Planning your trip to Colombia and wondering what is the best way to stay connected and avoid high roaming charges? Having a working data connection on your phone makes traveling in Colombia much easier. In this guide you find everything you need to know about buying a sim card for Colombia: where to buy a sim card, the best 4G/5G network in Colombia, the best e-sim cards, up to date prices per August 2023, info about international prepaid sim cards for Colombia, a vlog about my experiences and my recommendation.
Figuring out the best way to get connected is the first thing I do when I get to a new country. Mostly that is by buying a prepaid sim card or simply getting an e-sim card. As I am also trying to travel every country in the world you can find already more than 200 prepaid sim card guides from all over the world on Traveltomtom: Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Panama, Costa Rica, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, New York, USA, Mexico, Canada, Spain, Europe, Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Israel, Istanbul, Dubai and many more.
So when you are planning your next adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid or e-sim card advice for your destination. Bookmark this website!
Why buying a sim card in Colombia
Traveling with internet on your phone is just so much easier. Think about using taxi apps, getting directions from Google Maps, use Whatsapp, find your friends, nearby restaurants, your bank apps, emergencies, etc.
Especially when traveling around the country in busses it is recommended to have a Colombia sim card. I am sure you want to be connected to the internet on your 5 hour bus ride!
Public WiFi in big cities in Colombia is actually pretty good and coffee shop, shopping malls and of course hotels offer free good WiFi. However, there is no guarantee and especially when traveling away from the cities, free WiFi becomes scares. Also another reminder that public WiFi is through an UNSECURED network. The use of a VPN is recommended when using public WiFi.
The cheapest way to stay connected when traveling to Colombia is a local prepaid sim card. Colombia sim cards beat every price of international and e-sim cards, data package in Colombia are cheap and with a local prepaid sim card you are guaranteed the best network connection and the fastest data speed. More about the best 4G/5G network in Colombia later.
Traveltomtom recommends a Claro sim card for Colombia. They have the best mobile data network, fastest data speed and for $6.4 USD you get 9 GB data for 30 days.
Normally Traveltomtom also always recommends e-sim cards but traveling in Colombia they are significantly more expensive and 1 GB data start from $8 USD. For more info see below.
We also recommend looking into travel sim cards with global coverage. There are plenty international sim cards that cover Colombia and for $29.90 USD you can already get 10 GB data and the great thing is you can order one directly online and get it shipped to your home address. Check out my article with a comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling in 2023.
Best e-sim cards for Colombia
The easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Colombia in 2023 is an e-sim card. More expensive, but you can arrange everything within 2 minutes without visiting a store or swapping a sim card. Order an e-sim, receive a QR-code, apply the settings as described and you are all set. Check out the following e-sim card deals for Colombia:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $8 USD
- 2 GB data for 15 days = $15 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $21 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $32.50 USD
Click here to order an e-sim card for Colombia directly online.
The above e-sim cards from Hartonet are data-only and phone calls are not supported. They operate on the 4G/LTE network of Movistar.
Much more expensive but there are also international e-sim cards that are valid in more than 70 countries including Colombia:
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $24.90 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $34.90 USD
- 6 GB data for 15 days = $39.90 USD
With an e-sim card you keep your own phone number from home, but make sure your phone is unlocked and is e-sim card compatible before you order an e-sim card for Colombia.
Mobile internet operators Colombia
There are 3 main mobile internet providers in Colombia: Movistar, Tigo and Claro. All of them sell prepaid sim cards for tourists in stores around Colombia and you can also find them on International Airports. Find more info below including more about the 4G/5G network coverage and the prepaid sim card prices per provider.
Where to buy a sim card for Colombia
In the bigger cities in popular tourist areas you can buy a prepaid sim card for Colombia from a street vendor. These street vendors mostly sell Claro prepaid sim cards. The advantage is that you don't need your passport and the sim card will not be registered on your name.
At the time of research in August 2023 the street vendors offered double data and actually had really good prepaid sim card deals for Colombia: 9 GB data for 20 days including unlimited social media for 40,000 COP, which is about $10 USD.
