Reduce your roaming bills - opt for a local SIM card
Argentina has some of the best mobile phone deals in South America and you can get 1GB of data for as little as ARS$10 (about AUD$1.80). You can also use their SIM cards in other South American countries which will save even more money! So, cut down costs this holiday by comparing your SIM card options on finder.com.au.
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There are three main mobile phone operators in Argentina: Movistar, Claro and Personal. Nextel will become the fourth national carrier offering 4G/LTE services in mid-2017.
According to OpenSignal’s country report, speeds on Argentina’s networks have declined due to the recent adoption of 4G services. Networks will improve over time, but all providers are experiencing slow speeds on their networks during the initial teething phase.
OpenSignal ranked Argentina near the bottom of South America’s mobile phone networks. With LTE averages of 51% for 4G availability and 9 Mbps for download speeds, Argentina is lagging behind most of its neighbours.
Movistar was awarded the best mobile phone operator in Argentina after customers experienced an LTE signal 63% of the time. Movistar was ranked first in overall speed and tied with Personal for the fastest LTE network.
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Argentina’s market leader is Claro, followed by Movistar and then Personal. All three operators offer prepaid SIM cards, which you can buy from shops, supermarkets, kiosks, pharmacies, official stores and at Ministro Pistarini airport.
2G, 3G and 4G plans are available for unblocked GSM phones. 4G/LTE is available on all networks.
You can purchase SIM cards without any form of ID, and your telephone number is already active when purchased. To add credit to your card, there are several prepaid card machines around Buenos Aires and you can find vouchers in shops and supermarkets.
Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Argentina.
Claro is Argentina’s market leader and offers relatively good 2G, 3G and 4G networks.
You can purchase prepaid SIM cards, or chips as the locals call them, at Claro Customer Care Centres, supermarkets, petrol stations, kiosks, airports and pharmacies.
They sell different chip plans for smartphones, tablets and computers, and they start at around ARS$20.
You can top up your limit by using vouchers called Tarjetas Prepagas. You will need to text the code to 444 to activate your voucher. Virtual recharges are also available online or at selected stores for as little as ARS$5. You can dial *611# to check your balance.
Claro offers two plans:
- Prepaguero tripilica plan. This plan offers 50MB for ARS$7 and is good for 24 hours (per calendar day).
- Prepago nacional plan. This plan offers 50MB for ARS$4.37 and is good for 24 hours (per calendar day).
You can increase the speed up to 3 times a day by texting “TURBO” to 252.
Claro offers a data package at ARS$40 for 7 days. Text 7X to 454 or enter *989# to activate the data package. Each day, at midnight, 50MB of data will be allocated for the next 24-hour period. After 7 days, make sure you renew the plan as it does not renew automatically.
Movistar is Argentina’s second most popular telco. It has the best 4G/LTE coverage in the country and is available in more than 280 locations.
You can buy credit and chips in official stores, supermarkets and pharmacies. Be careful when buying SIM cards from some stores as they can repackage old numbers that might already have set plans on them.
Movistar offers two prepaid plans:
- Plan Prepago Multiplicate. This plan offers 24 hours of data for ARS$6.50.
- Plan Prepago Nacional. This plan offers 24 hours of data for ARS$3.81.
When you purchase ARS$50-80 on the Multiplicate option, you will receive a bonus of ARS$30. For a credit of ARS$100-180, you will receive a bonus of ASRS$80. Sending an SMS to 444 will reveal your balance.
Movistar has rates for 24 hours per calendar day on prepaid SIMs. Internet Día gives you 50MB until midnight. It begins as soon as you use the Internet, so if you like using your phone in bed you won’t have to traipse around looking for a store to update the plan. You will receive an SMS “Ya estas navegando con INTERNET x DÍA PLUS!” outlining that you can start using your 50MB.
