Rio de Janeiro is home to Copacabana beach and has the Christ the Redeemer statue. São Paulo may be the most modern city with a lot of modern architecture. Fernando de Noronha is a lovely island where you can see a lot of dolphins, and Fortaleza has more beaches for you.
Data rates are relatively expensive compared to other South American nations, but they are still “cheap” compared to other countries around the world.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Brazil. Let's go.
Telecom Providers in Brazil
Brazil has 4 national telecom providers: Vivo, Claro Brazil, TIM, and Oi. All these operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
Additionally, there are 3 regional providers, covering many states, like Nextel (3G & 4G/LTE, or several states, like Algar Telecom (2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE) in the state of Minas Gerais, and Sercomtel (2G and 3G) in Paraná state.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Brazil? If you want to buy a SIM card in Brazil, I would recommend going with Vivo because they have the most reliable network in Brazil. If you are concerned with speed, Claro has the fastest network in the country.
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Coverage with all the 4 national providers is good. In fact, they are almost the same. The issue in Brazil is that there are so many people, the networks can get congested often. Vivo customers experience congestion the least, which are slower speeds to no connection, no SMS going through, nor calls being established.
Nextel has a 3G roaming agreement with the other providers, which means that coverage with Nextel is good too, although Nextel’s 4G/LTE network is still not on par.
The other regional operators have such limited coverage that they cannot be recommended to travelers. As a result, they will not be covered in this article.
Like most countries in South America, you have to show your passport when buying a Brazilian SIM card.
You can buy SIM cards in official stores, supermarkets, kiosks, and convenience stores. Normally, you need a Brazilian person number, CPF, to activate a SIM card. You will not get one as a traveler, so it is best to buy your SIM card at an official store because travelers do not need a CPF.
If a salesperson insists that you need a CPF, ask someone else or go to a different store – some employees are not aware of this, even though this rule has been in place for many years now.
Additionally, depending on where you are, SIM card prices are sold at different prices with some providers. Normally, I mention how much you will have to pay for a SIM card. Unfortunately, that will not always be the case in this article. Combo and data pack prices are, however, consistent throughout the country.
With that being said, let’s see what Brazil has to offer to us.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
Vivo is the largest operator in Brazil with a market share of around 33%. They are also the most reliable operator in terms of connectivity.
Vivo top-up cards are sold from 12 BRL ($2.70) to 50 BLR in many stores. You can also top up online with credit cards or with PayPal. The online recharge limit is 300 BLR. You can check your Vivo balance by dialing *8000 or texting SALDO to 8000.
Vivo has several combo plans called Vivo Turbo. I will group them in weekly plans and long-term plans. Almost all combo packs come with unlimited calls to other Vivo numbers and unlimited WhatsApp (no VoIP calls).
The following weekly Vivo combo packs are available:
- 8 BLR: 500 MB
- 9 BLR: 500 MB, unlimited NBA and Vivo Bem
- 9 BLR: 200 minutes
- 10 BLR: 1 GB, unlimited NBA and GoRoad
- 15 BLR: 2 GB, unlimited NBA, GoRoad, and Vivo Bem, and 40 minutes
These long-term Vivo combo backs can be bought:
- 9 BLR: 1 GB for 15 days
- 12 BLR: 1 GB and unlimited Vivo Bem for 15 days
- 20 BLR: 2 GB and 20 minutes for 30 days
- 40 BLR: 1.4 GB and 25 minutes for 30 days
You can activate a Vivo Turbo plan by texting TURBO to 9003. Then you will get instructions on how to activate your plan of choice.
You can also get any of these Weekly Vivo add-ons:
- 2 BLR: 30 minutes
- 3 BLR: 1 GB for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest
- 5 PLR: 2 GB for YouTube, Spotify, Netflix, and Napster
You can activate any of these Vivo add-ons by dialing *9003.
Claro Brazil, just Claro, is the second-largest operator in Brazil with a market share of 25%. Claro recharge cards are sold from 13 BLR to 100 BLR in many stores, including Claro stores, supermarkets, and pharmacies.
You can activate your Claro voucher by dialing *544*VoucherCode#. For example, If your reload voucher code is 123456, you would dial *544*123456#.
Claro has several types of packages, ranging from a daily plan to a monthly plan.
Claro’s daily plan, called Prezão Diário, comes with 100 MB, unlimited WhatsApp (no VoIP), unlimited on-net calls and SMS, 10 off-net minutes, and 15 off-net SMS until midnight.
