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Visiting the Rio carnival? The Amazon rainforest? Or traveling around South America? Either way, using your home phone in Brazil can be very expensive. A top tip for saving money and reducing roaming rates is to switch to a local SIM card to take advantage of cheaper deals, tariffs and plans.
Brazil has some of the best SIM card deals in South America and you can get 1GB of data for as little as R$10 (about £2.35). You can also use their SIM cards in other South American countries which will save you even more money! So cut down on costs this holiday by comparing your SIM card options on finder.com/uk.Prices last updated 3 May 2017
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There are four main providers in Brazil: Vivo, TIM, Claro and Oi. There are also a few regional providers (including Nextel) and several mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), but we will stick to the four main carriers so you don’t get confused.
According to OpenSignal’s country report, speeds on Brazil’s networks have declined due to the increase in customers using 4G/LTE services. 4G customers on Vivo, Claro and TIM could connect to an LTE signal more than 50% of the time during tests, but Brazil still ranks low among its global and South American peers in terms of coverage.
Vivo is the fastest operator in Brazil with an average LTE download speed of 15.3Mbps. Speeds on Claro have fallen considerably, dropping from 17.8Mbps to 11.4Mbps.
Brazil’s market leader is Vivo, followed by TIM, Claro and Oi. All four operators offer prepaid SIM cards and you can buy them from shops, supermarkets, kiosks, pharmacies and official stores as well as at the Rio de Janeiro-Galeão and São Paulo–Guarulhos international airports. 2G, 3G and 4G plans are available on all networks for unlocked GSM phones.
You can buy a SIM card by showing your passport, and your telephone number is already active when you purchase it. To add credit, there are several prepaid card machines around various towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in shops and supermarkets.
We have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Brazil.
Vivo is the largest telco operator in Brazil and has a 28.5% market share. Vivo has 73 million subscribers, 57% of which are using prepaid plans. People view the service as the best in the country and as having the most reliable network coverage. This comes at a price, though, since it also has the highest rates of all the providers.
Vivo SIM cards are sold almost anywhere across the country. We advise you to purchase them from branded stores to ensure they are registered properly and to save you from being ripped off. Don’t forget your passport for proof of ID.
You can purchase credit all over the country with rates ranging from R$10 for 30 days to R$60 for 120 days. You can purchase top ups online for R$10-300. To check your balance, you will need to text SALDO to 8000.
Vivo toda hora is their standard prepaid tariff. The starter SIM comes with a R$2 bonus, which is valid for four days. Vivo Dia and Vivo Noite come with reduced rates for day or night calls.
There’s also a prepaid Internet (Internet Pré) service which has the following deals:
You must renew your daily package if you want to use it the next day. Monthly packs auto-renew if you have credit, so you will need to text CANCELAR to 1515 to stop.
You can also add the following data packages. They’re valid for seven days or until the original monthly package runs out:
Vivo also has several Vivo Turbo combo plans:
You can get Internet Pré data add-ons to the above-mentioned plans and you can also purchase monthly prepaid data-only (Pré Mensal) SIM cards for tablets and modems at a rate of R$19.90 for 400MB.
TIM has the best prepaid SIM cards in the country. They have 66 million subscribers, and 79.5% of those are prepaid customers. 2G, 3G and 4G services are available across Brazil. You can purchase top ups in several denominations, and they are valid from 30 to 180 days depending on your purchase. You can dial *241# to top up your data using your credit card and *222# to check your balance.
TIM sells voice and data plans on a daily or weekly basis. The daily packs are only valid until midnight of that day. No monthly prepaid plans are on offer.
TIM’s standard prepaid plan is Infinity Pré and you can purchase it for R$0.99, which includes voice for up to 300 minutes of intra-network calls.
You can also add Infinity Web data packs.
Daily packages (valid until midnight):
Monthly packages (valid for 30 days):
Overuse rate is R$0.99 per 50MB.
TIM also offers a Turbo WhatsApp deal. For R$12, you can get 30 days of unlimited WhatsApp usage (excluding VoIP calls) plus 50MB of data. You will need to text ZAPZAP to 5225 to activate this deal.
