Do you know what it feels like to be in a different country in which you don’t have mobile data on your phone and only depend on free public Wifi, such as in parks, coffee shops or in the hotel?
Nowadays, being disconnected for a while might be a great way to relax. However, in the end most of us want to be able to talk to our family & friends at home or to quickly upload that incredible shot on Instagram from tours like Machu Picchu or Sacred Valley.
When travelling to Peru, fortunately it’s very easy to get a SIM card allowing you to be connected most of the time. I say “most of the time” on purpose as in more rural parts of the country you just won’t get any service.
In the following, we’ll show you the different steps how to get a SIM card in Peru.
Checklist before buying your SIM card
Before actually buying a SIM card, let’s make sure you can check off the following two points:
- Your phone is unlocked so that you can use a SIM card.
- Make sure your phone uses the Global System for Mobiles (GSM) network. There is no need to worry about this point if you have an iPhone 6 or later, a Samsung Galaxy S7 or later, a Google Pixel or a Motorola G4 or later as they work on the GSM and the CDMA mobile networks.*
*Apart from the GSM network there is also the Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) network, however most countries in South America, including Peru, use the GSM network.
In front of the Claro store in Miraflores on Avenida Larco
Our personal recommendation: Get a Claro SIM card
Based on our experience and after living in Peru for almost 5 years, we all still use and recommend using CLARO (note: there is no affiliation between Exploor Peru and Claro and this is not a sponsored post, just our personal opinion in order to give you the best advice).
Why? Well, first of all it’s super easy and cheap to purchase their SIM card (see steps below).
Second, it’s easy to top up a Claro SIM card in official claro shops but also in small shops (called “tiendas” or “bodegas”) and even in pharmacies, gas stations or supermarkets.
Third, the national coverage is one of the strongest in Peru and you’ll have service in most of the country.
However, remember that Peru is a developing country and there are still many rural places without any service.
Inside the Claro Store in Miraflores on Avenida Larco
Now, let’s take a closer look at the exact steps of how to buy a SIM card in Peru (no matter if you want to buy a sim card in Lima or in Cusco, the steps are the same).
5 steps of how to buy a SIM card in Peru
- Enter an official Claro store (f.e. the Claro store in Miraflores, Lima, or the Claro store in Cusco). Let the staff know that you are looking for a prepaid SIM card (in Spanish: “Quiero una tarjeta SIM prepago, por favor.”). They will give you a ticket with a number on it.
- Wait your turn until they call your number and then go to the respective counter.
- Give them your passport/ID and your turned off phone.
- Pay 5 Soles (equivalent to $1.50) and you will receive your new sim card, which the staff will put in your phone.
- Add additional credit right away so you don’t have to worry about it later. You have the following options for internet plans:
|Plans||Validity||MB included||Cost||Send SMS Code|
|Internet Plan 100 MB||30 days||100 MB||S/ 3 ($0.9)||3S to 779|
|Internet Plan 200 MB||30 days||200 MB||S/ 5 ($1.5)||5S to 779|
|Internet Plan 500 MB||30 days||500 MB||S/ 10 ($3)||10S to 779|
|Internet Plan 1 GB||30 days||1024 MB||S/ 20 ($6)||20S to 779|
|Internet Plan 3 GB||30 days||3072 MB||S/ 30 ($9)||30S to 779|
For more info, you can visit the website of Claro.
We recommend getting an internet plan. If you also want to have money on your phone to do calls just put some additional credit on it.
How to top up your phone
Once you made up your mind for one of the options above, just the let the staff know how much money you would like to put on your phone and hand them the respective amount. For example. if you top up your phone with 30 Soles, just say “Una recarga de 30 soles, por favor.”
Once your phone has been topped up successfully, you will receive a text message from “779” (Claro).
In order to activate your internet plan, just send a text message to 779 with the corresponding SMS code listed above.
You will receive a confirmation by Claro as soon as your internet plan has been activated (as in the screenshot below).
In order to check how many MB you have already used from your internet plan, just send a text message with “Saldo” to 779 and Claro will send you all the necessary details, such as how much money you still have on your phone, until when your credit/internet plan is valid and how much MB you have used already.
By the way, sending text messages to 779 is free of charge.
As said, you don’t always have to go to an official Claro store in order to top up your phone. You can also do this at gas stations, supermarkets, pharmacies or small tiendas/bodegas that offer top ups for Claro sim cards (most of them have small Claro signs at the doors).
The process is basically the same: You tell them that you’d like to top up your phone with XX Soles (“una recarga de XX soles, por favor”).
Then, they ask you for your number so make sure you have it written down for this case. Either they have an official system or a small Claro cell phone with which they will be able to top up your phone.
Once you have money on your phone, you will receive a text from 779 and you are good to go.
In general, Peruvian cell phone numbers are 9 digit numbers and +51 is the prefix. Below, we listed some emergency numbers just in case:
Is it worth it buying a SIM card when traveling to Peru?
As you can see, buying a Sim card in Peru is not difficult at all if you follow the steps outlined above.
Whether you need one depends on your personal preference and your mobile data usage. If you’re looking forward to disconnect from your cell phone during your travels it would be better not to get a SIM card, whereas it would be a good idea if you are the type of person that loves sharing pictures, videos etc. with others immediately.
In general, we think it’s definitely a good idea because you’re always connected in case of emergencies or if you want to search something online, such as restaurant recommendations or indications where to go.
We’d be happy to hear about any other tips or experiences from your side.