How To Get A SIM Card In Buenos Aires

Last modified on September 2nd, 2013

I’ve been here three weeks now, and have most of the basics figured out. But definitely one of the hardest problems I’ve had to solve in Argentina so far was how to get a SIM card in Buenos Aires and ultimately top it up with funds.

Why Movistar?

There are two large GSM cell carriers in Buenos Aires: Claro and Movistar. Having investigated them both prior to moving to Buenos Aires, I came to the conclusion that Movistar offered the best deal for pay as you go plans.

First, why Pay As You Go? Unfortunately unless you’re a local and have a DNI card (a local resident card) you can’t get a phone on any type of contract. That means the only option is a Pay As You Go plan, such as the Movistar Prepago one.

The main benefit for the Movistar plan is that they offer a 3G data option that costs 10 pesos for 48 hours worth of usage, which is a great deal. Movistar also offers promotions where they’ll double your credit if you add funds on a certain day, which has the potential to reduce the costs from 10 pesos for 48 hours to effectively 5 pesos for the same time period.

Where To Get A SIM

I figured I could hit up any Movistar office in the city and get a SIM. After trying three different ones I finally came to the conclusion that the only place to get a SIM card was down at the main Movistar office on Sante Fe Avenue and Callao. It’s quite a hike from Palermo, but definitely walkable in about 45 minutes or so.

Movistar Main Outlet, Buenos Aires

My Spanish was absolutely atrocious when I arrived, so I had to ask to speak to someone who spoke english. Strangely enough, there was only one person in the whole building who did (that’s a common occurrence down here – it’s very hard to find english speaking people at most local businesses).

I was given a number and had to go up the escalator to the waiting area and wait to be called. It took about 10 minutes of waiting, and eventually someone came and led me back downstairs to someone who was going to help me.

Unfortunately this person didn’t speak English, so we both had to muddle through it. They were actually extremely patient with me and definitely went out of their way to help out.

The first glitch we hit though was that they didn’t have any micro SIM cards for the iPhone 4. Since I had just spent three hours walking around trying to sort this situation out, I wasn’t about to leave. So, I convinced them to just give me a regular SIM with the intention of cutting it to fit the iPhone 4 myself.

Other than that, the process was fairly painless, and after about 10 minutes I walked away with a SIM card for the low price of about 10 pesos ($2.50 CAD).

One thing to make sure you bring is your passport – they have to fill out the passport information on your application. You won’t be able to obtain a SIM without it.

How To Add Money To Your SIM Card

Great, now you have a SIM card. Unfortunately until you add money on it your phone is completely useless.

This actually leads me to my most frustrating experience in Buenos Aires so far. I walked around looking for a place to recharge phones and ultimately found a “RapiPago” kiosk with a line up of people in it. I figured (incorrectly) that this was the place to top up my phone, so I walked in with a pile of Movistar documentation and tried communicating my desire to have my phone topped up. After three or four minutes of frustrating the hell out of the girl behind the counter, she passed me off to another guy who punched a pile of numbers in the computer, handed back my documents and basically asked me to leave.

In retrospect I think the RapiPago kiosks are for people attempting to pay other bills, such as regular phone bills. So me walking in with a pile of Movistar documentation must have seemed pretty weird to them. Unfortunately I made the long walk home from the kiosk in absolute shame, discouraged by the fact that I had a phone I couldn’t add funds to.

Thankfully a friend of mine arrived from Vancouver a few days later and helped me sort everything out. The places you’re looking for generally have a sign out front that says “Movistar Recarga”. The majority of these places are simply little corner stores that sell soda pop and chips.

Some of the places will sell your prepaid cards in 10, 20, 30, and 50 peso denominations. The only problem with them is that you have to call into the phone system (which is in Spanish) and add them to your account that way. It’s possible, and probably only difficult the first time, but I haven’t used that approach.

The other way is to find a store that actually adds the funds directly to your account. There’s one about a block from where I live, and I simply walk in, give them my local phone number along with 30 pesos or so, and boom, I have funds on my account instantly – in fact, you’ll get a SMS message while you’re at the store.

Whenever possible, wait for a Movistar promotion before adding funds to your account, as in most cases you can obtain double your money value by simply waiting a day or two.

Problems With Movistar

The only aspect of Movistar I don’t like is that you don’t get any indication when one of your optional plans (such as the 48 hour 3G data plan) expires. If you don’t time it right, your plan will expire while you’re still using data. The end result is you’ll burn through the entire credit on your account by just checking a few emails (since the data is no longer included, and is being charged at a per kilobyte cost). As a result, I generally don’t add too much money to my phone at any one time, fearful that I’ll accidentally forget to shut off data and burn it all up in just a few minutes.

I highly recommend setting a schedule to activate the data plan, either in the morning at 8am every second day, or in the evenings. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as you stick to it.

