Traveling to a different country is always interesting. Getting to know other culture, new people and, sometimes, another language is an awesome experience. But trying to understand how mobile carriers work in other countries is not as easy as one might think.
In a couple of weeks Brazil (Brasil, in the country’s native language) is about to receive tourists from all over the world for the FIFA Confederations Cup 2013. Following this, the country will host the FIFA World Cup 2014. Thinking about these events and considering past experiences from foreign countries, me and my fellows from Showmetech have come up with a few tips on how to survive the Brazilian Carrier’s Jungle and make your phone work while in the country:
Will my phone work in Brazil?
First of all, you must check if your phone will work in Brazil. Practically all smartphones sold in the world are compatible with Brazilians GSM and 3G frequencies. If you want to assure that your phone supports such frequencies, look through its specifications and make sure that they are either:
- 900 MHz or 1,800 MHz (GSM);
- 850 MHz or 2,100 MHz (3G – UMTS / WCDMA);
- 2,600 MHz (4G/LTE band 7).
Don’t worry if only one frequency band (each technology) matches with your gadget. It will work fine here. Also, if you don’t have your manual with you, you may check for your phone’s specifications typing its model number in our search page. As regards to 4G/LTE networks, they are still being installed in the country. They work only in a few cities and places and the download rate can be low sometimes.
Should I buy a SIM Card?
As in most countries that offer pre-paid mobile plans, we strongly recommend buying a Brazilian SIM Card. After all, international roaming fares can be very expensive. Don’t forget that your smartphone or tablet must be unlocked to work on other carriers that on one you have bought it. If your device is a retail model, you won’t have to worry about unlocking procedures. To help you decide between the available Brazilian Carrier, we’ll present you details on each of them (Vivo, Claro, TIM and Oi) in the following topics.
Brazilian Mobile Phone Carriers
There are four major mobile phone carriers in Brazil (Vivo, Claro, TIM and Oi). All of them work in the same frequency bands (specified above). We have visited each of them to get more accurate information on price and availability. Vivo and Claro are known to have a better service thought the country, but TIM and Oi usually have the best prices for voice and data plans.
The best place to find their stores concentrated in one place, at city, is at a shopping mall. However, most major avenues also have carrier stores. Some TIM stores also have English speakers staff, but other carriers will probably add this “feature” to their stores in the following months.
The following table indicates carrier’s information as well as how to buy their SIM Cards and Plans:
1 Up to 10MB download – After reaching this limit internet speed goes from ~7Mbps to 128kbps;
2 Up to 5MB download – After reaching this limit internet speed goes from 300kbps to 50kbps;
3 Up to 10MB download – After reaching this limit internet speed goes from 300kbps to 50kbps;
4 Up to 200MB download – After reaching this limit internet speed goes from 1Mbps to 56kbps;
5 Up to 150MB download – After reaching this limit internet speed goes from 1Mbps to 56kbps;
6 When you recharge your OI, you get the same amount in bonus. However, this bonus can be used only for local calls to OI. (ie: if I buy a R$ 10,00 credit, I get more R$ 10,00 bonus. Even though I have R$ 20,00 in credits, I can only use this bonus by calling another OI. Otherwise, you will be using your credits and you will pay R$ 1,67/min);
7 If you buy R$ 15,00 credit, you will pay R$ 0,44/each SMS. If you buy R$ 25,00 or higher, you will pay R$ 0,50/day – when you use (limited to 500 SMS to the same carrier or 30 SMS to other carrier).
- Website: http://www.claro.com.br
- Where I can buy a SIM Card? Only in Claro stores;
- What do I need? Passport or other document with photo;
- Recharge: Claro stores, supermarkets, drugstores, etc.
- Website: http://www.oi.com.br
- Where I can buy a SIM Card? Only in Oi stores;
- What do I need? It hasn’t been specified which documents foreigners need to register;
- Recharge: Oi stores, supermarkets, drugstores, etc.
- Website: http://www.vivo.com.br
- Where I can buy a SIM Card? Only in Vivo stores;
- What do I need? Passport or Mercosul ID;
- Recharge: Vivo stores, supermarkets, drugstores, etc.
- Website: http://www.tim.com.br
- Where I can buy a SIM Card? Only in TIM stores;
- What do I need? Passport or other document with photo;
- Recharge: TIM stores, supermarkets, drugstores, etc.
How to make a call in Brazil?
Brazil is divided in 26 states and a Federal District (Brasília). As you can see in the map below, some of them are also divided in micro-areas. All of them have their own regional calling codes. Local calls are those made in the same micro-area (i.e. if your number has regional calling code 31, if you call to a number with the same regional calling code, you are doing a local call).
To make a local call you just need to call user’s phone number, usually with 08 digits (09 if you call a mobile phone from São Paulo).
Regional Calls (Long Distance or DDD):
To make a call to a different region you have to use this pattern: 0+LD+RC+(user’s phone number).
- LD: carrier number (it’s recommended to choose your own carrier);
- RC: regional code.
International Calls (or DDI):
To make an international call, you have to use this pattern: 00+LD+(user’s phone number).
- LD: carrier number (it’s recommended to choose your own carrier).
1. Choosing Whatsapp over SMS:
Whatsapp is a free messages app available in most platforms that can save your money (and carrier credits). Be reminded that even when you change your international SIM Card to a Brazilian SIM Card, you may keep your original Whatsapp number/account so that friends and family can communicate with you, free of charge. To install Whatsapp, visit the official Whatsapp website.
2. Get automatic carrier configuration with Right Number (Android):
Android phones may rely on automatic configurations provided by an app called Right Number. This was created by Bruno Albuquerque, a developer working for Google Brazil, which contains all carrier codes. Once you buy your Brazilian SIM Card, just choose your carrier in the app and the local area code. The app will do the rest, configuring your numbers whenever you need to call someone. Don’t worry, your agenda will remain intact.
3. Choosing Viber over voice calls:
Working similar to Whatsapp app above, Viber enables you to enjoy free voice calls with your data plan or a WiFi connection. To install the app on your phone, tablet or PC, visit the official Viber website.
4. Taxi Apps can be used on most Cities:
Taxi apps such as 99Taxis, TaxiBeat and Waytaxi can be used in most cities in Brazil. Also, it is a good idea to have a navigation app such as Google Maps or Waze, so that you don’t get fooled by a suspicious taxi driver.