Buying a Prepaid SIM Card in Peru Guide

Peru, the land of the Incas, is a beautiful country in South America. With neighboring countries like Colombia and Ecuador, you could have expected it.

Peru is also home to one of the 7 wonders of the world. I am, of course, referring to Machu Picchu. Although a popular attraction, you should not solely visit Peru just for Machi Picchu.

Cusco is the former Inca capital, so it is full of ruins and colonial buildings, such as Santo Domingo Convert.

The new capital, Lima, has a nice contrast of new and old. You can find new office buildings in the city center, while also seeing old Spanish colonial buildings. Additionally, the food is awesome there.

What may not be awesome is receiving an expensive roaming bill from your provider because you decided to roam with your provider. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a Peruvian SIM card when visiting Peru.

In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Peru. Let's go.

Telecom Providers in Peru

Peru has 4 telecom providers: Movistar Peru, Claro Peru, Entel Peru, and Bitel. All operators have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks.

There are also 3 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), which are Inkacel (rebranded from Virgin Mobile Peru) using the Movistar network, and Cuy Móvil using the Claro network.

What SIM card should you buy when visiting Peru? If you want to buy a SIM card in Peru, I would recommend going with Claro. Claro’s network coverage is slightly worse than the one of Movistar, but they are cheaper than Movistar.

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Like most countries in South America, you have to show your passport when buying a Peruvian SIM card.

In Peru, the locals call SIM cards chips. If the salesperson does not understand what you are referring to when saying SIM card, try chip or chip prepago, which means prepaid SIM card (or chip).

Peruvians have to verify their identity using a verification app called DNI, which matches the customer's fingerprint at the store with the one in the national database. As a traveler, your fingerprint will not be in the database, so you can get a SIM card with just showing your passport.

Note that not every salesperson is aware of this, so they may turn you away, thinking that they cannot activate a SIM card for you. If this happens, show them this article, Article 9E, and that should clear things up.

Additionally, you will see many street vendors selling SIM cards on the streets. I would not recommend buying those, even though they are dirt cheap, because they are either anonymous SIM cards, which are illegal or have been registered on someone else’s name. Do not risk termination and get your SIM card the legal way.

Also, although every operator supports 4G/LTE, their speeds may not be as fast as you are used to back at home. Movistar Peru, for example, guarantees speeds between 2-5 Mbps on their 4G/LTE network, which could be considered to be slow 3G speeds in many countries around the world. Unfortunately, that is the case of how it is in Peru.

With that being said, let’s see what Peru 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!

Movistar Peru

Movistar Logo

Movistar Peru, just Movistar, is the largest operator in Peru. In fact, it has a market share of more than 50%, which tells you that it is a popular operator among the Peruvians.

Movistar has the best coverage throughout the country, and you will pay a premium for that. Do note that coverage between big cities may be non-existent with Movistar and any other Peruvian operator – that is how it is, unfortunately. 

You can get a Movistar SIM card, called chip prepago, for 5 PEN ($1.50) in Movistar stores. The whole registration process can take up to 30 minutes, so be sure to have time to spare. To make matters worse, it can take up to 24 hours before your Movistar SIM card will be activated.

Movistar top-up vouchers are sold in convenience stores and supermarkets. You cannot get a recharge voucher at Movistar stores for some reason. Movistar reload cards are sold from 10 PEN to 100 PEN.

You can also let the shopping assistant do the recharge for you. You tell them your phone number, how much you want to reload, pay the person, and they will recharge your phone on their end. You will get an SMS confirmation, in Spanish, that the reload has been successfully processed.

You can check your Movistar credit balance by dialing *515# and data balance by dialing *515# and selecting option 1.

Movistar sells 2 types of packages. Preplanes are combo packs with unlimited calls, SMS, and unlimited data for a handful of social apps like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Waze, and data-only plans. The following Movistar Preplanes are available:

  • 5 PEN: 500 MB for 5 days
  • 6 PEN: 600 MB for 6 days
  • 7 PEN: 700 MB for 7 days
  • 8 PEN: 800 MB for 8 days
  • 10 PEN: 1 GB for 10 days
  • 15 PEN: 1.5 GB for 15 days
  • 20 PEN: 2 GB for 20 days
  • 25 PEN: 2.5 GB for 25 days

You can activate a Preplan by dialing *515# and selecting option 2. From there, you can select your plan of choice.

All data plans auto-renew if there is enough credit. Unused data will roll over to the next period if you do not change plans when the plan renews.

