Inexpensive Internet access is widely available in Buenos Aires. Top-tier hotels tend to have high-speed in-room data ports and Wi-Fi, which may incur a charge, while most lower-budget establishments (including hostels) have free Wi-Fi. Many bars and restaurants also have free Wi-Fi—look for stickers on their windows. In general, these are open networks and you don't need to ask for a password to use them. Wider coverage comes courtesy of BA WiFi, a free service provided by the city government in many subte stations, Metrobus shelters, public libraries, museums, cultural centers, and even major streets and squares. The BA WiFi website lists an ever-growing number of hotspots.
If you're traveling without a laptop or smartphone, many hotels have a PC in the lobby for guests to use. Otherwise, look for a locutorio (telephone and Internet center), where you’ll pay between 6 and 10 pesos per hour to surf the Web.
The country code for Argentina is 54. To call landlines in Argentina from the United States, dial the international access code (011) followed by the country code (54), the two- to four-digit area code without the initial 0, then the six- to eight-digit phone number. For example, to call the Buenos Aires number (011) 4123–4567, you would dial 011–54–11–4123–4567.
Any number that is prefixed by a 15 is a cell-phone number. To call cell phones from the United States, dial the international access code (011) followed by the country code (54), Argentina's cell-phone code (9), the area code without the initial 0, then the seven- or eight-digit cell phone number without the initial 15. For example, to call the Buenos Aires cell phone (011) 15 5123–4567, you would dial 011–54–9–11–5123–4567.
Calling Within Argentina
Argentina's phone service is run by the duopoly of Telecom and Telefónica. Telecom covers the northern half of Argentina (including the northern half of the city of Buenos Aires) and Telefónica covers the south. However, both companies operate public phones and phone centers, called locutorios or telecentros, throughout the city.
Service is generally efficient, and direct dialing—both long distance and international—is universal. You can make local and long-distance calls from your hotel (usually with a surcharge) and from any public phone or locutorio. Public phones aren't particularly abundant and are often broken. All accept coins; some have slots for phone cards.
Locutorios are useful if you need to make lots of calls or don't have coins on you. Ask the receptionist for una cabina (a booth), make as many local, long-distance, or international calls as you like (a small LCD display tracks how much you've spent), then pay as you leave. There's no charge if you don't get through.
All of Argentina's area codes are prefixed with a 0, which you need to include when dialing another area within Argentina. You don't need to dial the area code to call a local number. Confusingly, area codes and phone numbers don't all have the same number of digits. The area code for Buenos Aires is 011, and phone numbers have eight digits. Area codes for the rest of the country have three or four digits, and start with 02 (the southern provinces, including Buenos Aires Province) or 03 (the northern provinces); phone numbers have six or seven digits.
For local directory assistance (in Spanish), dial 110.
Local calls cost 23centavos for two minutes at peak periods (weekdays 8–8 and Saturday 8–1) or four minutes the rest of the time. Long-distance calls cost 57centavos per ficha (unit)—the farther the distance, the shorter each unit. For example, 57centavos lasts about two minutes to places less than 55 km (34 miles) away, but only half a minute to somewhere more than 250 km (155 miles) away.
To make international calls from Argentina, dial 00, then the country code, area code, and number. The country code for the United States is 1.
You can use prepaid calling cards (tarjetas prepagas) to make local and international calls from public phones, but not locutorios. All cards come with a scratch-off panel, which reveals a PIN. You dial a free access number, the PIN, and the number you wish to call.
Most kioscos and small supermarkets sell prepaid cards from different companies: specify it's for llamadas internacionales (international calls), and compare each card's per-minute rates to the country you want to call. Many cost as little as 9¢ per minute for calls to the United States.
Telecom and Telefónica also sell prepaid 5-, 10-, and 20-peso calling cards from kioscos and locutorios. They're called Tarjeta Ciudades and Geo Destinos, respectively. Calls to the United States cost 19¢ per minute using both.
Calling card information
Telecom. 800/888–0110; www.telecom.com.ar.
Telefónica. 800/333–4004; www.telefonica.com.ar.
Mobile phones are immensely popular; all are GSM 850/1900 Mhz. Before leaving home you can buy a country-compatible GSM phone through Mobal; rental models are available through Cellular Abroad and PlanetFone. But if you have an unlocked dual-band GSM phone from North America and intend to call local numbers, it makes more sense to bring that and buy a prepaid Argentine SIM card on arrival—rates will be cheaper than using your U.S. network or renting a phone. Alternatively, you can buy a basic pay-as-you-go handset and SIM card for around 400 pesos.
All cell-phone numbers here use a local area code, then the cell-phone prefix (15), then a seven- or eight-digit number. To call a cell phone in the same area as you, dial 15 and the number. To call a cell phone in a different area, dial the area code including the initial 0, then 15, then the number.
Local charges for calling a cell phone from a landline vary depending on factors like the company and time of day, but most cost between 50¢ and 1.50 pesos per minute. You pay only for outgoing calls from cell phones, which cost around 3 pesos a minute. Calls from pay-as-you-go phones are the most expensive and calls to phones from the same company as yours are usually cheaper.
There are three mobile phone companies in Argentina: Movistar (owned by Telefónica), Claro, and Personal. Although they are similar, Claro is said to have the best rates, while Movistar has the best coverage and Personal has the best service. All three companies have offices and sales stands all over the country.
You can buy a SIM card (tarjeta SIM) from any of the companies' outlets for 15 to 20 pesos. Top up credit by purchasing pay-as-you-go cards (tarjetas de celular) at kioscos, locutorios, supermarkets, and gas stations, or by carga virtual (virtual top-ups) at locutorios, where sales clerks can add credit to your line directly. Adding 30 pesos or more often gives you extra credit.
Cellular Abroad. 800/287–5072; www.cellularabroad.com.
Claro. 800/1232-5276; www.claro.com.ar.
Mobal. 888/888–9162; www.mobalrental.com.
Movistar. 11/5321–1111; www.movistar.com.ar.
Personal. 800/444–0800; www.personal.com.ar.
PlanetFone. 888/988–4777; www.planetfone.com.