You can also get a Weekly package by Carlo for 10 BLR, which comes with 2 GB and unlimited calls. Text SEMANA to 2006 to activate this plan.
Finally, the Claro monthly plan is available for 35 BLR. It comes with 6 GB and unlimited calls. To activate this plan, text MES to 2006.
Each package will stop after you have reached your quota. If you are (almost) out of data, you can buy a new plan or get one of these add-ons:
- 1.40 BLR: 100 MB until midnight
- 2 BLR: 200 MB until midnight
- 8 BLR: 300 MB for 1 month
- 14 BLR: 500 MB for 1 month
- 22 BLR: 1 GB for 1 month
- 24 BLR: 2 GB for 1 month
You can enable an add-on by dialing *1052# and selecting the add-on from the menu.
TIM is another large operator in Brazil. In fact, the subscriber numbers and market share of TIM and Claro are so close that they switch positions every now and then. TIM reload cards are sold from 10 BLR to 100 BLR in supermarkets, pharmacies, and convenience stores. You can also top-up online with a credit card. You can check your credit balance by dialing *222#.
TIM sells daily and monthly data packs. The daily data packs, called TIM Pré Infinity Web, come in these variants and expire at midnight. They come with unlimited WhatsApp and SMS as well:
- 1.50 BLR: 100 MB. Activation: text WEB100 to 4141
- 2 BLR: 250 MB. Activation: text WEB250 to 4141
- 3.50 BLR: 500 MB. Activation: text WEB500 to 4141
- 5 BLR: 1 GB. Activation: text WEB1GB to 4141
You can also dial *144# to activate a pack. You can update a data pack in case the data allowance is not enough. For example, if you want another 1 GB for the day, you would text MAIS1GIGA to 4141. The upsize codes for each daily plan are MAIS100MB, MAIS250MB, MAIS500MB, and MAIS1GIGA to 4141, respectively.
TIM monthly data packs, called TIM Pré Smart Web, are also available. They do not come with unlimited SMS (no SMS at all), but they do come with unlimited WhatsApp:
- 20 BLR: 500 MB
- 30 BLR: 1 GB
- 60 BLR: 3 GB and unlimited TIM Music by Deezer
- 70 BLR: 5 GB and unlimited TIM Music by Deezer
You can activate a monthly TIM plan by texting TIMPRE to 4140, and you will get instructions on how to activate a data pack. Monthly plans auto-renew. You can deactivate a plan by texting SAIR500MB, SAIR1GB, SAIR3GB, or SAIR5GB to 4141, depending on the plan you have chosen.
You can also get one of these social media plans:
- 1.50 BLR: unlimited WhatsApp until midnight
- 10 BLR: unlimited Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for 7 days
- 10 BLR: unlimited Facebook for 30 days
- 12 BLR: unlimited WhatsApp for 30 days
- 20 BLR: unlimited Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for 30 days
If you are a big social media fan, then you can get a TIM Pré Top data pack that comes with unlimited Facebook (Messenger), WhatsApp, and Twitter, unlimited calls, and 100 SMS. You have to text TOP to 4141 to switch to TIM Pré Top.
A TIM Pré TOP data pack will be activated depending on how much you reload, meaning that you do not have to manually activate a pack. The following options are available:
- 10 BLR: 1 GB for 7 days
- 15 BLR: 1.4 GB for 10 days
- 20 BLR: 2 GB for 14 days
- 30 BLR: 3 GB for 21 days
- 40 BLR: 4 GB for 28 days
- 50 BLR: 4.3 GB and 7.14 BLR credit for 30 days
- 60 BLR: 4.3 GB and 17.14 BLR credit for 30 days
- 100 BLR: 4.3 GB and 57 BLR credit for 30 days
If you want more data in addition to unlimited messenger data, then TIM Pré Top Mais can be interesting:
- 10 BLR: 1.3 GB for 5 days
- 15 BLR: 1.8 GB for 7 days
- 20 BLR: 2.7 GB for 10 days
- 30 BLR: 4 GB for 15 days
- 40 BLR: 5.4 GB for 20 days
- 50 BLR: 6.7 GB for 25 days
- 60 BLR: 8.1 GB for 30 days
- 100 BLR: 8.1 GB and 40 BLR credit for 30 days
To switch to TIM Pré Top Mais, text TOPMAIS to 4141. Like TIM Pré Top, a data pack will be activated depending on how much you top-up.
