Communications and Media
Guatemala’s postal service, known as El Correo, was privatized a few years back and placed in the very capable hands of a Canadian company, making it much more reliable than it once was. It’s also fairly inexpensive, though a letter to the United States might take three weeks to arrive at its destination. International couriers such as Federal Express, UPS, and DHL also have a sizable presence here, along with several local companies used largely by Guatemalan expats living in the United States. The latter are substantially more affordable.
Guatemala’s country code is 502. There are no separate area or city codes. All phone numbers, save a few emergency numbers, are eight digits long. There are also a few toll-free numbers belonging to airlines and services that begin with 1-801. The national telephone service was privatized in 1999 and is now known as Telgua. A number of other phone companies, including Spanish Telefónica also operate here, providing some welcome competition. Each of the local phone companies have its own dialing codes for calling the United States from a land line, which will save you money. Most travelers, however, end up using any of the numerous phone centers in major tourist cities, from where you can call fairly cheaply to anywhere in the world. (These are covered in the appropriate geographical sections and are almost always housed in the same places offering Internet services.) Telgua also has call centers in major cities.
The most convenient and cheapest way to call home (and be able to call hotels and make reservations while on the road) is to have a cell phone. The most popular phone network is Tigo (www.tigo.com.gt), which likewise has the widest coverage and charges by the second, saving you money in the long run. Rates for domestic calls are about $0.16 a minute and you can call the United States for about $0.12 a minute. You can buy a phone locally, with the cheapest somewhere around $45, or bring one with you and use it in Guatemala if it’s a GSM phone. The Tigo frequency is 850 MHZ. Your phone’s SIM card will need to be replaced with a Tigo SIM card, available for about $7. If your phone is locked, you will need to have a technician perform a flasheo to unlock it, costing about another $7. Most places selling cell phones can do this for you. You can buy talk time almost everywhere, available by buying cards in various denominations, which you then call in and have credited to your account. After your trip, you can put your original SIM card back in your phone.
If you’re an iPhone enthusiast, or if your cell phone uses the latest 3G technology, you’ll be happy to know that both Movistar (www.movistar.com.gt) and Claro (www.claro.com.gt) sell iPhones locally. All three carriers have 3G networks with various plans to suit your needs, and with prices comparable to those in the United States. These companies also offer videophone service for phones equipped with this feature.
Internet access is widely available in most cities and tourist destinations throughout the country. You’ll have no trouble finding places to check your email or surf the web. Hourly rates are usually in the $1–2 range.
Newspapers and Magazines
Prensa Libre is Guatemala’s most widely circulated newspaper and is highly respected. You can find the online version at www.prensalibre.com.gt. Other excellent newspapers include Siglo XXI (www.sigloxxi.com) and elPeriódico (www.elperiodico.com.gt). All of these are tabloid, rather than broadsheet, in format. A tabloid in the sense of being filled with plenty of yellow journalism, scandal, and not much else of use is Nuestro Diario, which nonetheless seems to be somewhat popular in the country’s interior. Guatemala’s respectable newspapers are an excellent source of information and make a great way to practice reading Spanish. They have a long tradition of investigative reporting and have done a wonderful job of uncovering numerous scandals Guatemala’s corrupt politicians would probably get away with (at least without public knowledge) were it not for the work of these intrepid journalists. Journalism can still be a dangerous occupation in Guatemala, though press freedom has come a long way since the dark times of the civil war.
Published in Antigua, the monthly Revue magazine has tons of helpful tips and contact information for hotels, restaurants, and businesses in Guatemala as well as parts of Honduras and El Salvador. There are also well-written stories on topics of interest to locals and visitors alike. It’s available in tourist shops, hotels, and restaurants free of charge.
Guatemala has a handful of local channels, though cable TV with channels beamed in from the United States is also widely available. The country also has its own cable network, Guatevisión, with a morning show and some entertaining programs covering recreational options throughout the country.
© Al Argueta from Moon Guatemala, 3rd Edition. Photos © Al Argueta www.alargueta.com