It is often the impression shown that the most awesome/chill (or “epic” if you’re still living in 2010) thing to do as a digital nomad is to be able to work from anywhere in the world there’s an Internet connection.  Whipping out that stylish laptop and making magic happen, as you sip on a latte in a far-flung, old world café, while snapping a pic as proof that you’re living the digital nomad lifestyle to the fullest.

 

While those pics are great advertisement material for your site and for envious friends back home, it is not practical to constantly scavenge for a decent WiFi signal while wearing a “will work for bandwidth” sign around your neck.  Sometimes you need privacy, a quiet place to concentrate, or both.

 

A popular café may be great for browsing or quickly checking e-mail, but not for when you need to grind out some serious work.  If your nomadic travels take you to Antigua, Guatemala, here’s how to stay connected.

 

Obtaining a free WiFi signal in Antigua Guatemala is fairly easy.  Almost all restaurants, hotels and cafés offer free WiFi Internet access.  Something of note is that most wireless access points are secure and you’ll need a key to access them.  But no sweat, just ask any helpful attendant for the wireless key, or “la clave (LAH CLAH-VEH)” and you’ll be up and running in no time.

 

A couple years ago, as part of the city’s Information Technology initiative, Antigua Guatemala became the first “digital city” in Central America by offering free WiFi Internet access in the town’s Parque Central (Central Park).  This sign is located in the Northeast corner of the park.

 

 

I’m disappointed to report that I’ve taken my iPod Touch to the park on many occasions trying to verify the availability of this free signal.  So far, I have been unsuccessful in locating said WiFi signal.  I’m not sure if this is a temporary issue or if the signal is down for good, but once I find out I’ll update this post to reflect it.

 

That said, it really isn’t much of an issue if you don’t mind accessing the internet at the many cafes and restaurants surrounding the park.  A favorite lunch spot of mine in Antigua is Pollo Campero, located near the park.  Campero, for short, is the equivalent of KFC in the states (now with a location at Walt Disney World!)  Their fried chicken in itself is great, but fast, free, open WiFi connection is a nice bonus and goes well with greasy fingers.

 

 

Most hotels and inns offer Internet as well.  However, be mindful of checking before booking that:

 

a) They do have a WiFi signal.

b) The signal reaches the particular room you’re staying in.

 

Otherwise, you’ll have to hang around the main lobby waiting to use one of their Internet connected computer terminals.

 

If you’re staying longer than a couple of weeks (awesome!) then you might want to check out short, medium, and long-term rentals.  These typically offer better rates than weekly/monthly hotel rates.  Short-term rentals will usually include internet access.

 

Note: Check if the signal is WiFi and from where exactly does the signal come from.  The equipment may be at an adjacent apartment occupied by another of the owner’s tenants.  If you ever lose your wireless signal, it makes it hard to check the equipment when said equipment is inside a stranger’s house.

 

When I acquired my long-term rental, I inquired whether Internet was available.

 

No Señor“, I was told, “but you should have no problems requesting service.

 

I later found out that this was technically true.  You can “request” service all you want, but the trick to pull off is to actually “get” service.  Getting an internet connection is not a trivial matter if it’s not already in place.

 

I tried the first option, Claro, which provides land-line phones and “Turbonett” residential DSL internet service.  At the Claro office, located across the southwest corner of Antigua’s Central Park, I received the worst customer service possible.  They couldn’t answer a simple question and directed me to take a number and wait for another rep.

 

I took a number and waited 40 minutes to be called.  Most Claro representatives stood around watching loud, racy music videos (clean version of one I saw playing on TVs scattered throughout the waiting lobby).  I kid you not.

 

After waiting for a long time and thisclose to walking out, my number was up.  It took about 3 milliseconds for the representative to tell me that residential internet service was available if I could give a copy of my lease going forward at least 18-months!   They also required an utility bill in my name (fat chance as utilities are usually under the owner’s name).  Since I didn’t qualify on either end, this option was a no-go for me.  Here are the rates, in case you’re still interested (plans include land-line phone service).

