There are two main phone companies for landline service in Buenos Aires:
For any apartments rented from an agency, a landline with service (and usually voicemail) will be included in your monthly rent and will already be set up and working when you move in. If you are moving into an unfurnished apartment or home, you will need to contact these companies directly to begin the setup of service. The prices vary on what kind of a plan you want, but generally start around AR$45 per month. It is very common that the basic service will not allow you to make long-distance or international calls, or even call cell phones. So be sure to stipulate if you want these services.
You can order these services online if you can navigate the Spanish content. It is uncommon to get a customer service representative on the phone who speaks English, and there aren’t English divisions. If you don’t speak Spanish, many ex-pats suggest asking the person who helped you locate your house or apartment, or your landlord, to help you with this process, and most are more than willing to lend a helping hand. You will find with phone installation, as with most things in Buenos Aires, that relying on an estimated delivery date is unwise. Be prepared to wait several days for a technician to come to install the line, and be prepared for them to be unapologetic if they are later than estimated.
Typically, locals call cost around $0.12 per minute, depending on peak or non-peak times, and around $0.30 per minute for long-distance (inside the country). However, the rates for long-distance calls are calculated using ficha (unit), and while the price per unit remains the same, the length of the unit changes depending on the distance the place is from where the call is originated.
Because of these pricing discrepancies, many people choose to buy calling cards, which can be purchased at any kiosk. Be sure to specify if you want a card for international calls (llamadas internacionales) or long-distance calls within the country. Calling cards can be much cheaper; for example, a call to the US generally costs between $0.09-0.19 per minute using a card, and they can be used on public phones as well as home phones.
Cell phones are the most common option and function on a GSM850/1900 Mhz system. Because of this, many phones from outside Argentina can be brought here and used, with the purchase of a local SIM card, called a ‘chip’ (pronounced ‘cheep’). The chips usually cost between AR$7-12, and can be bought at any of the mobile retailers. There are three main retailers in Argentina for cell phones: Claro, Personal, and Movistar. You can purchase a pre-paid phone with a pay-as-you-go plan for around AR$150. Be careful, though, because retailers will try to take advantage of you and offer you a model that costs over $100 USD. Another option is purchasing a used (‘viejo’) cell phone, which costs less. Some retailers and locations offer this, but you have to ask for it specifically.
The way to load minutes and texts onto your pre-paid phone is relatively easy. Most kioscos, locutorios (internet cafes), and mercados sell cards, starting at AR$20 (which gives you about a week’s worth of service). This includes outgoing calls and texts, and most phones don’t charge for incoming calls. There are promotions every month.
Monthly plans, which include phone calls, texts, and internet access start around AR$120 a month for the very basic and go up to $1,000 pesos a month for plans with data service included, such as plans for Blackberries. Check out prices, promotions and stipulations for these companies below, and remember that they are not in English, so be prepared to do some translating on your own. You can set up service and purchase a phone from the websites, however frequently you will get the wrong phone or it will take weeks to receive it. It’s best to go into the stores. You cannot sign a contract for a phone without a DNI, so be sure to bring this with you. Also, be prepared to sign at least a two-year contract. The phones that you have to buy for these plans start around AR$250 for the most basic phone, and that includes the discount for the 2-year service contract.