TIM tourist cards, called Visitor TIM, can also be bought if you manage to find it. They are sold for 50 BLR and come with 50 BLR in credit. Additionally, you get 1.5 GB and TIM WIFI for 7 days by paying an additional 25 BLR. National calls are charged 0.50 BLR/min, SMS costs 0.50 BLR/min, and international calls will cost you 1 BLR/min with the Visitor TIM. The Visitor TIM is not the best tourist SIM card out there in terms of perks.
Oi is the last national operator in Brazil. With a market share of close to 20%, they are not a small player in the Brazilian market.
Oi also has a large footprint in terms of WIFI hotspots called Oi WIFI Fon, which is available for free to all Oi customers. There are over 1 million Oi WIFI Fon hotspots in Brazil, so there is a large chance you will come across a few. Make sure to download the Oi WIFI app if you want to use those hotspots.
Oi has struck a roaming deal with TIM, which allows Oi customers to roam on the TIM network where OI has no coverage. You need to enable data roaming to take advantage of this.
Oi recharge cards are sold in many stores, including Oi stores, supermarkets, pharmacies, and several banks. Top-up vouchers are sold from 10 BLR to 200 BLR. You can also top-up online with a credit card, You can check your Oi balance by dialing *805.
You can get an Oi daily plan, called Oi Livre por dia, for 1.30 BLR. It gets you 60 MB and 30 SMS. It will only be charged if you start using the internet without a data pack. For 1 BLR, you get 300 minutes to Oi numbers.
There are also other Oi daily plans, which get activated depending on how much you reload:
- 1 BLR: 50 MB, 30 SMS and 20 minutes (standard)
- 1.42 BLR: 158 MB, 30 SMS, and unlimited calls (ilimitado)
- 2 BLR: 250 MB, 50 minutes, and unlimited calls (ilimitado mais internet)
There are 3 more Oi combo packs you need to be aware of: Oi Livre Standard, Oi Livre Ilimitado, and Oi Livre Ilimitado Mais Internet. Depending on which plan you choose, you can select different data packages. These data packages will activate after topping up a certain amount.
The following Oi Livre Standard combo packs are available:
- 10 BLR: 500 MB, 200 minutes, and 300 SMS for 10 days
- 14 BLR: 700 MB, 280 minutes, and 420 SMS for 14 days
- 20 BLR: 2 GB, 400 minutes, and 600 SMS for 20 days
- 30 BLR: 3.5 GB, 600 minutes, and 750 SMS for 30 days
The Oi Livre Ilimitado plans come with unlimited calls:
- 14 BLR: 1.3 GB and 270 SMS for 9 days
- 20 BLR: 3.1 GB and 420 SMS for 14 days
- 30 BLR: 5.2 GB and 630 SMS for 21 days
- 45 BLR: 6.6 GB and 900 SMS for 30 days
Finally, you have the Oi Livre Ilimitados Mais Internet plans that also come with unlimited calls, but also with more data:
- 14 BLR: 1.7 GB and 350 SMS for 7 days
- 20 BLR: 3.5 GB and 500 SMS for 10 days
- 30 BLR: 5.8 GB and 750 SMS for 15 days
- 60 BLR: 9.6 GB and 1500 SMS for 30 days
If you are out of data, then you can add more with these Oi add-ons:
- 1 BLR: 60 MB until midnight. Activation: dial *4160
- 3 BLR: 200 MB until midnight. Activation: dial *41200
- 4 BLR: 250 MB for 7 days. Activation: dial *41250
- 10 BLR: 400 MB for 30 days. Activation: dial *41400
- 20 BLR: 800 MB for 30 days. Activation: dial *41800
- 25 BLR: 1 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *4101
- 40 BLR: 2 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial *4102
Nextel is the largest regional operator in Brazil. Regional should be used loosely here because they are active in almost every state. Additionally, they have a roaming agreement with Vivo (3G), which allows Nextel customers to use the Vivo network if Nextel has no coverage.
You can get a Nextel SIM card in Nextel stores for 10 BLR. Topping up can be done on the Nextel app, including selecting packages.
