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Visiting Colombia? Or travelling around South America? Either way, using your regular mobile phone account there can work out to be rather expensive. A top tip for saving money and reducing roaming rates is to switch to a local SIM card for cheaper deals, tariffs and plans. Colombia has some of the best SIM card deals in South America and you can get 1GB of data for as little as COP20,000 (US$7.80). You can also use their SIM cards in other South American countries which will save you even more money! So, cut down your holiday costs this by comparing your SIM card options on finder.com.
There are three main telco providers in Colombia: Claro, Movistar and Tigo. All networks have been tried and tested by locals and tourists and can be trusted. According to OpenSignal’s coverage map, network coverage is exceptionally good around Bogota as well as in the main towns and cities. Coverage can suffer in the far-flung regions, which is to be expected in some parts of the country and will happen on any network you use there.
All three operators offer prepaid SIM cards and they can be bought from shops, supermarkets, kiosks, pharmacies, official stores and at El Dorado International Airport. There are 2G, 3G and 4G plans available on all networks for unlocked GSM phones.
SIM cards can be bought by showing your passport and providing your hotel address, and your telephone number is already active when purchased. IMEI numbers are also being taken and registered to cut down on phone theft in the country.
To add credit, there are several prepaid SIM card machines around towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in shops and supermarkets.
New taxation laws came into effect at the beginning of 2017 which means VAT on communications is much more expensive, an increase from 16% to 19%. There will also be a 4% sales tax added to any deal that costs more than COP44,630 per month.
Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Colombia.
Claro is the market leader in Colombia and also has the best coverage. There are 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services available and its prepaid SIM card deals are some of the best in South America.
Its Prepago fácil SIM card can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers. You can also purchase top-up vouchers called tajetas amigo from the same vendors, plus at supermarkets and other retailers bearing the official logo. Be careful of street sellers.
Claro’s welcome pack is called Paquete de bienvenida and can be purchased for COP1,000 (tax incl.) and there are many different plans and offers that can be added to this basic package. Credit can be purchased for any denomination up to COP100,000 and free data bonuses are included depending on the amount added. Dial *103# to check your balance.
The standard default rate is COP169 per MB. The following data packs are available:
|Valid for 1 day||20MB||COP1,000|
|Valid for 1 day||100MB||COP2,000|
|Valid for 2 days||210MB||COP4,000|
|Valid for 7 days||800MB||COP15,000|
|Valid for 15 days||1.2GB||COP20,900|
|Valid for 30 days||2.5GB||COP42,900|
To activate any of the above-mentioned packages, dial *611# and choose option 1 paquetes de datos and select the plan you would like. Packages will auto-renew. Text “SALIR” to 798 to cancel.
The standard default data rate is COP0.39 per KB. The same packs can also be used in tablets and modems. Facebook, VoIP calls and WhatsApp are not included in the packages.
Movistar is the second largest operator in Colombia and provides customers with good coverage and speed. 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services are available throughout the country. SIM cards can be purchased in official stores and approved resellers. The standard prepaid plan is called Plan prepago por segundos. Data packs will have to be added to avoid using the standard default data rate.
Credit can be purchased from most retailers throughout Colombia. Check with the seller to see if there are any deals or promotions running – Movistar often doubles or triples its recharge amounts. Also check online because there are online promos and sometimes offers for credit card purchases.
The “chip” starter pack can be purchased for COP2,000 (tax incl.) but check with the retailer at the time of purchase because there are often discounts or promotions available. Dial *611# to check your balance.
Without any data packs, Movistar’s standard data rate is COP950 for 15MB until midnight; once you use this amount another package will automatically upload. To avoid these charges, the following data packs can be added:
|Valid for 3 days||60MB||1,500 sec to every operator||COP3,000|
|Valid for 7 days||170MB||10mins International Long Distance||COP6,000|
|Valid for 7 days||450MB||20mins International Long Distance||COP10,000|
|Valid for 7 days||600MB||25mins International Long Distance||COP12,000|
|Valid bi-weekly||700MB||40mins International Long Distance||COP15,000|
|Valid monthly||1.1GB||60mins International Long Distance||COP25,000|
|Valid monthly||2GB||100mins International Long Distance||COP40,000|
Dial *611#, select option 2 “Internet prepago” and choose one of the above-mentioned plans.
Tigo is the smallest network provider in Colombia but is still relatively good and offers great deals. Its SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers. Avoid street vendors. Top-ups can be purchased from the same retailers as well as from supermarkets and newsagents. There are several different prepaid plans available but none of them include data packages. As a result, you will have to include data add-ons to take advantage of better roaming rates.
Tigo’s starter SIM cards can be purchased for COP5,000 which includes credit, and there are often promotions available so make sure you keep an eye out for them. The Plan por Segundos is its default plan and it also sells preloaded chips which include credit of COP45,000 to 499,000, valid for a year. Dial *611# to check your credit.
The following data packs are available:
|Valid until midnight||40MB||COP999||Text “HORA” to 201|
|Valid until midnight||150MB||COP3,000||Text “DIA” to 202|
|Valid for 2 days||60MB||COP3,000||Text “DIA” to 204|
|Valid for 3 days||100MB||COP4,000||Text “3 DIAS” to 409|
|Valid for 3 days||500MB||COP5,000||Text “3 DIAS” to 409||Valid for 6 days||150MB||COP6,000|
|Valid for 7 days||350MB||COP14,900||Text “SEMANA” to 409|
|Valid for 7 days||600MB||COP14,900||Text “SEMANA” to 204|
|Valid for 7 days||1GB||COP10,000||Text “NAVEGA” to 818|
|Valid for 15 days||2GB||COP20,000||Text “STOTAL15” to 409|
|Valid for 30 days||2GB||COP39,000||Text “MES” to 700|
All packages auto-renew until cancelled. Over use rate is COP12 per KB. All days mentioned are valid until midnight.
TripAdvisor reviews can help guide you through the SIM cards that have been tried and tested in Colombia.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
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