The Infinity Turbo 7 weekly prepaid add-on is available for all prepaid plans. This deal costs R$9 and gives you 100MB per day for 7 days with unlimited TIM calls and unlimited WhatsApp (excluding VoIP calls). To activate this plan, you will need to text TURBO7 to 5225.
TIM Pré has the following weekly or monthly offers:
|BRL7||7 days||100 mins||150 MB||Text PRE150 to 4141|
|BRL8.99||7 days||unltd. TIM||1 GB||Text PRE7D to 4141|
|BRL9.99||7 days||100 mins||1 GB||Text PRE7D100 to 4141|
|BRL34.99||30 days||400 mins||1.5 GB||Text PRE30D to 4141|
All plans automatically renew and you will need to dial *222 to cancel.
You can also purchase the following data add-ons:
TIM also sells an Infinity Web data-only SIM package for tablets and modems. You can get 100MB and a USB dongle for R$0.99.
Visitor TIM is the best prepaid SIM card to purchase as a tourist. You can dial *144 and then provide your name, your passport number and your temporary address in Brazil to activate this option.
You can purchase it for R$50 and it includes the same amount of credit. For R$25, you can add a 1.5GB pack of data plus TIM Wi-Fi, which is valid for 7 days. Check the TIM website because these offers change from time to time.
Claro is the third largest operator in Brazil. It has a 25% market share with more than 50 million prepaid customers. Claro has the best coverage on 4G/LTE and is very popular with the younger crowd who are looking for good prepaid deals.
Most retailers will sell SIM cards, but it’s always better to buy them at official stores so they can be registered properly by using your passport.
You can purchase credit from most retailers and you can use your credit card to get it online. To update your credit, you need to enter your voucher code by typing *577*<voucher PIN>#. You can check your credit by typing *544#.
The Claro-Pré weekly combo plans are extremely popular:
Claro’s prepaid SIMs are called Toda hora. Most calls are charged at around R$1.65 per minute and data must be added to the Toda hora packages. You have the choice of daily or monthly packs, all including zero-rated WhatsApp use (excluding VoIP calls).
Planos Pré daily packages (valid until midnight)
Planos Pré monthly packages
You will need to dial *1052# to activate your plan. Data will automatically stop when you have reached your limit, so you will need to add a new plan when you’ve reached the limit.
Foreigners can activate Claro’s tourist plan. For more information, call 1052 and speak with the English customer service rep to discuss the latest plans since they change all the time.
Oi (Brazilians use this for hello) is the smallest of the big four operators and has an 18% market share. Oi has the largest Wi-Fi network with more than 1 million access points across Brazil. You can purchase SIM cards at most places, but it’s better to pick them up from official stores with your passport to avoid any hassle with the initial setup.
You can purchase credit from official Oi stores, from most retailers or online via your credit card. You can dial *805 to check your balance. Pré-pago prepaid plans come in a variety of guises.
Customers can take advantage of unlimited use of the 1 million Oi Wi-Fi hotspots across the country. Data overuse is charged at R$1 per 20MB per day.
You can also purchase data-only packages:
|75 MB||1 week||BRL 3.49||Text Oi to 6475|
|200 MB||1 month||BRL 9.99||Text Oi to 64200|
|400 MB||1 month||BRL 19.99||Text Oi to 64400|
|600 MB||1 month||BRL 24.99||Text Oi to 64600|
|1 GB||1 month||BRL 34.99||Text Oi to 64950|
All monthly packages auto-renew, so you will need to dial *6499 to cancel. When you reach your data quota, the data package will be switched off. You can then use Oi Wi-Fi or add the following data packs:
Oi’s APN is gprs.oi.com.br and you can find their website at http://www.oi.com.br.
TripAdvisor reviews can help guide you through which SIM cards have been tried and tested in Brazil.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international phone. To double check if you have this option, contact your service provider before you set off on your travels.
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when traveling around South America. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated! If you do lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you still have no luck then cancel any plans or payment methods associated with the phone, report it missing and make a note of the crime number to make a claim on your insurance.
Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let the new one out of your sight!
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