We begin our quest on Friday. I read online that Claro has the most subscribers and Movistar has the best coverage within Argentina. William's phone worked well with Movistar in Ecuador, so that's my first choice. I Google "Movistar near me" and find a store .75 km from the hotel that opens at 10:00. After breakfast off we go and arrive at 10:05. The door to the store is locked. But it has keys hanging in the interior lock and there is a woman inside. Hmmm. We wait ten minutes then knock. The woman inside waves us off. Muttering under our breaths, we walk away.
We do some nearby sightseeing, then concentrate on the Movistar locations I found on Avenida Florida via my Google search. We try three different Movistar locations without success. At the last one we are able to understand that we must go to specific Movistar locations to buy a chip (SIMM card). They even provide us a small piece of paper with four addresses listed.
We try the closest one and to paraphrase they say "no chip". At the second one we come to understand that the Movistar system for new chips is down for the next ~5 hours. Perhaps this is why the first store waived us off and the others have not been able to help? She can sell us a chip ($100 peso's) but we must wait 5 hours for it to be active. We hand over the 100 peso's and provide her with my passport info as the ID. All of our interaction have been in Spanish, sometimes with the aide of offline Google Translate on my phone. We are pretty sure she warns us that the chip will need to be recharged (have money added) after the service is active. We walk out of the store relieved to have a SIMM card in hand.
Friday evening over an adult beverage William inserts the new SIMM card into his phone. We smile at each other when it works. A text arrives telling us (in Spanish, of course) that we must recharge the card within 48 hours.
Saturday morning we return to the Movistar store where we purchased the SIMM card in order to recharge. We learn that they do not do recharges. They mention a kiosk. Another Movistar store tells us to go to the "25 Kiosk". This chain of outlets (actually named "Open 25 HS !" is the kiosk version of Seven Eleven in the US with a selection of convenience products. There seems to be one every few blocks in the business and tourist areas. We try several only to receive heads shaking "No". Along Avenida Florida the 25 Kiosk clerks point us to the Movistar stores and the Movistar store personnel point us to the 25 Kiosks. We even explain our dilemma to an English-speaking clerk in a leather goods store. He closes his store walks us to the closest 25 Kiosk and is surprised when the clerks says he does not recharge Movistar as the one he uses near his home does.
We would buy a Claro chip and possibly start over, but all the Claro stores are closed. Sigh.
We reach the last 25 Kiosk on Florida before we turn toward our hotel. I stare at the signs on the small window and notice one that looks like they recharge for Movistar, Claro and other cell carriers. We have nothing to lose, so we try again. Hurray! This 25 Kiosk will recharge our card. We add 200 pesos and soon the phone dings with a text telling us of the recharge. We walk back to the hotel. As we pass the 25 Kiosk around the corner from the hotel I notice that they display the same sign. We literally could have walked to the corner this morning and achieved our goal within 10 minutes. Oy!