Reader Request: Brazilian Cell Phone Info!

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Anon asked in a comment,
“Dan – quick question…
being that you are the Brazil maven…
I’m going to brazil this week for a wedding and I need a cell phone…
what’s my best bet?
Sterling electronics does not have rentals for brazil and I currently have a Sprint phone (no sim card)
any ideas?
thanks for your help!”

First of all, I’ll make the presumption that you are going to Brazil for the Slonim wedding-if so please send my regards to the family, especially Levi and Yehuda…

Photo: Yehuda Slonim(L) and I at the Lag Ba’omer Parade in S. Paulo, Brazil. Photo taken by Levi Slonim.

While there is CDMA service in Brazil with Vivo, they won’t activate your Sprint phone.

You have a couple options.

Option 1:
If you just want to be able to speak with one person back home then just sign up 2 phones for Nextel’s unlimited international direct connect plan.
They have a free 30-day trial, and you can talk to each other for as long as you’d like with the push of a button.

I thank G-d that I brought one with me during my past trip-and I wouldn’t go back to Brazil without one.

Option 2:
If you need to speak to multiple people in the US who don’t have Nextel you will need to buy (or borrow from someone) an unlocked world phone.
The reason that you need a world phone is because the GSM bands that we use here are different than in the rest of the world.
A regular unlocked phone in the US will only work on 850/1900 bands.
In Brazil they use the 1800 band of GSM service.
You can check which bands a phone has by searching the model number on a website like
You can check if a phone is unlocked by sticking in 2 different companies’ SIM cards and seeing if the phone works.

The cheapest company to sign up with is TIM.
They have stores in every shopping mall in Brazil.
The sim card is 19 Reais(about US$10) and includes R$5 of talk time.

To make international calls you will need a “cartão internacional,” an international calling card.

You can pick a card up at most of the newspaper/magazine stands that line the streets.

The calling card will cost between R$25-R$50.
The card will have 2 access numbers on it.
One is an 0-800 number, which is toll free.
When you use this number it will not cost any cell minutes, but it will cost a lot more card minutes.
To call to the US with the 0-800 number will probably be about R$1.50/minute.

Here is a link, in Portuguese, for a good international calling card:

The local access number will allow to talk to the US for very cheap-about R$0.09/minute, but you will need to buy an additional TIM recharge card for more cell minutes.

You can pick up TIM recharge cards at most of the newspaper/magazine stands, cards come in denominations from R$10-R$100, and local minutes are about R$1.30

Also incoming calls-even from the US are always free with TIM!

Hope this helps…

If you need more info, feel free to email me, and I can hook you up with some of my amigos brasileiros, who would be more than happy to take to you around town and help you out!
Also don’t miss out on some of the amazing restaurant deals you can get down there! (But don’t try smuggling back kosher mcdonalds stuff either)

Have a safe trip-Boa Viagem!

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6 Comments On "Reader Request: Brazilian Cell Phone Info!"

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Do you have any tricks for getting American Express to send you a balance transfer check. My wife has been getting great checks for 5.99% for the life of the loan. I have a bunch of credit but dont seem to be getting the check from them. My plan is to use it for my existing business. Any help would be appreciated.


the bouchur in palm springs

thanks dan, i’m also going to brazil tommorow


This is great info-I did not ask you but I am indeed going in tommorow for the slonim chasunah!


you write that tim calls costs are, “local minutes are about R$0.30”
Things must have changed since you were here last, but i get charged:
R$1.39/min for a local call;
& R$2.33/min direct to the usa.
Btw, the slonim wedding was very nice!


You’re right, I got it mixed up with US$0.30 when I was there back when the exchange was better than 3 to 1!
It was about R$1.25 when I was there then.

R$2.33 to the US? Why not use a calling card like speakmax?


Thanks Dan (I”m the one that asked for this info)
what a comprehensive reply!!
I ended up taking my sprint USA phone with me and it only accepted incoming calls – I guess I’ll wait to see my bill, I think its 2 bucks a minute…
The wedding was awesome!! Really gorgeous! The band (Benshimon) was fantastic and the atmosphere was great!
thanks for your help, i’ll keep it mind next time.