It’s a good idea to pick up a free or cheap SIM card for your mobile (cell) phone when you get to certain countries, especially South American states.
I made the mistake in South Africa of walking by the ladies from Virgin Mobile handing out free packs.
So how free is free? Free in that the SIM is often free and then you top up to add ‘megas’ or internet access and minutes/SMS.
For Argentina, I couldn’t find a phone store at AEP (Jorge Newbery Aeroparque) Airport, but it’s small and when you get through customs, it’s all a bit frantic and packed. I was more interested in getting my taxi / remis!
Note: for anyone using Three/3 PAYG in the U.K., not only are most South American countries not Feel At Home destinations, 3 doesn’t even offer service! So I needed a SIM!
Once I got to my hotel and on to wifi, I worked out that the Personal network was cheapest. There was a store right on the corner! Lucky! However, they turned me away, as the smaller shops don’t deal with SIMs.
I had a backup plan, as a big Movistar store was just a few blocks away. I found it easily, and went in to find 4 queues for different objectives. While the objectives might have been obvious to everyone else, I had no clue! I asked a manager sitting on the side where I should go using my imperfect Spanish and – after he looked at me like I had stolen his firstborn to become a houseslave in my summer home in Paraguay – I got in the first queue!
This queue was to give you a number to get in a different queue. They also take your name so it can be displayed on a screen alongside your number. Lest there be any doubt.
It took just five minutes, which was great and an English speaking assistant was located – a Swiss lady who spoke five languages! She swapped out my 3 SIM card and carefully gave it back to me taped on to a card. She wrote down the number for me and explained that I couldn’t buy Movistar credit in a Movistar store, which seems bizarre.
The assistant did try to explain a top-up/add-on scenario which I’m not sure I completely undeRstand even after reading the Movistar website using Google Translate!
In the U.K., you top-up with a certain amount of money. Then you use this credit to buy an add-on, the more you spend, the more minutes, SMS and internet usage you get to use a particular period.
In Argentina, it’s either a flat rate of $7.50 per mega out of your available credit, or buy an add on for 5 days for $200. However, it wasn’t stated how many megas you got for that. Movistar kept texting me but using slang and shorthand which Google translate couldn’t work out!
My language skills to one side, as long as you can get online or make a call, just top up and pay as you go! The cost is not high either way!