Reduce your roaming rates by using a local SIM card.
Deep in the heart of South America, Bolivia is a little removed from the rest of the world. Using your phone there is key to keeping in touch with the outside, but can be expensive. Switching over to a local SIM card could save money.
Bolivia has some of the best prepaid SIM cards in South America, with deals that can really reduce your bills. You can buy 1GB of data for as little as BOB20 (AUD$4). So, whether you’re planning a short trip, a holiday or a tour of South America, check out the best SIM card options available on finder.com.au.
There are three main mobile phone operators in Bolivia: Entel, Tigo and Viva. All three operators have been tried and tested by both locals and travellers, and can be trusted. According to OpenSignal’s coverage map, Bolivia has a strong mobile phone network around the La Paz and El Alto areas. Other inner areas can be weak, and in the outer regions it can be extremely difficult to find a good signal.
Bolivia’s operators offer good roaming rates and sell prepaid credit, which allow users to take advantage of their cheap offers and deals. All networks offer customers 2G, 3G and 4G services. Locals call their SIM cards chips and there are rules and regulations when purchasing them. Tourists must register SIM cards with authorised dealers before using, and should show their passport to the seller. Top-up vouchers can be purchased from almost any supermarket, post office, newsagent or tobacconist.
Entel is the state-owned mobile operator in Bolivia with a 44% share of the market. It’s well-known for providing the best coverage, even in the remote Amazon and Andes regions. It offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. 4G is now available in most towns and cities across Bolivia.
Entel’s prepaid SIM card can be purchased for BOB10 in their official shops called Multicentro Entel. We highly recommend that you purchase your SIM card from these stores, because they will automatically register it for you. You can also activate the SIM online by selecting "Registro" on their official website. To login select "TELÉFONO" then enter your SIM card number and PIN code. Dial *122# to retrieve the PIN code.
Top-ups can be purchased from Pago Express for BOB5, or vouchers in the following denominations from most stores: BOB10, 20, 30, 50 and 100 by dialing *109*<14-digit PIN code>#. Dial *105# to check balance.
The standard default and overuse rate is BOB0.20 per MB. The following data packs can also be added:
|1 day, valid until midnight on day of purchase||60MB||BOB2|
|Valid for 30 days||90MB||BOB9|
Dial *10# <call> to activate, or register online using your personal account. Data will roll over to the following month, if you purchase a new data pack with at least the same value.
Tigo is the second largest provider in Bolivia with a market share of 29%. It has good 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services, it was the first network to offer 4G in Bolivia, which increased its market share. Their prepaid SIM card can be purchased from official stores, supermarkets, kiosks and the airport. SIMs are sold for BOB10, and it’s highly recommended you register them at official stores to get the mandatory registration process out of the way early. If you don’t activate your SIM within five days, it will be suspended.
Dial *108# and follow instructions to register. Instructions are in Spanish, so you may want to go online or speak to a member of staff in their official stores to save hassle.
Credit can be purchased from almost anywhere, vouchers can be picked up for BOB10, 30, 50 or 100 and are valid for at least 60 days. Dial *123# to check the balance.
These bundles can be purchased for prepaid SIM cards:
|until 6 am on the next day||55MB||BOB2|
Register online. Data will roll over to the following month, if you purchase a new data pack with at least the same value. The standard default rate and overuse rate is charged at BOB0.15 per MB. Text SALDO to 174 to check data usage.
Viva is the smallest provider with a 27% market share. Viva is well-known in Bolivia for offering the lowest rates, and their customer base is expanding annually. Although coverage can be limited in some areas, it has the best data deals which can be used if you find a good signal area. It offers 4G services in only a few cities, including La Paz.
Viva’s prepaid SIM card can be purchased for BOB10-15, which includes BOB10 credit. Call 100 to activate the SIM card, but it’s better to purchase it from the official store so they can register it for you.
Credit vouchers can be purchased for BOB10, 20, 50 or 80 sold in most retailers. Dial *109*<Voucher PIN code># to add credit. Dial *105# to check the balance.
Data-only SIM cards
The standard default rate is BOB0.50 per MB. The following data plans can also be added:
|1 hour||450MB||BOB6||HORA 450MBx6Bs activation code|
|until 1 am on the next day||11MB||BOB1.5||DIARIA 11MBx1.5Bs activation code|
|55MB||BOB2||DIARIA 55MBx2Bs activation code|
|230MB||BOB5||DIARIA 230MBx5Bs activation code|
|525MB||BOB10||DIARIA 525MBx10Bs activation code|
|1.1GB||BOB20||DIARIA 1100MBx20Bs activation code|
|7 days||300MB||BOB15||SEMANAL 300MBx15Bs activation code|
|1GB||BOB30||SEMANAL 1000MBx30Bs activation code|
|30 days||60MB||BOB9||MENSUAL 60MBx9Bs activation code|
|200MB||BOB25||MENSUAL 200MBx25Bs activation code|
|750MB||BOB50||MENSUAL 750MBx50Bs activation code|
|2.5GB||BOB100||MENSUAL 2500MBx100Bs activation code|
|8.1GB||BOB200||MENSUAL 8100MBx200Bs activation code|
|18GB||BOB300||MENSUAL 18000MBx300Bs activation code|
|Nighttime||600MB||BOB3||NOCTURNA 600MBx3Bs activation code|
Text 9101 or dial #511 to purchase a pack. If there is enough credit on your account, the packages will auto-renew. Text SALIR <activation code> to 511 to cancel. Data will roll over to the following month, if you purchase a new data pack with at least the same value.
- There are a staggering 38 official languages in Bolivia, but Spanish is the main mother tongue. Download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel for help with Spanish translations. The good thing about Bolivia is that tourism is so popular therefore English is widely spoken.
- Locals call a SIM card a chip or SIM.
- Ask the seller to set up the SIM card for you. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website for advice.
- We advise you to purchase your SIM card from an official store and register it there before using, that way you have all the red tape out of the way early on.
TripAdvisor user comments could help guide you through the best SIM card options in Bolivia. Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
- “We will be travelling around Bolivia for 10 days so decided that having a SIM card with data will be a good option. We arrived in La Paz today and got our phones sorted out with TIGO who have an 800MB LTE plan for 25bs, not too bad!”
- “Great coverage on LTE even in Uyuni. Just walk into any TIGO store and they will sort you out”
- “You need to fill out the form which you can get from the SIM card outlet centre and is no hassle. Remember, bring your passport, they will want to see it!”
- “Wi-Fi can be pretty bad in La Paz, so think about buying a prepaid SIM card with data connection for a trip to Bolivia”
All networks require you to have a SIM-unlocked GSM compatible mobile phone. To double check you have this phone, contact your provider before you set off on your travels.
- Good value for money
- Bolivia has good coverage in La Paz and El Alto
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current mobile phone
- Coverage can be very weak in the outer regions
- No mobile phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Rules and regulations make buying a SIM card difficult
Q: Is the signal good in the Andes and Amazon?
A: All networks will suffer in the Andes or Amazon region, regardless of the provider you use. Ensure your tour guide has a satellite phone when taking on long tours through the outer regions. Service can be problematic in most areas, but no worse than what you would get on your home phone! So, it makes sense to opt for a local SIM card when travelling around Bolivia.