Getting a phone line installed in your home or office is a similar process in any Bolivian city, although the names of the phone companies change from city to city. Cellphone (mobile phone) companies are national companies and are available in all cities. Although pretty much everyone has a mobile phone in Bolivia, landlines are still widely used as well.
GETTING A PHONE CONNECTED IN YOUR HOME OR OFFICE
In most Bolivian cities and towns there is only one local phone company. You can set up your service ('servicio de telefonía local') in one of two ways: you can either purchase your own landline and corresponding number which you will then permanently own, or you can rent your line and pay a monthly fee for phone service (which is basically what we do in the United States).
If you purchase your own landline, once you have completed payments you will not have to pay for it ever again. You will be the actual owner of your phone number. What this really means is that you have purchased stock in the phone company (even though phone companies are not on the stock market you are considered a stockholder or shareholder because phone companies in Bolivia are cooperatives). You own one share in the company for each phone line you purchase. Because you own your landline and number, you will also be free to sell your line to someone else (or leave it to an heir in your will) as you would any asset you own, or you can rent it to someone else for a monthly fee. As a shareholder you are known as a "socio".
Purchasing your own landline (socio):
1) You can pay for your share (one landline and number) in a single lump sum (which, in most cities, is typically about $1300).
2) You can pay for your share monthly, and the total price of your landline will be slightly higher as you'll pay about 12% interest on your line until you've finished paying it off, because this is a credit.
3) In addition to the cost of the landline, you will be charged a nominal amount each month for the actual use of the phone service, which is usually about $10 per month. Once you've paid off your phone line and you own it, you will only pay this monthly usage fee from then on.
4) To buy a phone line and set up your service, you’ll need to go in person to one of the phone company offices and bring with you a copy of your I.D. (Bolivian carnet or passport) showing you have legal residency in Bolivia, a map showing the location of your home or office (you can draw one by hand), and a water or electricity bill showing the exact location of your home or office (water and electricity bills contain the location of your home in a government-issued numerical code which the phone company uses to ensure the connection is done at exactly the right location).
5) To set up phone lines at an office, if you are sending someone from your company to do so, they must take with them an I.D. and legal documents showing they represent your company legally.
6) You must have no outstanding (unpaid) phone bills from prior or additional lines you own.
7) Upon purchase of your phone line, the phone company will give you a Telephone Directory and a phone (yes, the actual apparatus) which you can use or not use, if you prefer to purchase your own phone.
The following is procedure to obtain a phone line for your home or office without purchasing a share in the phone company. When you "rent" your phone line you are considered an usuario (end user) and you will not own stock in the company. You will simply receive a monthly bill for the use of a phone line.
Renting a landline (usuario):
1) To set up phone service in your home or office you will need to go to the local phone company in person. You will need to take the following with you:
1a) a copy of your I.D. (carnet or passport)
1b) a map showing the location of your home or office (you can draw one)
1c) a water or electricity bill showing the exact location of your home or office
1d) a bank statement for each of the last three months of your bank account
2) If you are sending someone from your company to do this, they must take with them legal documents showing they represent your company legally
3) You must have no outstanding (unpaid) phone bills from other phone lines you’ve owned or rented
4) You must fill out a form authorizing the phone company to automatically deduct your bill from your bank account each monthly. Alternately, you can have them bill it to a credit card each month. If you wish to pay your phone bill in person, you can do so at most banks or credit unions.
5) In your phone contract you will agree to pay a one-time phone installation fee (usually about $25). The phone company will set up an appointment to install the phone line at your house or apartment because they will need to extend a phone line from your house to the nearest connections box (there is usually one for every city block).
6) Once your phone has been installed, you will pay only the monthly phone usage fee (usually about $15-20 per month).
7) You will not be given an actual phone with this plan. You will need to buy your own apparatus.
You will pay your bill monthly, and when you don’t need the phone service any more you must simply give 30 days written notice to the phone company and pay off any outstanding bills. They will then cut off the phone service and discontinue charging you.
FINDING PHONE NUMBERS - DIRECTORY ASSISTANCE
Local phone companies issue yearly phone directories and yellow pages. Some companies will deliver the phone directory to your home. If you live in an area to which they do not deliver, you can go to the local phone company offices at any time to pick one up.
If you have any questions about how to make phone calls locally or within Bolivia, you will find instructions in the first 3-5 pages of your phone. Look for the words Páginas Informativas amongst the first pages of your phone directory. On these pages you'll find instructions on how to dial national and international long distance calls. You will also find international dialing codes (country codes).
Also amongst the first few pages of your phone book you will find emergency numbers (police, fire, ambulance, etc.) as well as the numbers to call when you need customer service or technical support from the local phone company, and a list of banks, credit unions, grocery stores and other places where you can pay your phone bill each month.
YOUR LOCAL CITY MAP
Most local phone directories contain pages called the Guía de Calles which is a complete city map divided into sections that fit into the directory. It is usually found right at the beginning of the directory, right after the pages described above.
USING PUBLIC PHONE BOOTHS
Public phone booths still exist in Bolivia. In the informational pages of your phone book you will also find a page that lists the exact locations of every single public phone booth in your city. Some public phone booths accept coins, others cards, others both. Cards for specific money amounts may be purchased at any phone company or branch office, cellular phone company or branch office, and even from the candy ladies on street corners.
SETTING UP INTERNET
Local phone companies also offer service for your home or office, but they are not the only companies that do so. Mobile phone companies also offer wireless internet. Click here to read more about setting up internet service.
SETTING UP A MOBILE PHONE CONTRACT
Mobile phone companies offer nationwide cellphone service. Most of them also offer wireless internet service. The most prominent mobile phone companies in Bolivia are: government-owned Entel (offers ENTELMÓVIL cellphones), Telecel (offers TIGO cellphones), Nuevatel (offers VIVA cellphones) and a few others.
Mobile phone companies will require from you the same information that is required when you apply for a landline phone, and as a foreigner they may also require a copy of your rental contract to show that you actually live in the country and will not move away without paying your bill. Again, as with all utilities you must call in each month to find out how much you owe, then pay at their offices or at your
You can also choose to forego a contract and purchase a phone for use with pre-paid calling cards. Calling cards are sold all over the place by candy sellers on city streets and can usually also be purchased at the offices and call-centers of each of the mobile phone companies. Simply scratch off the silver-coated stripe on the back of the calling card to reveal the code you must enter into your phone prior to making the calls you want to make. You will be able to make calls until the credit on your calling card runs out, at which time you simply purchase another. Click here to learn about how to call Bolivia from overseas and how to make phone calls from Bolivia to other countries.