Getting a SIM Card in Brazil (No Affiliate, No Bull Guide)

getting sim card brazil

Looking for a Brazil SIM card? As a local, I’ve seen too many travelers get lost in the maze of overpriced and confusing options that lead nowhere but to extra costs. It’s time to break the cycle with an authentic, no-nonsense guide to getting a SIM card in Brazil – one that saves you money and gets you more data for less. Why trust me? Living here, I’ve navigated this process multiple times and discovered the insider spots for the most cost-effective plans.

This guide isn’t just about saving a few reais; it’s about making your stay in Brazil smoother and more connected. So, let’s dive into the real deal on getting a SIM card in Brazil, without any affiliate fluff or misleading advice.

Key Takeaways for Getting a SIM Card in Brazil:

  • Avoid Airport SIM Cards: SIM cards purchased at Brazilian airports are often more expensive compared to city options, so it’s advisable to wait until you reach your destination for better deals.
  • Best Places to Buy: Look for ‘Lojas Americanas’ or specialized telecom stores like ‘Vivo,’ ‘TIM,’ or ‘Claro’ in major shopping centers to purchase your SIM card.
  • Required Documents: Always bring your passport when purchasing a SIM card, as it’s needed for activation.
  • Best SIM Card Options:
    • Vivo: Known for extensive coverage, making it ideal for remote areas.
    • TIM: Offers cost-effective plans, suitable for urban travel.
    • Claro: Provides high-speed internet and good coverage, suitable for various needs.
    • Oi: Offers budget-friendly plans but has limited rural coverage.
  • Pre-Paid SIMs: Local pre-paid SIM cards are generally more cost-effective, especially for longer stays or heavy data usage.
  • E-SIMs: E-SIMs are an option for newer phones, offering the convenience of maintaining your current SIM card while using a local data plan. Providers like Holafly, Airalo, and Ubigi offer choices for Brazil.
  • Coverage: Vivo has the most extensive coverage, followed by TIM and Claro.
  • Consider Your Itinerary: Tailor your SIM card choice to your travel plans – Vivo for remote areas, Claro for city adventures, and E-SIMs for multi-country travel.
  • Stay Connected and Enjoy Brazil: With the right SIM card, you can make the most of your time in Brazil, whether exploring cities, trekking through landscapes, or traveling across Latin America.

Getting A SIM Card in Brazil (Quick Didn’t Read Guide)

Here’s how to get a SIM card in Brazil:

  • Once settled at your accommodation, use their WiFi to find the nearest ‘Lojas Americanas’ or a shopping center with telecom stores.
  • Alternatively you can find any news stand and ask for a pre-paid SIM card here. You do not need a CPF number.
  • Take your passport and smartphone with you.
  • At ‘Lojas Americanas,’ ask for a prepaid plan from Vivo, TIM, or Claro. These are the most reliable with wide coverage.
  • Expect to pay around R$30 to R$50 for a plan with ample data and local calls.
  • The store clerk will set up the SIM for you, ensuring it works before you leave.

You will need your passport to get a physical SIM card in Brazil, as Brazilian telecom regulations require identification for SIM card activation. Avoid airport kiosks when buying a SIM card; they often have higher prices. I know it seems convenient, but it’s usually more expensive, and they might sell you worse deals. Wait until you’re in the city for better deals. Once you arrive in any big city, head to a local ‘Lojas Americanas’ or a specialized telecom store like ‘Vivo,’ ‘TIM,’ or ‘Claro’ in any major shopping center.

Which is The Best SIM To Get in Brazil?

The best SIM in Brazil is Vivo for coverage and data speed, followed by TIM for cost-effectiveness. Both are widely available in cities. Choose Vivo for reliable nationwide coverage or TIM for cheaper plans with good urban coverage.

Travelers often highlight Vivo’s superior network coverage, especially in remote areas, making it a favorite among travelers in Brazil. On the other hand, TIM is famous for its affordability and decent coverage in major cities and towns, but it tends to leave you hanging once you go to the countryside or take the road to drive from one city to another.

