Cellphone and mobile internet providers in Peru

Cellphone and mobile internet providers in Peru

Main Peruvian TSPs, how the system works and how to get a (prepaid) SIM card

Nowadays it is a near-necessity to stay connected and online at all times even when travelling or moving. In Peru, which has seen a tremendous development in mobile networks over the past years and today is one of the best in 4G availability in Latin America, that’s relatively easy.

While travelers of course can use their mobile and provider from back home when coming to Peru (check frequency compatibility especially when using a US phone), roaming fees and the usual costs for calls and especially mobile data might get your head spinning when comparing to prices for the same service in Peru.

And even though free Wi-Fi can be found in many places across the country including, airports, parks, shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, bars and cafe's, for most users – short- and long-term travelers as well as foreigners living in Peru - the best and most affordable option to stay online is to go with a Peruvian telecommunication service provider.

All you need is an unlocked GSM phone and a local SIM card (called “chip” in Peru). As getting a contract isn’t that simple (Peruvian residency and credit history required) going for a prepaid system is a quick, easy, hassle-free and inexpensive solution.

With a prepaid SIM card (no contract) you get a Peruvian phone number which allows you to make and receive calls as well as send and receive SMS in Peru. You can add additional credit whenever needed but have to depend on the provider in certain time intervals otherwise your unused credit will be blocked until you recharge again.

With your credit you can buy unique plans (which usually include free calls and SMS, free social media access such as Facebook, WhatsApp and a certain amount of free data for a certain time), top up your existing plan or add data packs. All this is done via text message.

Main cell phone / mobile internet providers in Peru

In Peru you have 4 main cell phone and mobile internet providers which all offer a variety of prepaid (and postpaid / contract) options:

Movistar (Telefonica Peru): Movistar is the largest provider in Peru and has the best network coverage throughout the country. According to OpenSignal the company offers the best 3G download speeds and the second best 4G availability, 4G download and upload speed and 4G latency. On the Movistar website you find their current cell phone prepaid plans which are clearly structured and offer good value for money.

Claro (America Movil): Claro is the second-largest provider in Peru and has a good network coverage throughout the country. The company offers 3G and 4G services and in Lima according to Open Signal scores with the best 3G and 4G download speed and good 3G latency. On the Claro website you find available cell phone prepaid plans which are reasonably priced.

Entel (former Nextel): Entel is the third player in Peru’s telecommunication service market. Long ignored due to lacking network coverage, today according to Open Signal Entel is on top of the game regarding 4G availability and overall download and upload speed. Entel’s website provides more info on the different chips (SIM cards), recharge option and data packs.

Bitel (Viettel): Bitel is the fourth mobile telephone operator in Peru which actually has the largest fiber optic network in the country, though still limited network coverage. While the company, which operates in Peru since 2014, is still way behind its competitors speeds, according to Open Signal it scores high in LTE reach. On the Bitel website you find current prepaid plans.

As each user has different priorities and needs and each of above telecommunication service providers their strengths and weaknesses, we highly recommend checking out the current offers on the provider’s websites.

If you are in Lima or other larger cities in Peru, network coverage of all four is more or less the same, so the decision might be taken on other factors such as 4G availability, speed or latency. However, the further you get away from the cities into remote areas, the poorer network coverage might get (here Movistar or Claro might still be the better option). So, if you are a lot on the road in rural areas in Peru, it might be wise to check the network coverage of each provider before deciding on the right operator for you.

How to get a Peruvian SIM card?

Prepaid SIM cards (“chips prepago”) can be purchased at the official stores of each company and authorized distributors all over Peru. You find these for example at the most airports in Peru including Lima and Cusco, in shopping malls and larger supermarkets or somewhere in the center of town.

We highly recommend to only buy a SIM card at official stores and authorized resellers. Stay away from street vendors who sell black market prepaid SIM cards and credits

As all cell phone numbers have to be registered in Peru, an official ID (DNI for Peruvians, carné de extranjería for foreign residents or passport for tourists) is required.

The SIM card itself costs depending on the company between S/ 1 and S/ 15 (US/ 0.30 – 4.50) and might already come with a few free calls and a small amount of free data valid for a few days. Depending on the company and prepaid plan you choose, credit has to be added immediately.

Best have the retailer set up the SIM card for you to save time and avoid any troubles, especially if you are not familiar with the system. Nonetheless, it might take a few hours until your Sim card is active and you can get started.

Be aware that even if you still have credit, you have to recharge a prepaid SIM card in regular intervals to stay active. Furthermore, prepaid plans in Peru are only valid for a certain time (anything between 1 and 15 days). So, if you pay for a plan or pack with for example 2GB data, you can only use it within a certain period. If you don’t use it, it expires.

On the other hand, you can add as much credit as you may need. Additionally, you can change your prepaid plan, add data packs or seize a special offer simply via text message using the companies special (promotion) code any time.

Each company has its own number to check for balance and validity of the credit, change prepaid plans and activate packs; so best ask for it when getting a new SIM card.

How to add credit?

Adding credit to your phone is simple in Peru. You can purchase credit literally everywhere in the country including supermarkets, bodegas (corner stores), gas stations, pharmacies and drug stores.

