Anne van Kesteren

Prepaid Mobile Internet in Peru

While the girls at the Movistar shop are pretty and very friendly, and the older, layered guy speaks reasonable English, they know shit about what they — well, Telefónica — sell. I have no idea either, but what follows is how we have prepaid internet access in Peru on our phones, mid 2011.

Get a SIM card, called “chip.” For fifteen soles you get one with a bit of credit, for eight a plain. If you need a micro-SIM you can cut one yourself at the store. For me that was only possible with an eight soles chip. Quite easy to do with a thin bladed knife and a sample micro-SIM from home. Enjoyable too. Make sure the chip on the SIM is small enough if you want to attempt this (Movistar sells one where the chip is way big). Bring an ID to the store. Passport of a friend (if he/she is there) works.

After you installed the chip put some credit on it. Pretty much any store is equipped to do this. Look for “recargas.” To get your balance text S to 600. Now you can use internet (for Android, see below), but it will be fricking expensive. I surfed through twenty soles in a quarter.

What you need to do is text another one of Movistar’s SMS-based services. In the table below, the first column gives the message you need to text to 550, the second column the duration of the plan, the third column the price, and the final column the bandwidth.

MessageDuration in daysPrice in nuevo soles (PEN)Bandwidth in MB (presumably MiB)

Found at Paquetes Internet en tu Celular. SOL automatically renews. By texting SALIR to 550 you can stop that. Text S and you are told how much bandwidth is left.

For Android-based phones, or at least the HTC Wildfire I brought along (I used internet almost exclusively on my iPhone tough), you need to add an Access Point Name (APN). Leave everything as is, set APN to, username to movistar@datos, password to movistar, and authentication to none. Also make up a fancy name.

Now you are all set to text with the locals, call cheaply via Skype to your backpacker friends, and make sure you do not miss that yet another building burned down in a town you never heard of in the country you still call home.

(It is of course much cheaper still to use internet in one of the many internet cafes. Also not discussed here is Claro, the other provider in Peru. In their shop they told me that what I wanted was impossible (you would need a contract), but I do not think that is actually true.)