Chile has a good network for mobile telecommunications. In Santiago, you may notice that lots of people are using their mobile phone in the metro. In some countries, being able to use a mobile phone inside metro is a miracle. Not in Chile.
Prices are correct, especially since new companies entered the market between 2012 and 2015, which led to a reduction of prices.
3G and 4G networks work well, including if you need to connect a computer using a 4G dongle. Of course, this depends on operators and regions.
Let’s have a look at the various operators and options regarding mobile phones. Regarding landlines phones, see our page Internet and landlines phones in Chile.
Operators that have their own network
Entel: the historical operator, privatized in 1992. Slightly more expensive than the others. Yet, it has the most reliable network.
Claro: the cheapest. One of their main arguments (that you can see everywhere on signs in Santiago) is that they offer unlimited data to use on social networks. Which means you can use Facebook, WhatsApp without using your 3G/4G credit, as long as you have credit on your account. However, it is not the only one to offer this now, Movistar also has a similar offer. Regarding network quality, it is one of the worst. If you are lucky, it will work well in your area.
Movistar and VTR: two operators with a similar approach: a rather good quality of network, and affordable prices
WOM: They entered the market very aggressively in 2015, with low prices. After some problems at the beginning, it seems to work rather well now.
MVNO: mobile virtual network operators
Most MVNO use Movistar network. Therefore, we don’t estimate necessary to list them all.
Let’s just mention Virgin Mobile, which arrived in Chile in 2012. It can be an interesting option, as it is the only operator to offer a monthly “plan” without requiring a RUT (more information below).
Which operator should I choose?
Since WOM arrived on the market last year, the mobile phone market is much more competitive than it used to be. Price differences are not huge, except if you use extensively your phone.
To sum up:
- The cheapest: Claro or WOM
- The best network quality: Entel
- Best value for money: VTR/Movistar (or MNVO using its network)
Types of plans
Monthly subscription (plan)
Most plans require you to have temporary or permanent residency, as well as a bank account.
You can compare the various plans here:
Virgin Movil has an interesting plan called “antiplan”. You don’t need a RUT or a bank account. It is interesting if you spend a lot of time on the phone, or if you use lots of data (for example with a 4G dongle).
But, how does a monthly plan works without a bank account?
It’s quite simple actually. You top up credit on your account Virgin Movil (like for a prepaid sim card). Every month, Virgin tries to debit the cost of the plan on your account. If there is not enough credit, the plan stops and restarts the next month if credit is available.
- Add credit for 6 months, to avoid having to top up all the time
- Get discounts if you use a lot your phone. Below 1Gb/120 minutes per month, it is not better than the prepaid offers.
Prepaid sim card (prepago)
You can compare the various offers using these links:
How to top up your account?
You can top up online with a debit card or a Chilean bank account. It is also possible with an international credit card (check the fees before).
If you prefer to add credit using cash, several options exist:
- In the largest metro stations, you can often find a place to top up (next to the ticket office). This is usually a person standing in the middle of the station, with a sign that says “recarga tu movil aqui”.
- In ChilExpress offices.
- In drugstores: CruzVerde, Salcobrand et Ahumada
- In supermarkets: Lider, Jumbo, Santa Isabel, Unimarc, Big John
- At ServiPag counters
Contrary to what you may think, you can not top up your prepaid card in the shops of the operators (Entel, Movistar, Claro). Sales here are only selling monthly plans and packages. They can not top up prepaid cards.
Good to know
Once you have added credit, you can make phone calls, but not necessarily get internet access. You need to buy a “bolsa” using the credit that you have just added to your plan. That can be done directly from the phone.
It can be disturbing at first, because when you add credit, operators usually offer you a few days of internet access. Therefore, it is going to work for a few days, then suddenly it will stop working without telling you why. That’s generally because the “bolsa” you had has expired.
Where to buy a cell phone?
You can find packages “mobile phone + subscription” in Chile. They will allow you to get a discount on a new phone. Since 2015, mobile phones are not locked to a mobile operator anymore. You can use abroad a phone that you bought in Chile.
However, if you do not have a RUT and a bank account, these offers will not be available to you.
You can buy a new phone without subscription in most shopping centers, like Falabella or Paris. It is interesting to know that they often display entry-level products that they don’t have in inventory. Just to attract you and try to sell you a more expensive phone. If you are on a budget, don’t go there.
For second hand/refurbished phones:
- Yapo.cl: be aware, lots of scams. Ask for the original bill, and come with you sim card to verify that the mobile phone is not locked.
- Mercadolibre.cl: a lot of professional shops selling refurbished phones with 3-month guarantee
You can also find phones on dedicated Facebook groups. Here are the 3 main ones: