Last updated: 8 December 2014
The process to register and activate SIM cards in Brazil can be very simple, but there are details that must be followed especially by foreign users.
In this article we will present a guide to the activation of SIM cards and what options are provided specifically for foreign users by mobile operators.
Operator Sim Cards
The four major cell phone operators in Brazil - Vivo, Claro, Tim and Oi, offer SIM cards for users to have access to their prepaid and postpaid plans. These can be purchased at multiple types of businesses, such as:
- Official operator store or reseller
- Street sellers
One thing that foreign users must keep in mind when buying SIM cards in Brazil is the format or the size of cards their device supports. There are three chip sizes currently commercialized by the country’s operators: Regular, Micro and Nano.
Another aspect that these users should be aware of before attempting to use the country’s mobile data network is to check if their device is compatible with the current bandwidth of 4G LTE networks in Brazil, which is 2,5 Ghz.
Before SIM cards can be used they must be activated, which is mostly a simple and quick process. The following activation procedure refers to a recently acquired card from one of the country’s largest operators - Vivo, and is based on the use of a national ID number.
When booting up a smart phone with an unactivated SIM card, the first message that should come up refers to the selection of the telephone region, or DDD, that the card number will be assigned to.
In this case we select the default option, 11, or the code for São Paulo. Users can also assign their cards to other regions of the country, if it better fits their needs.
After a region is selected a telephone number should automatically be assigned to the SIM card by the operator. The next message to appear on screen should show this number.
Users also receive a SMS message stating the SIM card number.
Identification and activation
As a final step, users can activate their SIM cards by providing a valid CPF number. A simple way to do this is to call any number from their device so the activation system is reached and type the CPF number when it is asked for.
Users without a CPF number can contact the operators special service for non-Brazilian residents, which might require personal information to register such as a passport number and home address.
This step should grant the SIM card access to the operator’s plans and functionalities. Some SIM cards come pre-loaded with credit which can be checked by its user by calling a specific number provided by the operator from which a SMS message is sent showing the total charges available for that card. These numbers are:
- Vivo: *8000
- Claro: *544#
- TIM: *222#
- Oi: *804
Buying prepaid credits
There are multiple ways for users to recharge prepaid plans in Brazil. The most simple of which is to find one of the many businesses that offer recharges and accept multiple payment options, for example:
- Official operators stores and resellers
Some of the country’s online recharge services, like Recarga.com, iCelex and Onepay can also offer prepaid recharges by credit card payment without requiring users to find an available physical store. This option, however, may not always be recommended for foreigners since these services generally ask for personal information like Brazilian document numbers and can also refuse international credit card billing.
SIM cards and plans targeted for foreign users
Three out of the four largest Brazilian mobile operators offer a selection of SIM cards and plans directed specifically at foreign visitors. Most of these were developed for the 2014 FIFA World Cup but their offers are still available.
Mobile operator Claro offers a prepaid SIM card called Claro Visitors which grants users 300Mb of data using their 4G network - 40 international SMS, 40 national SMS, 21 minutes of local calls, 21 minutes of international or long distance national calls and unlimited SMS to other Claro Visitors users.
The SIM card is priced at BRL 60,00 and needs activating by calling the code *552# and providing your name, passport number, country code and home address.
Oi Pre-paid Kit
Oi offers a kit designed specifically for foreign visitors, which contains a prepaid SIM card, a BRL 30,00 recharge voucher and a code to access the operators wi-fi networks spread across the country.
The activation requires users to call their customer center number - 0800 0300 924 and provide their passport number, address and contact phone number in Brazil. The whole kit costs BRL 40,00.
Tim also offers a plan designed for foreign visitors priced at BRL 50,00, which includes 1,5Gb of 4G data at the cost of BRL 25,00, fixed prices of BRL 0,50/min for national calls, BRL 1,00/min for international calls and BRL 0,50 for national and international SMS.
The activation process requires calling the code *144 and providing your name, passport number and temporary address in Brazil.