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Buying a SIM Card in Chile

By Kathy Watts Get Connected5 Comments


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One of the narrowest countries in the world (just 150 miles at its widest point), Chile is also one of the longest, with huge diversity both in landscape and potential activities.

With opportunities to explore the deserts of the Atacama, trek the wilds of Patagonia, cycle through vineyards, or explore the beaches & street art of Valparaiso, there’s an outdoor activity for everyone.

Santiago is the place for those looking for a more urban experience, with glitzy malls, world-class dining, and easy access to the wine valleys and coast.

If you’re looking to stay connected, buying a local “chip” (SIM card) is easy and inexpensive. Good data speeds and decent coverage are available throughout a large part of the country.

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Companies


  • We recommend Entel or Movistar for most travelers

There are four network providers in Chile — Movistar, Claro, Entel, and WOM — and a couple of resellers, Virgin and VTR Móvil.

Most travelers use Movistar, Claro, or Entel, with Movistar having the best coverage, and Entel typically having the highest data speeds.

How


It’s easy to find places to buy prepaid SIM cards in Chile. They’re typically available in supermarkets, kiosks, and elsewhere, both in Santiago and other major towns and destinations throughout the country.

While you’ll likely pay more to buy at the airport, it is possible if you’re in a hurry to get connected. Claro & Movistar both have outlets at Santiago’s international airport, and SIMs are also available at a kiosk called Fotokina.

All are located in the departure area (top level) of the airport, just across from ticketing and check-in, and are easy to find.

Fotokina Kiosk, Santiago airport

When we arrived around 10 am, the Movistar kiosk didn’t have anyone staffing it at the time, and Claro didn’t have any SIM cards for sale, a common problem at the airport. The staff directed us to Fotokina, a small kiosk which offered prepaid SIMs for both Movistar and Entel.

For the amount of data and length of time, Entel had the best price, so that’s who we went with. The process was super easy, simply selecting and paying for the package we wanted. The person at the kiosk installed the SIM cards in both of our phones, and activated them for us.

It took only a few minutes, and no passports were required.

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Costs


Fotokina offered a couple of different options.

The Movistar package was 12,000 CLP ($18 USD) for 1 GB of data and 160 minutes, valid for 7 days. The Entel package cost 22,000 CLP ($33 USD) for 3GB of data and 200 minutes, valid for 15 days.

We went with Entel, as it was a better deal for the length of time we were staying in Chile.

Registration


If you’ll be using your cell phone in Chile for more than 30 days (with a Chilean SIM), you are required to register it as an anti-theft measure.

Entel sent us a text message the day we bought our SIM card, directing us to register our phone within 30 days or the SIM would be blocked. They provided instructions and a link to the registration page.

To register your phone, you will need:

  • A photo or scan of your passport.
  • Proof of entry to the country (1 of the following):
    • Copy of PDI tourist card you received on arrival
    • passport with entry stamp, not older than 1 month
    • round trip tickets or equivalent document issued by the transport company or travel agency.
  • Proof of purchase abroad. A photo or scan of the invoice from the store where you purchased your phone.
  • A photo of your physical phone, showing the IMEI number (located on or inside the housing of your phone).
  • Photo of the screen of your phone displaying the IMEI (dial *#06# to display the 15 digit number).
  • Completed and signed copy of the Application for Registration, which you can download from the website.

Yes, it’s painful.

Registration doesn’t have a fee associated with it if you do it yourself, and you can register one phone per year for free. There are also various companies that can help you register for a fee. usually around 15,000 CLP ($23 USD).

Thankfully we didn’t need to go through the process, as we stayed less than 30 days in Chile.

Topping Up


Topping up was easy, since you can do it just about anywhere from kiosks on the street that sell newspapers and magazines, to supermarkets, convenience stores, and even pharmacies.

All you need to do is say which carrier you’re using, your phone number, and the amount you want to recharge. They’ll apply the credit, and you’ll receive a confirmation by text message.

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Coverage and Data Speeds


Coverage in the major cities was good, with mostly 4G service and fast data speeds. It did vary a bit depending on where we were in Santiago and Valparaiso, and which tower we were using.

On day trips out into the valleys, vineyards, and mountains outside of Santiago, we still had good coverage overall (3G or 4G, with occasional dead spots from Santiago all the way to Valparaiso).

Cities further south in Patagonia still had good coverage and speeds, and even the bus route from Punta Arenas to Puerto Natales had decent coverage (3G/4G with occasional dead spots).

Coverage became spotty or non-existent in more remote areas, however. We had zero service while trekking in Torres del Paine, or in the Atacama.

About the Author
Avatar

Kathy Watts

Kathy is a writer and photographer, who has been eating her way around the world since 2012, and can often be found wandering in the local markets. She & her husband, Kyle, currently live in Oaxaca, Mexico for the quick access to tacos. She shares stories about her life on whereverwithyou.com.

Comments

  1. Avatar

    Hi,

    May I ask if Fotokina accepts USD or they only accept Chilean Pesos?

    Thanks for the detailed article, extremely helpful for my trip next week!

    1. Avatar

      Hi Jolene! We only used Chilean Pesos while traveling in Chile, so I’m not sure if Fotokina also accepts USD. But the airport has quite a few ATM machines and a money exchange, so it would be easy to get Chilean pesos quickly if they didn’t accept your USD.

  2. Avatar

    I would never recommend Fotokina to anybody. It is extremely overpriced. It’s better to wait until you get to the city to buy a chip. The Entel package from Fotokina is actually only worth $5.000 if you get it from the Entel store.

    Only use Fotokina if you are desperate.

    1. Avatar

      Hi Regan! I do agree that when traveling it is often a better deal to purchase SIM cards and services off the tourist path. But we were just transiting through the Santiago airport on our way south, and didn’t have time to go into the city. The airport does also have Movistar and Claro stores, but they didn’t have any prepaid SIM cards available. So Fotokina was our only option, and that’s why I shared that experience in the article.

  3. Avatar

    Hey Kathy!

    I was there late June 2019 and it was just like you described! Thanks for the details.

    Future travelers: Fotokina is on the left side (facing the checkin counters), next to the line to do emigration on the second floor.

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