The Sim Card

Getting A Sim Card In Peru – Breaking The Law But Amazing Customer Service

On my first day in Peru, I did what I always do on my first day in a new country – I went to a store to buy a sim card for my phone. This allows me to make local calls far, far cheaper than using my Danish sim card and local people can call me at normal rates.

The Scene Of The Crime

The Scene Of The Crime

I thought it would be as simple as going to the store, deciding between Claro and Movistar, perhaps showing some kind of ID, and putting the chip in my phone. Nope.

Apparently, when you buy a sim card in Peru you have to register it before it’ll work. This way, if your phone is ever lost or stolen, you can easily report it and get a replacement. You can register it easily via the menu options and you just need to put in your Peruvian ID number.

Foreigners don’t have a Peruvian ID number, obviously. To register yourself is a lengthy process that takes about a week.

The guy at the store was awesome for explaining all this to me. The previous store mentioned nothing about these things and was eager to sell me the chip. The registration issue was not their problem. Luckily, I hadn’t been to an ATM yet so I didn’t have enough money to buy the chip from them at the time.

So what to do?

Most foreigners have a Peruvian friend register the phone in their name. I am lucky to have tons of friends in Peru, but all are in Lima and I won’t be there for a month. I was thinking the owner of the hotel I’m staying at could do it for me, but it’s asking a lot.

Well, as I explained this, the guy called Claro’s customer service to ask if he understood the “foreigner problem” correctly, and they confirmed that yes, it was indeed a pain in the butt to register the phone as a foreigner.

He told me to wait a second while he went in the back.

When he came back, he had a photocopy of an ID in his hand. He looked at me, put his finger up to his lips and said “shhh…” He was registering my phone in some random lady’s name. It only took 30 seconds and my phone was ready to go.

The Sim Card

The Sim Card

It’s hard to explain. He was not eager for the sale or anything. In the middle I told him I wanted to check and see if the store across the street had any sim cards already registered for sale. He didn’t do anything to convince me to stay and make the sale with him or anything. I left, the other store had none, and I came back.

But it was just a strange experience. Almost never in Latin America have I received such good, patient customer service. The whole process took at least 20-30 minutes. The sim card only cost 15 Soles/$5.62. I’m guessing his commission on the sale was at most $0.50. I put 10 Soles/$3.75 of credit on my account. In the end, he probably made $1 by helping me out. His shop repairs cell phones and I’m guessing that’s where he makes most of his money.

I left him a 10 Soles/$3.75 tip for his time and for his patience. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it though. In the end, he did something “wrong” to help me out by registering the phone in someone else’s name. But he was so friendly, customer-oriented, and knowledgeable. It’s been a long time since I’ve been treated like a customer instead of one more hassle for an employee to deal with.

So, I guess I rewarded the attitude, not the actions. 🙂 Or something like that..

21 replies
  1. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    Every once in a while we run into actual customer service down here. It’s so refreshing amidst all the not-my-problem attitudes in Latin America. Customer service is so lacking different from the USA and I haven’t figured out where it comes from yet. I can see why you were grateful!

  2. smudge
    smudge says:

    in cancun i had a similar issue getting SIM cards at both movistar and telcel…they just entered bogus information on the screens that asked for it which i found a bit amusing.

    and telcel was quite helpful.
    the girl had up google translate and we were translating thru that!

    • Adam Pervez
      Adam Pervez says:

      I don’t know. From what I understood when I was there a year ago, foreigners had to register at some office to obtain a sim card. Maybe the rules have changed, or maybe they don’t understand the rules. Not sure. Either way, glad we were both able to get one! 🙂

  3. smudge
    smudge says:

    i am from the united states and i successfully bought a SIM card using my passport at the Claro store in Cusco at the google link above
    (San Andrés Calle San Andrés 342, Cusco.).

    required only a passport. i speak virtually no spanish but was able to communicate what i needed.

    other claro stores will probably tell you that it is not possible. the people at this particular store understood and sold me a SIM card that worked in my unlocked Samsung Galaxy S III.

  4. honza
    honza says:

    I have the same experience in Peru – they registered my Movistar card to a random person. However, one week later I received an SMS that the date of birth is incorrect and they immediately blocked the SIM card until I (meaning the random person) gets personally to the client center to verificate the data…

  5. alexis soule
    alexis soule says:

    typing one-fingered on a wretched Nook, so pardon the typing errors–
    but I wanted to let folks know a little of my experience with Claro pre-paid. I bought a Claro SIM cardin Lima for an iphone 3gs from one of the millions of little Claro outlets– firstmistake, I don’t know howthose places work, but adviseto finda large Claro officeand hopeyou can find someone who speaks your language. My Spanish is pretty poor, but I can get around and have sometimes had quite sophisticated conversations– but these guys were clueless. I woundup buying the sim for 15 soles (at around 2.75 S / $1 ), and 40 minutesof talk and 750 M of datafor 75 soles total. Theytold me this woukd be good for a month but I could roll it over if needed. Then I hadto go to the cashier– it took heran incrediblylong time, but shefinally gave me a receipt for 15 soles. I said I wanteda receipt for all themoney I had paid. That completely threw them. In all, it took over an hourand a half to get the sim card and pay for it. Then I asked how I couldcheck to see what my balances were (data and phone). You’d think I’d asked for something highly unusual. Much consulting, finally they said go to the main office, up the street.
    At the main office, ittook 1/2 hour to find someone who could speak English. He said I’d already used halfof the 40 minutes talk time. Since I’d only made one, one minute phone call, and the record was thereon the phone, I asked how that could be? He eventually rolled the minutes back, and sort of showedmehow to get plan usage- another 45 minutes.
    Now, 2+ 1/2 weeks later, I’m getting messages from Claro saying that my time is going to expire tomorrow unless I sign up for more. I went to a local Claro place un Cusco & paid 5 soles to keep my talk minutes active, but that person couldn’t help me with the data plan. Got back to my hotel and got anothermessage saying thedata plan would run out tommorow unless I renewed. A very kind manager at my hotel spent 30 minutes on the phone trying to find out: 1) how much data hadI used/ or had left, and 2) what was the cheapest way to keep the dataplan going. After 30 min, and my passport info, etc, etc, theupshot is that I have 644 M left, but I’ll lose all but 200 of that if I don’t give

  6. Dave
    Dave says:

    Before you pat Yourself on the Back,you should realize that you have been ripped off big time. A chip only costs 5 Soles to 10 soles and you receive frfree mins. The people in Peru are eXpert thevies. You are a typical ignorant tourist – Throwing money around and driving up the costs for people to live here. I have been inPeru for over 2 years repairing a sailboat. Because of people like you every time I buy something I have to pay 3x the amount. It is a national game forthe people here . Ipuy workers 40 soles a day to work on my boat ThatisaGOOD! wage Soyou just tipped this guy almost Ysto 1/2 a day’s pay.Learn whatyou are doin.Don’t Believe me there are websites talking abouthow these people are. google com plaints against Peru.

  7. Marisa
    Marisa says:

    I go to Peru a lot and stay 4 to 6 months out of the year, if you have a unlocked cell GSM you can go to betel, claro or movistar, I particularly like betel because have better reception then the other companyside ,I have no problem to go with my cell buy a sim card from them, they register with my passport number, I actually activate 3 different cell with my passport number, so guys activate cells are not a problem in Peru , but we do have bigger problem like time doesn’t exist for them, honesty especially with Gringos if you need something fast forget it,Lima is a little better, but I work in Iquitos so is very slow process for everything, seriously God test you for patient over there.


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