Just head for the checkout and ask for a “recarga”. Name your provider, amount you want to recharge and phone number and in seconds you get a text message confirmation on your phone.

Additionally, you find “recharge” machines across several Peruvian cities. If you have a bank account, you as well can quickly and easily buy credit online.

How to make calls?

Yes, even though today we use our mobiles mostly for all sorts of messaging and web surfing, sometimes we still need to make a call.

If you are in Peru and want to call another Peruvian cellphone from your mobile with a Peruvian SIM card, just dial the corresponding 9-digit number – no prefix necessary. If you want to call a landline phone from your mobile with Peruvian SIM card, first dial the city code and then the landline number.

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  • This commment is unpublished.
    Josh · 06/03/2023
    Hi, where can I pay for my Claro postpago plan in-person in Lima, without having to visit an actual Claro store?  For some reason, the app/website will not accept my foreign (US) debit or credit card as a payment option and I do not have a Peruvian bank.  Where can I go in-person to pay the monthly recurring charge?  Something close to San Borja/Chacarilla would be helpful.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Jacob Pereira · 04/11/2022
    I went to get a prepaid sim at the movistar store at plaza lima sue and they said I was unable to buy a prepaid sim and would need a postpaid sim They charged me sol 1 for the sim and said I should come on November 14 to pay the monthly bill of Sol 29.50.

    I'm a visitor to Peru and will be leaving Peru on November 16th.

    Something does not add up. Can you provide me with some assistance 
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • LimaEasy
      · 05/11/2022
      @Jacob Pereira Hello Jacob,

      yes you are right, something really doesn't add up.

      To get a postpaid plan in Peru, you need a DNI (Peruvian ID card) or a Carné (ID card for foreign residents) and often your credit history is checked. As tourist you can't provide this. I'm not sure if there has been some sort of miscommunication, but the only sim foreigners without residency can get is a prepaid one.

      Do not sign any postpaid plan. You will be hooked for at least 6 to 12 months.

      Make clear that you want a prepaid sim which cost you S/ 5 at movistar and you only need your passport. If nothing changed, you can't buy data packages or top up your saldo at the Movistar store, but have to go to a bodega (usually nearby) to activate your sim and make a "recarga". For S/ 15 you get, for example, 2.5GB with unlimited calls/sms and unlimited social media, valid for 15 days.

    • This commment is unpublished.
      Jacob Pereira · 05/11/2022
      @Sunflower Good afternoon Eva

      Neither do I have a DNI or a Carne.  They never checked my credit history as I have none in Peru.   I arrived in Peru for the 1st time in my life !!

      Without data I was unable to translate to the sales representative.   She was sweet and polite but we did have extreme communication issues.  

      The sim that has been issued a prepaid sim so the deal is already done.  Now there is no use crying over spilt milk.   

      I clearly asked for a prepaid sim and the sales representative said they do not offer prepaid  anymore.   This episode took place on November 2nd.  

      They have asked me to come to the movistar store on the 14th November to pay the bill.  On the 14th I'm going to ask them to cancel the service and let me see what transcribes at this juncture.  Do you think I'll be able to cancel my service?   Honestly I'm expecting some drama and them asking me to pay a penalty.  

      Any additional tips you can offer me.   Either way I will update you of the final outcome 

      Thank you Eve for your time ....

      Jacob Pereira 

    • This commment is unpublished.
      Jacob Pereira · 05/11/2022
      @Sunflower Hi Eva

      Do you think I should go to the Movistar store and ask them to change my service from "postpaid" to "prepaid".   

      Wondering once I leave Peru how would I get any pending bills and also pay them from overseas 

      Honestly I would like to settle this issue before I knave Peru

      Jacob Pereira 
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • LimaEasy
      · 05/11/2022
      @Jacob Pereira Hello Jacob,

      Your hole experience is strange. As said before I don’t know if it’s just a case of miscommunication or if someone at Movistar wanted to get a nice commission for selling a plan or whatever.

      Movistar still offers prepaid (check out their website) but it might be possible that they ran out of prepaid sim cards. Who knows.

      Anyway, the question is, did you sign a contract, did you get a copy of it (a must in Peru) and what does it state?

      Usually, you have the right to cancel contracts within a certain time frame; I’m not sure how long it is for telecommunication contracts (especially as you as a tourist shouldn’t have gotten one in the first place and Movistar clearly broke the law by giving you a postpaid plan).

      Personally, I wouldn’t wait until the 14th and I wouldn’t go there to pay any bill. I would be in the shop on Monday and cancel their service immediately, because they sold you something you didn’t want. According to Osiptel, the Peruvian consumer protection agency for telecommunication affairs, you can cancel any time without conditions or explanations (see point 8).

      I’m sure there might be some discussions, but mentioning Osiptel or the fact that they aren’t allowed to sell postpaid plans to tourists might be helpful. And yes, you must settle this issue before leaving Peru. Do you have someone Spanish speaking who could accompany you?

      And, no I wouldn’t ask for changing the service from post to prepaid. I would insist on an immediate cancelation and then rather go to the next Claro shop and get a prepaid sim card there.