But, once you get your SIM and figure out a reliable place to add funds to it, you’re good to go and will have a functioning cell phone in Buenos Aires.

Update: July 2012

I was recently back in Buenos Aires, and this time I simply was able to obtain a SIM card from a Kiosko (those little places that sell cigarettes everywhere). Your mileage may vary, but I don’t think it’s necessary anymore to go all the way down to the Movistar office just for a SIM anymore. Maybe you can get a better plan that way, but I was able to get a SIM this time from a Kiosko, and that SIM could even do data as well.

36 responses to “How To Get A SIM Card In Buenos Aires”

  1. Noel says:

    Thanks for that very informative post (including even a pic of the movistar store where you get a sim chip!). I have an unlocked iPhone 3GS that I am bringing with me from Canada to Buenos Aires for my 2 week trip next week. I have used this phone in the US with AT&T’s GoPhone voice & data plan but I always have had to use the APN Changer program at to change the APN from my Canadian cellular provider, which is Fido, to AT&T.

    I notice you are from Canada (but maybe not with Fido) and you make no mention of changing any APN on your iPhone. Is this not necessary?

  2. Duane says:

    It’s true, I did change my APN. I should update the post at some point. I honestly wasn’t even sure if it was required, but I did it anyways. I’m using internet.unifon I think in the APN.

  3. Noel says:

    Thanks. Did you do that manually using Apple’s ‘iPhone Configuration Utility’ (wihch allows you to change APN’s) or did you use the program? The latter allows you to choose ‘Movistar 1’ or ‘Movistar 2’ as APNs for Movistar Argentina but doesn’t tell you what the APN string is behind each. Who is your cell provider in Canada btw? (maybe you don’t have to change it depending on who your home provider is).

  4. Duane Storey says:

    My provider back home was Rogers, but I have a factory unlocked phone. I believe I chose Movistar 1. Somewhere on that site I think it shows you what they all are. I also used the site, and emailed myself profiles for the Movistar ones as well as my original Rogers profile.

  5. Noel says:

    Thanks. I have those emailed to myself too. I just noticed from Apple’s website that if you have a factory unlocked phone like you do, unlike my (unofficially) software unlocked phone, that you can go into ‘Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data Network’ and change the APN without having to use the program (although the latter both works and makes APN changing pretty simple on iPhones unlocked either way).

  6. Duane Storey says:

    I’ve heard about that too, but I don’t have any setting there. I do have one in

    Settings => General => Profile (at the very bottom) and if I click that it shows me the APN profile info that’s currently installed. I don’t have an option to change it though, only to remove it (maybe once it’s gone there’s an option).

  7. Noel says:

    That profile that you see is put there by the program. Once you remove it it is gone and there is no further option and your phone is restored to your home providers APN. But, you can just reinstall it or another APN by going to on your iPhone safari browser (I just clicked the ‘+’ button on the bottom of the browser and then ‘Add to Home Screen’ so that I could add an icon to my iPhone for that app).

    Apple, at, says that ‘If your carrier allows you to edit the APN settings or if you have an authorized, unlocked iPhone, you will see the ‘Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data Network’. But, given your experience, that appears to be wrong as you don’t see that, yet you say that you have a factory unlocked phone. I guess the ‘or’ should be ‘and’. Odd.

    Sorry, I guess I am getting quite technical for someone who is on vacation!

  8. Duane Storey says:

    Nah, I’m not really on vacation – I’m working as I go!

    Yah, it’s definitely unlocked as the SIM worked flawlessly. But perhaps the local carrier doesn’t allow that to show up in the settings. Either way, works fine the way I have it set up! Enjoy Buenos Aires!

  9. Noel says:

    Thanks. Going to Iguazu too and your post was helpful.

    Btw, you may want to know the following if you travel to other countries and want to use your iPhone: I found out that if your iPhone is officially unlocked you do not need to change the APN as long as the new SIM you insert in your iPhone is from one of Apple’s officially supported carriers (the list is at Also, if this is the case, unless the new official carrier has for some reason decided to make the ‘Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data Network’ menu accessible even though it need not be, it will remain inaccessible. But, in any case, if you pop in a SIM from an unofficial carrier that menu will be accessible (but not to us plebes with unofficially unlocked iPhones) and you can change the APN. Of course, the program is still an alternative way of changing the APN if you need too.

    Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  10. shawns says:

    exactly what I was looking for. We need to get this post some more SEO because it took me several searches to finally find the info you put up.

    I’m heading down there in a couple days and need to figure out the whole data situation. Sounds like somewhat of a mess. Thanks for figuring it out and sharing it!

  11. Noel says:

    Bad news! I just got to Argentina this morning and heard that none of the 3 main operators (Movistar, Claro, Personal) have data plans for their prepaid phone cards. Data plans are only available with subscriptions, which require to be a resident in Argentina. Indeed, people who have had prepaid data are reporting they can no longer get it.