 

Next up was Veridas, a wireless ISP offering internet anywhere there is line-of-sight transmission around Antigua.  They claim to offer immediate connection (not true) without any contract (wrong again) for multiple computers (unable to verify).

 

I gave Veridas a try and called them up.  The person at the other end was very nice and helpful, but completely unreliable.  Scheduled with him at least twice to meet at home so he could assess signal strength.  He was a no-show both times.

 

After being stood up twice, he promised to call me back shortly to schedule another time for the visit (did not call back, I had to call him the next day on both occasions).  By the way, if you’re required to sign-up for a minimum of 3 months, as he explained, it IS a contract.  You’re just pre-paying ahead of time.

 

After trying to get service with Veridas for the better part of the week, I finally gave up. Maybe their service is so in demand that it takes a dogged effort to get it installed.  Perhaps the quality of service is worth it.  Unfortunately, this was not my experience.  These are their rates, if you’re willing to give them a try.

 

At this point I was getting tired of internet cafés, as my best work is usually done at home, in my work area, wearing nothing but flip-flops (kidding! Sorta…).

 

I walked into a cellphone provider’s shop to inquire how I could get internet at my house.  The representative offered me USB-modems from both Claro and Tigo, another popular telecom provided.  I mentioned to him that this would not be suitable, as I needed a way to connect more than one device, including an iPad and iPod, both without USB ports (damn you Apple!)

 

An option would be to purchase a USB modem and buy a suitable router to share the connection.  But I liked the appeal of being to connect outside the home, whenever I took off traveling.

 

The rep mentioned the existence of a wireless modem offered by Tigo, which allowed up to 4 wireless devices to be connected.  Unfortunately, the device was not currently in stock and the rep advised it would not be easy to obtain.  Turns out he was very right.

 

I visited a dozen cellphone shops in Antigua, getting the same “No hay” (not in stock) answer.  Eventually, a rep at another store suggested I go to the main Tigo office in Guatemala City, where they might have it in stock.

 

Out of options and desperately needing Internet service at home, I heeded his advice and trekked down to Tikal Futura, a shopping mall/hotel in Guatemala City, about an hour away from Antigua.

 

I arrived at Tigo’s office, where I was promptly informed that they did not have it in stock, but would check the computer system to verify whether any of their offices had one.  I waited in line while the Tigo rep pecked away at her keyboard.

 

After waiting for about 5 minutes, again I heard the dreaded “No hay.”  No timetable for when they’d be in stock either.

 

But…” she said, “check with the photo store across here.  They might have it in stock.

 

At this point I was starting to wonder if the device really existed and placing it in the realm of other mythical creatures, such as unicorns and leprechauns.

 

I walked across to the store the girl pointed me to and inquired again. “Sure, we have it!  Want to buy it?” she asked.

 

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!“, I replied, as I snatched it from her hand.

 

Yes, the mythical wireless WiFi modem does exist!  Although super-pricy at 949Q ($120USD], it does offer the option to connect 5 computers simultaneously:  One via USB connection and 4 wireless devices.

 

When compared to the other options above, this one wasn’t bad.  The rates were reasonable (about 299Q for the high-end plan – 8GB data), no contract needed, and I could now have internet access everywhere there is a Tigo cellphone signal (best coverage in Guatemala).  Here’s the modem in action:

 

So far the modem (Huawei E5836) has worked out well.  Having semi-fast Internet access (YouTube is a pain to download and I avoid it) at my disposal at all times has been pretty useful.  It’s not what I originally had in mind, but I think I would’ve eventually bought it even if I did have Internet at home already.

 

The lesson here is, find out and make sure Internet access is already included and working with your rental property.  It’ll save you a lot of headaches down the road.

 

I’d love a shout out on Facebook and if you sign up for e-mail updates.

 

Also, check out my Pinterest page about Antigua Guatemala, one of the prettiest colonial cities in the world and latest digital nomad destination I’m trying out.

