Buying a SIM card in the Colombian Mountains

As part of this adventure we have two phones. One is my 2012 Motorola X, through Republic Wireless with a $5/month plan that gets me unlimited calls/texts while I’m connected to WiFi. They use Sprint’s towers, so no service outside the USA.

The other is Liaren’s HTC Sense 820 which has dual SIM capability and HotSpot functionality with a T-Mobile Simple Choice Plan.

The great part about a Dual SIM phone is that SIM 1 can talk to the towers and get everything from back home, while SIM 2 can be a local SIM so that we can talk to the brothers here.

But, what SIM card or company should you use before heading abroad.

First, if you have T-Mobile, there is free data and texting through their partner MoviStar. No LTE in the countryside where we are, but there is strong 3G-HSPA.
With WhatsApp and Hangouts over data, there isn’t a big need for actual phone calls, as they are $0.20 a minute.

If you have Verizon or AT&T you normally have to buy an extra plan to use your phone internationally.

However we are here for 6 weeks and want to be able to call the local friends as well without incurring International rates as not everyone has smartphones and/or WhatsApp, Skype, etc.
Shopping for a SIM

Didier!
Didier, forever helping us with our adventure here. He knows at least half of everyone here.

Finding a place that sells cell phones can be a little difficult. Everyone can recharge it once you have one though. However with a little looking you can find one.

Ahh, a Movistar shop appeared!

Movistar
Cellphone store

The main carriers here are Claro, Contigo, and Movistar. Claro is the most popular, but because of this their towers can be overloaded and slow. Several people recommended Movistar, and they are actually T-Mobile’s partners as well.
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Within a few minutes and about $8,000.00 Pesos ($2.50) we had a local phone number, a new nano SIM, about 200 minutes and a few texts (no one really texts here).
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Sandra, the store owner, activated it from her phone and we paid in cash. No cedula or Passport required.

Now we can use unlimited 3G data through the T-Mobile SIM and call the local friends to make service or meal plans through the secondary SIM. If we use up all the minutes we just head back or stop at almost any house it seems to recharge it.

Internet on the go
But what about internet when Liaren’s on the phone? The same shop is loaning us a USB modem complete with another SIM. The data rates aren’t too bad, but there’s definitely no streaming.
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50,000.00 Pesos for 30 days/3 GB of data. That’s roughly $20 US.
Also with a little help any Windows 7/8 computer can become a hotspot, hello phone calls/texts for my phone.

In all it’s fairly inexpensive, but the price lists here are a bit ridiculous on new phones.

Phones
Phone price list

If you’re heading this way stock up on unlocked phones with the right GSM/LTE bands.  You’ll be able to have a few extra dollars in your pocket.

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Jeeps and motos, staples in Quinchia.

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5 thoughts on “Buying a SIM card in the Colombian Mountains

  1. Pingback: Buying a SIM card in the Colombian Mountains | The G: Files | TFF Consulting

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