Deciding whether to get a local SIM card for your Colombia vacation can be tricky. On one hand, you want to stay connected and avoid massive roaming charges from your home carrier. On the other hand, buying a SIM card abroad can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the providers and plans.

This complete guide to getting a Colombia SIM card aims to answer all your questions. I’ll cover everything from recommended data amounts to exact prices and locations to purchase your prepaid SIM.

Let’s dive in!

colombia sim cards

I. New Local SIM Card for My Colombia Trip: Yes or No?

buy a local sim card in colombia

Getting a local SIM card in Colombia has several key benefits over using your home carrier. There are three major mobile operators in Colombia – Claro, Movistar, and Tigo – that offer affordable prepaid SIM cards with data packages. Purchasing one can make your trip much more convenient.

Avoid Roaming Charges

If you use your regular SIM while traveling in Colombia, you may incur high roaming fees for calls, texts and data usage. A local SIM allows you to avoid these additional charges by utilizing one of the local networks.

Better Coverage Nationwide

The three main Colombian operators have extensive coverage across both urban and rural areas of the country. Their networks will provide better connectivity than roaming on your home network, especially in remote locations.

Convenient Local Number

Having a Colombian phone number allows locals to easily contact you. It can also be used to verify accounts or receive codes/messages while setting up apps and services.

Cheap Data Packages

Colombian SIMs offer very affordable daily, weekly or monthly data packages starting from around COP$1000. This gives you affordable internet access to use maps, streaming music, social media and more.

Works with Unlocked Phones

Colombian SIMs can be inserted into most unlocked GSM-compatible phones like iPhones and Samsung Galaxys. Simply swap the SIM cards when you arrive and depart.

In summary, a local Colombian SIM card means no roaming fees, better coverage, a convenient local contact number, and cheap data – making connectivity easier and more affordable during your trip.

II. Colombia SIM Card Types – Which One is the Best for Tourists?

sim card types in colombia

When buying a Colombia SIM card, you’ll have two main options:

Prepaid SIM Cards

Prepaid SIMs allow you to pay upfront for data and calling packages. This gives you control over your spending without signing any contracts. Prepaid SIMs can be purchased at stores and airports throughout Colombia. They are the best option for most travelers visiting Colombia short term.

Contract SIM Cards

Contract SIMs require you to sign up for a monthly plan with calling minutes, texts, and data. This usually requires a Colombian bank account and long term commitment. Contract SIMs are really only practical for extended stays or residents in Colombia.

Some key things to look for in a prepaid Colombia travel SIM include:

  • Data packages – Look for large or unlimited data allotments as this will likely be your main use.
  • Coverage – Choose a major provider with extensive regional networks like Claro, Movistar, or Tigo.
  • Ease of activation – Opt for networks that allow self-activation of the SIM via apps or websites.
  • Duration – Pick a SIM that aligns with your trip length, whether it’s 7 days, 15 days, or 30 days.
  • Pricing – Compare rates across providers to find the best deals for your needs.

By considering these key criteria, you can select the ideal Colombia prepaid SIM as a tourist.

III. How Much Data is Enough for a Prepaid Tourist SIM Card for Colombia?

When estimating your data usage on a Colombia SIM card, here are some guidelines to follow:

Light User

If you just plan to use basic apps like maps, messaging, and light web browsing, 2-4GB per week is usually sufficient. This covers things like looking up directions, translating phrases, and sharing photos.

Moderate User

For more regular app usage including social media, streaming music, and sharing pics/videos, look for 4-8GB per week. This gives you room for daily Facebook and Instagram use.

Heavy User

If you’ll be using data-intensive apps extensively, such as video calling, Netflix, and mobile hotspotting, get a SIM with 8-15GB+ per week. This prevents you from hitting data caps too quickly.

Extreme User

For basically unlimited full-time smartphone use, including HD video and live streaming, consider plans offering truly unlimited data. Though costly, this gives you 100% data freedom.

Also consider trip length – monthly plans give you better rates for long-term travel. And get extra data if visiting remote areas where service is spotty.

IV. How Much Does a Colombia SIM Card Cost?

sim card choices in colombia

Costs for Colombia SIM cards are quite reasonable, especially compared to roaming with your home carrier. Here are typical prices:

  • SIM card purchase – The SIM card itself will cost around 10,000 to 30,000 COP ($2-$8 USD). Some providers even include it free with initial top up.
  • Data packages – You can get packages with a few GB of data for around 30,000 COP ($8 USD) and unlimited data for around 70,000 COP ($17 USD) for 30 days.
  • Activation/number fees – Some networks charge a one-time activation or number fee of around 5,000 COP ($1 USD).
  • Calls/texts – These usually cost under 500 COP (15 cents USD) to make per minute/text when included in a package.
  • Deliver fees – If ordering a SIM online for airport pickup, delivery fees add around 20,000 COP ($5 USD).

So expect to budget anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 COP ($10-$25 USD) for a Colombia SIM card with moderate data use for a short visit. For frequent travelers, the convenience is well worth the cost.

V. Colombia eSIM – Alternative to Physical SIM Cards

A newer option compared to traditional plastic SIM cards is an eSIM for Colombia. eSIMs are embedded digital SIMs that are programmed digitally over-the-air.