    • This commment is unpublished.
      Jacob Pereira · 06/11/2022
      @Sunflower Good morning Eva

      Thank you very much for your quick response.   My wife and I greatly appreciate your input.   We have been stressed about this experience for the last few days.  Otherwise our vacation has been wonderful and great.  Love all the Peruvian people we met !! Especially the Fisher woman.   

      Eva, they did have me sign and figure imprint  a bunch of papers all in spanish but never gave me any copy.   All I have is a scribbled piece of paper with my peru phone number and an invoice of payment of sol. 1/- 

      Unfortunately we do not have any body around that speaks Spanish and yes the conversation with anybody is very difficult for us.   My wife and I love the south American culture, the food, the people and ie why we come here 2 to 3 times a year

      I was also unable to open your Osiptel link.  

      Absolutely as per your advice I would like to go to the store on Monday and insist on canceling the phone service.  But conversation with the agents is going to be extremely difficult as not a soul in the huge store speak English.  

      Can I ask you for a huge favor if its not too much to ask.  Can I call you from the store and you can explain to the agent our intentions 

      You can call me on watzapp 001 416 358 4794.  My peru number is 954 275 766.  

      Thank you for your assistance.  Looking forward to hearing from you.   

      Jacob Pereira 

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Bart · 06/08/2022
    I went to get a SIM card and at the end nothing was charged. Apparently I got a "postpago", post paid, plan from Movistar. When do you pay and when and how should this be canceled?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • LimaEasy
      · 06/08/2022
      @Bart Hello Bart,

      So, you went out to get a prepaid chip for your cell phone and ended up with a postpaid mobile plan? Where did this happen? In an official Movistar shop / agent? Sorry, but something isn’t adding up here.

      Are you a resident of Peru? Usually, only Peruvians and residents can get a postpaid plan.
      Was your credit history checked?
      Did you sign a contract? To get a postpaid plan, you must have signed a contract stating exactly the conditions, such as contract period (usually 12 months, sometimes 24 months), monthly payments (usually a (Peruvian) credit card is necessary), cancelation period, etc. So, if you signed a contract, have you read it before signing or at least have a copy of it? So, have a look at it. All the info you are asking for should be there.

      All in all, if you aren’t a resident and know that one should always read the papers one’s signs, this doesn’t make sense to me, sorry.

      Or did Movistar probably had a special offer where you get the prepaid chip, which usually is only a few Soles, for free and then you just have to put money on it?

      Maybe just get back to the place you got the chip and check if you get a prepaid chip or postpaid plan and ask there how to proceed.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Roger · 16/06/2022
    Hi. I am using a Claro chip purchased in Lima. For some reason incoming sms messages do not get to me from overseas. The messages come from a financial institution that requires a code is sent to me so that I can use it to sign in.
    Is there some kind of additional code required when messaging into a Claro number from overseas?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • LimaEasy
      · 16/06/2022
      @Roger Hello Roger,

      no special number needed when messaging a Peruvian cell phone number from abroad; just the Peruvian country code +51 and then the number. That's it.

      Personally, I would first check with Claro if the chip is activated correctly and you are good to send / call and receive internationally.

      Another problem could be your bank who is sending the code. Not all banks send the codes to a number abroad, just to local cell phone numbers. So, might be worth to check with them as well.

    • This commment is unpublished.
      Roger · 19/06/2022
      @Sunflower Thanks Eva. I am able to send SMS to Australia but the return messages do not get to me. These are tests to a relative so the bank is not involved..
      I will go to a Claro office again to try and find out if it is a chip issue. Maybe my prepago works differently than post pago.

      Thanks Roger
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Tom · 15/03/2022
    I have an old Samsung 3 and would get a SIM on arrival. I wonder if there is adequate 3G coverage for Lima, Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Ayacucho, and which network might be best. Need phone/text, not data.
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • LimaEasy
      · 15/03/2022
      @Tom Hello Tom,

      The provider with the best coverage across Peru surely is Claro. Mobile internet is usually good to excellent in larger cities and the further you get away from there, the worse the coverage and speed gets.

      Depending on where you are in the Lima metropolitan area, you get 3G in the outskirts at least 4G or 4G+ in most other Lima districts and in some areas even 5G. In the city of Cusco you can as well mostly expect 4G or 4G+, however in some areas only 2G or 3G, in Ollantaytambo and Ayacucho 3G or 4G.

    • This commment is unpublished.
      Tom · 15/03/2022
      @Sunflower Hola Eva,
      thanks for the quick reply. My question is if my phone is only a 3G version will it still work in the 4G / 4G+ areas?
    • This commment is unpublished.
      • LimaEasy
      · 16/03/2022
      @Tom Honestly, not 100% sure. I'm anything but tech savvy. Sorry. I asked two different people who know much more about the topic than I do and got two very different answers. But as there are still many people in Peru using "old" phones that most probably only can do 3G and as 4G is backwards compatible with 3G service, I assume (!) that you shouldn't have a problem.

    • This commment is unpublished.
      T · 17/03/2022
      @Sunflower Thanks Eva,
      I'll give it a try or buy a cheapo there.

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