Who should I call?

Who should I call?

Cellular telephones are so inexpensive in Guatemala that I used to joke with a friend who did have a mobile phone that was such a shame since even shoe-shinning boys had cell phone nowadays.

If you are planning a trip to Guatemala and you need to stay in touch, these are your options:

  1. Buy the most economical pre-paid mobile phone which can be obtain for about 100 Quetzales (Q before any amount for short), which includes a basic cellular telephone and number and quite often over Q150 or air time. In other words, the actual telephone is free. The three main carriers are Tigo (best signal everywhere), Telefónica (best rates, but worst signal outside of urban areas) and Claro (in between the other two).
  2. Bring your chip-based cellular phone and just buy a chip which includes a cellular number for about Q25 to Q35 range. You can buy a chip in most places where they sell cellular phones or pre-paid air time card. You can pick the chip from one of the companies listed above. If you take this route, make sure your cell phone is flashed; meaning it can take a chip from any cell phone carrier.

Nowadays, brand-new cellular telephones can even be purchased in the local markets when you see the promotional girls selling them. You want to buy a pre-paid cellular or tarjeteros or pre-pago as they are known here because you don’t need to sign for a long-term plan and you’re ready to make a call with seconds from the purchase. You can add pre-paid airtime cards from Q5 to Q100; or more.

Often when you buy a pre-paid airtime card, you get double, triple or even quadruple the airtime as you enter the code on the card. Make sure you look for the promotional posters or just ask the clerks if they have a promotion. Often, by simply asking this question, you wait one day or two to enter your airtime card code and you get up to quadruple airtime.

Cellular calling rates to call the U.S. and Canada are usually cheaper than local calling rates or the same most often than not. If you remember the entry I am not conTigo where I humored the irony that is cheaper to call Manolo in Toronto, Canada than to call his brother Mauricio in Guatemala City. The average rate for calls is a little over Q1 per minute, local or to the U.S. and Canada.

Once you have your Guatemalan cellular, you dial 001+area code+telephone number to call the U.S. and Canada or 00+country code+number to dial other countries. Just dial the phone number to call any Guatemalan telephone number. Guatemala has no area codes, or rather, the one-digit area code is part of the telephone number. Thus, Guatemalan telephone numbers are 8-digit. To receive calls from abroad, you must provide the Guatemalan country code (502) and your number; for instance 502-4569-4419. People calling from abroad must dial the international codes first and then the 502+your number.

Do you find this cellular/telephone guide useful, please, let me know?

© 2008 – 2013, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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  • Lisa

    Yes, yes, yes, this guide is useful! I have to admit, I’ve taken some pleasure in not having cellphone service when I’m in Guatemala, but on the other hand, it would be nice to be able to call a taxi directly or to be reached quickly in an emergency. Thanks for being so thorough and helpful! Lisa

  • Manolo

    Quite useful Rudy. I am not sure if what they call here “unlocked” is what you call “flashed”. It seems, though, that unless your cellphone is already “world ready” it might be even more convenient to get a phone in Guatemala. I hope my mom still has the same
    extra “tarjetero” (“pay as you go”) phone she lend me last year. And yeah, I will take advantage of the cheap calls to Canada to keep in touch with my significant other, although Google Talk might be as useful.
    You are such a social service kind of guy.

  • This is very helpful Rudy, as I am leaving for Guatemala in a few days. It’s my third trip there, but this time I don’t plan to go home until Christmas, thus I will need a cell phone. Do you have any experience with wireless data cards for laptop computers? I’ll be studying spanish in Tactic, which is near Cobán. I know there are internet cafe’s but I hope to be able to get online at all times with my own laptop. Thoughts? Thanks for the info.


  • Raidar

    I couldn’t believe how cost effective it was for me to call my girlfriend in Canada when I was in the Peten last year. I would wait for the double or triple days, load up on 100Q cards and bingo. I never had a reception problem with Tigo, even in the jungle.

  • Jerry B

    I have had good luck with a 2-pronged approach. First, I take my Blackberry, making sure to sign up for international data and roaming (my carrier is Tmobile). That way I can check all my email for the time I am down there, even accessing servers at my office in Texas. I make sure never to pull this phone out in public. It is an invitation to steal. For my public phone, I do what Rudy describes. I have a cheap phone, that I buy minutes for when I get to Guatemala, and that gives family and friends a way to find me, and gives me a certain amount of peace of mind in my travels around Guatemala (Rudy can attest to the fact that I travel all over Guatemala). There is no reason to not be reachable in Guatemala.

    For the person who was asking about data cards, I dont think they are as good a deal, I always use the internet cafes. They are everywhere, they are dirt cheap, and I hate to have the laptop available for theft.

  • Rudy, your website keeps on amazing me, even after 2 years of following your daily photos. I have to admit you went from yesterday’s picture of the paintings sales lady and today you inform us about phone services in Guate. Thanx again, and again…

  • kim

    don’t forget movistar phone service! i used it and every other day was double or triple minutes. never had service issues.

  • Kim, Movistar is Telefónica, Tigo is Comcel and Claro is Telgua.

  • This is a great site…love it! I am going to Antigua in November of this year for 8 days. I went as a foreign exchange student in high school back in 1985. I am looking for my sponsor family. The father’s name is Roman Posada. My family hosted his son (David) in Alabama. They lived at #2 Calle in Antigua, but I haven’t been able to communicate with them in years. Can someone check this address and get back with me.

    Bill Butler

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  • Jason

    I bought a 50Q card today because Triple minutes was advertised with Movistar. However, after I put the code in, the text message only showed that 50 was added and not 150. What gives?

  • Eric

    I will admit, after taking into account that you were correct (after noticing several shoeshine boys use their phones), I gave up and bought a cell phone. Very economical, more useful than I thought, and I don’t know how I made it in Guatemala without one. Thanks again, Rudy!