This article is part of our Internet and Phone Report series.
General Availability: High
Quality of Bandwidth: It’s a crap-shoot. Usually low with wifi and high when connected via cables.
Frequency of internet in hotels: High in hostels and mid-range hotels. Low in guesthouses or budget hotels.
Frequency of internet in campgrounds: Campgrounds that were part of other lodges or restaurants all had wifi. Camping in national parks did not have any type of internet.
Average cost to connect: Free with accommodation. Sorry, we don't have any information for internet cafe rates.
Areas Visited: We spent nine weeks in Guatemala. About two weeks in the north around Tikal, Coban, Lanquin. For the rest of the time we lived with a family in Ciudad Vieja, a suburb of Antiqua. On the weekends we took several trips to other areas in Guatemala, including Lake Atitlan and Copan, Honduras. We have not explored either coast, or the northwest of the country.
Same as Belize and Mexico we found that connections were simply unreliable, especially when internet was a free service included with your accommodation or coffee. Frequently the bandwidth was only fast enough for loading simple webpages.
In both hotels, and when living with our family in Antigua, we experienced long periods of “limited connectivity”, meaning the internet was down for all intensive purposes. We never clearly identified if this problem was related to the router, the service provider, the number of users, or our computers. But it did happen constantly!
If you need internet on a schedule, pick up a Tigo USB Modem. They cost Q205 ($27) for the USB which includes 15 days (8GB) of free service. Recharging for another month costs between Q145-Q299, depending on how much data you intend to use. Rates are currently listed here.
Our Tigo modem worked everywhere and usually had 3G connectivity. It was excellent to have as a backup when the hostel/campground/restaurant internet died. On several occasions we hooked our modem up to a router and all three of us were able to get work done.
All hostels will have internet. Most of the time it’s painfully over used and connection speeds are ridiculously slow.
We spent 6 weeks living with a family just outside of Cuidad Vieja. They had broadband internet, which worked about 90% of the time. For me 90% doesn’t quite cut it when I’m trying to run a schedule. We used our 3G USB modem as a backup, and the family internet for big downloads and work that was not time sensitive.
We only stayed in a few campgrounds in Guatemala. Most that we found were connected to restaurants or other lodges, which always had internet. We did camp at two national parks in the north (in the city of Coban, and the Biotopo del Quetzal). Neither had internet, but both had decent signal strength for the USB modem.
Like the rest of the places we have visited, internet cafes are everywhere. They seem to have the most reliable and speedy connections. The more touristy the area, the higher the cost of the internet. In Antiqua most bars and cafes offer free wifi.
Skype is a possibility for phone calls, just make sure to test the connection beforehand. Personally, I didn’t trust the connections enough to make conference calls over the internet.
As I have mentioned in other reports, we have an unlocked Android smart phone. When we crossed into Guatemala, we purchased a new Tigo SIM card (Q50). I asked around to some hostel employees and got the low down on how to call cheap to the USA.
First, take advantage of Triple Saldo days. On these days you get triple the balance you pay with Tigo. Currently both Tigo competitors Movistar and Claro are also offering Triple Saldo. The catch is that you never know what day it is going to be. You will however see a million signs out on the day, and Tigo will send you a text message. Unlike Movistar in Mexico, this promotional balance can be used for calling internationally.
Secondly, sign up for the “Gringo” plan. Text the word GRINGO to 800 to enroll. With this promo, every Q100 you spend (promotional balances don’t count), you receive a free 50 minutes to call the US or Canada. It’s a free plan, so even if you don’t think you will use a full Q100, it’s worth signing up.
Currently the rate to call the USA is Q2 per minute ($0.26). But if you recharge with triple saldo you can bring that cost to $0.09/per minute. And if you sign up for the Gringo plan, you can save another few cents a minute as well.