Colombia is the world's largest Emerald producer in the world. It also has a lot of mines.
If that does not interest you, the Rosario Islands have beautiful beaches that are great for snorkeling. Moreover, you can see the coral reef there too.
The Lost City is an archaeological site in a ruined city. Quite interesting to see. You can also go to Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, which is a protected coastline with mountains behind it – very cool!
What will lose your cool is receiving an expensive roaming bill from your provider because you decided to roam. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a Colombian SIM card.
In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Colombia. Let's get started.
Telecom Providers in Colombia
Colombia has 3 telecom operators; Claro Colombia, Movistar Colombia, and Tigo Une. These 3 operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.
You also have 2 operators that are 4G/LTE-only providers, which are Avantel and ETB. These operators have roaming agreements, which allow their customers to use the 2G and 3G networks of the main operators. I would not recommend going with these operators unless you are staying in the capital area.
Finally, you have 2 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), which are Virgin Mobile Colombia and Móvil Éxito.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Colombia? If you want to buy a SIM card in Colombia, I would recommend going with Claro because they have coverage in Colombia.
RECOMMENDED: Want to get an excel sheet of the best SIM cards of over 230+ destinations around the world, updated monthly? Sign up for the Phone Travel Wiz Newsletter and get the excel sheet for FREE!
Even though Claro has the best network, Movistar and Tigo Une have good coverage as well.
Colombians call SIM cards chips, so say chip (prepago) if trying to buying a SIM card and the salesperson has no idea what you are on about.
Like most countries in South America, you have to show your passport when buying a Colombian SIM card. Additionally, the operators will ask for proof of address. If you are staying in a ho(s)tel or Airbnb, that address will be accepted.
For some reason, it is expensive to make calls to other networks. For example, making calls with a Carlo SIM card to a Movistar number will cost you a lot. To work around this issue, many Colombians have multiple SIM cards to deal with this issue. If you are not planning on calling while In Colombia, this is not something you have to worry about.
As of 2016, Colombia introduced an IMEI registration policy, which requires everyone using a Colombian SIM card for more than 30 days to register their phones with the Colombian telecommunications regulator CRC.
Most operators allow you to register your phone when purchasing a SIM card, but some require you to do this online. I will mention the registration procedure of each operator in the respective sections. Do bring proof of purchase with you if you have to register your phone.
If you are staying in Colombia for less than 30 days, then you are not required to register your phone. Your phone will only be blocked if you use a Colombian SIM card for more than 30 days. If you leave earlier, you will be fine. Those who decide to roam with their providers or use an international SIM card also do not have to register their phones.
With that being said, let’s see what Colombia has to offer to us.
Claro Colombia, just Claro, is the largest operator in Colombia. With almost a market share of 50%, they are popular among the Colombians.
Claro SIM cards, called Prepago fácil or Paquete de Bienvenida, can be bought for 5000 COP ($1.45) (sometimes for less) in Claro stores and other retailers. Recharge cards are sold from 1000 COP to 100 000 COP. You can check your balance by dialing *611#, selecting option 4, then option 1.
You can register your phone at a Claro store, upon purchasing your SIM card, or online on Mi Claro.
The following Claro data packs are available:
- 990 COP: 9 MB for 1 day
- 1000 COP: 40 MB for 1 day
- 2000 COP: 50 MB and unlimited Facebook, WhatsApp (no VoIP), and Twitter for 1 day
- 2000 COP: 100 MB for 1 day
- 4000 COP: 220 MB for 1 day
- 4000 COP: 120 MB and unlimited Facebook, WhatsApp (no VoIP), and Twitter for 3 days
- 10 000 COP: 1 GB for 7 days
- 15 000 COP: 500 MB and unlimited Facebook, WhatsApp (no VoIP), and Twitter for 7 days
- 20 000 COP: 2 GB for 15 days
- 21 000 COP: 1 GB and unlimited Facebook, WhatsApp (no VoIP), and Twitter for 15 days
- 43 000 COP: 2 GB for 30 days
You can activate a Claro data pack by dialing *611#, selecting option 1, and choosing your pack of choice.
