Getting a SIM card or ‘chip’ in Argentina is easy once you know how. And using a local Argentine phone number is a lot cheaper than international roaming or using a travel SIM card.
In this article I’ll walk you through the process of getting a local mobile phone number in Buenos Aires. And we’ll discuss what you’ll need to take with you to activate the SIM card and how much the whole process will cost you.
But before I dive into the process of getting a SIM card in Argentina, let’s discuss what the best SIM card in Argentina actually is. And what you should know about the mobile carriers in Argentina.
Getting A Local Mobile Phone SIM Car And Number In Argentina
What Is The Best SIM Card In Argentina?
The best SIM card in Argentina is the carrier with a shop closest to your accommodations. There are three (3) main mobile carriers in Argentina. Personal, Claro and Movistar. And they’re, well, all pretty much the same.
The process for activating the SIM card (outlined below) should be the main determining factor you take into account when deciding on which mobile carrier you choose in Argentina. Because you will actually need to visit the store.
I went with Movistar this time and Claro last time. But I’m yet to see much of a difference between them. Price and inclusions wise, they’re pretty much the same. And in Buenos Aires with a late model iPhone, I can’t tell the difference between them when using my device. Both have the same speed and connectivity.
Claro had slightly more kiosks selling their recharges. But even then, you’re always within a block or two of a kiosk that can sell you a recharge for Movistar. They’re literally so similar, I can’t in good faith tell you I prefer one over the other.
The Process for Getting A Movistar SIM Card In Argentina
Though we’re discussing the process for getting and activating a Movistar SIM card, the process outlined below applies equally well to Claro and Personal. They’re almost identical processes. And all of them are a bit of a circle jerk.
The process for acquiring and activating a mobile phone SIM card in Argentina includes three (3) steps. And those steps are as follows:
- Get SIM card from a kiosk (convenience store)
- Activate the SIM card in store with the mobile provider
- Buy credit and charge up the activated SIM at a kiosk after activation
Get A Mobile SIM For Argentina
You need to buy the SIM card, called a ‘chip’ in Argentina, from a kiosk. Those little hole in the wall convenience stores that sell drinks and cigarettes, also sell mobile phone SIM cards.
There’s at least one kiosk on every block in the busier parts of Capital Federal. And in greater BA you’re usually within a couple of blocks of a kiosk. Just look for a convenience store.
Most kiosk sell cards for all the main providers. And when choosing which SIM to buy, be sure that you know where that providers own branded store is. Check Google Maps and decide whether you want to visit a Claro, Movistar or Personal store (based on location) and then pick a SIM card for that brand.
If you don’t speak Spanish, don’t fret. Just say the brand (Claro, Movistar or Personal) and the word ‘chip’. Say ‘chip prepago para (insert brand) por favor‘. Point at your mobile phone if necessary.
The price varies depending on the brand, but in $USD terms will be under $1USD. Movistar in September 2022 was $0.34c. Cheap.
Take The SIM Card To The Mobile Carrier’s Own Branded Store To Activate
Once you have the SIM you’ll need to take it to that mobile carriers store to activate it. You will need to take your passport with you. And the process takes about 5 minutes in store. It’s entirely free to activate the SIM card and phone number.
There’s usually also a kiosk next to or nearby the mobile carriers store. So you can combine this step with the first. But the mobile carrier itself won’t sell its own SIM cards.
Yes, that sounds strange. And yes, the process makes no sense to anybody from the Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, United States or New Zealand. All I can say is, welcome to Latin America where things often make no sense.
Just wander into the mobile carriers store with your newly acquired SIM card you bought at a kiosk nearby and then ask to activate it. No Spanish needed. Just hand it and your passport to the cashier and they’ll know what you want to do with the SIM card.
A staff member will photocopy or scan your passport. Activate your SIM card and put it into your phone. Once done, you can then move onto the next step. Acquiring credit.