You can also add more data to these plans or get Movistar data-only plans:

  • 1 PEN: 25 MB for 1 day
  • 3 PEN: unlimited data for 1 night between 12 AM and 7 AM
  • 3 PEN: 200 MB and unlimited WhatsApp data for 2 days
  • 5 PEN: unlimited data for 24 hours
  • 5 PEN: 600 MB and unlimited WhatsApp data for 4 days
  • 7 PEN: 1 GB and unlimited WhatsApp data for 7 days
  • 10 PEN: 1.5 GB and unlimited WhatsApp data for 7 days
  • 20 PEN: 2 GB and unlimited WhatsApp data for 15 days
  • 30 PEN: 3 GB and unlimited WhatsApp data for 30 days

If you want to get a data pack, you have to dial *515#, press option 3, and select your plan from the menu. Weekly plans can be found under seminal and monthly packs under mensal.

Claro Peru

Claro Logo

Claro Peru, just Claro, is the second-largest operator in Peru with a market share of more than 33%. Their coverage is slightly worse than Movistar, but they charge lower prices, which is why I recommend Claro. If coverage is your main concern, then Movistar should be fine.

Claro SIM cards can be bought in Claro stores for 5 PEN. The whole registration procedure will take you 15 minutes, and your SIM card will be activated immediately, unlike Movistar.

Claro top-up cards are sold in Claro stores, kiosks, or convenience stores. Their website mostly does not accept international credit cards, so be aware of that.

Currently, you get a bonus for your first recharge:

  • If you recharge 5 PEN, you get 3 hours of unlimited YouTube and Snapchat data and 200 MB for 3 days
  • If you recharge 10 PEN or 15 PEN, you get 500 MB for the remainder of the day and 300 MB for 7 days

You can check your Claro credit balance by dialing *777# or by texting sal to 777.

The following Claro data packs are available:

  • 3 PEN: 200 MB for 2 days. Activation: text 3S to 779
  • 5 PEN: 650 MB for 5 days. Activation: text 5S to 779
  • 10 PEN: 1.5 GB for 10 days. Activation: text 10S to 779
  • 20 PEN: 2 GB for 20 days. Activation: text 20S to 779
  • 30 PEN: 3 GB for 30 days. Activation: text 30S to 779
  • 100 PEN: 14 GB for 30 days. Activation: text 14G to 779
  • 200 PEN: 40 GB for 30 days. Activation: text 40G to 779

You can also buy a package by dialing *779# and selecting your preferred package on the menu.

All packages auto-renew if there is enough credit. You can stop an auto-renewal by texting SALIR to 779.

Normally, you will be better of buying a new local SIM card when visiting neighboring countries. However, Claro Peru allows its customers to roam for free (data only) in other Latin American countries where they are active, meaning that you can use your domestic Claro data plans abroad. This plan is called Sin Fronteras.

Sin Fronteras is available in:

  • Argentina
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Dominical Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Mexico (as Telcel)
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Puerto Rico
  • Uruguay

Entel Peru

Entel Logo

Entel Peru, just Entel, is a smaller player in Peru. Entel from Chile bought Nextel in 2013 and changed the name to Entel in 2014. Their coverage does not match the ones of Movistar and Claro, but they work well in cities.

You can get an Entel SIM card, called Prepago Power, for 5 PEN in Entel stores. Prepago Power comes with 150 MB if you recharge at least 3 PEN on the stop. The registration process should take you about 15 minutes.

Entel recharge cards are sold in Entel stores, supermarkets, and convenience stores. Entel gives several bonuses depending on how much you top-up, which all come with unlimited SMS and Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Spotify, and Waze:

  • 3 PEN top-up: 50 MB for 1 day
  • 5 PEN top-up: 150 MB for 3 days
  • 7 PEN top-up: 200 MB for 4 days
  • 10 PEN top-up: 300 MB for 7 days
  • 15 PEN top-up: 500 MB for 7 days

Entel has plenty of data packs lasting for 1 day or more. I will group the daily data packs together, followed by the long-term data packs.

The following Entel daily data packs are available:

  • 1 PEN: unlimited social apps
  • 3 PEN: unlimited data for 1 night between 12 AM and 7 AM
  • 3 PEN: 150 MB and unlimited social apps
  • 5 PEN: 1 GB
  • 6 PEN: unlimited data

The social apps are Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Spotify

You can also choose from these data packs:

  • 5 PEN: 350 MB and unlimited social apps for 2 days
  • 5 PEN: 650 MB for 5 days
  • 10 PEN: 800 MB and unlimited social apps for 5 days
  • 10 PEN: 1 GB for 7 days
  • 20 PEN: 1.8 GB and unlimited social apps for 12 days
  • 30 PEN: 3 GB and unlimited social apps for 20 days
  • 30 PEN: 3 GB for 30 days

You can buy an Entel data pack by dialing *144# and selecting option 3. From there, you can select your preferred plan.

