Getting Bolivia calling cards is not difficult. If you are living or plan to live in Bolivia and need a BOLIVIA phone card for a BOLIVIA cellular phone this is the page you need to read.
If you don't own a Bolivia cellular phone and are just traveling through Bolivia scroll further down.
There are several companies that provide phone service in Bolivia. Each city has it's own telephone cooperative (in Santa Cruz it is called COTAS), meaning it is not a privately-owned company. Each user purchases a phone line and is thus the owner of a share in the company. Other users can rent a phone line (like we do in the US for example) but they are not owners or shareholders in the company. Some of these cooperatives also offer cellular phone service and their own Bolivia calling cards.
BUT FOR MOBILE PHONES there are different private Bolivia cellular phone companies and they are only allowed to provide mobile, long distance and internet services, not local landlines like the cooperatives.
They are Entel (ENTELMÓVIL cellphones), Telecel (TIGO cellphones), Nuevatel (VIVA cellphones) and a few others and all offer service either with fixed lines or Bolivia calling cards (they all only sell their own card, no other company's cards, and only some offer international calling cards.
You can buy cellular phones from each company. Then you have to decide if you are going to pay for a monthly calling plan (con línea) that allows you to make calls directly from your phone and get a bill at the end of month or if you are going to use a calling card each time you need to make a call.
Bolivia Calling cards can be purchased almost anywhere! At the cell phone company offices and branch offices, or from almost any candy seller on the street! They are either rechargeable or fixed rate (these have amounts printed on them - Bs. 10, Bs. 20, Bs. 50, etc.) and when you've used the credit on them, they stop working and you just buy a new one.
OK, all of this is going to SOUND very complicated but it isn't. Honest.
Instructions for Bolivia calling cards
Either way, if you use a Bolivia calling card you have to scratch off a black strip of ink on the back to reveal a code you have to type into your mobile phone number pad to activate it.
If you purchase a Bolivia cellular phone with "con línea" (meaning you don't need to purchase a calling card) as with all utilities in Bolivia, you must call in each month to find out how much you owe, then pay at their offices or at your bank or credit union.
Each company that offers long distance or cellular phone service is assigned a 2-digit code: Cotas is 12, Entel is 10, Nuevatel is 14, for example. This code is printed on all Bolivia calling cards so you'll know which one you're using.
Our country code is 591 and each city has its own city code. La Paz is 2, Santa Cruz is 3, Cochabamba is 4, and so forth. Each household or business has a 7-digit phone number (which starts with the same number as the city code in which it is located). For example:
A La Paz number would look like: (591-2) 2ab-cdef.
A Santa Cruz number looks like: (591-3) 3ab-cdef.
A Cochabamba number looks like: (591-4) 4ab-cdef.
LOCALLY to call from your cellular phone to a 7-digit land line (like from your cell phone to your house) you have to dial the 1-digit city code and then the 7-digit number. For example, from my cellular phone to my house I have to dial 3-xxx-xxxx because I live in Santa Cruz.
NATIONALLY to call from your cellular phone to a 7-digit land line (like from your cell phone in La Paz to your mom's house in Santa Cruz) you have to FIRST attach your cell-phone company's 2-digit code, then the 1-digit city code, then the 7-digit phone number. For example, if I am in La Paz and I have a VIVA (Nuevatel) cell phone, I would call my house in Santa Cruz like this: 14-3-xxx-xxxx.
FROM CELL PHONE TO CELL PHONE IN BOLIVIA all you have to do is dial the other person's 8-digit cellular phone number no matter where you are in the country. You do NOT have to dial any city codes, long distance codes, or phone company codes.
Nationwide, all cellphones have 8-digit phone numbers, beginning with the number 7. (The number 7 replaces any city code). For example, a cellphone number would look like this 7ab-cdefg. Locally, this is all you need to dial.
However TO CALL A BOLIVIAN CELL-PHONE FROM ANOTHER COUNTRY, you must dial the country code first (591)and then the 8-digit cellphone number like this: 591-7xx-xxxxx.
Of course, to make a call from your country you also have to dial the INTERNATIONAL DIAL-OUT-OF-COUNTRY code first.
Let’s say for example that you are going to call a cellphone in Bolivia from the U.S. You would dial:
What if you DO NOT own a Bolivian phone
IF YOU DON'T OWN A BOLIVIAN CELL PHONE: If you are just traveling through Bolivia and you don't own a Bolivian mobile phone, Bolivian calling cards will not work on your cell phone. In this case you need an international calling card OR there are a few other options:
a) Go to any calling station. Bolivian cellular phone companies such as Viva, Tigo and Entel have little offices EVERYWHERE all over town. Just look for their logos. When you enter, you go to a glass calling booth, make your call, then pay the attendant what you owe on the way out.
b) Pay per call on the street. Usually near touristy areas, especially the main plazas, you will see people wearing brightly colored vests (usually orange). They sell Bolivia calling cards (usually TIGO, ENTEL and VIVA) for Bolivia cell phones.
c) These same sellers also have cell phones (usually several) which they offer for public use. You use their cell phone then pay them for the call. That's it!
d) Purchase an international phone card and bring your cell-phone with you to Bolivia. Most Bolivia calling cards are not international and you can only make local and national calls on them.
They are usually very helpful. They will let you know how to dial and everything. Some of them have phones from which you can make national and international calls too, but most are for local calls from you to a landline or from you to another cell phone.
Using your own mobile phone in Bolivia
Many mobiles phones from other countries don't work in Bolivia. That's because the Bolivia calling grid is set up differently. You can remedy this easily for about $10. When I came back to Bolivia after my last vacation in the US I purchased a new cellphone and it didn't work here. I took it to a VIVA technician and they reconfigured it to work with the Bolivian grid for Bs. 70. Something about a computer program that does this. I had to leave my phone with them and pick it up a few hours later. Easy!!
Getting a phone line for your home in Bolivia
To learn how to get a
line for your home in Santa Cruz, read this page. This is a Santa Cruz website, therefore the instructions are detailed for Santa Cruz. However, the phone companies in other major cities work in a similar manner - so you can get a general idea on this page for other cities, then just find the phone company in that city and you'll be a step ahead!
Find a Phone Number in Bolivia
Find a phone number in Bolivia here. Amarillas is Bolivia's "Yellow Pages". Just insert the name of your contact to search. In Santa Cruz you can find company and business phone numbers including hotels and restaurants by visiting a website called www.santacruzvirtual.com