Best Cell Phone Service to Use in Santiago and Chile

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As we all know, I don't like cell phone companies in Chile. It's about the most expensive cellular service I've experienced in my life, in one of the poorest countries I've been to. Chilean cell phone companies are about as bad as the folks who kick sleeping street dogs.

So okay. I recently recommended that people simply don't use mobile phones in Chile. But that's pretty austere. Especially for students studying abroad in Santiago who need to keep up with the frenzied pulse of college life. And when you don't have a telephone line in your house (as most exchange students probably don't), you just have to have a cell phone.

So I made a pact with the devil (Movistar), a leading cell phone company in Chile. Actually, ProJoven, an expat services startup, made the pact. So I guess I actually made a sub-pact with an agent of the devil.

What ProJoven did was secure the cheapest cell phone plan for expats, gringos, and students studying abroad in Santiago -- cheaper than prepaid cards, which up to now have been the only option available for foreigners living in Chile.

To be clear, this is a paid review. I am getting paid (in free minutes) for my time, but NOT for the substance of the review. That's the deal: I can say whatever I want.

So here goes Chileno's Review of ProJoven's Cell Phone Plan:

Essentially, the rates are not good. Check them out. English and Spanish, all prices listed in Chilean Pesos. Depending on the plan, you'll be paying between USD 0.27 and 0.35 per minute. (I think. Do the currency conversion yourself.)

THAT SAID, if you have made the decision that you want to use a cell phone in Chile, and you are not Chilean (natives get better plans), and you DON'T want to pay 10 bucks for a card that lasts you about 15 minutes, then you are a fool not to get in on Projoven's offer. The cell phone plan that ProJoven offers is the least foolish cell phone plan you can hope to find in Chile.

Okay, I'll just say it: the ProJoven Movistar plan is hands down the the best cell phone service to use in Chile, if you are not from here.

Here are the details: the rates are the same 24/7, which is actually good in this case.

One sucky factor is that you have to pay extra for text messages. Still, though, they're normally priced: about USD$0.10 a pop. But if you agree to get text spammed 20 times a month, then you get 20 free text messages.

There's good news, though. If you're a savvy student, you can bring down your rates taking advantage of the mob mentality among your new buddies, fresh off the boat, nervous and clinging together. Check out the group rates on the link above, they're pretty good. It's an easy sell, too, because everyone gets in on the better rates.

So that's it. At the end of the day I recommend ProJoven's plan.

A note on how to dial Chilean cell phones while inside Chile. If dialing from a land line, dial 09, then the number. If dialing from another cell phone, just start with the number. So if you're calling ProJoven's cell phone from a house telephone, you would dial:

09 9 541 0162

From a mobile phone: 9 541 0162

I think.

Anyway, while I'm at it I thought I'd put in a few words about this ProJoven organization, because I think it's alright what they're doing. They're trying to be the end-to-end solution for people staying a little while in Chile. "ProJoven" means "in favor of the Youth". They are youthful themselves, a year out of the gate, and going strong. They have an office. And a website.

In short, I am tentatively pro-ProJoven.

In addition to cell phones, they offer this housing referral service that is cheaper than their competitors. You pay them a commission and they find you an apartment, in their words, paraphrased, "not just any apartment". Worth checking out in your search. They also offer travel packages. And sporting events where you play soccer with Chileans and expats, get to know people, etc.

And most importantly, ProJoven throw parties with DJ's and stuff. Marissa, their executive director is a great hostess. I vouch for her personally. She graduated from Chico State. I went to her parties here in Santiago last year and was impressed by the fine-tuned international balance she found, a great place to meet Chileans, but not too many of them. (I say this because the experience is very, very different when you are the only North American among a group of Chileans. It's weird being treated like a rock star without deserving it).

Also, Marissa's parties, while well irrigated, are civilized. Not like the bottle-breaking depravity under fluorescent-lit interrogation room decor of the apartments where I found myself partying with folks from Santiago Times, that craven bunch. Marissa's got class, and will bring that to ProJoven's events. In addition, she's doing informal classes on Chilean Slang at her house, and spanish-english conversation groups -- all good opportunities to get to know people in Chile, get pleasantly drunk, and leave your soul in tact.


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