Entel also sells social media passes for 5 PEN:

  • Unlimited YouTube for 1 hour within 3 days
  • Unlimited Netflix for 2 hours
  • Unlimited YouTube for 4 hours
  • Unlimited Facebook for 3 days

You can also get an Entel tourist SIM card called Plan Turista in some stores in Lima, Cusco, and Arequipa. They come in two variants:

  • 67 PEN: 5 GB and unlimited calls to Peru, Canada, Chile, and the United States for 7 days
  • 133 PEN: 10 GB and unlimited calls to Peru, Canada, Chile, and the United States for 15 days

After you have used up all our data, your speed will be reduced to 256 Kbps, which is slow.

Bitel

Bitel Logo

Bitel is the smallest operator in Peru. Bitel is owned by Viettel, which is owned by the Vietnamese army. Bitel’s coverage is the “worst” compared to the other operators. However, they are focusing on rural areas not covered by the other 3 operators, so Bitel may be an option if you plan on visiting rural Peru.

Bitel SIM cards, called BiFri, are sold for 1 PEN in Bitel stores and at outlets. Upon activating your Bitel SIM card, you get 5 PEN in credit for 210 days and 30 days of unlimited WhatsApp (no VoIP).

You can recharge your Bitel SIM card at BCP banks, pharmacies, and Repsol. You can check your balance by dialing *121# and data balance by dialing *122#.

The following Bitel data packs, called DataMax, can be bought:

  • 2 PEN: 300 MB for 2 days. Activation: dial sequence 5-1-1-1
  • 3 PEN: 500 MB for 3 days. Activation: dial sequence 5-1-1-2
  • 4 PEN: 700 MB for 4 days. Activation: dial sequence 5-1-1-3
  • 5 PEN: 1 GB for 5 days. Activation: dial sequence 5-1-1-4
  • 10 PEN: 2 GB for 10 days. Activation: dial sequence 5-1-1-5
  • 20 PEN: 4 GB for 20 days. Activation: dial sequence 5-1-1-6
  • 30 PEN: 6 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial sequence 5-1-1-7
  • 50 PEN: 10 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial sequence 5-1-1-8
  • 100 PEN: 30 GB for 30 days. Activation: dial sequence 5-1-1-9

You can activate a data pack by dialing *9090# and dial the activation sequence. For example, if you want the 30 PEN 6 GB for 30 days plan, you would first dial *9090#, then 5, 1, 1, and 7.

You can also get a Bitel tourist SIM card, which comes in two variants:

  • 34 PEN: 4 GB, unlimited Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and line, unlimited local minutes and SMS, and 200 minutes to Canada, China, and the United States for 30 days.
  • 68 PEN: 10 GB, unlimited Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and line, unlimited local minutes and SMS, and 200 minutes to Canada, China, and the United States for 30 days.
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Inkacel

Inkacel Logo

Inkacel, using the Movistar network, used to be known as Virgin Mobile Peru and was the first MVNO in the country. In 2017, Virgin Mobile sold its business to Inkacel.

You can buy Inkacel SIM cards for 5 PEN at Inkacel stores. Top-up vouchers are sold from 0.50 PEN to 200 PEN at supermarkets and pharmacies. You can check your Inkacel balance by dialing *505#.

The following Inkacel combo packs, called Bolsas, can be purchased:

  • 1 PEN: 20 MB and 3 minutes for 3 days
  • 3 PEN: 120 MB and 8 minutes for 7 days
  • 5 PEN: 300 MB and 10 minutes for 10 days
  • 10 PEN: 700 MB and 20 minutes for 30 days
  • 20 PEN: 1.5 GB and 100 minutes for 30 days
  • 30 PEN: 3.5 GB and unlimited minutes for 30 days

You can activate an Inkacel combo pack by dialing *503# and selecting option 3. From there, you can choose your pack of choice. All plans auto-renew if there is enough credit.

If you are only interested in data, then these Inkacel data-only plans may be interesting:

  • 1 PEN: 50 MB for 3 days
  • 3 PEN: 300 MB for 7 days
  • 5 PEN: 450 MB for 10 days
  • 10 PEN: 1 GB for 30 days
  • 15 PEN: 1.5 GB for 30 days

These Inkacel plans can be activated by dialing *505# and selecting option 3. These plans auto-renew as well, but they can be stopped by dialing *505#.

Cuy Móvil

Cuy Móvil Logo

Finally, we have Cuy Móvil, which is an MVNO using the Claro network. They are the new kid on the black, as they launched in 2019. Cuy Móvil targets the Peruvian youth, but everyone can order a SIM card online.

You have to activate your SIM card in a Cuy Móvil store in Lima because, normally, you need to use the  ID verification app to activate, which you cannot use as a traveler.