The disadvantage is that this is not an official retail store and you are not getting registered. So if you would run into problems things could get a little tricky. Traveltomtom does not particularly recommend buying a sim card on the streets in Colombia. If you run into a problem your sim card is not registered and you will end up buying another sim card.
International Airport on arrival
Are you arriving in Colombia on an international flight then the most convenient place to buy a prepaid sim card for Colombia is at the airport on arrival. Be aware that buying a sim card at the airport in Colombia is more expensive than when buying a prepaid sim card in the city center. Just don't buy the tourist sim cards that are quoted in USD!
From my own experience I can tell you everything about buying a sim card at Bogota Airport as that is where I mostly land on my trips to Colombia. Check out the link for my complete guide including a vlog with my experiences.
According to my research you can buy a sim card at Cartagena Airport. There is a convenience store in the departure hall that sells Colombia prepaid sim cards for tourists, but no official tourist sim card shop.
Lately I flew directly to Medellin and found it difficult to buy a prepaid sim card for Colombia on arrival. However, there is a phone store at the departure hall on the second floor of Medellin International Airport. This phone shop sells accessories and phone cases, but it also sells prepaid sim cards for tourists. Here you can buy a Claro sim card for 85,000 Pesos ($17.5 USD) with 12 GB data for 30 days.
Unfortunately there is no sim card shop in the arrival hall at Medellin Airport that sells Colombia sim cards for tourists.
Official retail stores
The most recommended place to buy a prepaid sim card for your trip to Colombia is in one of the official retail stores of the mobile internet providers. Here you will get the best service and information and the staff can help you to apply the right settings. When you walk out of a retail store with a new sim card for Colombia you are 100% sure everything is working properly and your data plan and voice package are activated.
Buy a sim card for Colombia online
For those who want to arrive in Colombia prepared they can already buy an international sim card online that works in Colombia. These travel sim cards will be shipped to your home address and automatically activate from the moment they connect the first time with a network in Colombia. Meaning when the plane touches the ground you are online.
On top of that there are also e-sim cards for Colombia as I showed you above. Not the cheapest but definitely the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to Colombia.
Registration process prepaid sim cards
By law in Colombia, every tourist that buys a prepaid sim card in Colombia will have to be registered by their name and passport number. So when buying a sim card in Colombia you need to bring your passport. A copy of your passport is taken in the store.
If you want to avoid this you can look for a street vendor that sells prepaid sim cards or buy an international sim card for Colombia online or an e-sim card for Colombia.
Prices prepaid sim cards in Colombia
All mobile internet operators in Colombia sell prepaid sim card for tourists. The prices below are updated per August 2023. $1 USD = 4,090 COP and 10,000 COP = $2.44 USD.
A Movistar prepaid sim card costs 6,000 COP ($1.5 USD) for the registration and then you can top up with a prepaid data plan that include unlimited calling and texting in Colombia:
- 4 GB data + free apps* for 7 days = 3,500 COP - $0.7 USD
- 12 GB data + free apps* for 15 days = 16,000 COP - $3.3 USD
As you can see prepaid sim cards with data in Colombia is very cheap. For more info check the Movistar website.
A Tigo prepaid sim card is free and to keep it really simple they only have two Colombia prepaid sim card plans for tourists:
- 5 GB data for 7 days + unlimited calls/text = 10,000 COP - $2.1 USD
- 10 GB data for 15 days + unlimited calls/text = 20,000 COP - $4.2 USD
For more info check the Tigo Colombia website.
Getting a Claro Sim card costs 3,000 COP. The Claro sim card deals come with free Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter:
- 1.5 GB data + unlimited calls/text for 7 days = 7,500 COP - $1.6 USD
- 2.5 GB data + unlimited calls/text for 10 days = 11,000 COP - $2.3 USD
- 9 GB data* + unlimited calls/text for 30 days = 31,000 COP - $6.4 USD
For more info see the Claro website.
Best 4G/5G network in Colombia
Even more important than the price is the 4G/5G network coverage when buying a prepaid sim card. Luckily all providers cover most of the tourist destinations in Colombia very well. However, there is definitely a difference in the 4G/5G network strength. Below I will compare the mobile data coverage maps of the mobile internet providers in Colombia and find out who has the best 4G network in Colombia as of 2023.
