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Buying a SIM Card or eSIM in Guatemala

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Guatemala is a country with deep Mayan roots and diverse geographic terrain. There are ancient pyramids, beaches with black volcanic sand, artisan markets, incredible vistas, colonial towns, and two active volcanoes, just for starters.

If you’re headed to this incredible country and need to stay accessible, you’re in luck. Whether you’re exploring the capital city or hiking remote trails in the highlands, you can pretty much count on seeing close to full signal on your phone everywhere you go.

Not bad for a developing country, hey? For those buying a local SIM card, prices are low, and the purchase process is straightforward. If you’d prefer a travel eSIM, they’re a convenient but comparatively expensive option.

Here’s what you need to know.


  • I recommend Tigo or Claro for most travelers who want a physical SIM
  • An eSIM from Airalo is the best option if you only need data

There were three big players for prepaid SIMs in the country, but since Movistar merged with Claro, you’ve now only got two options. Tigo has the best coverage and most customers, with Claro a close second. You can’t go wrong choosing either one.

Tigo and Claro have comparably priced prepaid voice/text/data bundling options when you buy a SIM, and also commonly run specials to compete with one another.

It’s worth spending some time finding the options that work for you, depending on how much data you think you’ll need, whether you care about calls and texts, and how long you’re in the country for.

Travel eSIM for Guatemala

As I mentioned, while being set up with a travel eSIM when you land in Guatemala is certainly convenient, it’ll cost you more than a local SIM card. It’s a good option for tiding you over until you can buy a local SIM or for short stays, but I wouldn’t use one for extended trips.

Of the limited options available, Airalo generally has the better pricing. I’ve used their eSIMs all over the world without issue.

Like most travel eSIMs, they’re data-only: you don’t get a local number. I use apps for everything from communication to transport these days, so the lack of a local number very rarely matters to me, but you might have different needs.

If you’re new to eSIMs, they offer big benefits to travelers in terms of how quickly, easily, and (often) cheaply you can get connected when you arrive in a new country. Most recent phones support them, and you can read all about them here.

How to Buy a Prepaid SIM Card in Guatemala

You can buy SIM cards at any of the provider’s official stores, or at some of the larger convenience stores. Many of the smaller phone resellers don’t have SIM cards, just phones.

I bought two Tigo SIM cards at a local convenience store that also doubled as a cell phone store for all three networks. The process was simple: all I needed was the unlocked phones, a passport, and a little cash.

By law, a passport is required to purchase a SIM card. If your Spanish is weak, I’d recommend bringing a friend to help pick a bundle as it can be confusing.

Note that Guatemala introduced new regulations a few years ago, requiring the IMEI number of every phone used with a local SIM in the country to be officially registered. Fortunately this doesn’t apply for stays of 30 days or less, or to those roaming or using travel eSIMs (above), so most tourists won’t be affected.

Prepaid SIM and eSIM Costs

A Tigo SIM will set you back Q50 (a little over $6 USD). It comes with 25 credits of saldo for voice/text, and 200MB of data good for 15 days. Saldo means balance in Spanish.

You’ll burn through that initial 25 credits in about 13 minutes of talk time, so you’ll want to buy more.

When it comes to prepaid bundles, you have a number of options available. For instance, for Q30 (about $4 USD), you’ll get 3.3GB of data and 150 minutes of calls to the USA and Guatemala, or 4.5GB of data by itself.

For one month/13GB, you’ll pay Q99. Just tell the store clerk which package you’d like, and they’ll activate it. The casual per-minute or per-text rate is quite high, but voice and text bundles are super-cheap add-ons: they start at Q6 (75c) for 50 texts and 50 minutes.


As I mentioned, there aren’t all that many options when it comes to travel eSIMs, and they’re more expensive than using a local SIM. I’d only recommend them for the smallest/shortest data bundles, and Airalo usually has the best prices for those.

Prices can and do change, though: you can find the latest packs and prices for Guatemala eSIMs below.

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 3 GB

Price (USD)

  • $7.50

  • $21

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 15 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 2 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

Price (USD)

  • $6.50

  • $12

  • $17

  • $25.50

Validity Period

  • 7 days

  • 30 days

  • 30 days

Data Amount

  • 1 GB

  • 3 GB

  • 5 GB

Price (USD)

  • $25

  • $40

  • $45

Topping Up

You can top up a prepaid account online, but the sites are all in Spanish and not always straightforward. I recommend actually going into a store that sells saldo.

You won’t have a problem finding one, since almost any small convenience store sells it. Just look for the signs of the cell providers plastered outside.

Go in and tell them how much saldo you want to buy, and your phone number. Be sure to give them the correct phone number: it’s not a bad idea to write it down, or at least ask to see the number they heard you say just to be safe.

If there’s a mistake, you’ll be paying for someone else’s saldo. Sorry, no takebacks.

The store will use a special phone they have from the provider to enter your purchase. You’ll receive a text message as a receipt and acknowledgment within seconds.

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Coverage and Data Speeds

I’ve been in Guatemala for seven months, and there has only been one time when I did not have a signal. It was in the town of Sumpango during the Day of the Dead celebrations.

No one was able to pick up a signal from any provider for roughly two hours. Based on the density of the crowd in the otherwise small rural town, it’s likely the network was just overloaded. Outside of that, it been smooth sailing coverage-wise.

Data speeds vary but any tourist area (Antigua, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala City) will have pretty reasonable LTE coverage.

Airalo eSIMs can use both the Tigo and Claro networks, so you’ve got an even better chance of getting service with that than a physical SIM.

Check out our guides to SIM cards and eSIMs in 70+ other countries here.

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  1. Hi! If I buy Saldo in Guatemala from a carrier that is in other Latin American countries (e.g., Claro), can I just take the phone from country to country? Or will I have to buy a new SIM card in each?

  2. Avatar Laura @ Grassroots Nomad says:

    This is so helpful! I just arrived in Guatemala and will be here for a few months so I was wondering how to buy a SIM card! Thanks for the tips 🙂

    1. Glad it was helpful, thanks for the feedback. Enjoy Guate!

  3. Avatar Caio chiarioni says:

    Hello my name is caio ! I leave at US, but I would like to buy a Tigo macro SIM card Tigo ! Are you guys shipping it ?
    Just let me


    1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

      We don’t sell SIM cards, we just advise on the best options for travellers. 🙂

  4. Avatar Brittany Thiessen says:

    Thanks for this great and informative guide! I am planning a trip to Guatemala and will probably be purchasing a cell phone while I am there.

    Do you know in what increments they sell credit/saldo for voice/text? And how much credit does one text message sent use?


  5. If I go home and then return to Guatemala a year later, will the Sim card still work, or will I need a new one? How long do they stay activated outside the country?

    1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

      I don’t know for sure, but it’s unusual elsewhere in the world for a card with no current balance to stay active that long. You’d need to check with Tigo for the definite answer, though.

    2. Avatar Savy Traveler says:

      Just went to a Tigo office and they said if you don’t recharge for 2 months the card will stop working.

      1. Dave Dean Dave Dean says:

        Great, thanks for the info!

  6. are there sim cards available at the airport

    1. I don’t recall seeing any but there likely is. Just look for the Tigo or Claro logos when you deplane.

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