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Cell Phone and Technology in Central America

Saskatchewan, Canada
3 posts
Cell Phone and Technology in Central America

Hello everyone,

I am traveling solo for my first time to Central America backpacking for one month through Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala. I am from Canada (Saskatchewan if we're getting particular lol), and was wondering what most people do with their cell phones?

Do you even take it with you? Should I get a long distance plan? Should I just buy a cell phone there? How do people access social media, etc?

A little more info: I am not tied to my phone so am fine with leaving it in Canada, but am just curious what most people do. I have an iPhone and iPad, but not sure what to bring. I planned on logging my trip through Instagram most likely and probably chatting on Skype to my parents the odd time and/or send them some text messages. I also have a GoPro camera for pictures/videos.

Just wondering what is the norm for backpackers and cellphones/technology. Any recommendations??

Thanks :)

British Columbia
Level Contributor
212 posts
20 reviews
1. Re: Cell Phone and Technology in Central America

When we visited Panama in March I paid Telus the $50 to unlock my iPhone and purchased a SIM card in Panama City. Worked great. It cost me around $35 US for a ton of data and call time.

Kansas City
Level Contributor
360 posts
2. Re: Cell Phone and Technology in Central America

I prefer to travel with my ipad mini. Have done two trips of 5 weeks each and some shorter trips. With the ipad mini I face time or skype, send instant messages, email, write blog entries and use it as an e-reader for lots of books. Also upload pictures from my camera onto it. I've never had a problem finding wi-fi to use it - even in the middle of Corcovado National Park in Costa Rica the ranger station has wi-fi!

Granada Nicaragua
Level Contributor
963 posts
317 reviews
3. Re: Cell Phone and Technology in Central America

Wi fi all,over the place...bring your iPad...use Skype for calls..free. email to your hearts content..Instagram for photos...

Hopkins, Belize
Level Contributor
1,536 posts
76 reviews
4. Re: Cell Phone and Technology in Central America

depends where you travel and how you travel. Wi-fi in pretty much all "hotels" and most of the mid range hostels and stuff. Wi-fi in city parks in the big cities, and major western style places like shopping malls and coffee shops. Though if you are traveling off the grid and staying in barebones 5 dollar a night rooms in a rural setting, youll have a harder time getting wi-fi, but even then there is usually somewhere in the area like a cyber cafe where you can hook up to internet if you need to.

Cell service all over, except for WAY off the beaten path in the jungle. If your cell phone is unlocked you can just get a a sim card in the country you are in and use that for local calls. Its cheaper than getting an international plan through your home service for most people.

For international calls you can use wi-fi, or if your phone isnt unlocked and you arent interested in paying to get it unlocked, it might be in your best interest to do an international plan to call home, but once again, for most people thats an expensive option.

Bring your technology, but use common sense. You dont have to travel afraid, its not that scary, but keep an eye on your stuff, and dont be toting around your gopro and ipad and big smartphone all together in the open when you get on a crowded bus or a dark street, etc.

Managua, Nicaragua
Level Contributor
918 posts
26 reviews
5. Re: Cell Phone and Technology in Central America

Greetings prairieboy:

Good advice above. One more comment, just keep in mind that each one of your gadgets represent maybe the equivalent of three or four months of working at a minimum wage job here so you understand why a small percentage of the locals might be tempted. As said before, use some sense when you have those items out, especially when in the cities.

Cheers, Mike @ El Portón Verde, Managua

Birmingham, Alabama
Level Contributor
19 posts
1 review
6. Re: Cell Phone and Technology in Central America

I don't know who your service provider is up in Canada but I would at least bring your phone for emergency use (ex. someone from back home needs to urgently reach you or you get in some kind of pickle down in Central America). I would check with your carrier to see if they have some kind of short term international plan where you can get X amount of minutes, texts, and data so you're not completely reliant on finding wi-fi to use Skype if there is any kind of emergency. If you have an unlocked GSM iPhone (I believe most Canadian carriers use GSM), then you should be able to buy a SIM card and use local service. Now that Google Maps works relatively well in Nicaragua, I was so glad to have a local phone that I could use navigation on and be able to look up phone numbers or other info on the fly.

Regina, Canada
Level Contributor
2 posts
1 review
7. Re: Cell Phone and Technology in Central America

We are from Saskatchewan and traveling to Nicaragua for 4 months this winter. Our phones are through Sasktel and they recommended getting them unlocked and buying a SIM card when we get there. Its $50 to get them to unlock it and she said that it was WAY cheeper than getting any international plan through them.

8. Re: Cell Phone and Technology in Central America

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