One of the frequently asked questions during our trip was about how we always managed to stay connected to the internet.
The answer is very simple: every time we crossed a new border, we would buy a prepaid SIM card from one of the top telecommunications company and we would top it up with whatever we thought was appropriate for our stay in that specific country. If you want to do the same, you will need an unlocked phone and a valid ID, that they might or might not ask for.
These are the phone companies we used on our route:
- Panama: +Móvil.
They offer plans from 1 to 30 days, with a price range between 0.99US$ and 14.99$ with 150Mb to 2Gb of Internet data respectively. The SIM card can be bought in any mini-market. Decent signal. More info: link.
- Costa Rica: ICE / Kölbi.
They offer plans from 1 to 30 days, with a price range between 200 CRC (0.32 US$) and 9.000 CRC (14.59 US$) with 50Mb to 2Gb of Internet data respectively. The SIM card can be bought in any mini-market. Decent signal. More info: link.
- Nicaragua: Claro.
They offer plans from 1 to 15 days, with a price range between 50 NIO (1.55 US$) and 230 NIO (7.14 US$) with 10Mb to 1.5Gb of Internet data respectively. The SIM card can be bought in any mini-market. Decent signal. More info: link.
- Honduras: Tigo.
We spent little time in Honduras so we did not buy a SIM card. But since we had a good experience with Tigo in Guatemala, you can check their website and see what they offer.
- El Salvador: Movistar.
They offer plans from 1 to 15 days, with a price range between 0.60 US$ and 10 US$ with 150Mb to 3Gb of Internet data respectively (so cheap!). The SIM card can be bought in any mini-market. Decent signal. More info: link.
- Guatemala: Tigo.
They offer plans from 1 to 15 days, with a price range between Q10 (1.29 US$) and Q250 (32.43 US$) with 200Mb to 4Gb of Internet data respectively. The SIM card can be bought in any mini-market. Decent signal. More info: link.
- Belize: Digicel / Smart!.
We only spent a week in this small Central American country, so we did not need a SIM card. Online, we found that there are only two companies that provide Internet services: Digicel and Smart!.
- Mexico: Telcel.
They offer plans from 1 to 33 days, with a price range between 20 MXN (0.98 US$) and 500 MXN (24.52 US$) with 100Mb to 5Gb of Internet data respectively. The SIM card can be bought in any mini-market. Very decent signal. More info: link.
- United States: AT&T.
We started our trip in the U.S. with a T-Mobile SIM card but outside of the big cities we did not have much cell service, so we switched to AT&T and everything was better, they even have good service in Alaska. They offer monthly plans, with a price range between 30 US$ and 65 US$ with 1Gb to limitless Internet data, including also Canada and Mexico. Not the cheapest but definitely a good option that works in the neighboring countries too. More info: link.
- Canada: Lucky Mobile / Bell.
When it came to phone companies, we felt that Canada was pretty expensive compared to the rest of the countries of the continent . The cheapest plan we found was with Lucky Mobile (they use Bell’s antennas) with 4.5Gb for 40 CAD (30.17 US$). We got the SIM card at a mall in Vancouver, they needed an address but the saleswoman used the store’s address since we were tourists. The other phone companies had more requirements, were more expensive or simply did not offer short-term options. We had decent signal all the way to the border with Alaska. More info: link.
It should be noted that most of the phone companies’ plans in Central America include the use of social media until the end of the period you paid for, even if you used all your Internet data. This helps a lot and you will be able to use WhatsApp or Facebook to stay in touch with your family and friends.
Also, for the first part of the trip, Meli tried one of Claro’s plans for all Central America. She set it up in the Dominican Republic (where her family lives) which would give her the possibility to call them at the local rates. They offered fair prices for Internet data and calls in every country in Central and North America with the exception of Belize. Nevertheless the information they provided was not clear enough, they had many internal miscommunication about their own policies, and furthermore, even their own website had discrepancies as to what was or wasn’t included in the plan.
After Belize, they sent us a crazy high invoice that we had to fight hard against, until they realized that they were the ones that had made the mistake. This is why we do not really recommend using this kind of plan unless it is completely clear to you what the company’s policies are.
It was good while it lasted and allowed Meli to keep the same number and the same SIM card for the first 6-months of the trip. If you’d like to try, it can be activated in any country where Claro works, but, a contract had to be set up so it should probably be a country where you or a family member is a resident.