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Phones & Faxes

Guatemala has a modern and extensive telephone network reaching most of the country. However, cellphones are becoming far more common and readily available than land lines.

Pay phones are very rare these days. However, calling cards for both cellphones and land lines are widely available at general stores and pharmacies all over the country.

Most hotels will let you send and receive faxes for a fee; however, their phone charges tend to be high so I recommend getting a calling card.

Your best bet for making international calls it to head to any Internet cafe with an international calling option. These cafes have connections to Skype, Vonage, Net2Phone, or some other VoIP service. International calls made this way can range anywhere from 5¢ (5p) to $1 (50p) per minute. If you have your own Skype or similar account, you just need to find an Internet cafe that provides a computer with a headset.

There are no area codes inside Guatemala. To make a call inside Guatemala, simply dial the eight-digit number.

To place a call from your home country to Guatemala, dial the international access code (011 in the U.S. and Canada, 0011 in Australia, 0170 in New Zealand, 00 in the U.K.), plus the country code (502), followed by the eight-digit number.

To place a direct international call from Guatemala, dial the international access code (00), plus the country code of the place you are dialing, plus the area code and the local number.

For directory assistance, call tel. 2333-1524; for an international operator and directory assistance, call tel. 147-120.

Cellphones

The three letters that define much of the world's wireless capabilities are GSM (Global System for Mobiles), a big, seamless network that makes for easy cross-border cellphone use throughout Europe and dozens of other countries worldwide. In the U.S., T-Mobile, AT&T Wireless, and Cingular use this quasi-universal system; in Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM; and all Europeans and most Australians use GSM. All of Guatemala's cellphone networks are GSM.

If your cellphone is on a GSM system, and you have a world-capable multiband phone such as many Sony Ericsson, Motorola, or Samsung models, you can make and receive calls across civilized areas around much of the globe, from Andorra to Uganda. Just call your wireless operator and ask for "international roaming" to be activated on your account. Unfortunately, per-minute charges can be high -- usually $1.50 (£75) to $4 (£2) in Guatemala.

In Guatemala, there are several competing cellphone companies and networks. The main companies are Claro (tel. 502/2420-1414; www.claro.com.gt), which is a division of Telgua, the national telephone company; Movistar (tel. 502/2379-1960; www.movistar.com.gt), a division of the international firm Telefonica; and Tigo (tel. 502/2428-0000; www.tigo.com.gt). All of these companies sell prepaid GSM chips that can be used in any unlocked tri-band GSM cellphone. Most companies charge around a Q50 ($6.65/£3.35) activation fee, and this usually includes a few quetzales worth of talk time. All have numerous outlets across the country, in most major cities and tourist destinations, including La Aurora International Airport. Moreover, all of these outlets and shops all over the country sell activated new phones for as little as Q100 ($13/£6.50), and this also usually includes a few quetzales worth of talk time. The ready access to activated new phones at such low prices makes renting a phone unnecessary. Once your minutes run out, prepaid calling cards are widely available, and come in denominations from Q10 to Q200 ($1.35-$26/70p-£14).

Voice-Over Internet Protocol (VOIP)

If you have Web access while traveling, consider a broadband-based telephone service (in technical terms, Voice-over Internet protocol, or VoIP) such as Skype (www.skype.com) or Vonage (www.vonage.com), which allow you to make free international calls from your laptop or in a cybercafe. Neither service requires the people you're calling to also have that service (though there are fees if they do not). Check the websites for details.

Even if you don't have your own Skype or Vonage account, Internet cafes in most major tourist destinations in Guatemala usually offer the option of making international calls over their VoIP connections. Rates range anywhere from 5¢ (5p) to $1 (50p) per minute.

Internet & E-Mail

Travelers have any number of ways to check e-mail and access the Internet on the road. Of course, using your own laptop -- or even a PDA (personal digital assistant) or electronic organizer with a modem -- gives you the most flexibility. But even if you don't have a computer, you can access your e-mail and your office computer from cybercafes.

With Your Own Computer -- In general, only the more upscale and technologically savvy hotels, cafes, and retailers in Guatemala are offering Wi-Fi (wireless fidelity) hot spots. However, this is rapidly changing and expanding. In Antigua and Guatemala City (especially in the Zona Viva), you'll find a range of hotels, restaurants, and cafes that offer free Wi-Fi connections. Wherever possible, I've listed this in the hotel or restaurant descriptions throughout the book. To a lesser extent, you will find Wi-Fi connections becoming available around Lake Atitlán, Quetzaltenango, Flores, and Santa Elena, and even in some of the more remote destinations around the country.

Guatemala uses standard U.S.-style two- and three-prong electric outlets with 110-volt AC current, and standard U.S.-style phone jacks. Wherever you go, bring a connection kit of the right power and phone adapters, a spare phone cord, and a spare Ethernet network cable -- or find out whether your hotel supplies them to guests.

Without Your Own Computer -- In Guatemala, you'll readily find cybercafes in most cities and towns, and every major tourist destination. Heck, there are even cybercafes in Livingston and Monterrico. Although there's no definitive directory for cybercafes -- these are independent businesses, after all -- two places to start looking are at www.cybercaptive.com and www.cybercafe.com.

Aside from formal cybercafes, many hotels have at least one computer with Internet access. However, I recommend you avoid hotel business centers unless you're willing to pay exorbitant rates.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.