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Phones in Brazil

You can buy a reasonably cheap Pay As You Go (telefone credito pré-pago) mobile/cell phone with R$20 worth of credit for R$60 or so. For those and the public phones, your credit drops rapidly, especially when calling another celular. Even more so when calling a different state to that of your own phone.

The major companies, Oi, Claro, Vivo and Tim, all have pay-as-you-go options for sim cards only that can be used in your own handsets.  These will only work in phones that have previously been unblocked for use abroad.

Calling from a public phone is fun. Not as much fun as it once was though. The number of phone booths decorated to resemble some feature of the local area is sadly dwindling, to be replaced by homogenous green or blue hoods. The orelhao (giant ear) is not quite the same as calling somebody from the shade of a giant dolphin, crab, toucan or macaw.

The privatisation of the lines means that every company has its own code. Brazilian phone numbers are written 0xx 48 1234 5678, with 0xx being the code of the provider company, Brasil Telecom being 014 generally, and Embratel being 021 for the whole of Brazil. Most public phones have the number printed on the outside. These codes are not needed for local calls, but for all others.

Make sure to buy a phone card from a local kiosk, usually in units of 20, 40, 60 or 100 for R$7 to R$40 or so. The phones do not accept coins.

If this sounds confusing at first, don’t worry too much. It doesn’t get much less confusing after you’ve been in Brazil for years. You could always ask a local for help, although the explanation might sound complex.

To make international calls, it is far better to use a posto telefonico, or a phone cafe, which you can find in most towns. You can buy international phone cards for use in the orelhoes as well.

The country code for Brazil is +55 when dialling from abroad


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