My personal experience aligns with this too: I’ve always used Vivo and it has rarely let me down in terms of connectivity, even in less urbanized areas. However, for travelers sticking to major cities and looking to save a bit, TIM proves to be a very competent option. Ultimately, the choice between Vivo and TIM hinges on your travel itinerary and connectivity needs in Brazil.

Getting A SIM At a Brazilian Airport

While Brazilian airports offer SIM card options, they tend to be more expensive than those available in the city. However, for immediate connectivity, they provide a convenient choice.

Airport SIM stands are usually positioned for easy access, but they come at a premium. The convenience of getting connected right after landing is a significant draw, especially for those needing immediate internet access for maps, rides, or accommodation details. However, the trade-off is cost. These airport kiosks often mark up prices compared to what you’d find in the city.

For better deals, it’s advisable to wait until you reach your destination in the city. You’ll find a wider variety of plans and more competitive pricing at local shops or major retailers like ‘Lojas Americanas.’ The majority of international airports in Brazil offer free WI-FI connection, so you can rely on that until you reach your hotel, and then head to a SIM card kiosk at the mall, or a retailer.

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Where Are The SIM Card Stands Located at the Airport?

  • Before Immigration: just after the final moving walkway, before you reach immigration, you’ll typically find SIM card stands.
  • Baggage Arrivals: After passing through immigration, there are usually stands or kiosks where you can purchase a SIM card in the baggage claim area.
  • After Baggage Collection: In the arrivals area, post baggage collection, there are additional stands for last-minute SIM card purchases.

Sao Paulo GRU Airport SIM Stands:

Rio De Janeiro Galeao Airport SIM Stands:

Shops That Sell SIM Cards in Brazil

Here’s a list of shops that sell SIM cards in Brazil:

  • Vivo Stores: Widely recognized for its extensive coverage, Vivo offers a variety of plans suitable for both short-term visitors and longer stays.
  • TIM Shops: Known for its cost-effective plans, TIM is a good choice for travelers sticking to major cities and looking for affordable options.
  • Claro Outlets: Claro provides competitive plans with good coverage in urban and rural areas.
  • Lojas Americanas: A popular department store that often stocks prepaid SIM cards from various providers.
  • Carrefour Supermarkets: In larger Carrefour stores, you can sometimes find SIM cards, particularly useful if you’re shopping for other essentials.
  • Shopping Center Kiosks: Many malls have kiosks or small shops dedicated to cell phones and SIM cards, offering a range of options.
  • Oi Stores: Another major telecom provider, Oi offers a range of SIM card options with various data and call plans.
  • FNAC: Known for a wide range of electronics, FNAC stores in major cities often carry SIM cards and other mobile accessories.
  • Magazine Luiza: A popular retail chain, Magazine Luiza stocks SIM cards from various providers and electronics.
  • Casas Bahia: This retailer is known for electronics and appliances, and they also stock a variety of SIM cards.
  • Extra Supermarkets: SIM cards are available for purchase in some larger Extra locations, handy if you’re already there for groceries.
  • Drogasil and Droga Raia Pharmacies: Some of these pharmacies have started to offer SIM cards, making them a convenient option if there’s one nearby.
  • Posto Ipiranga: Certain Ipiranga gas station convenience stores carry SIM cards, offering an easy stop for travelers on the road.
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In Brazil, finding a shop to purchase a SIM card is relatively easy, especially in urban areas. Most shopping centers, high streets, and even some supermarkets offer a range of options. The key is to look for stores that specialize in electronics or telecommunications. These shops sell SIM cards and provide valuable assistance in choosing the right plan and activating the SIM on your phone.

The easiest place to find a SIM card in Brazil is a news stand. You can ask for a pre-paid (pre-pago) plan, and you do not need a CPF number to set this up. Just provide your passport and off you go.

