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zedlanier Feb 16th, 2012 01:55 AM

Cell phone in Guatemala (Panajachel)
Hi all,

Taking a student group to Panajachel in two weeks. Three leaders need to have cell phones for emergency communication. Do we use our own cell phones (ATT, Verizon)? Better to get a phone there? Been there five times previously - school never required this in past. Any advice?

hopefulist Feb 16th, 2012 04:28 AM

You can pick up little cell phones with local sim cards and minutes to get you started at the market in Antigua or in shops in most towns. It's easy to buy add'l minutes at pharmacies and stands. You can call home with them but the "minutes" fly out faster. I just keep the same phone I've had for years, given to me by the company I arranged my transportation through for a group trip years ago and buy a new sim card every summer when I'm in Guatemala - has worked well for me. Happy trails!

walkabout Feb 16th, 2012 02:51 PM

Forgive my ignorance hopefulist, but why would you have to buy a new sim card every summer if the sim card is local? Why can't you just buy additional minutes?

hopefulist Feb 16th, 2012 04:48 PM

They give the number away! I learned that the hard way, paying (not much - $10 maybe) to add minutes to the card that was in the phone, then discovering it wouldn't work because that number belonged to someone else. I ask every year and that's always the case. Guess I need to use it for more than a month at a time!

zedlanier Feb 18th, 2012 09:00 AM

Thanks hopefulist! I have followed your advice since I started trekking to Guate. Appreciate the assistance - once again!

hopefulist Feb 18th, 2012 12:33 PM

De nada. Have a great trip - I hope you'll tell us about it!

zedlanier Mar 16th, 2012 04:41 PM

Purchased 3 Claro phones - worked like a dream all around Lago Atitlan and on the road. Thanks! Great trip with group of twenty (fifteen studied at Jabel Tinamit in Panajachel - great school/homestay). Will be back next March!

hopefulist Mar 16th, 2012 08:00 PM

Thanks for checking back in - glad you had a great trip! I'm leading a couple of group trips to Guatemala this summer - busy planning. :-)

SueSpons Apr 24th, 2012 05:10 PM

My son is going to Guatemala City for two months this summer for an internship with Estrategia de Transformacion. He's just finished his freshman year of college... do you have any suggestions, cautions, or tips to make his trip go smoothly? We'll definitely follow your advice to get a local cell phone when he gets there.

hopefulist Apr 24th, 2012 05:34 PM

I've pasted my personal safety guidelines below, though you might have a hard time convincing him some of them are worth the potential safety buffer!

Sometimes I travel alone, sometimes with one or more of my kids and/or my husband, sometimes with a group in tow. I don't feel overly paranoid but have never had a problem and would like to keep it that way.

Here are my concessions to safety when I travel in Central America:
:: I avoid the big cities as much as possible
:: I don't "party"
:: Where recommended I take specific transportation (ex: Hedman Alas in Honduras, avoid chicken buses on the mountain runs in Guatemala, take taxis after dark)
:: I know where I am and where I'm headed and make major transitions with plenty of daylight left
:: I don't wear jewelry (not even my wedding band) and try not to flash camera equipment or money around
:: Some trips I carry a “throw down wallet” with an expired card or 2 and the day’s cash in it
:: I keep important documents and cash under my clothes (except what I need for shopping, buses, etc. for that time period) and keep close watch on my things, especially in crowded places and when I’m tired
:: I ask locals about safety in an area - evenings, hiking, etc.
:: I travel really light so I don't feel vulnerable getting my bag off and on buses, shuttles, etc.
:: I continue to build skills in Spanish

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