Free or inexpensive Internet access is widely available in major urban centers. Both budget establishments and high-end hotels tend to have free Wi-Fi, though connection quality varies greatly. Many bars and restaurants in big cities also have free Wi-Fi—look for stickers on their windows; these are typically open networks and you don't need to ask for a password to use them.
In the capital, 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 hot spots. Civic and provincial governments elsewhere in the country offer similar services on major public thoroughfares or in libraries. You can also find Wi-Fi in many business and event centers, some airports, and in other public spaces—piggybacking is common practice.
If you're traveling without a laptop or smartphone, some hotels provide Internet access through room televisions; many also have a PC in the lobby for guests to use. Using a locutorio (telephone and Internet center) is another option, although these are becoming less common. Expect to pay between 6 and 15 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 throughout Argentina, called locutorios or telecentros.
Service is 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 are increasingly rare and usually broken; those that aren't accept coins. Phone cards can be used from both public and private phones by calling a free access number and entering the card code number.
At locutorios, 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. Note that many locutorios don't allow you to call free numbers, so you can't use prepaid calling cards from them.
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 8 digits. Area codes for the rest of the country have three or four digits, and start with 02 (the southern provinces) or 03 (the northern provinces); phone numbers have six or seven digits.
For local directory assistance (in Spanish), dial 110. Local calls cost 23 centavos 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 57 centavos per ficha (unit)—the farther the distance, the less time each unit lasts. For example, 57 centavos lasts about two minutes to places less than 55 km (35 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.
Many kioscos (convenience stores) and small supermarkets sell a variety of prepaid calling cards: 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 centavos 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 centavos per minute using both.
Calling Card Information
Telecom. 800/888–0110; www.telecom.com.ar.
Telefónica. 800/333–4004; www.telefonica.com.ar.
All cell phones in Argentina are GSM 850/1900 Mhz. Cell numbers use a local area code, then the cell-phone prefix (15), then a seven- or eight-digit number. To call a cell in the same area as you, dial 15 and the number. To call a cell in a different area, dial the area code, including the initial 0, then 15, then the number.
There are three main phone companies here: Movistar (owned by Telefónica), Claro, and Personal. Although they’re similar, Claro has the most users and is said to have the best rates, while Movistar has the best coverage, and Personal the best customer service. All three offer 3G, but service is patchy even in the big cities, and most local users complain that they spend more time on 2G than 3G.
The best way to use your own smartphone in Argentina is to get it unlocked before you travel, then purchase a prepaid local SIM card (tarjeta SIM) once you land. You can buy one for 15 to 20 pesos from any of the companies' offices and sales stands, which are easy to find country-wide. Top up credit by purchasing pay-as-you-go cards (tarjetas de celular), available from kioscos, locutorios, supermarkets, and gas stations, or by carga virtual (virtual top-ups) at kioscos and locutorios, where sales clerks add credit to your line directly while you wait.
Pickpockets often target tourists for their cell phones, so consider leaving your latest-generation model at home and packing an older one instead. Alternately, you can buy a basic pay-as-you-go handset and SIM card on arrival for about 400 pesos.
Using data packages for anything other than, say, email eats your pay-as-you-go credit quickly. The wisest strategy is to save your credit for local calls and restrict internet use to times when you have Wi-Fi access. While connected to Wi-Fi take advantage of services like Skype or Google Hangouts that let you touch base with folks back home for free (or a fraction of what roaming would cost).
Local charges for calling a cell phone from a landline depend on factors like the company and time of day, but most cost between 50 centavos and 1.50 pesos per minute. In general, 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.
Claro. 800/1232-5276; www.claro.com.ar.
Movistar. 11/5321–1111; www.movistar.com.ar.
Personal. 800/444–0800; www.personal.com.ar.