  12. Duane says:

    I don’t think that’s accurate at all. I’ve been using data for all of February with the Movistar Prepago plan. Even their website still lists it as an option:

    (Text datos to 2345).

  13. Noel says:

    Thanks for that info. Maybe the people reporting this are not doing something right. I’m going to head out tomorrow using the info from your post and get my sim card and credit and see if it works and post what happened. Since the data option is still on their website, then it the fact yours works can’t be because you are grandfathered on your SIM chip or anything.

  14. Noel says:

    Data still works. I got my prepago SIM chip today at the Movistar store above for 12 pesos and then bought a 20 pesos credit at a kiosk an texted Datos to 2345 and within minutes had 1GB of data working on my iPhone 3GS good for 48 hours or 1GB (whichever comes first). As I have a software unlocked iPhone I did use the APN changer at to change the APN. It appears that it doesn’t seem to matter if you use the APN movistar 1 or movistar 2. It is a good idea to email both APNs to your phone so that you don’t need a WiFi connection to run the APN changer program.

  15. Noel says:

    And, one more thing, put your iPhone into airplane mode just before you get to 48 hours if the 1GB has not run out first (highly unlikely) because as soon as you hit the 48 hour mark data charges are deducted at a high cost per kb from the remaining credit on your phone which, if you initially charged for the minimum of 20 pesos, is 10 pesos left. You will likely want to use that 10 pesos to buy another 1GB of data, again good for another 48 hours if you don’t use the 1GB up first.

    Also, if you know how long you will be in BA and want data the whole time here then just buy enough recharge cards to cover enough data for the time you will be here, ie divide the number of days by two and then multiply by 10 pesos and that will cover your trip. You can then just use Skype over 3G for voice calls. 1,000 SMS costs 7 pesos for one day so I dispensed with that and am just emailing or calling people I want to communicate with.

  16. Noel says:

    Actually, ignore the SMS comment above as it seems the offers from Movistar keep changing (now it’s 1,000 SMS for 3 days for 10 pesos. Just go to to see the latest prepaid offers from Movistar.

  17. Jessica says:

    Hey do you have any idea if it’s possible to order a SIM and have it shipped to you prior to arrival in BA?? I’m coming down on Dec 1 but wont have time to get a SIM until like the 2nd week I am there and I really want it before then. There is a place that will mail them to you but for $40 american!! Not worth it I dont think……..

  18. Duane says:

    I’d be surprised if that worked. Most companies want your passport to activate your account. I don’t think you’ll be able to get a SIM unless you’re able to walk into a store and get one in person. You may have to just settle for roaming until you’re able to do so.

  19. BryanM says:

    Hi, first I’d like that thank you for all the info.
    I’m going there in Jan 2012 and realy want use 3G database as soon as I landed since I do not speak Spanish at all.
    I will be brining my factory unlocked Iphone 4s, but you mentioned they dont have micro-sim card and you had to cut it. Would you please provide more detail as how did you cut it?
    Also, is it possible to have someone locally to get a monthly database plan for me since I will be there for almost two months.
    Thanks in advance.

  20. Duane says:

    I just took my Canadian sim out, placed it on top of the SIM card from movistar, and cut around the edges to make them the same size. You can buy microsim cutters from ebay for a few dollars I believe, so if you have time you can try to order one.

    Your best bet is to just get a pay as you go plan like I go. Two months isn’t really long enough to justify getting a normal plan, and you need a DNI for that I believe.

  21. It’s good to read about it now when I’m going to Buenos Aires 🙂

  22. JJ says:

    Thank you for such detailed information, this will save me a lot of time when I travel there later this year. I will look forward to any updates you add to the site.
    Anyone looking to cut a micro sim can get a cutter tool from ebay, I have seen a lot of them for about 3GBP aprox $2, it takes the risk out of getting it right first time.
    Thanks again for such a great post.

  23. Duane says:

    I would be pretty surprised if you cannot get a real microsim now from the same place. The iPhone 4 was still pretty new when I was there, now it’s been out for a while and the 4S is out too. So I would think they would have microsim in stock now.

  24. AJK says:

    Hey, is there any way to identify the places that will add funds directly to your account? I’m in Palermo, so if you know anywhere nearby that would be very helpful.

  25. Duane Storey says:

    Just look for Kioskos that have a “Recarga aqui” sign in the windows. I used to just ask “Recarga Movistar aqui?” or something like that. You can even just pass your phone over with the phone set to show the number, and they can type it in that way.

  26. AJK says:

    Thanks; managed to get myself loaded up. I think they have dropped the datos pack, as when I send that to 2345 I get this message.
    Ya no necesitas comprar un Pack de Datos.
    “Ingresa en Internet desde tu equipo y navega todo el dia hasta las 00hs x solo $1 telefono / $5 modem. Infowebmovistar”

    Internet is working, so will have to wait and see what I am charged!

