Information and services in Guatemala are respectable, so it won’t be too hard for you to stay connected during your trip. If that’s not what you’re looking for, however, it’s also very easy to get off the grid entirely.
Post & Mail Services
The Guatemalan postal system is reliable for outgoing mail – letters to the States should be delivered in a week to ten days; to Europe, your letter should get arrive in around two weeks. International courier services in Antigua and Panajachel are your best bet to send home souvenirs. Packages in the other direction are notorious for never arriving. Avoid sending anything valuable to Guatemala from abroad – electronics, for example, will almost surely be held up in the capital, and you’ll have to travel to the main post office in the capital and pay exorbitant import taxes to retrieve them. Posting religious imagery like pictures of Jesus or phrases like vaya con Dios (go with God) have been shown to improve delivery rates.
These days, just about everyone in Guatemala has a cell phone. Even in remote areas, you shouldn’t be surprised when an indigenous woman pulls a phone from her huipil and begins chattering away in the local Mayan language. The main service providers are Tigo, Claro, and Movistar, and simple phones are relatively cheap (a Samsung or Nokia brick runs around Q200). While at times infuriating for those used to unlimited calling/texting plans, Guatemala’s prepaid ‘burner’ system is actually pretty neat. If you will be in Guatemala for a while and decide to buy a phone, recharge it by walking into a tienda and asking for una recarga or saldo. You will be asked to choose an amount in Quetzales, which translates to a certain amount of airtime, roughly 90 seconds per Quetzal. Each service provider offers occasional specials when a normal recharge will give you three times the minutes. You can purchase text messages by buying a prepaid card and entering the code on the back into your phone. If you don’t buy a cell phone and need to make a call, many stores rent out landline phones for cheap. If you see a sign that says ‘Se alquila teléfono,’ you know you’re in business.
Many hostels have computers for use by guests, and more businesses each year offer free Wi-Fi. If not, Internet cafés are common and cheap, typically charging no more than Q10 per hour. If you plan on an extended stay and bring a computer, it may be worth buying a Modem from Claro or Tigo. For around Q150 plus saldo (Internet minutes), you can have Internet wherever you go from a memory-stick like device that fits into your USB drive.
Tourist Information: INGUAT
INGUAT, the Instituto Guatemalteco de Turismo (Guatemalan Tourism Institute) is really the only source of government-provided tourist information in Guatemala. Their surprisingly excellent website provides good pictures and information on tourist destinations in English. INGUAT offices and booths tend be very helpful and are located in most tourist cities. In certain places, hotels and hostels will have the area’s most reliable tourist information.
Press and Media
Freedom of the press is a protected right in Guatemala, though every year a few journalists are killed for delving just a little too deep into the cold hard facts. Daily newspapers range from high-quality investigative periodicals like Siglo XXI and El Periódico to moderately trashy, bikini-filled tabloids like the omnipresent Nuestro Diario. The most popular and well-rounded newspaper is Prensa Libre, which can be purchased for a few Q in most towns. Guatemalan television channels broadcast Mexican stations rife with telenovelas, but cable subscribers can watch English-language CNN and endless re-runs of Criminal Minds. Radio stations limit their offerings primarily to Latin pop, Mexican rancheras, and repetitive bachata.
Photo Credit: Claro, INGUAT