Guide to Buying a Cell Phone in Colombia, Part 2

Street vendors providing cell phone service
Street vendors providing cell phone service

Editors note: this post is out-of-date and was updated in 2014.

The first time around, I explained my experience with buying a cell phone in Colombia and the experiences of the people I knew at the time. But now I want to expand on that. I know more people, have learned more things.

As Dave wrote as a footnote on my last piece on cell phones, you can use your mobile anywhere in Colombia, as long as there is reception.

I was in Santander recently and I used my phone many times. I’m happy I was able to. It costs the same too. So it turns out Comcel is not the only provider that allows this.

As I wrote, I chose Tigo on the advice of a couple of friends, partly because I didn’t plan to use my phone outside of Medellín, but mainly because some of my closest friends have Tigo. This keeps costs down. It’s about 500 pesos a minute if I call another Tigo customer, typically what the rate always is between customers with the same provider.

I also focused on the pay-as-you-go plans the first time, because that’s what so many people have, and for that reason, they so often have no credit on their phones. (I’m guilty of this too, so thank goodness you can still receive calls even if you don’t have credit.)

This time, let’s talk about the postpaid plans, or what we call prepaid or monthly plans in the United States.

Postpaid options are like the states, but a little cheaper, depending on the amount of minutes you want and whether or not you include data or Internet.

When I bought my phone, the representative at the Tigo in the Los Molinos mall told me a data or Internet plan for the iPhone would cost about 98,000 pesos (or about $50) per month. According to Tigo’s website, basic monthly plans start at 26,900 pesos (or about $13.50) per month and can cost as much as 146,000 pesos (about $74).

With Comcel, costs range from 33,500 pesos (about $17) per month for the most basic plan, according to the company website, to 99,900 (about $50) for a data or Internet plan. With Movistar, it’s 37,900 pesos (about $19) to 137,900 (about $68).

Two things to keep in mind, though:

1. You will probably need a cedula, or Colombian ID, to get a monthly plan. There are ways around it, such as having a friend sign up then give you the phone, but a cedula is typically required. It’s the same with opening an account with a local bank, apparently.

So how do you get a cedula? Get a full-time job and a business or work Visa.

2. Look for bargains regarding elejidos, or elected or chosen friends. You can pick two, sometimes three, and get 500 minutes for 5,000 pesos ($2.50). Pretty good.

But if you don’t want a prepaid or postpaid plan, because you want to save money, there’s another option.

There are street vendors who have each provider on a different cell phone so you can make your call. Just look for the signs with the big black numbers on them, or for someone you pass on the sidewalk holding several phones.

I never noticed them at first, because I was rebellious about getting a phone my first month, then finally got one and never looked back. But they are everywhere. And handy.

I’ve since used them once, because I had to call a friend with Comcel and I have Tigo.

I saved about 800 pesos.

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  1. The cost of the monthly plan is not bad at all. And it is more easy to apply for a plan compare to other countries like Philippines. The telecommunication companies will ask for any monthly bills, like telephone bill or an electric bill under your name. Aside from that they ask for an Income Tax Return and cedula too!

  2. Hello great article! I was wondering if there is a way to set up a Colombian phone number on my phone here in the States before leaving for the trip. I saw some Claro Colombia SIM cards they were selling on the internet for around $50USD. Would it be a better option to wait to purchase a SIM card when I get there? Thank you.

    • $50 for a Claro SIM card is very expensive, I would wait and buy in Medellín. I recently purchased a Claro SIM in the Claro store in the Los Molinos mall and the cost was only 5,000 pesos ($2.32). Every mall in Medellín has a Claro store.