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how to use a foreign phone in Chile

Chile Tips: How to Use My Foreign Phone in Chile

By Ellie Greenwell for ContactChile

You just arrived to a brand new country (maybe a brand new continent!), and you’re ready to take on life in Santiago. Even though you’re super excited, there’s a LOT going on. A lot of admin to sort out, a lot of boxes to check on your to-do list, and so much to explore. It can be a little overwhelming.

One thing’s for sure: you’re gonna need a working phone ASAP to help you get around. Using your phone from home in Chile isn’t quite as straightforward as you might think. But don’t panic! This article has all the information you need to get yourself connected and using your phone in Chile.

First, an important thing to know: since November 2018, Chile has a law that requires all foreign phones to be registered in order to be used in Chile. This process is referred to as homologación. Registering your phone is FREE, and you should not be convinced to pay for this service.

You should make sure you register your phone within the first 60 days of entering Chile. You also need to make sure your phone is already unlocked and ready to work in a foreign country. If this isn’t the case, you can often get your home network provider to unlock the phone for a small fee. If that doesn’t work head to your local phone repair/electronic store (there are millions in Santiago!) to get the phone unlocked.

If you got to Chile and your phone seems to be working, you still need to register it. Sometimes you are given a small period (1 or 2 weeks) to be able to use your phone while you get set up, but after this time if the phone isn’t registered, it will be blocked and you won’t be able to use any Chilean SIM cards with it.

You can find more information on the registration process on the Multibanda webpage here, but the main point of the process is this: you need to find a registered business (one on this page) where you can send an email or go into the store to get the phone registered.

To register, you’ll need to send the following information:

  • Photo/screenshot of your phone’s IMEI number (if you’re not sure how to get this, it should be written somewhere on your phone, or you can dial *#06# on your phone)
  • Either a photo/copy of proof of your phone’s purchase (i.e. the receipt when you purchased the phone) OR if you don’t have this, most companies will accept a photo/copy of proof of recent arrival (stamp in your passport, boarding card, PDI slip from the airport with a date on)
  • Photo of your identity document (e.g. passport)
  • Brand and model of the phone

If it’s not clear where to send your information on the business’ website, take one of the email addresses on the multibanda website and send across an email with all of the above information. You should make the subject something like “Homologación/registración de celular extranjero”. The unlocking process can take up to 24 hours once they have received the email, so keep checking your new Chilean SIM (see below!).

accomodation in santiago

Full disclosure: this is Chile, and the process isn’t always as straightforward. You might get lucky and have it work first time, or you might need to email a few different places before you see your phone unlocked. If you get really stuck, head to a Movistar store and tell them you want to registrar un celular extranjero and they should be able to help you through it.

Once your phone is registered, you’ll need to get yourself a SIM card. WOM, Claro, Entel and Movistar are the main phone companies here, and all offer plans (for those of you with a valid Chilean cédula and RUT) and prepaid options.

In terms of value for money and ease, I would recommend WOM’s prepago (prepaid) services. Each time you top up, WOM often te regala (gifts you) free minutes or data. Bonus!

To get your SIM, simply head to any WOM store and ask for a “chip prepago”. Pop it in your phone and voila! You’re good to go! It’s definitely a good idea to download the WOM app, where you can easily check your balance and any data bundles you have. You can top up your phone in most major pharmacies and some corner stores/mini-markets – or, if you have a Chilean debit card, you can use the app to top up online.

If you decide on another network, the process will be pretty much the same. If you’re not staying in Santiago for too long, a prepago option is the easiest, stress-free way to get yourself a Chilean number and whatsappear to your heart’s content! (Oh, and if you don’t really use Whatsapp in your home country, I suggest you download it immediately. And get ready for voice notes. A LOT of voice notes).

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