I have been traveling for about 5 years and one of the most important things I learned about safety is staying always connected. That’s why everywhere I go, the first thing I do when I get to a new country and stay for more than a week (sometimes even less) is buy myself a SIM card. Since I know how difficult it is to know beforehand which company has the best coverage in this post I will share all I know about buying a SIM card in Guatemala, where I have lived for about 12 months in total.
Who doesn’t love Guatemala? Sadly one of the poorest countries in Latin America, yet rich in natural wonders, beautiful architecture, strong cultural heritage, and kind-hearted people.
The country has been on the radar of travelers, tourists, nomads, and expats who flock every year to explore the beautiful Lake Atitlan hike the mighty volcanos, and learn about the local culture and cuisine.
I have been fortunate to travel and live in Guatemala twice, the first time in 2017 during my first solo trip attempt in Latin America when I traveled around the beautiful country for about 3 weeks and then housesit in a beautiful home in Antigua for 2 months.
In 2020 I came back to housesit. This time I was up in the mountains above Antigua switching between two amazing country homes facing the three volcanos. Every single time I looked at the immensity of those mountains and the spectacular sunsets I couldn’t explain how I got so lucky!
The place was at about 20 minutes from town but close enough to be able to explore the city and learn about all the amazing things to do in Antigua.
And in between my assignments, I also managed to go and visit the most popular Guatemala beach destination El Paredon and Monterrico, which I will talk about in another article. Bear with me 🙂
I have made this long introduction just to say that I have been everywhere and having a local SIM card totally made my life easier. The first time I came here I didn’t get one, for some reasons that I can hardly remember but it was a huge mistake.
On my second time in Guatemala, when I ended up staying for about 10 months, I arrived in Guatemala from San Cristobal de las Casas in Mexico to Xela (Quetzaltenango) by bus. The first thing I do the following morning was to get a local SIM card.
Being connected not only gave me peace of mind but also the freedom to look up for information and places, stay in contact with family and friends, and, why not, post on Instagram and Facebook in real-time.
In this post, I will tell you more about it and what phone company would be best for you. Stay with me!
Mobile operators in Guatemala
There are two mobile Operators in Guatemala, TIGO and CLARO. When I arrived in Guatemala, I wasn’t sure which one to purchase.
Instead of looking it up on the internet I just asked around, to the people I met, like my accommodation host, my tour companions, and my local friends and everybody would agree on TIGO, leaving me with absolutely no doubts!
So without hesitation, I found a local phone shop that had the sign TIGO on the door and I got my TIGO sim card installed with a monthly credit of 99 Q (13 USD), which gives me 8 GB. I found this enough to navigate posts on social media, use WhatsApp, and most of all Google Map to find my way around and never get lost.
The sim card was only 10 Q which is about 1.2 USD
You can check out here below all the different plans or take a look at their website. It’s only in Spanish but I believe it’s quite intuitive.
Just keep in mind the following words:
Saldo = credit
Recarga = top up
Paquetigo (paquetes + tigo) = packages
Prepago = prepaid
When you purchase a sim card, you should ask for a prepaid one. I don’t remember if they require your passport. I know Claro does, but I don’t recall TIGO asking for one. Have it with you just in case.
Tigo Vs Claro in Guatemala
I read that the main advantage of Claro is that the same card is working in most of the countries in Central America, and sometimes in the USA. However, I also read that is not reliable, and besides, if they don’t have extensive coverage what’s the point.
I remember every time I walked around Antigua I always saw a long line outside Claro shop and I asked my local friend why.
She said, ironically, “well that’s because their service is crappy and people have to personally go and fix their problem” not sure if it was a joke or for real but it sounded like the first one.
You can check out on Claro website if you want to compare prices, though.
Here below I leave you the two coverage maps that I have found online on this site. It’s quite interesting.
Where to buy your TIGO sim card
When you need to buy the Sim Card, you won’t find it in convenience stores, but only on TIGO stores or authorized shops. You can use this link to find them.
The one in Antigua is closed for now, though. The closest one is in Chimaltenango at 40 minutes from Antigua. But if you find a phone shop there is a good chance that you find it.
Or if you get to Antigua from Guatemala City by a private transfer you can always ask your driver to stop by one of the TIGO authorized stores and get one.
Where do you top up
Now to top up you are supposed to be able to do it online but I have tried and my credit card from Mexico was not accepted. I am not sure if they accept only Guatemalan cards or it’s just the Mexican one that it’s not accepted.
However, worry not. You will find a lot of places where to top up in Antigua. Just lookout for the TIGO sign and ask for Tigo SALDO o PAQUETE.
They usually have a chart with all the packages and you can show them what you want. so even if you don’t speak Spanish you will be fine. Just show them which one you want.
Keep in mind that you may be able to find TIGO recarga o saldo (Topup) in pharmacies and convenience stores, or at the supermarket.
Until a few months ago there was the official TIGO shop in Antigua, but that has been closed for unknown reasons.
Final thoughts on buying a sim card in Guatemala
Regardles of which company you will choose, it’s always a good idea to get a SIM card anywhere you go. It’s easy, cheap and it spares you from headaches. Think about looking for a place on Google Map, staying in contact with your family. Or in case you need to work and your WIFI has issues.
Read more about Guatemala
- Visit Guatemala in October – Weather and Climate and Other Travel Tips
- Where to stay in Lake Atitlan – the most charming hotels and homes
- 7 ways to get from Guatemala City to Lake Atitlan + practical tips
- The Day of the Dead in Guatemala – 6 incredible things to do
- Guatemala celebrations – the 20 best holidays and festivals in Guatemala
- Store your bags in the main cities and walk around freely hands and weight free with Bounce
- Check if you need a visa and get help processing it with iVisa
- Never ever leave without
travel insurance. Get complete coverage from World Nomads or long-term insurance from Safety Wing
- I find all of my flights on Skyscanner, Expedia, Google flights, Scott’s Cheap Flights, and always remember to compare
- Book your daily tours locally to support local businesses, or if you don’t find any reliable company, or you prefer to book in advance, check out GetYourGuide or Viator. Some of their tours are refundable up to 24h in advance.
- I rent my long and mid-term apartments on VRBO
- Book hotels with Booking.com or Hotels.com, Expedia.
- Compare car rental prices at Discover Car Rentals
- Check out my travel planning guide if you are planning your trip and feeling overwhelmed
About the Author
Hello there! This is Isabella, the author of this blog, and a cat lover. I am an Italian expatriate with a Mexican permanent Residence. After 7 years of living in Cancun, I have decided to leave my job and explore my beloved Mexico and the rest of this beautiful world, starting from South America, while sharing my travel stories and offering useful travel tips about traveling as a solo female traveler and digital nomad.