I personally used to buy pre-paid SIM cards at the pharmacy back when I lived abroad and only spent a few weeks in Brazil. It was always super easy to activate them, and it worked perfectly.

Remember, when purchasing a SIM card in Brazil, having your passport for registration is a must. These shops will not only sell you the SIM but also assist with activation and setup.

Getting A SIM Before Arriving in Brazil – What Are My Options?

For travelers looking to secure a SIM card before arriving in Brazil, there are two main options:

  1. Pre-Ordered Physical SIM Cards: These can be purchased online from various international SIM card providers and shipped to your address.
  2. E-SIMs: Compatible with newer smartphones (e.g., iPhones post-2018, and recent Samsung or Google Pixel models), E-SIMs can be activated digitally without needing a physical SIM card.

There are pros and cons to each of these options:

Pre-ordered physical SIM Cards

  • Advantages: You’ll have a working SIM card when you land, saving time and avoiding potential language barriers at Brazilian shops. Also, you can inform contacts of your Brazilian number in advance.
  • Disadvantages: These SIMs often come with a higher price tag compared to purchasing in Brazil. Additionally, there’s the risk of delays or issues with international shipping.

E-SIM

  • Advantages: Instant activation and no waiting for physical delivery. E-SIMs are often more flexible, allowing you to choose from various online plans and operators.
  • Disadvantages: Not all phones are E-SIM compatible, limiting this option to those with newer smartphone models. Also, E-SIM plans may be more expensive than traditional SIM cards available in Brazil.

How About E-Sim Cards?

The main providers for E-SIMs in Brazil are:

  • Holafy
  • Airalo
  • Ubigi

The top providers for E-SIMs in Brazil are Holafly, Airalo, and Ubigi. Holafly is the best for travelers due to its extensive coverage across Brazil and flexible plan options, suitable for short and long stays.

Holafly’s E-SIM plans are particularly advantageous for travelers in Brazil, offering a mix of data-only and data-plus voice/text plans. Their comprehensive coverage ensures reliable connectivity across most regions in Brazil, making it an ideal choice for those moving between cities and rural areas. Additionally, the flexibility to choose a plan that matches the length and needs of your trip – from a few days to several weeks – adds to the convenience, particularly for tourists or business travelers.

Holafly E-SIM for Brazil

Holafly offers several data-only plans, ranging from 5-day to 30-day options. Prices typically start from around $19 for a 5-day plan, with higher duration plans offering better daily value. While in-country SIM cards may be cheaper, Holafly offers the convenience of immediate connectivity upon arrival. However, Holafly’s plans are data-only, whereas local SIM cards often include voice and text.

Holafly is competitively priced compared to airport SIM cards, which are more expensive. Additionally, the ease of pre-arrival setup with Holafly eliminates the need to locate and purchase a SIM at the airport.

Airalo E-SIM for Brazil

Airalo offers a range of data plans for Brazil, with prices starting from around $10 for a 1GB, 7-day plan. Longer plans offer larger data allowances at a reduced per-day cost.

When compared to in-country options, Airalo is more expensive per GB than local SIM cards. However, it offers the advantage of pre-arrival activation and a wide range of plan durations. Compared to airport tourist SIM cards, it is generally more cost-effective, with the added benefit of avoiding queues and potential language barriers.

Ubigi E-SIM for Brazil

Ubigi’s plans for Brazil start at around $15 for a 3GB, 30-day plan, with options extending to larger data packages for longer stays or heavier data usage. Ubigi’s plans are more expensive per GB than local SIMs but offer the convenience of immediate connectivity and a wide range of data packages. It has similar pricing to airport SIMs but with the convenience of pre-arrival purchase and activation, avoiding the hassle upon landing.

What’s The Benefit of an E-SIM?

An E-SIM’s benefit is its ability to keep your current SIM card in your phone while using a local data plan at the same time. This dual-SIM functionality means you won’t lose your original SIM and can still receive essential verification texts for services like PayPal or mobile banking. This feature is especially crucial for those relying on two-factor authentication (2FA) to access various accounts.

