16 October 2012

Getting a Cell Phone SIM card in Buenos Aires

Because technology moves so fast and international laws and customs are inconsistent, I was overwhelmed by the amount of online info regarding cell phones for foreigners in Buenos Aires. Well, I'm going to add to the pile and hope that this updated information lasts long enough to be of use to somebody! There are obviously further details regarding some of these steps, and they are available elsewhere.

One option:

Bring an unlocked, global ready smartphone from your home country. Read current forums regarding specific phone requirements for when you will be coming, as these things are constantly changing and the people will often give up more info than phone companies. Keep your phone in your pocket going through customs at the airport and you will be fine.

Go to the Movistar headquarters at Ave. Santa Fe 1844, between Callao and Riobamba. If you use the subte, take the D (Green) line to the Callao stop. When you come up out of the station, you'll be at the corner of Cordoba and Callao. Walk 3 blocks north to Santa Fe and make a right.

Approach one of the representatives waiting inside. Give them your name and ask for a SIM or microSIM Prepago, depending on your phone. Your name will be put on a list and you will be asked to wait in the lounge on the first floor.

Take the escalator up and you'll see a waiting area surrounded by small, numbered representative's stations. There will be a screen with the list of customer's names and matching box numbers. When your name and box number are highlighted, walk to the corresponding numbered station.

Most of the representatives speak Spanish, so if yours is rusty, simply say that you need a SIM or microSIM. If you're not sure which one you need, hand your phone to the rep and he or she will figure it out.

You will need to provide a passport to begin your registration. After a few minutes of clickity clacketing on the computer, the rep will give you paper work to sign and your SIM card, free of charge. The rep will install the SIM and you will receive a text message immediately stating that your service with Movistar is good to go.
In the morning on a weekday, before it gets busy, this whole process can take as little as half an hour. At lunch time or on weekends the wait can be a bit longer, or so I've heard.

Before you will be able to make calls and send texts, you'll have to buy minutes at a local spot. Most kioskos and locutórios will be able to provide credit virtually and in various amounts. There is a locutório around the corner from the Movistar headquarters, half a block south on Callao. Spend $30 ARS or more and you will pay $2.08/minute for calls and $.70/text.

This is expensive, however, Movistar regularly offers deals with double or more credit for the same price. You will receive credit un regalo via text message immediately after registration. Movistar will also text you with deals throughout the week when it is best to load up and get the most bang for your buck.

Please let me know if you have any questions! It's a lot less nerve-wracking than it sounds...I promise! Also, let me know if you've gone through this process and how it went for you.



  1. Hi there Amber,
    Do you know if there are mobile internet offers coming with this prepaid card?

  2. Hello! I'm sorry I'm just now getting your comment! Some people who have the Movistar prepaid chip are able to access 3G mobile internet. It costs $1 peso to use each day. I, however, have been unable to use this feature and I have no idea why. I try to access it the same way they do, my phone says I'm connected to the 3G network, but it doesn't work. So...give it a shot. You never know!