After more than 6 months using our SIM card Free Mobile, it’s over, we arrive in Colombia which isn’t covered by our subscription . So we resume our good habits of buying local SIM cards.
In Colombia, as in most South American countries, you can buy a SIM card that you will then have to credit (credit can be bought in almost any small grocery store by giving your phone number). With this credit, you will be able to buy “packs” with a more or less long duration (from 1 to 30 days), more or less Internet, more or less SMS, more or less calls, ..
Often, social networks (WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, …) are included in an unlimited way, so their use does not reduce your data level
The packs are really varied, you can buy “50 SMS”, “20 minutes of call”, “1 hour of Youtube use” or “24h of Waze use”.
This system isn’t very easy to understand when you first discover it, but in the end it proves to be very flexible and allows you to spend only what you consume.
Buy a SIM card at the airport of Medellin
Unlike most international airports, there are no specific phone booths or stores for SIM card purchases.
However, some stores allow you to buy one, you have to open your eyes and identify the logos of Tigo, Claro or Movistar.
This is the case, for example, of this souvenir store which is right in front of the Viva Air company office.
Buy a SIM card in a Claro store
Claro is one of the most important operators in Colombia, you will find their stores everywhere. We went to the Santafé shopping center in Medellin.
The operation only took about fifteen minutes (you have to present a documento, not having one on you, a photo of my passport that I had on the phone did the trick).
The SIM card itself is sold at the rate of 3000 cop.
We also bought 44,000 cop of credit which allowed us to buy a 2GB data pack (+ unlimited use of Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp) valid for 30 days. This package costs 42,900 cops and does not allow you to make phone calls.
There are other types of packages with unlimited phone calls and SMS (valid between 2 and 30 days).
Concerning the use of social networks, there are still some subtleties, for example, regarding Facebook, sending videos is included but the viewing of videos will be deducted from your data.
The employee handled everything for us, the insertion of the SIM card and the purchase of the pack. If you come across a less friendly employee, read below “Codes to know” to find out how to buy a pack.
The SIM card is activated instantly and the Internet is immediately usable.
Buy a Tigo SIM card in a phone store
It’s Anh’s turn to buy her SIM card. Not having seen a Tigo store, we spotted a phone store marked wholesale “recarga” (recharge), selling top-ups from all operators.
We are offered several packages and Anh opts for the package: 20 000COP for 2GB, valid for 15 days. Unlimited SMS and unlimited phone calls to local numbers.
Note to digital nomads: It is thanks to this unlimited phone offer at Tigo that we have been able to make calls with France via Reptel
Unlike the Claro store, we did not need to show any identification.
The SIM card is sold to us for 10,000 COP. We then understood that we had been tricked by the seller, the real price is 5,000 COP. But hey, we’re not going to cry for 1.3€. At the end of the 15 days (or at the end of the 2GB), you just have to buy another recharge and then ask the seller to activate the 2GB plan (or do it yourself with the codes below).
Note added by Anh: I didn’t have to give my passport number when I bought the SIM card. And I have received regular SMS messages requiring me to register my smartphone (Registra tu equipo: IMEI number and proof of purchase of the smartphone) at a.tigo.com/registra within 20 days of purchase, otherwise it would be blocked (i.e. could no longer be used with Tigo specifically). The process is weird, when I entered my passport number, they found the name and address of a Colombian woman living somewhere. I put my name and address in Medellin, it doesn’t want to. So I had to validate the form, keeping the name of the Colombian woman.
If you want to recharge you can :
- Buy credit from a salesperson at a grocery store or phone store by giving them your phone number.
- To do so online at https://transacciones.tigo.com.co/servicios/paquetes?he=1 you will however need the identity number that allowed you to register the SIM card. Depending on where you bought the card, it can be your passport number or the identity card of the seller . In our case, I put that of the mysterious Colombian cf. the pavement above.
The codes to know
Codes allowing to perform certain operations are to be known. To use them, simply dial them as if you wanted to call someone and then click on the “call” button. A few seconds later, you will receive an alert with the answer.
- Check your remaining credit: *103#
- Buy a : * 611# then choose the type of pack you want(1 for all included, 2 for data, 3 for applications, …) .
- Display your phone number *611# then 5 then 1.
I still haven’t found the code to know how much data is left on a pack. If you have I’m a taker 🙂
- Check your credit and data balance: *611# then 8 then 1 then 1. You will receive the information by SMS.
- Buy a pack : * 611# then 1, 2 or 3 depending if you want internet data, phone or a combination of both.
Where to buy SIM cards in El Poblado?
At the Centro Comercial Monterrey in the El Poblado district.
This shopping center only sells phones, drones, computer equipment and technological products… you will find a lot of stores selling SIM cards and refills for your SIM cards
On the ground floor, you can, for example, go to the Mundo Mania store for refills. There is a Tigo stand just opposite and a Claro stand not far away.
In this shopping center, you can also print out your boarding passes (look for the Papelaria on the ground floor).
What is the flow rate for 4G in Medellín, Colombia?
On this test performed in Medellin on August 24, 2019, I am in 4G (not 4G+). So we find ourselves with a very correct flow without being exceptional. Here is a speedtest :
Speedtest 4G Tigo
On the speed tests below, we are in 4G (or LTE). Depending on the location, the speeds are more or less fast. In any case, when we are at the same places, the Claro sim card seems to us always more powerful.
On San Andrés Island, I couldn’t connect to the Internet with my Tigo card, it wasn’t picking up. While JB always had the 4G with his Claro card.
To have the speedtests of the Wifi in Medellín, consult this article