All data packs will auto-renew unless you text SALIR to 798
Movistar Colombia, just Movistar, is another good operator in Colombia. It used to be a state-owned company until Telefónica, the company that owns the Movistar brand, bought it in 2006.
You can buy a Movistar SIM card, called Plan prepago por segundos, for 2000 COP in Movistar stores and other retailers. You can buy top-up cards in many stores. However, it is recommended to buy your reload card online because Movistar often has promotions where they double or triple your reload. The site accepts international credit cards, so it is a viable option.
You can register your phone upon purchase. You can also use this website if you understand Spanish or want to use Google Translate.
You can check your Movistar credit balance by dialing *611#, and selecting the following options: option 7, 1, and 1. You can see your Movistar data balance by dialing *611#, and selecting options 7, 1, and 2.
You can buy one of the following Claro data packs:
- 1000 COP: 50 MB for 1 hour
- 1700 COP: 100 MB for 1 day
- 3200 COP: 210 MB for 1 day
- 5000 COP: 500 MB and 70 MB for WhatsApp for 3 days
- 14 000 COP: 1.4 GB and 150 MB for WhatsApp for 7 days
- 25 000 COP: 2.5 GB and 200 MB for WhatsApp 15 days
- 43 000 COP: 2 GB and 500 MB for WhatsApp for 30 days
- 53 000 COP: 3 GB and 500 MB for WhatsApp for 30 days
You can still use WhatsApp with the data packs that do not come with dedicated WhatsApp data. Instead, WhatsApp use will count towards your data allowance, while the packs with WhatsApp data will be drained from that allowance pool.
Movistar data packs can be activated by dialing *611#, selection option 1, then option 1. From there, you can choose your preferred plan from the menu. You can also activate a plan online.
Tigo Une is a merger between Tigo and Colombia Une. They are the smallest full operator, but their coverage is good, just slightly worse than Claro and Movistar.
You can buy a Tigo Une SIM card, Plan por Segundos, for 5000 COP in Tigo Une stores or from other retailers. You can check your Tigo Une credit balance by dialing *611#.
You can register your phone at a Tigo Une store or online (in Spanish).
Tigo Une offers these combo packs:
- 3000 COP: 50 MB, unlimited WhatsApp and Facebook, 20 minutes, and 10 SMS for 3 days
- 5000 COP: 500 MB, 30 minutes, and 5 SMS for 3 days
- 6000 COP: 120 MB, unlimited WhatsApp and Facebook, 30 minutes, and 10 SMS for 6 days
- 10 000 COP: 1 GB, 50 minutes, and 10 SMS for 7 days
- 10 000 COP: 250 MB, unlimited WhatsApp and Facebook, 70 minutes, and 15 SMS for 10 days
- 20 000 COP: 2 GB, 100 minutes, and 15 SMS for 15 days
- 20 000 COP: 750 MB, unlimited WhatsApp and Facebook, 150 minutes, and 30 SMS for 20 days
You can activate a Tigo Une combo pack by dialing *111#. These packs auto-renew unless you cancel it or do not have enough credit.
Avantel is a 4G/LTE-only operator in Colombia. Avantel has roaming agreements with all 3 operators, which allow Avantel customers to roam on their networks if Avantel has no coverage (on 2G and 3G only). You have to enable data roaming for this feature.
You can buy an Avantel SIM card for 5000 COP in Avantel stores or online. The SIM card comes with 1000 COP in credit. Recharge cards are sold in many kiosks, convenience stores, and supermarkets. You can check your Avantel balance by dialing *901.
You can register your phone online.
Avantel has several data packages you can choose from. Their 4G/LTE network can be found in Bogota. They also give you a dedicated 2G/3G roaming allowance when you are using a different network. Therefore, you have to keep track of 2 separate data allowances:
- 2000 COP: 50 MB 4G data and 50 MB 2G/3G data for 1 day. Activation: text DATOS01
- 3000 COP: 150 MB 4G data and 150 MB 2G/3G data for 3 days. Activation: text DATOS02
- 10 000 COP: 1 GB 4G data and 500 MB 2G/3G data for 10 days. Activation: online only
- 20 000 COP: 1.7 GB 4G data and 1 GB 2G/3G data for 30 days. Activation: online only
- 30 000 COP: 4 GB 4G data and 1 GB 2G/3G data for 30 days. Activation: online only
The first 2 Avantel data packages can also be activated by dialing *990. The others can only be activated online with an (international) credit card. All packages come with unlimited Facebook and WhatsApp (no VoIP).