You can buy one of the following monthly Cuy Móvil data packs, which all come with unlimited Facebook and WhatsApp:

  • 13 PEN: 1 GB
  • 28 PEN: 5 GB
  • 48 PEN: 10 GB
  • 85 PEN: 20 GB

Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Peru

I have discussed the relevant providers in Peru in this article because using a Peruvian SIM card would be much cheaper than roaming with your provider… in most cases. However, buying a local SIM card is not the only way to stay connected in Peru. You can buy an international SIM card, use a mobile hotspot, or use free WIFI connections. Below, I will discuss the alternative options to use your phone in Peru.

Roaming in Peru with Your Provider

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 CNT from Ecuador, then you would be roaming with CNT in Ecuador.

The issue with roaming is that it can be expensive. There have been many horror stories where people had to pay thousands in roaming fees when coming back from their holidays, which is just a shame, in my opinion. However, roaming does not always have to be expensive, especially when visiting a neighboring country.

Many providers offer roaming plans. Some allow you to roam for free in Peru, while others would offer you a roaming bundle with a set number of minutes, SMS, and data. Finally, several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee.

As you can see, there are many options out there, so be sure to explore the roaming options your provider has. Conveniently for you, I have reviewed the roaming options of many providers (and many more to come) and discussed everything you need to know about roaming with your provider. If you are lucky, you may not even have to buy a SIM card in Peru and can roam for free there.

No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!

One thing I would not recommend doing is to Roam As You Go. Just like prepaid cards where you can buy bundles or Pay As You Go (as in, charged per minute, SMS, or MB), Roaming As You Go can be insanely expensive (that is how people get expensive roaming bills). So far, there are a handful of providers I have reviewed that offer affordable Roam As You Go rates. But generally, avoid it. Get a roaming plan if you can or buy a SIM in Peru.

Using an International SIM Card in Peru

International SIM cards are cards that have been made for travelers so that they do not have to deal with roaming costs.

The number of international SIM card providers is too many to count, but international SIM cards give you the same convenience as roaming with your provider. A few providers I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, Surfroam, BNESIM, and SimCorner.

They allow people to call you at one number instead of five in case you are exploring multiple countries in one trip. Moreover, you do not have to deal with multiple SIM cards you will never use again. In short, international SIM cards have been made for the international traveler in mind.

Although this sounds fabulous, international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Peru. Some international SIM card providers charge ridiculous fees (sometimes, even more than roaming with your provider), while others offer awful service. It is, therefore, important to go with a reputable company so that you do not have to deal with surprised when traveling around the world.

On the other hand, international SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Most countries in South America require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.

My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, 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 Portable Hotspots (Pocket WIFI) in Peru

Portable hotspots, also referred to mobile hotspots or pocket WIFI, are routers small enough to bring with you everywhere you go. They are portable, battery-powered wireless routers that allow 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.

Just like with the number of international SIM card providers, there are so many mobile hotspots out there that it is challenging to keep track of them all. Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers. 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.

The first time I used a portable hotspot was when I was in Bangkok, Thailand, with my dad. He uses the Dutch telecom provider called KPN, which does not let you roam for free in Thailand. I was with 3 Denmark (3 Danmark), which also did not allow me to roam for free. The router was offered for free by our Airbnb host. Let me tell you how convenient that thing was!

I do not remember the exact brand router we used, but we could connect our phones to it, explore Bangkok, and upload highlights of our trip on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and WhatsApp without the need of connecting to unsecure and slow connections in Thailand.

That is why I often recommend those who are traveling in groups or with families to consider getting a pocket WIFI device so that each individual does not need to buy a local SIM card and data packages. In some countries, the cost of getting a local SIM card or packages is so low that it is not even worth getting a mobile hotspot. In others, it could save you money.

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.

Connecting to Free WIFI Networks in Peru

Finally, we have the most cost-effective way to stay connected in Peru which is using free WIFI networks.

Using WIFI networks should not cost you any money (unless you are connecting to premium hotspots), which is why it is a popular option for travelers. Go to a local café, buy a coffee, connect to their WIFI, and post your pictures to Facebook or Instagram. Straightforward, right? Well, let’s see if that is indeed the case.

First, you need to find hotspots. In some regions, they are readily available. In others, you cannot find any, require you to give your personal details (for commercial purposes), are restricted for those who are a subscriber of an operator’s, or are so slow that you wished you never connected to them.

In the case of Peru, you can find many free hotspots throughout the country. Some of them will be slow, though.

Public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. 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 subscription now or learn more about NordVPN.

The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Peru

Getting a SIM card from Claro would do you well when considering a Peruvian SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.

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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, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, 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 Peru

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 Peru. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Peru drop.

Book Your Accommodation for Peru

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 Peru. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Peruvian hotel.

Get Your Travel Insurance for Peru

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 Peru, 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 Peruvian Nuevo Sol 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!

Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 6 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan due to the current pandemic and does not have any travel plans for after his stay in Taiwan.

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