Cell Phones in Buenos Aires

No sane person in this day and age would contemplate living without a cell phone, no matter where they are in the world. So what’s the story with getting one in Buenos Aires? Well it’s easy enough if you want to buy a cheap phone here with prepaid service. The big three phone companies – Personal, Claro, and Movistar – will all sell you a SIM card with a phone attached for about $150 to $175 pesos (that’s for the most basic phone). You’ll need to show your passport to buy one though.

If you want to bring a phone from home to use here, make sure it’s an unlocked 1900mhz GSM phone and you’ll be fine (that band is common in North America so it shouldn’t be a problem to find one). At the moment, a Motorola 195 or 197 would be a good choice – reliable, but not so flashy you’ll make yourself a target for thieves. They’re cheap on Ebay. Any tri- or quad-band phone should also work.

Once you have a phone, you should be able to go to a phone company store and buy a prepaid chip to insert into it…but sometimes the phone company stores don’t actually carry them! An easier and cheaper option is to go to Once train station, where they sell SIMs out the front for every carrier for $5 pesos. It’s the same story at the Retiro bus station stores.

If you’re buying a phone to bring here and you plan to stay in Argentina for a while (or forever), it’s a good idea to bring an extra phone or two in case you lose one and so that you have one to lend to friends while they’re visiting you here.

You can of course purchase recharge cards for prepaid cell phone plans from any kiosco, or some do it electronically if you give them your phone number and tell them how much you want to spend.

So far, so easy. But what if you want to get a cell phone with a contract rather than a prepaid plan? You’d most likely want to do this so that you can get a plan with data for your smartphone. Well, that’s more difficult. If you have a DNI and a debit/credit card then you might be in business, but the phone company will check that your visa expiration is at least 12 months away and may also require a Veraz credit report.

If you don’t have a DNI then one option is to ask a friend with a DNI to get the contract for you and you pay the bill. If it helps, after 6 months have passed you should be able to make a cambio de titularidad, but only to someone else with a DNI.

Some people have reported being able to get a contract with Claro without a DNI by paying an extra deposit and giving proof of at least a one year rental agreement. Give it a try if you have no other option.

Note that if you have an iPhone or similar you really need a plan with unlimited data, otherwise you’re going to be paying a lot in excess data charges. Also note that your iPhone needs to be “jailbroken” in order for it to work with an Argentine SIM card.

Above all remember that in Argentina nothing is universal, so the veracity of all of the information here is subject to the whims of the particular Claro clerk you happen to get!

Finally, a word of caution: cell phones, especially expensive ones, are very common targets for thieves in Buenos Aires. If you insist on carrying an expensive phone, think twice about where you are and who can see you before pulling it out (yes, that’s not easy to do when it suddenly starts ringing).

Supplement: phoning home

If you have relatives in another country that you to be able to call regularly from Buenos Aires you have a number of options:

* Call from home on a landline. Like anywhere else in the world, you can of course call internationally from Buenos Aires using your home landline (providing that you have one). The downside is that it’s usually the most expensive option.

* Skype (www.skype.com). Almost everyone knows about Skype by now, but if you’ve been living in a cave the last five years then here’s the deal: Skype is a service that allows you to make telephone and video calls over the internet using your computer (and a mike and headphones). Calls to other computers anywhere in the world are free, while calls to landlines and cell phones requires buying credit – but it’s very cheap. You will of course need a fast broadband internet connection to use Skype effectively.

* Call from a locutorio. Locutorios are of course the internet-café-and-phone-booth shops that are on almost every block in Buenos Aires. They’re cheap, even for international calls, and they even have a meter so that you can see how much the call is costing you. The downside of course is that you have to go to one to make a call – you don’t get to chat from the comfort of your own home.

* Use magicJack (www.magicjack.com). This is a recent invention that a lot of people are saying good things about. It’s a little device (smaller than a pack of cigarettes) that you plug into the USB port on your computer. Then you plug a normal phone into your magicJack, and voila! You can make unlimited calls to any phones in the United States and Canada. It costs $40 and that includes a year’s worth of service.


13 Responses to “Cell Phones in Buenos Aires”

  1. I have a bit of a problem right here. I want to purchase myself a new cell and cannot decide on which one to choose. To begin with, i thought of the Nokia 5610Nokia 6500, which my buddy has. It looks quite durable, and all seemed alright, but i started researching other phones. Now my biggest dilemma is deciding between the Nokia E71 and the Samsung i900 Omnia. Any advice?

  2. corredores says:

    Siempre me parece que hay personas que invierte como si estubieran comprando un numero de loteria.

  3. Molly says:

    Hi there,

    I have a Claro cellphone and was wondering if there was some way i can check how much credit i have on it during the month?

    Thanks!

  4. Nick says:

    I brought my own iphone 3g unlocked from home and just use prepay. No passport was required, just my drivers license worked over at “Personal”.

    I use a skype in number to have all calls forwarded to my cell phone in argentina so friends in the USA can still call me.

    Just bring your own phone from home, or buy a cheap unlocked one on mercadolibre.

  5. paulina says:

    Just one quick comment: you don’t need to go to Once or Retiro to buy a SIM card – talking about avoiding getting robbed! ;) – you can buy it in a lot of kioskos and newstands, for 5 pesos too.

    @Molly you can check out your credit, by dialing *555 on your mobile.

  6. Lynne says:

    Hi,

    Is it possible to purchase a pay-as-you-go data plan for an IPAD In Argentina? (ie a sim card that fits)
    If so, from which company? What are the rates?

    Thanks!

  7. Rose says:

    Hi,

    I plan to travel to Argentina this fall with an IPAD. Is it possible to purchase a sim card with a data plan on a pay-as-you go basis? What would it cost?

    Thank you.

  8. Courtenay says:

    Hi there
    I have just arrived in buenos aires and have just dropped my I Pod Touch and smashed the screen, can anyone tell me where I can get it replaced….
    cheers

  9. eems says:

    As your final word of caution goes, I use iPhone for my world phone, I’ve used it in countries like Philippines and haven’t gotten it stolen, is theft so high in BA that I should really consider getting a cheap cell to avoid losing my iPhone?

  10. Emma says:

    I have an iPhone 4 here, it isn’t jail broken just unlocked I’m with movistar and it works fine. Also you don’t need to go on a data plan to use the Internet at a reasonable rate, Movistar has a deal where you can buy data on prepay, the coverage is so bad though I don’t even bother most of the time.

  11. Jenn says:

    iPhones are a hot comodity here and will be stolen if given the chance. The thieves are good. It is possible to keep it safe, but I wouldn’t go flaunting it on the street.
    Having calls forwarded to your cell phone here could be costly. I have a pay as you go phone and it costs a lot to talk on the phone. I have either used skype or my MagicJack Plus which is more like $69.99 to buy and $29/year. With the Plus you don’t need to hook it to the computer, only the internet. It has a voicemail too and you get email notifications of messages.
    Being connected all the time is not something I want to do, so it’s fine with me. If I have to call someone back home, I either wait till I get home or go to a kiosko with phones/internet (if it that urgent). My SmartPhone works with wifi, so I can use it to check messages, etc. Most people here usually just text one another and it seems to work out just fine. Those are my thoughts after 10 months here.

  12. RS says:

    I am from the USA and am going to BA for at least 10 week, hopefully more. Once I learn the language, I want to find a job and work there. What is the best way to do this? Can it all be done in Argentina or do I have to start the process in USA first? And dont i need to find somebody to employ me first in order to get a work visa? Any info is helpful. Thanks so much.

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