Is there 5G in Colombia?
No, as of August 2023 there is still no 5G in Colombia. It was supposed to be rolled out in 2022, but covid is used as excuse why there is still no 5G in Colombia. Although Claro says to be the first mobile operator in Colombia to offer 5G, it is very limited to certain areas in Bogota only and not even for prepaid costumers. So the max data speed for tourists in Colombia will be 4G in 2023.
Tigo 4G/5G network coverage map
Movistar 4G/5G network coverage map
Claro 4G/5G network coverage map
From the above 3G/4G network coverage maps for Colombia we can clearly see that Claro has the best 3G/4G mobile network in Colombia in 2023 and even started to offer 5G in Bogota.
Best prepaid sim card for Colombia in 2023
It is a very easy conclusion that Claro is the most expensive mobile internet provider in Colombia when it comes to prepaid sim card packages. However, we are talking about just a couple dollars.
The cheapest Colombia sim card is a Tigo prepaid sim card and costs a little over $5 for 10 GB data. Claro has the best and most extensive 4G network coverage in Colombia.
Taking into consideration the prices and the 4G network coverage we come to the conclusion that Claro is the best prepaid sim card and therefore Traveltomtom recommends buying a Claro prepaid sim card for traveling in Colombia.
Buying a sim card for Colombia online
Does buying a local prepaid sim card on arrival in Colombia sound like too much work and your phone is not e-sim card compatible then Traveltomtom recommends looking into an international sim card with coverage in Colombia. These prepaid sim cards can be ordered online and get shipped to your home address before your trip. They are automatically activated and work like plug + play.
Check out the following international sim card deals for Colombia:
- 8 GB data for 30 days = $24.90 USD
- 12 GB data for 30 days = $29.90 USD
- 24 GB data for 2 years = $79.90 USD
Also another reminder that you can also order an e-sim card for Colombia online if you wish to arrange everything online. More expensive, but very convenient!
My experience buying a sim card in Colombia
In 2022 I visited Colombia for the 5th time and on this trip I only stayed in Bogota. I really like the city and it offers high living standards for very affordable prices. As said before when staying in the city center of one of the big cities in Colombia there it does not matter so much which prepaid sim card you buy.
Personally, I mostly always go with the provider that has the strongest 4G/5G network and therefore I bought a Claro prepaid sim card. However, even if I would have wanted to buy a Movistar or Tigo prepaid sim card it wasn’t possible as only Claro was still open at the time I was in the city center.
After I did my research at Bogota Airport I decided not to buy a prepaid sim card at Bogota Airport but patiently waited until I got to the city center. The prices for prepaid sim cards in Bogota city center are cheaper than at El Dorado International Airport.
I had no issues using Claro 4G in Bogota city center and at the airport! Since I had 12 GB data for just 2 days I also used my Claro prepaid sim card as a hotspot for my Macbook and it worked perfectly fine.
In 2023 I traveled to Colombia again and this time I went on a road trip in Antioquia. I flew into Medellin and could not find a proper prepaid sim card for Colombia at the airport so I quickly bought an e-sim card for the first day. Then in the city center of Medellin I got myself a Claro prepaid sim card and traveled all around the state of Antioquia. I had no problem whatsoever to stay connected. Data speed could have been a bit better away from the city, but it is what it is.
Interested in watching a short video about my experiences buying a prepaid sim card in Colombia then click below.
As you can guess I love traveling in Colombia and that said in October 2023 I will be back again hosting another Traveltomtom Group Trip. So if you want to travel with me to Colombia this is your chance…
Although when reading this article, I am sure you will be traveling to Colombia soon already.
If you are interested what it looks like traveling to every country in the world then check out my Instagram profile @traveltomtom for some serious wanderlust. As of August 2023 I have visited more than 155 countries around the world.
Enjoy your trip to Colombia!
Some links in this article about the best way to stay connected when traveling to Colombia are affiliate links. If you buy any of the products after using an affiliate link I earn a small commission. Don’t worry this is at absolutely no extra cost to you.