The first day in Medellin, we connected to the internet and found the closest mobile phone store. Gary had done some research and everything he found said that Claro was the phone provider we wanted. We both had a second unlocked phone and wanted to have a local number for emergencies and for new friends. The closest place we could find was about 2 miles away at Santafé Mall.
We called an Uber to take us there. Ubers are not sanctioned by the government but run here and cost almost nothing (a separate post). The run to the mall was less than 3 dollars. It took us about 20 minutes to find Claro on the 3rd floor of the mall in a back corner. Right next to it was another mobile store called Movistar. Gary sat with the sales person and communicated through her PC using Google Translate. After typing back and forth, Gary had a local SIM chip and 2G of data and unlimited texts and phone calls for $40.00 USD with the SIM costing a whopping $1.50 USD. I asked for the same thing, but Gary bought the last SIM so I headed to Movistar and got a SIM for under $2.00 USD and 1G of data, phone and text for $20.00 USD. Aside from the lack of SIM chips at Claro, I thought it would be a good time to compare the two mobile phone companies.
I had previously posted about the network down in Colombia, but after being here a few weeks, I learned that my research wasn’t correct. The biggest thing is that my Sprint iPhone did work with the SIM chip down here.
I also traded in my Windows phone (hated it) and got a second iPhone for Colombia, but this caused a bunch of problems that took days to research and correct. I have everything sorted out now except my Uber app. Having two iPhones became an issue when I tried to register both with my Macbook. Apparently, it didn’t like that so I was no longer getting my texts from my Houston phone on my Mac. Other apps also had problems with two phones, including WhatsApp (a necessity in Colombia) and Uber. The solution that I finally came up with was to start a new Apple ID with the Colombian phone, have my American phone attached to my Macbook and use my Colombian WhatsApp with my Mac. This way most of my conversations are on my Macbook and there are no conflicting ID’s between phones. Uber is still not working on my Colombian phone, but my solution is to use my Colombian phone as a hotspot and use my Uber app on my US phone to call rides. (I’ll explain more on the Uber post).
Bottom line is that a local number is a lifesaver for GPS, WhatsApp and research away from wifi. It is super cheap on a pay as you go plan so there’s no reason to not have one. The biggest thing is to bring the phone you want to use and make sure it is unlocked.
*Update. I just found a company called topup.com that reloads minutes on prepaid phones for most of the carriers worldwide. The first time it took 24 hours but they say that it will be instantaneous from here out. They take all credit cards and PayPal and the small fee they charge is well worth me not having to take a cab or Uber to the closest Movistar store to reload my phone.*