Whether you need to call your loved ones at home, update your Facebook status, or send a business email I wrote a few basic tips to help you stay connected when visiting Brazil.
Cell Phones & SIM Cards
If you have Verizon as a cell-phone carrier, your phone should automatically work in Brazil. I’m not sure about other providers like AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, etc. Just contact your local provider to see if you would be able to make and receive calls when you are in Brazil. Be sure to check the rates and read the fine print because incoming & outgoing calls as well as text messages can end up being very expensive when traveling internationally.
Another option is to get a pre-paid Brazilian SIM Card for your existing mobile, however, there are a few problems you may run into by going this route. You will first need to have an unlocked phone. If your mobile phone is not unlocked it will be impossible to use a Brazilian SIM card. Your phone should also be at least a tri-band GSM phone.
Secondly buying a Brazilian SIM Card is not as simple as just walking into any Brazilian cell phone store and saying hey I need a SIM. To get a Brazilian SIM card it must be registered with a valid Brazilian CPF Number, which is similar to a US Social Security Number. So unless you have a Brazilian friend that is willing to buy you a SIM by using their personal CPF Number you will not be able to do it unless you register for a CPF Number yourself. Foreigners can obtain a CPF Number, but the process does cost some money and the entire process can take from days to weeks. So unless you are going to be spending a significant time in Brazil it’s not really a worthwhile option. Beware that you can buy a Brazilian SIM Card without providing a CPF and it may work for a day or two, but eventually, it is going to have to be registered and linked to a valid Brazilian CPF Number.
There are a few companies in Rio that rent tourist cell phones, starting from around US$10+ per day. Also, be sure to check with your hotel or apartment rental manager because some hotels and apartments in Brazil offer complimentary or discounted cell-phone rentals with bookings.
Finally, there is Skype, which I use a lot, and by using the Skype voice chat you can actually make voice chat calls for FREE and make normal calls at a discounted rate.