When you have used up your 50MB, you will receive an SMS from 772 stating that you have used up your limit. Reply “SI” to 772 to purchase another 50MB, which will again run out at midnight. However, you will still have Internet for the rest of the day but at a much slower speed, so don’t worry too much if you don’t want to pay out more money.
Movistar also offers a 7-day package for ARS$35 (about US$2.24), and you will receive 50MB per day for the 7-day period. If you have gone over your limit on any day, then you can activate the daily packs mentioned above by texting “INTERNET” to 2345.
They also have an all-inclusive roaming deal where you can pay US$7 to roam for 24 hours in the following South American countries: Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Colombia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. There are other providers and countries included in this deal, such as the UK and the United States, so check the website or ask in store to be sure.
Movistar also offers a data-only SIM card called Internet Prepago. You can get 200MB data on 4G for ARS$18 (about US$1.15). Once you have used your 200MB allowance, you will receive a text message that will automatically activate a new cycle unless you text “NO” or “OPTION” to 772. To add another 200MB, you can text “SI” to 772.
Personal has a very good 4G/LTE service and operates in most cities and areas across Argentina. Although it’s the third most popular telco in Argentina, it has consistently been voted the best by several leading bodies and is gaining ground on Movistar.
You can pick up SIM cards and credit in official stores, supermarkets and newsagents for ARS$20-40, with ARS$10 worth of credit.
Recargas Prepagas recharge vouchers range from ARS$30, 40 or 50 and you can purchase them online, in supermarkets or at petrol stations. You need to dial *150# to check your balance.
Personal offer several prepaid plans:
- Prepago Nacional. This plan offers 50MB per calendar day for ARS$7.99.
- Personal con Tarjeta. This plan offers 50MB per calendar day for ARS$4.37.
- Plan Digital Tarjeta. This plan offers 100MB per calendar day for ARS$12.
At midnight, your data plan will be renewed and when your data runs out, you will also receive an SMS from 152 to extend the plan. You can text "SI" to 152 to purchase another 50 MB of data for ARS$7.99.
Personal offers unlimited data for WhatsApp, which includes messages, calls and video. This is dependent on how much you want to spend.
There are also two very popular unlimited packages on offer:
You can get unlimited Internet for seven days at a cost of ARS$34.90. To take advantage of this plan, you will need to text “ACT SIMPLE” to 152.
You can also get unlimited Internet for 30 days at a cost of ARS$109.90. To activate this plan, you need to text “ACT INTERNET30” to 152.
- If you don’t know any Spanish, download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. Although some Argentinians can speak English, many cannot and they like it when foreigners try to speak Spanish.
- Argentinians call a SIM card a chip.
- Ask retailers to set up the SIM for you. This will save you a lot of time and trouble, but is also helpful to cover anything you might not understand.
TripAdvisor reviews can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Argentina.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “I don't think any of the carriers have stores at the airports. If you plan to spend some time in Buenos Aires, Movistar sells 4G chips for ARS$20, and they are pre-activated.”
- “Personal has a store at the Ezeiza Airport. They are by the pharmacy, you can buy a SIM card and charge it there. The worker was very nice to me and helped me set everything up.”
- “The first thing they will sell you is the chip (SIM) which is around ARS$30 (US$6). Once the number is activated, which is instantly, you can charge your new number on any kiosk around the city.”
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible international mobile phone. To double check if you have this option, contact your service provider before you set off on your travels.
- Good value for money
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Can be used in other South American countries
- Could be compatible with your current mobile phone
- Make sure SIM cards don’t already have existing plans uploaded
- No mobile phone devices offered with the SIM card plans
- Can only be used on SIM-unblocked GSM phones
- Poor coverage can be found on all networks
Q: What do I do if I lose my phone?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when travelling 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 cannot be underestimated! If you do lose your phone, 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 claim on insurance. Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world and don’t let this one out of your sight!
When travelling around South America, it’s important to save as much as you can to cover unexpected costs that might crop up. Travelling on a budget can be difficult so cut down on things that are not such a necessity, such as your mobile phone provider while abroad.