Frequently changing SIM cards to access these services can be cumbersome and risks losing your home SIM. With an E-SIM, this hassle is eliminated. This convenience is particularly beneficial for those traveling for extended periods, working remotely, or living as digital nomads. It ensures seamless connectivity and access to essential services without the constant need to switch SIM cards.

However, for those planning a long-term stay in Brazil, getting a physical SIM from a local provider for regular use might be more economical. In such cases, a cheap spare phone can be handy for receiving verification texts on your home number. The E-SIM offers the best of both worlds – maintaining home connectivity while enjoying local data services, making it a superior choice for most travelers.

Pre-Paid SIMs

Pre-paid SIMs are a popular option for travelers to Brazil, offering the convenience of having a SIM card ready upon arrival. These SIMs can be purchased through various online platforms like Amazon, eBay, or specialized telecom websites. While they provide the luxury of immediate connectivity, they often come at a higher cost, especially regarding roaming data charges.

In Brazil, pre-paid SIMs purchased locally are generally more cost-effective, especially for longer stays or heavier data usage. However, if budget is not a major concern and the convenience of having a SIM card ready right off the plane is a priority, then pre-paid SIMs can be a worthwhile luxury. For most travelers, though, waiting to purchase a SIM card upon arrival in Brazil typically offers better value and allows for a wider choice of plans tailored to specific needs and budgets.

Pre-paid SIM cards are also faster to acquire, and the bureaucracy behind them is a lot lighter. Some providers like Vivo allow you to manage your plan and order your SIM card online through their app, Vivo Easy (which I’ve used for over two years since I moved back to Brazil).

Which SIM Provider is Best?

  1. Vivo: Known for having the most extensive coverage across Brazil. Best for travelers who plan to explore off the beaten path and need reliable connectivity everywhere.
  2. TIM: Offers great value for money with affordable plans, especially suited for urban areas. Ideal for travelers sticking to major cities and looking for cost-effective options.
  3. Claro: Notable for high-speed internet and good coverage in many rural areas. It is a solid choice for those needing fast data speeds and a wide coverage area.
  4. Oi: Generally good for urban areas with competitive pricing but has slightly less extensive coverage than the top three providers.

Vivo

Vivo offers the best coverage in Brazil, especially in remote areas, with competitive speeds. Prices are higher, but the network reliability justifies the cost. Vivo SIMs can be easily acquired widely in most cities and towns.

Vivo has the best overall coverage, including rural areas with reliable data speeds. Because of that, it is slightly more expensive than other providers.

As for me, I am a loyal Vivo client since it is consistently reliable, especially during travels to less populated regions. Aside from my personal opinion, it is often regarded as the top choice for extensive travel within Brazil due to its superior coverage. My entire family also uses Vivo, and they have family plans that charge you less per SIM card. It is ideal for travelers who need dependable internet access across diverse locations, including hiking or trekking in remote areas.

TIM

Whether the authorities look into this or not is up for debate. However, I would never recommend you get this Visa and don’t follow the rules.

TIM is a cost-effective option with good urban coverage. However, it is less reliable in remote areas, and many people don’t manage to find connection in rural areas or when roadtripping between cities.

I’ve never used TIM, but I know it is great for city use, especially for budget-conscious travelers. It is definitely more suitable for those staying in major cities and looking for a balance between cost and performance.

Claro

Claro provides high-speed internet with strong coverage in urban and many rural areas. Slightly pricier, but offers a good balance of speed and coverage. Available in most urban centers.

Claro speed test

Claro has fast data speeds and good coverage in urban and rural areas, but not as well as Vivo. The downside is that it can be more expensive than TIM.

We use Claro in our home telephone, which has never failed on speed. However, customer support can be a hassle, so if you have any issues with your SIM card, expect to spend a few hours trying to solve them. Claro, with fairly comprehensive coverage, is ideal for those needing fast internet for work or streaming.