Take Your Newly Activated Argentine Phone Number And Go And Buy Credit
You will need to go to a kiosk to buy credit. You won’t be able to buy credit for that mobile carrier in their own store. Yes, again, this step makes no sense. And again, welcome to Argentina.
The kiosk that sold you the SIM card will likely also be able to sell you the credit. If you’re on Claro, almost every kiosk sells recharges. If you’re on Movistar most kiosks sell recharges. And if you’re on Personal, you’re shit outta luck because I haven’t yet used them and can’t advise you. But I’d assume its most kiosks.
Movistar recharges (recargas in Spanish) start at A$400 ($1.30USD) for 55MB of data with calls and texts. Most recharges from most of the available carriers provide free and unlimited WhatsApp data. All recharges will come with a bunch of bonuses and enhancements, most of which I personally, never use.
If you’re here for a while and you want a decent amount of mobile data, on Movistar you can pay A$1300-A$1500 ($4.55USD) for 5GB of data and free calls and texts for 180 days. Because its so cheap and I’m always on my phone, I buy the biggest pack available at the time I recharge.
You just need to tell the kiosk attendant that you want a recharge and the amount. In Spanish ‘recargas para (mobile carrier) por favor. A$XXXX pesos gracias.‘ They will need your phone number and will charge up your phone through their computer. And you’ll get an immediate text message with the amount when its done. Check the amount matches what you paid them before walking off.
Once you’ve got to this stage and have credit on your phone, it works like every other prepaid phone around the world. Go forth and make calls and use data until you run out of credit or it expires. And then if you’re still here in Argentina, recharge it again from a kiosk.
How Much Does It Cost For A SIM Card In Argentina?
All the prices below are from my most recent change to Movistar in September 2022. Prices stated in $USD are converted at the dolar blue rate at the time of the transaction. Everything was paid for in cash acquired at the dolar blue rate.
|Steps||Cost In Peso||Cost In USD|
|SIM (Chip) From Kiosk||A$100||$0.35c|
|Activation At Movistar||Free||Free|
|Recharge (5GB + Unlimited Calls and SMS)||A$1337||$4.55|
Get A Local Phone Number In Argentina – Don’t Roam And Don’t Get A Travel SIM
As you can see, the whole process comes in under $5 USD if you’re working with dolar blue cash. If you’re not, the prices are a little over double in $USD. But all the prices are still a heck of a lot cheaper than the travel SIMS every blog is pushing. And this is because they get a commission for selling you those junk travel SIM cards.
Don’t buy a travel SIM card online for Argentina. You’ll pay way more than you need to for the SIM card. And calls and text messages (SMS) will be much more expensive than a local Argentina prepaid card.
All the travel blogs will tell you its too difficult to get an Argentine phone number and that’s why you should buy a SIM online with their affiliate links. And that’s complete bullshit. Though funnily enough, the process is easier in Cuba.
But yes, it’s a ridiculous process. Yet its not at all difficult. And the whole process takes less than 30 minutes to get an Argentina SIM card, activate it and put credit on it. Don’t buy a travel SIM card for Argentina. And don’t use roaming where you pay extra for the privilege of using your foreign number in Argentina.
Mobile roaming in Argentina is slow. Like really, really slow. Just get a local mobile phone number in Argentina and use it.
You can make all your apps work like they would at home and protect your data with a VPN. And a VPN is one of the most important apps to have in Argentina. I use and recommend NordVPN for Argentina.
You’ll save a lot of cash and get much faster 4G+ speeds using an Argentine mobile SIM card and local phone number in Argentina.
Where Can I Get More Information About Buenos Aires?
If you’re interested in Buenos Aires or Argentina in general you should visit our Complete Buenos Aires City Guide.
The Complete Buenos Aires City Guide is updated regularly. And it seeks to answer all of your questions regarding Buenos Aires and Argentina in one place.
You can read the Complete Buenos Aires City Guide for free here.