With Nextel Happy, you get unlimited data for WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram, unlimited calls, and unlimited SMS. The following packs are available:
- 10 BLR: 1 GB for 7 days
- 18 BLR: 2 GB for 7 days
- 40 BLR: 3 GB for 30 days
- 70 BLR: 8 GB for 30 days
- 90 BLR: 12 GB for 30 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Brazil
Now you know everything about buying a SIM card in Brazil, but what are your other options? Although buying a local SIM card is almost always the cheapest option, the cheapest option would be using free WIFI connections in Brazil, but you can also roam with your provider in Brazil, use an international SIM card in Brazil, or use a mobile hotspot in Brazil. Let’s see what our options are.
Using Free WIFI hotspots in Brazil
Using something free is always better than paying for something. However, sometimes, free stuff may be of bad quality. Sure, you do not have to pay anything for using a free hotspot (unless you are required to purchase a beverage or meal at an establishment), but it may be a challenge to find a free hotspot. Moreover, the connection may be so slow that it is practically useless.
In the case of Brazil, you can many hotspots throughout the country.
Do note that public hotspots are unsecure. Hackers love to steal sensitive information on unprotected connections because it is apparently easy to do so. That is why I use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using a public hotspot, and I would encourage you to do so too.
What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your NordVPN subscription now!
Roaming with Your Provider in Brazil
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is Entel from Chile, then you would be roaming with Entel in Brazil.
Roaming may be the most convenient way of using your phone abroad. You do not have to buy a new SIM card, which, in turn, means you do not have to swap SIM cards. As a result, your friends and family from home can easily reach you on your cell. With many providers, the only thing you need to do is to turn on the data roaming setting on your phone, and you are good to go.
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Although roaming with your provider may be the most convenient way of staying connected in Brazil, it can also be the most expensive option. There have been many horror stories where people have racked up roaming bills up in the thousands and even more than ten thousand.
Luckily, many providers have affordable roaming plans, allow you to roam for free in some destinations like Brazil, or allow you to use your plan’s allowance in Brazil. For example, with Virgin Mobile Canada, you can use your plan’s allowance for 12 Canadian dollars per day. This may be affordable in some destinations for a small number of days, but it will be expensive for prolonged periods.
If you are unsure about the roaming options of your provider, I have written many articles about roaming with various operators around the world. I analyze them in-depth and give you my advice on whether you should roam with your provider or not. If yes, I also state for how long you should roam to take the most advantage of the offer.
One thing that should be avoided at all costs is to Pay As You Go roaming where you pay per minute, SMS, or MB. This is how many people get expensive roaming bills because the roaming prices for data are usually extremely high.
If you want to roam, make sure to get a roaming plan. Unless your provider offers extremely low Pay As You Go roaming rates, which is only a handful of providers, then you can consider doing so. Furthermore, if your provider lets you roam for free in Brazil, then you should go for it. Just note that your speeds will be lower as a roamer than if you were to buy a Brazilian SIM card.
Using an International SIM Card in Brazil
International SIM cards are SIM cards that work internationally. Most SIM cards do work abroad, but then you have to roam with your provider. International SIM cards, however, let’s you use one SIM card in many destinations around the world for, often, the same price. This way, your friends and families can still reach out to you while traveling.
International SIM cards are, however, much more expensive than buying a local SIM card in many cases, but they are often cheaper than to roam with your provider. There are many international SIM card providers out there, but a few providers I can recommend are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.
International SIM cards are useful for those who frequently travel for leisure or for business. That way, everyone can reach you on one number instead of a handful of local numbers scattered around the world.
Moreover, many destinations in the world require you to register yourself before you can buy a local SIM card. In some countries, the process is quick, while others require much more of your time. Furthermore, the registration process may be cumbersome in countries.
Finally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some. It can be a challenge dealing with a salesperson who does not understand you. They may try and sell you the most expensive option out there. Luckily, you know the prices of SIM cards and packs in Brazil, so you cannot be taken advantage of.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple destinations in one trip, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
Using a Mobile Hotspot in Brazil
A mobile hotspot is a portable, battery-powered wireless router that allows you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Many companies have created mobile hotspots (just have a quick search on Amazon, for example, you will find many). Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers I know. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
I often recommend mobile hotspots to those who are traveling in groups or with families. They can save groups a lot of money if they are visiting destinations where buying multiple SIM cards would become an expensive endeavor.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Brazil
Getting a SIM card from Vivo would be your only when considering a Brazilian SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in South America? Check out my South America SIM card buying guide, covering other South American countries, such as Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Brazil
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Brazil. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Brazil drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Brazil
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Brazil. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Brazilian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Brazil
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Brazil, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to Brazilian Real for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!