Here are the pros and cons of using a Colombia eSIM as a traveler:


  • Don’t have to find & insert a plastic SIM
  • Remotely programmable before/during trip
  • Works with dual-SIM phones
  • Easy to switch between plans


  • Less widely available than normal SIMs
  • Typically more expensive
  • Requires eSIM compatible smartphone
  • Setup can be trickier

Top provider like by GIGAGO offer Colombia eSIMs at around $10-30 for 1-5GB data packages valid for 3-30 days.

colombia esim plans
Check your device’s esim compatibility here

The eSIM approach may make sense if you have an eSIM phone and are looking for maximum convenience. But standard SIMs still reign supreme for cost and accessibility.

VI. Where to Buy a Colombia SIM Card?

Learn how to stay connected in Bogotá without hassle. Read our guide on the best ways to buy a SIM card locally: 

You can purchase a Colombia SIM card in several locations:

  • Airports – All major airports have Claro, Movistar, Tigo kiosks that sell SIMs. Prices are fair and you can insert the SIM on arrival.
  • City SIM shops – Larger cities have dedicated SIM shops with multiple carrier options and packages. Staff can help get you set up.
  • Supermarkets/corner stores – Largest chains like Éxito and Carulla sell SIMs from major carriers. Top up is also available.
  • Mobile carrier stores – Official Claro, Movistar, Tigo shops have the full range of SIM products. But watch for upsells.

For short term visitors who want to maximize convenience, purchasing at the airport is likely the easiest route. But if you have time, shop around for the best local deals once in Colombia.

VII. How to Use Colombia SIM

Activating and using your new Colombia SIM card is straightforward:

  • Insert SIM – Remove previous SIM and put the Colombia SIM in your phone
  • Restart device – Power phone off and on to register on network
  • Activate – Use provider app or dial *123# to activate SIM. Enter any info required.
  • Select plan – Choose your data package via app or text code. Default plans activate automatically.
  • Re-check settings – Confirm mobile data, roaming, APN etc are configured. Call customer support if issues.
  • Add credit – Top up card with cash at stores, via app, or other payment methods.
  • Use – Make calls, text, and browse like normal. Monitor usage in app. Replenish credit when needed.

Other tips for use include connecting to data/WiFi for optimal setup, turning on data roaming, and knowing how to check your SIM number. Refer to provider support docs for step-by-step instructions.

VIII. Best Mobile Operators for Colombia SIM Cards

mobile operators in colombia overview

The four major mobile operators in Colombia to choose from are:

Operator Overall Experience Score Speed Experience Coverage Experience Consistency
Claro Fair Fast downloads (12.3 Mbps), fair uploads (7.2 Mbps) Strong coverage (8.6) but not best Fair consistency (31.4%)
Movistar Fair Slower speeds than competitors, downloads (9.8 Mbps) and uploads (6.7 Mbps) Good coverage (4.2) but not best Fair consistency (34.6%)
Tigo Fair Fastest downloads (14.1 Mbps) and uploads (8.2 Mbps) Good coverage (3.5) but not best Fair consistency (33.4%)
WOM Good Fast downloads (13.0 Mbps) and uploads (6.4 Mbps) Weakest coverage (1.4) Best consistency (51.2%)

For tourists, Claro or Movistar SIMs tend to be preferable for their superior nationwide coverage and customer service support in English. But check all providers to find the best plan for your specific travel dates and data needs.

IX. Tips for Saving Data for Colombia SIM Card

tips to save data for your trip to colombia

To reduce your data usage on a Colombia SIM and avoid costly overages, try these tips:

  • Limit streaming – Stream high data videos and music only on WiFi. Download offline content instead.
  • Disable auto-play – Stop videos and music from automatically playing in apps. Manually press play instead.
  • Reduce image quality – Set social media apps like Instagram to use less data for uploads/downloads.
  • Disable background refreshing – Prevent apps from endlessly updating in the background. Manage manually instead.
  • Minimize roaming – Turn off data roaming in weaker signal areas to avoid excessive usage.
  • Connect to WiFi – Find free WiFi hotspots whenever available to use WiFi instead of mobile data.
  • Turn off 5G – 5G uses up to 3-4x more data for the same activity. Stick to 4G if you want to conserve data.
  • Monitor usage – Check your data usage in your provider app and adjust activity before hitting limits.

Properly managing network settings and data saving options keeps usage low and prevents surprise overage costs.


Do I need to register my passport to get a Colombia SIM card?

No passport registration is not required for short term tourist SIMs in Colombia. Simply show your passport when purchasing to verify your identity. Longer term residents may need to provide passport details to the mobile carrier.

Can I use a Colombia SIM in other South American countries?

Colombia SIMs only provide service domestically and do not include international roaming. You would need to purchase local SIMs in other South American countries you visit.

Is it easy to add more data to my Colombia SIM when needed?

Yes, you can conveniently add data bundles and credit through your provider’s app or website, or by visiting local top-up shops available everywhere.

Do Colombia SIM cards work in unlocked iPhones?

Yes, Colombia SIMs are compatible with most modern unlocked phone models including iPhones and Android phones. Just insert the new SIM and follow the activation process.

XI. Final Words

Getting a Colombian SIM card is highly recommended to avoid roaming charges, easily use maps/apps, and enable hassle-free local communication during your stay.

Purchase your SIM at the airport on arrival or from major providers like Claro or Movistar. Opt for prepaid plans with at least 2-4GB of data for short term travel based on your expected usage.

Activate and top-up your SIM through provider apps and support. Follow data saving tips to keep usage low. With the right local SIM, you’ll stay conveniently connected across Colombia without costly roaming fees.