  27. evelyn brown says:

    Heading to Buenos Aires in a few days. Taking my Motorola Droid 3. Do I just get a simm card to fit then load it up? Looking mainly for voice and text. Data is not at all important.
    Thanks for this very informative post and chain of comments. Too bad it seems to be so complicated to communicate from Argentina.
    Oh, one more question. Will the simm card work anywhere in Argentina, or only BA? For example, Usuhaia?

  28. Duane Storey says:

    You should be fine. Just find a kiosko (anywhere that sells cigarettes) and ask for a SIM card. Eventually you will find one. Typically you will find SIM cards and not Micro SIM cards, but they are easy enough to cut down. And yes, they will work all over Argentina, not just in BsAs.

  29. JayKay says:

    Just arrived in Buenos Aires a few days ago and purchased a SIM from the kiosks as advised on the comments here. Topped up by 20 pesos too. AJK is right, sending Datos to 2345 does nothing anymore. But you do get a text message back from 2345 stating that there is no need to subscribe to a data pack, instead just start browsing and 1 pesos will be deducted per day (unlimited).
    However, I’ve tried to browse on my iPhone using Safari and it doesn’t work. Safari keeps returning an error message telling me that I am not subscribed to a cellular data service. I tried installing APN profiles and that doesn’t work either. My iPhone is unlocked and I have full 3G reception. Any ideas anyone?

  30. aimo says:

    heya, im now in san miguel de tucuman and today i purchased sim card from personal. the packaging says two numbers are free of charge: one for calls and one for sms and using internet is 1peso per day.
    but im still not able to make calls! what do i need to do? im an a blackberry/o2 germany and the carrier/ shows up fine – could you point me in the direction i need to look?
    regards ~aimo

  31. Steph says:

    Hola. Thanks for the great blog. I got a Movistar SIM card and $30 credit but Internet is not working. I was told it’s $1 per day; do I need to activate this somehow? I tried texting datos to 2345 but it came back with a msg that these data packages don’t exist anymore. Triple-checked the wap settings as well; that’s all looking fine. Thanks heaps for your help!

  32. Martin says:

    Great advice, Duane — thank you!

    For us whose Spanish is below beginner level, could you write out the Spanish for “I’d like to buy a Movistar prepay SIM with 50 pesos credit” and “I want to recharge phone number [xxxx] with 50 peos, please”?

  33. Ryan says:

    Just FYI the $1/day works fine on Movistar. You just need to change the APN to “internet” and remove the username and password.

  34. Tigersripes says:

    Hi, I just got to BA today and was able to pick up a prepaid SIM from a Kiosco with what remains of my high school Spanish. Changing the APN to use “internet” instead of “” I can now get a 3G/HDSPA link but am never actually able to reach anything else on the Internet.

    There are some older sites that discuss required proxies, but they look out of date and didn’t work when I tried them.

    I’m using Android 4.3 (Jellybean) for what it’s worth, but I think this is a configuration issue and I’m just missing a piece of it.

    My current config:
    APN: internet
    Proxy: not set
    Port: not set
    Username: internet
    Password: internet
    Server: not set
    MMSC: not set
    MMS Proxy: not set
    MMS Port: not set
    MCC: 722
    MNC: 07
    Authentication Type: not set

  35. Mere says:

    This post was very helpful for me. I’ve just relocated to BsAs from the US and needed a micro SIM for my unlocked iphone 4s (I use Sprint services in the US). I purchased a micro SIM from Claro in Pilar and added 100 pesos. I spent 5 days trying to get the micro SIM to work. I eventually took it back to the Claro store in Tortugas Mall. They gave me a new micro SIM and told me to wait two hours. If it still didn’t work I was to go upstairs and ask the folks in the iPoint store. It didn’t work and I took my phone to the iPoint store where I found a wonderful English speaking salesperson. He and the team there did all they could, but said the issue was not with my phone. I went back downstairs to the Movistar store and bought a micro SIM from them and it worked right away! I was so glad to finally see a service provider’s name in the upper right hand side of my phone! They told me to go upstairs to put money on my prepago plan. I went upstairs to the store directly above Movistar and they added my funds to my phone instantly! If you face the same issue, I highly recommend trying different service providers. If you are near Tortugas Open Mall, the main 3 providers are all in the same end of the mall together. The salesman that helped me at the iPoint store said that Claro “must” give me my money back for the SIM and prepaid plan because they didn’t work. I’ll check on that another day…

  36. Useful information. I plan to visit Argentina next month and stay there for a while (3+ months) so i will need a local number. I saw that the information is quite old (almost 2 years ago) so i hope the situation remain the same…

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