Oi

Oi offers budget-friendly plans with decent urban coverage. Speeds are adequate for basic use, but coverage drops in rural areas. Easily found in cities.

Oi is a very affordable operator, satisfactory in cities. However, it has limited rural coverage and slower speeds. It is a good option for those who want adequate connection while in the city, especially for casual browsing. As a budget option, it is more suitable for residents than travelers.

General Consensus and Comparisons

  • Coverage: Vivo is unparalleled, especially for remote areas, making it best for extensive travel and outdoor activities.
  • Speeds: Claro often leads in speed tests, ideal for data-heavy usage.
  • Prices: TIM and Oi are more budget-friendly and suitable for shorter stays or urban-centric travel.
  • Ease of Acquisition: All networks have a strong presence in urban areas, with Vivo and Claro also accessible in many rural locations.

Summary – The Best Pre-Paid SIM Cards for Brazil

Here are the best pre-paid SIM cards for Brazil:

  1. Most Extensive Coverage: Vivo’s Prepaid Plans – Available at Vivo stores and major retailers.
  2. Best for Budget-Conscious Travelers: TIM’s Prepaid Options – Found in TIM shops and various outlets.
  3. Fastest Data Speeds: Claro’s Prepaid Data Plans – Claro stands out for its high-speed internet, making it a great choice for heavy data users.
  4. Most Affordable: Oi’s Prepaid SIMs – Oi offers the most budget-friendly options, suitable for basic internet needs in urban settings.

Each of these options has its strengths. Vivo’s plans are top-notch for coverage, making them a reliable choice for extensive travel. TIM offers great value, particularly for city explorers. Claro is the go-to for high-speed internet, useful for work or streaming, and Oi is perfect for travelers watching their spending. Availability in stores like Vivo, TIM, and major retailers ensures ease of purchase and setup assistance, making these SIM cards not only functional but also convenient for international visitors to Brazil.

When selecting the best SIM card for your travel needs in Brazil, it’s essential to consider your specific itinerary and connectivity requirements. Here are my top picks based on different travel scenarios:

For Extensive Travel and Remote Exploration

If your journey involves trekking through remote regions or exploring off-the-beaten-path destinations, Vivo is your best bet. Vivo’s coverage is unparalleled in Brazil, reaching far-flung areas where other networks struggle to maintain a signal. While it may be pricier and the speeds not as high as Claro, the peace of mind knowing you’ll likely have service wherever you go is worth the extra cost. This is especially crucial for safety in remote areas or when relying on GPS for navigation.

Now, don’t get me wrong: their connection is good, but it is no Elon Musk’s Starlink. Don’t be bummed out if you venture into the jungle and lose connection.

For Urban Adventures and High-Speed Needs

If your travel plans are centered around Brazil’s cities like Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo, and you require fast internet for streaming, work, or social media, Claro is the ideal choice. Claro offers impressive speeds that are perfect for high-data activities. While its rural coverage isn’t as extensive as Vivo’s, in urban areas, it’s exceptionally reliable. This makes Claro perfect for city explorers, digital nomads, or anyone who prioritizes fast internet over extensive coverage.

For Cross-Country Latin American Travel

For those embarking on a longer journey across multiple Latin American countries, an E-SIM from a provider like Holafly can be a game-changer. These E-SIMs offer the convenience of seamless data connectivity across different countries without the need to switch SIM cards each time you cross a border. While the coverage may not always match up to local providers, and the cost per GB can be higher, the convenience of maintaining continuous service as you travel from one country to another is a significant advantage. This option is ideal for long-term travelers or digital nomads moving frequently between countries.

Each option caters to different travel styles and needs. Vivo for extensive and remote travels, Claro for city-centric trips with a need for speed, and E-SIMs for hassle-free multi-country adventures. The choice ultimately hinges on balancing the factors of coverage, speed, and convenience against your specific travel plans in Brazil and beyond.

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