gt/portal/gt/sc/personas/
Movistar is Guatemala’s third most popular telco provider. It has the best 4G/LTE coverage in the country but speeds can sometimes suffer. You can buy credit and SIM cards in official outlets, supermarkets and drug stores. Be careful when buying SIM cards from street stalls as they can repackage old numbers that might already have set plans on them. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for GTQ30 and come with that amount of credit, 20 minutes call time to the US and 250MB data. There are often promotions on credit amounts, where you can get double, triple, quadruple or even more each time you top up. Check the latest deals with the retailer at the time of purchase. Text “SALDO” to 777 to check your balance. Scratch cards can be purchased to top up in the following denominations: GTQ5, GTQ10, GTQ15, GTQ27, GTQ50 or GTQ100. Credit can also be added through recharging the phone via credit card machines or online.
The following data packs can also be added by dialing *123# <call> and choosing a package by its code in the right hand column below, or texting that code to 700.
Movistar also has an all-inclusive roaming deal where you can pay GTQ50 to roam for 24 hours in the following South American countries: Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. There are other providers and countries included in this deal, such as the UK and the US, so check the website or ask in a store to be sure. Dial *123# and choose option 4 to activate.
Movistar’s APN: internet.movistar.gt, website: http://www.movistar.com.gt/
Some top tips from finder.com.au staff:
- Spanish is the main language spoken, so if you don’t know any Spanish you may want to download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. Although some locals can speak English, many cannot.
- Locals call a SIM card a “sim” or “chip”.
- Ask retailers to set up the SIM for you. This will save you a lot of time and trouble, but is also helpful to cover anything you might not understand.
- Make sure you get to the stores early before the crowds get busy.
TripAdvisor reviews can help guide you through the SIM that cards have been tried and tested in Guatemala.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
“You can buy SIM cards all over the country from any of the three providers Movistar, Claro and Tigo. The closest shop to the airport is at the Los Proceres mall about a five/ten minute taxi ride from the airport. Otherwise wait til you get to Antigua and within walking distance you should be able to find a store.”
“Buy a cell phone and a local SIM, or make sure yours is unlocked, because international calls are super cheap, about ten cents a minute including calls to the USA.”
Pros and cons of Guatemala’s top telco providers
- Good value for money
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Can be used in other South American countries
- SIM cards could be compatible with your current phone
- Make sure SIM cards don’t already have existing plans uploaded
- No new devices offered with the SIM card plans
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Poor coverage can be found on all networks in some areas
Another important question
Q: What do I do if I lose my phone in Guatemala?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when traveling around Central America. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated! If you do lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you still have no luck then cancel any plans or payment methods associated with the phone, report it missing and make a note of the crime number to claim on insurance. Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let the new one out of your sight!