ETB is another 4G/LTE-only operator. They use the Tigo Une network for 2G and 3G.
ETB SIM cards are sold for 5000 COP in ETB stores, and they come with 5000 COP in credit. Topping up can only be done online with cards.
You can register your phone in an ETB store or online.
ETB combo packs do not have to be activated. Instead, a certain reload will automatically activate a combo pack. The following ETB combo packs are available:
- 5000 COP: 350 MB 4G data, 50 MB 2G/3G data, 50 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp separately, 40 minutes for WhatsApp calls, 20 minutes, and 100 SMS for 5 days
- 10 000 COP: 650 MB 4G data, 150 MB 2G/3G data, 200 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp separately, 70 minutes for WhatsApp calls, 35 minutes, and 100 SMS for 10 days
- 15 000 COP: 1.2 GB 4G data, 250 MB 2G/3G data, 200 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp separately, 120 minutes for WhatsApp calls, 60 minutes, and 100 SMS for 15 days
- 20 000 COP: 1.6 GB 4G data, 400 MB 2G/3G data, 200 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp separately, 170 minutes for WhatsApp calls, 60 minutes, and 100 SMS for 20 days
- 25 000 COP: 2 GB 4G data, 500 MB 2G/3G data, 200 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp separately, 220 minutes for WhatsApp calls, 60 minutes, and 100 SMS for 25 days
- 35 000 COP: 1 GB 4G data, 400 MB 2G/3G data, 200 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp separately, 260 minutes for WhatsApp calls, 60 minutes, and 100 SMS for 30 days
- 45 000 COP: 1.9 GB 4G data, 700 MB 2G/3G data, 200 MB for Facebook and WhatsApp separately, 400 minutes for WhatsApp calls, 60 minutes, and 100 SMS for 30 days
Virgin Mobile Colombia
Virgin Mobile Colombia, just Virgin Mobile, is an MVNO using the Movistar network. It has a market share of more than 5%, which is quite big for an MVNO.
Virgin Mobile SIM cards can be bought at Virgin Mobile stores for 10 000 COP, which is expensive, but you will get 10 000 COP in credit. Virgin Mobile SIM cards have to be activated online.
You can register your phone by texting EQUIPO to 456 or dialing *111, selecting option 1, then option 2.
The following Virgin Mobile data packs, called Bolsa de datos, can be activated:
- 600 COP: 20 MB for 24 hours
- 1000 COP: 40 MB for 2 days
- 2000 COP: 65 MB for 24 hours
- 4000 COP: 140 MB for 24 hours
- 12 000 COP: 500 MB for 7 days
- 22 000 COP: 1 GB and unlimited WhatsApp for 30 days
- 40 000 COP: 2.5 GB, unlimited WhatsApp, and 15 minutes for 30 days
Virgin Mobile data packs can be activated by dialing *111# or online.
Do note that if you plan on buying multiple data packages while in Colombia, your total allowance cannot go over 10 GB per month, as per Virgin Mobile’s Fair-use Policy.
Móvil Éxito is an MVNO using the Tigo by Éxito, a retail group in Colombia. You can buy Móvil Éxito SIN cards in Éxito stores, Surtimax, and Carullo. The SIM card can be bought for 5000 COP.
These Móvil Éxito data packs can be bought:
- 500 COP: 10 MB for 1 day
- 2500 COP: 150 MB for 24 hours
- 10 000 COP: 400 MB for 7 days
- 20 000 COP: 1 GB for 30 days
- 25 000 COP: 2 GB for 30 days
- 38 000 COP: 3 GB for 30 days
You can activate any Móvil Éxito data pack by dialing *999.
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Colombia
The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Colombia
Getting a SIM card from Claro would do you well when considering a Colombian 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, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, 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 Colombia
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 Colombia. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Colombia drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Colombia
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 Colombia. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Colombian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Colombia
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 Colombia, 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 the local currency 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!