10 COMMENTS

  1. I want to help a Guatemalan see and speak to his wife and children
    in Los Campos, actually a little village in the sticks in that area.
    I want to use Skype and have done this with others in remote areas
    of Mexico. His wife inquired at a local shop where they told her
    they have no signal. I am wondering how I can solve this problem,
    maybe without requiring the family to schlep to Guate.

    • Hi! I’m not familiar with Los Campos and Google Maps is no help. Where is it exactly/what main city is the closest? There are a variety of Internet cafes everywhere, even in remote places I didn’t think it would be a viable business.

      As for Internet access, if the wife has a computer/knows someone, the easiest thing would be to obtain a USB modem from Tigo, the cell phone provider. The connection is good and cell phone coverage is near ubiquitous, which would almost be guaranteed to work.

      Single-PC Tigo USB modems are inexpensive (around 150-250Q). The software needs to be installed and the modem plugged in to be online.

      Hope that helps and let me know if you have any other questions.

      -Rich

  2. Rich, thank you for the information regarding Antigua Wifi. I just moved here a couple of weeks ago and plan on staying for the long term. I still have work back in the States that I have to connect with. I purchased the Tigo USB Wifi and it works well, I can pull up on my VPN but it does drop for a brief second a few times a day, enough to kick me off the VPN. Where I live they have a hard-wire into a wireless hub, the hub has gone out. Do you know anywhere in Antigua where I could buy a wireless hub/router and possibly a computer monitor? Thanks, Cary

    • Hi Cary!

      The monitor will be easier to find, so shop around first. There’s a Radio Shack in Calzada Santa Lucia, so I suggest you try there first. Also, La Bodegona (the side facing 4th Calle) has a small electronics/computer section that might have the router you’re looking for. For the router, your best bet will probably be Tikal Futura Mall or Miraflores Mall in Guatemala City, both which are right next to each other on Roosevelt Ave. Wal-Mart is on the same side of the road, about 3/4 of a mile before you get to the malls.

      The chicken bus heading to Guatemala City will drop you off right in front of either Wal-Mart or the malls. To head back, just go over the foot bridge and take a bus that’s Antigua bound. Fare is 9.00Q each way.

      Hope that helps!

      -Rich

  3. Rich, we used a Tigo USB modem last winter in Antigua and found that our 8GB ran out before the month did, despite our being super careful about avoiding streaming things, minimal downloads, and disconnecting as soon as we were done. And that was with just the 1 laptop. I’d really like to be able to connect additional devices via wifi, but doubt that 8GB will be sufficient. I’m pretty sure our 5 month rental this year will not provide a connection. Got any suggestions? Thanks,Tova

    • Hi Tova!

      I’ve had the same experience with Tigo Wireless modems. I highly advise you find a rental that provides Internet connection or that you make a deal with the landlord to help defray some of the costs of installing internet at the place. Believe me, running to the cafe or library every day gets old after a while :)

      -Rich

  4. Hi there,

    I just ran across this after googling online about Antigua Internet. I lived in Antigua for 3 months last summer, and pretty much got by with using the “wifi stick” from Tigo at the house I rented. Painfully slow and it ran out of Gigs real quick. (BTW, I also never found free wifi in the Parque Central, I think it’s a myth). Anyway, I have a great new job and I can work from anywhere in the world and would love to relocate back to Antigua…. but I need really reliable, strong home internet access.

    After spending a few months there, I’m convinced that it’s virtually impossible to get good internet access anywhere in Antigua. Price isn’t a huge obstacle, but I just don’t think there’s anything close to an American-style Internet Provider in Guatemala where you can actually run a good home office.

    Am I wrong?

    Ps – thanks for this great article.

    • Hi SJ,

      I use a Tigo modem too. There are ways to tweak your system to not have it gobble up your data plan.. Fortunately, price for plans have come down as well.

      For “real work” beyond email and social media updates, you’ll need fixed-Internet. Claro works well, but that will depend on your location. Service may be a bit spotty at times in the outlying areas, but nearer Antigua one should be fine.

      Let me know if you come down again :)

      -Rich

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