Written by Kieran Proctor

How To Get A Local Mobile Phone Number And SIM Card In Colombia

Planning a trip to the vibrant country of Colombia? Whether you’re a digital nomad working remotely, a solo traveler exploring ...

Planning a trip to the vibrant country of Colombia? Whether you’re a digital nomad working remotely, a solo traveler exploring the beauty of South America or an expat starting a new life abroad, staying connected is crucial.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through the process of getting a local mobile phone number and SIM card in Colombia. Thereby ensuring you’re always just a call or a click away from your loved ones back home and the essential services you need while traveling.


Why Get A Local SIM Card In Colombia?

Traveling abroad comes with its own set of challenges and staying connected shouldn’t be one of them. With a local SIM card, you get to enjoy the convenience of having a working data connection on your phone, making your travel experience in Colombia much smoother.

Here’s why you should consider getting a local SIM card in Colombia:

  1. Avoid Roaming Charges: International roaming can be quite expensive. By using a local SIM card, you can avoid these high costs and enjoy affordable local rates.
  2. Stay Connected: Whether you need to use Google Maps, book an InDrive or stay in touch with your loved ones back home, having a local SIM card ensures you’re always connected.
  3. Access Local Services: Having a local phone number can make it easier to access local services, make restaurant reservations or book local tours.
  4. Stay Safe: In case of emergencies, having a local phone number is extremely useful. You can contact local authorities or emergency services without any hassle.
How To Get A Local Mobile Phone Number And SIM Card In Bogota Colombia
Staying connected in Colombia

Choosing The Right SIM Card Provider In Colombia

When it comes to choosing a SIM card provider in Colombia, you have a few options. And not all of them are good. The main players in the market are Claro, Tigo and Movistar. With Claro being the largest network provider with the widest LTE coverage and a market share of nearly 50%.

While all these providers offer decent coverage and data speeds, Claro outshines the rest with its extensive coverage and reliable service. However, Tigo is also a relatively strong contender with competitive prices and decent enough coverage.

Here’s a brief overview of the main cell providers in Colombia:

  • Claro: Known for its extensive coverage and reliable service, Claro is the largest mobile network provider in Colombia. It offers various prepaid plans to fit different needs and budgets.
  • Tigo: Offering compelling packages and competitive prices, Tigo is a popular choice among locals and tourists alike. It has a robust network and provides relatively good coverage across the country.
  • Movistar: Though not as widespread as Claro and Tigo, Movistar still offers decent coverage and competitive prices. It’s worth considering if you’re staying in a major city.

Your choice of provider may depend on your specific needs, budget and the regions you plan to visit in Colombia. Yet my own recommendation is to opt for Claro or use an international SIM card like Drimsim that can work on all of Colombia’s mobile networks.


Buying A SIM Card: Airport, Official Stores & Street Vendors

Once you’ve chosen your preferred provider, the next step is to actually buy the SIM card. Here are the three main places you can get a SIM card in Colombia:


Upon landing at international airports like Bogotá’s El Dorado or Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova, you will find kiosks or gift shops selling SIM cards. This option provides instant connectivity as soon as you land. However, be aware that prices at the airport may be slightly higher than in the city center.

Official Stores

For a hassle-free experience, consider buying your SIM card from an official store of your chosen provider. These stores are typically located inside shopping malls and offer reliable service. The staff will help you set up your SIM card, explain your recharge options and ensure that your phone and passport are registered correctly.

Street Vendors

Street vendors are another option for buying a SIM card. They are often found in popular tourist areas and cities. This can be a convenient option, but it’s not without its risks. The people selling SIM cards on the street likely won’t register your SIM card properly, leading to potential issues down the line.

To avoid any complications later on, it’s recommended to purchase your SIM card from an official store or a reputable convenience store chain.


Registration Process And Required Documents

When buying a SIM card in Colombia, you’ll need to register it under your name. This requires a valid passport and in some cases, your accommodation details. The registration process is straightforward and the sales representative will do it for you if you purchase your SIM card direct from one of the mobile networks official outlets.

