Monday, September 12, 2016

Internet Service in Panajachel, Guatelamala

Let's talk Internet. One of the questions I see a lot on expat message boards and Facebook groups is, "What is the Internet like in Guatemala?"
Well, I researched this before I moved here too and was reassured to know that, yes, there is Internet service in most towns in Guatemala, it's just that it's slow, unreliable, and expensive.
They weren't kidding.

Let me tell ya. I work online. I need Internet to make a living. When my Internet goes down, I lose money. I lose clients. I lose respect. I lose my freaking MIND. :)
woman screaming computer laptop frustrated
This is not me, but it certainly could be. Usually the screaming and swearing is followed by frustrated tears.
I have had personally used four different Internet services since moving to Panajachel in April 2015. I will give you the breakdown of each, plus one that I haven't used, and you can cross your fingers and hope that at least one of these will be available to you when you move to Lake Atitlan. (Hint: bigger towns mean more options and better service.)

1. Claro -- the biggest national player and widely viewed as the best home Internet service. I have had this at two apartments I've lived in and was very pleased with it. You may recall my blog post about a tree taking out our Internet line and the Claro guy came the next day. Impressive!
Prices on their website as of this writing range from Q149/month for 1 Mbps speed to Q999/month for 25 Mbps (which is not available in many places, probably only Guate City and perhaps Antigua and Xela).
So what's the catch? First, you have to sign a year contract. Second, you will need a landline phone line, which can be a problem in some areas, including where I live in Jucanya. And I've heard that Claro says they "can't" put in new landlines. What?? Regardless, this is the best Internet you can get in Guatemala, according to many.

2. TecnoCompu -- This is my current provider in Panajachel and I am fairly pleased with them. Installation seemed pricey to me: Q300 installation fee plus a Q200 deposit for an antenna on your roof. Only one computer is allowed, which would be technically impossible to enforce, and they charge you more per month if you tell them you want to have more than one computer on the line. (Hint: this is easily circumvented using VPNs or by turning your computer into a hotspot.) I pay Q325/month for 4 Mbps. This is a very small local operation with some super helpful young guys. I believe it piggybacks on Claro.

3. Tigo -- the other big national player, pretty comparable to Claro but for some reason, not as popular. I haven't used their home Internet service but I do have a mobile Internet USB stick for emergencies. It was Q199 to buy the stick and came with some free time. You get a phone number with the stick and just go to a tienda and put money on it like you would for a cell phone. Prices for their home Internet service are supposedly on their website but I couldn't get the page to load. Huh.

4. Mayanet -- A few of my friends have this service and have recommended it. I don't have much info except their Facebook page. They're located on Santander near Chinita's, I believe.

5. Panadish -- this is the only DSL service in Pana, which I got excited about, but it SUCKED. Slow all the time. Very expensive, Q399 a month for 4 Mbps and I only got that speed one day out of 30. Lots of outages too. I only got this service because my current apartment already a cable installed for it so I wouldn't have to pay for installation. But I disconnected it after the first month because it was so very bad. That's probably the only good thing: no contract.

If you have a laptop and want to socialize while surfing the Web, there is Free WiFi at lots of restaurants and cafés in Pana and other places around the lake. Buy a drink and a treat and enjoy!

If you don't have a computer but want to get online, there are a surprising number of Internet "cafes". One that I visited had their rates posted starting at Q1 for up to 10 minutes, with scaling rates per minutes, so that 46 to 60 minutes only cost Q5. (That's less than a dollar!)

So how does this compare to Internet back home? 

In Ontario, I used TekSavvy. It's only available in some parts of Ontario but it was awesome. Great prices and great service. I recommended it to anyone I talked to.

Their cable Internet service doesn't even offer anything less than 5 Mbps, which is $25 (Canadian) per month, or equivalent to about Q144.
The speeds offered goes all the way up to $60/month or Q346 for 100 Mbps. 100!! Can you imagine?? Oh, I wanna cry. I miss this so much!
They also offer DSL Internet, which is $30/month for 6 Mbps with additional tiers of speeds up to $50/month for 50 Mbps.

So compare that to the Q325 I'm paying now for shoddy 4 Mbps. That would be $56.33 Canadian per month. Ridiculous! For the amount I'm paying here, I could get 50 Mbps of DSL back home. With like 99% uptime. Oh! Such luxury!

TIP: Prices listed are in Canadian dollars. To convert into your currency, go to xe.com.

So while I'm crying over slow and unreliable Internet, I comfort myself with fresh strawberries year-round for only Q5 a pound, breakfast out for Q20 or Q30 if I'm feeling luxurious ($3.50 to $5.20 Cdn), plus a sweet bachelorette apartment for Q1000 ($173 Cdn).
Life is hard, isn't it?  :)


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