While nearly everybody in Bogota has a mobile phone ("celuar", or "teléfono móvil"), outside the city the penetration rate depends on the signal, as many remote areas receive a poor or nonexistent mobile signal.
Colombia uses a GSM standard for the majority of its operators, with one small operator using the iDEN standard. Phones bought in Europe or other Latin American countries can be used without any problem in Colombia.
If you plan to use the phone from your home country with a Colombian number, you need to register the phone with the operator within the first 25 days of inserting the SIM card. This is done either personally, at one of the operator's offices, or online. On your mobile operator's website, you need to provide basic data such as your name and address, the IMEI serial code of the phone and, if available, proof of the initial purchase. This is a measure in order to combat mobile phone theft, which is very common in Colombia. This is very important step, as if you fail to do it, your phone will be shut down by the operator after a few weeks.
Mobile phone numbers in Colombia begin with 3 and have 10 digits.
The mobile phone market in Colombia is not very competitive, and the prices and fees are likely to be higher than the ones you were used to in your home country.
The mobile phone operators are:
Contract terms will differ from one company to the other. You should carefully read the contracts before signing up for any package. Generally, contracts offer lower rates than pre-paid cards. If you are looking to buy a local phone, some contracts allow you to buy it at a discounted price.
It is not possible to sign up for a contract as a foreigner unless you have a longer-term visa and Colombian ID (cedula de extranjería). You will also need to have a bank account opened at a local bank.
Contracts are start from one year, and can be extended without problems. However, ending them is more complicated, as you need to notify your company a few months in advance.
Operators may offer a wide range of subscription plans, that include a certain number of free calls within the network or to other numbers, national minutes, text messages, unlimited use of social media apps and data traffic. It is a good idea to shop around before deciding.
There are some basic points you need to consider for making the right choice.
Prepaid and pay as you go options are popular with foreigners because of their flexibility and the ease of access to the service. You do need a local ID, but no other documents are required to purchase a local number.
Users pay in advance for credit and use it afterwards for phone calls, text messages or data traffic.
Cards can be bought at the local branch of the phone operator, and can be recharged online, at lottery offices, supermarket cashiers, at most corner shops and sometimes even with authorized vendors on the street. Just look for a "recargas" sign displayed on the shop door.
Before purchasing a pre-paid card, you need to consider: