Expat Travel Blog, Cartagena and Barranquilla, Colombia
Expat Travel Blog, Cartagena and Barranquilla, Colombia

The Problem with Foreign Cell Phones in Colombia


Date posted: Feb, 28, 2023

Key Takeaways:

All foreign celular phones need to be registered with a local cedula within 23 days of installing a SIM card, otherwise the service will be cut off, ie your phone will stop working (both data and calls).

This Applies to Any Phone You Bring into Colombia, not Phones You Buy Here in Colombia

UPDATE April 5th, 2023: I have been told by a youtube subscriber that Claro is now allowing people with their passport (in this case it was an American passport) to register for a new phone number and that the passport number was used in lieu of a Colombian cedula, or somehow the cedula was generate from the passport number (in a Bogota Claro office, however Claro is the type of company that would enforce rules uniformly across the country I think).

This happened to me first with my iPhone in late 2020, and then again with my Android mobile phone when I came back into Colombia in December 2021 just recently. In the first instance, I got the problem solved at the office because the girl who sold me the original SIM just used her cedula!!! I guess she felt guilty, which she should have in my book. You need to know the nature of the service you are selling, but then again I suppose she get’s no more than $500 USD per month as a salary. Anyways, your service will be cut off after about 23 days.

You Can Bring Your Colombian Friend Into Tigo, or Claro etc. With their ID

You will need to get the person with the cedula to come into one of the main, or primary branch locations for whatever service provider you are using (and it applies to all of them: Claro, Movistar, Tigo etc.). They need to bring in their office ID and cedula to present it. Also, you need to bring your passport and of course your device. It took about an hour and they said the service would resume within about 3-5 days. It took four (4) days the second time and only two (2) days the first time. They make the changes right there in the store (remember it needs to be one of the “main” offices, not the little fly-by-night resellers), but you need to wait for a few days for the changes to go into effect.

You can use your “foreigner” Cedula if you have one

The second time around I used the cedula of a girl I know here in Barranquilla, but you absolutely can use your own foreigner cedula. The problem of course is that people who come on temporary 3 month tourist visas do not automatically obtain a cedula.

Service Will Shut off in 22-24 Days

I can’t remember if it was 23 or 24, but it happened to me twice with two separate phones, and the timing was the same for both. The last guy at the Movistar office I spoke with told me the exact number of days, but I forgot it (I think he may have said 25, but anyways it is right around there).

Fire Extinguisher Solution: just buy a new phone locally here in Colombia

You know, this last time (about 3 weeks ago) I almost caved in and resorted to this. And if I had the whole ordeal to go through again (remember I had it happen twice), I probably would just buy a phone locally. However, I’m glad I did not because I don’t want to lose my convenient access to the same sets of stored data/apps/photos etc. that accumulate on one’s primary cell phone.

Rob in Colombia Expat Blog Bocagrande/Cielo Mar Cartagena, Colombia 130002