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The Complicated Life of Cell Phones in Brazil

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

Nowadays, we hardly use this gadget for actual phone calls. Preparing your cell phone for São Paulo is almost as important as preparing your bag.

If you want access to a Brazilian provider and have a local phone number, make sure you bring an unlocked phone to Brazil. There are several good cell phone providers in Brazil, but the biggest players are Claro, Vivo, TIM and Oi. To get your initial paid plan and SIM card, you will need to go to either a physical store or an authorized dealer. Further purchases of pre-paid credit and topping up is easy to do online.

Two people looking at a cell phone

Now you have your phone in hand, what apps should you be sure to download?

WhatsApp: Brazil’s communication lifeline

One of the first things to do to prepare for your move to São Paulo is to download WhatsApp. WhatsApp has become the primary tool for personal and professional communication in Brazil. Please note, it is highly recommended to password-protect your WhatsApp in case your phone is stolen.

One of the most useful tools in WhatsApp is group conversations, through which you can also exchange photos and attachments. Members of AmSoc are all invited to join our members group, where it's easy to quickly ask for tips on the city, recommendations and stay tuned to upcoming events across the city.

Get around town with Uber, 99Taxi, and Waze

Be sure to download the Uber and 99Taxi apps so you can get around São Paulo easier. If you are pressed for time and it’s rush hour, it’s better to order a taxi than Uber because taxis can drive in the bus lanes so they can get you to your destination quicker.

If you will be driving, be sure to download the Waze app. As you start to learn your way around São Paulo, try to stick to the main roads rather than use the Waze shortcuts; sometimes the shortcuts can take you through more questionable areas.

Arrange for a delivery

Two of the most common apps to arrange for pickup or delivery of items are Rappi and Loggi. With a few taps on your phone, you can hire a motoboy to speed across town to deliver or collect your items, be it food, documents, or anything else.

Mobile banking

São Paulo is going cashless with mobile banking.

You can also conduct most of your banking transactions through your phone and respective bank app. One of the most popular ways to make payments and transfer money is via Pix. Pix is similar to Venmo in the USA. This instant payment system allows users to make real-time transfers 24/7, including weekends and holidays.

Please note, it is highly recommended to buy insurance for Pix fraud: Safeguarding User Transactions. This is a relatively inexpensive insurance and provides an extra layer of security for users, covering financial losses resulting from fraudulent activities.

Additionally, you can look for boletos (payment slips) in the “customer area” of your cell phone provider, and make payments for all sorts of bills including supermarkets, gourmet food providers, health plans, Uber app and so on.

Hand holding cell phone on busy street

Losing your cell phone

Be sure to use your phone wisely and pay attention to your surroundings. It’s best not to walk and talk on busy streets, and it's safer to keep your phone well protected in your bag.

If you are robbed of your phone, the first step is to immediately call your cell phone provider (from someone else’s phone) so they can block the use of your phone. You can ask your cell phone provider for help to advise the police, the bank, and so on. Change all your passwords.

Unfortunately, there is not too much chance of recovering the phone itself, but it should not be too difficult to recover your contacts or your photos. Take precautions such as making a backup of your contacts and storing your photos in a cloud service linked to your Apple ID, your Google ID, or another provider. Whether it’s through Apple’s App Store or through Android’s Play Store, you can easily recover any apps previously purchased.


Images provided by Media from Wix.

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