Purchasing from an official store ensures proper registration, which is crucial to avoid any service disruptions or issues later on. Informal vendors often skip the registration process, which can lead to your SIM card getting blocked.


Prepaid SIM Card Costs And Plans

The cost of a prepaid SIM card in Colombia is quite affordable. For instance, a Claro SIM card costs around COP 3,000 (less than $1 USD) and you can top it up with various data plans based on your needs. A typical package might offer 500MB of data for a week, along with unlimited usage of apps like WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter, all for around COP 15,000 ($4 USD).

Tigo offers a similar pricing structure, with their SIM card being free and various data plans available to top up your account. A typical Tigo package might offer 10GB of data with unlimited calls and text for 30 days for COP 30,000 ($7.5 USD).

Remember, prices and plans can vary between providers and regions, so it’s worth checking the official websites of these providers or asking at their stores for the latest deals. And if like me you need larger amounts of data, bigger data packages are available. I typically spend COP 100,000 (around $25 USD) for 80GB per month.


Coverage And Data Speeds

Colombia boasts a robust mobile network with decent data speeds. Whether you’re in the bustling city of Bogotá, the vibrant city of Medellin or the charming coastal city of Cartagena, you can expect reliable service from your local SIM card.

The only exceptions might be during severe weather conditions or in remote regions where coverage might be limited. You’ll also find that there are dead spots in each city where reception will be limited. These low reception spots are often in more impoverished areas of major Colombian cities.


Topping Up Your Phone Credit In Colombia

Adding credit to your SIM card in Colombia is simple. You can do so at any convenience store, supermarket or even some kiosks that display the logo of your provider.

Simply ask for a ‘recarga’ (top-up), give your phone number and pay the amount you want to top up. It’s a quick and hassle-free process.

But make sure you get an SMS stating the top up amount before walking off. Just in the unlikely event that the staff member has sent the top up to the wrong mobile number. It’s happened to me twice.


The Verdict: Best SIM Card In Colombia

Considering factors like coverage, cost and customer service, Claro comes out as the top choice for a SIM card in Colombia, closely followed by Tigo. Both providers offer affordable plans, reliable service and wide coverage.

However, the best SIM card for you ultimately depends on your specific needs and the areas you plan to visit in Colombia. Always research and compare options before making a decision.

For shorter stays and if you’re unsure of the areas you’ll be visiting, Drimsim provides a competitive and reliable option. Drimsim works across all major networks in Colombia and can be ordered prior to traveling. I always carry a Drimsim card with me in my wallet when traveling, just as a backup option.


The Rise Of eSIMs In Colombia

While physical SIM cards are still the norm, eSIMs are slowly gaining in popularity. An eSIM, or electronic SIM, is a digital SIM card that doesn’t require a physical card. Instead, it’s a piece of software downloaded to your phone.

If your device supports eSIM technology, you can skip the hassle of physical SIM cards entirely. With eSIMs, you can get connected before you land, without needing to visit a kiosk or a store. However, not all providers offer eSIM options, so it’s worth checking in advance.

Whether you choose a traditional SIM card or go for an eSIM, staying connected in Colombia is easier than you might think. With a bit of research and preparation, you can navigate this beautiful country with the world at your fingertips.


Wrap Up – Staying Connected In Colombia

Staying connected while traveling in Colombia is essential for convenience and safety. With this guide, you now have all the information you need to get a local mobile phone number and SIM card in Colombia.

Whether you go with Claro, Tigo, another local provider or a Drimsim ordered in advance, you’re sure to enjoy reliable service and seamless connectivity during your Colombian adventure.

Just remember to ensure that you have reliable travel insurance when visiting Colombia. And make sure that your phone, tablet and laptop are covered in the event of theft.

Safe travels!

Where Can I Get More Information On Bogotá?

If you’re planning to visit Bogotá on your next vacation, or you’re simply interested in Colombia in general, you should read my Bogotá City Guide.

My Bogotá City Guide is updated regularly. And it seeks to answer all of your questions regarding Bogotá and Colombia in one place. Read my Complete Bogotá City Guide.