Buenos Aires, by Noelia Diaco. Photo is not visible, used only for sharing on social networks.

We can now call doctors

September 6, 2011
We acquired two important assets in the last 48 hours: cellular service with internet access, and health insurance. By "we" I mean, Steph did all the work, translated everything for me, and I was an admiring spectator. I'd be up a creek if she weren't so fluent.

(For those following our trip, that's all the pertinent info here, you may move along; if you're a fellow traveler trying to do the same, the details might help you.)

Cellphones: We came with unlocked Droid3 "global" phones, and had gotten a lot of conflicting information. There are three major carriers: Claro, Movistar, and Personal. They all advertise heavily and the market seems competitive. A year or two ago, I was told, it was possible for a foreigner to get a cheap prepaid plan with 3G internet; now the network is saturated, and they're a little harder to come by. One person suggested we forget about 3G. We went to several kiosk stores which weren't helpful, and then the central stores, which were better.

Personal (which I've heard has the best internet coverage) wouldn't give us any data service without a DNI (residence ID). Movistar would for an exorbitant price (US$57 for data only, not including calls and messaging). Claro turned out to be the answer: We signed up for a month-by-month plan, with a deposit that we get back after six months. For 160 pesos (US$38) per person per month, we get a small package of minutes and SMS, and unlimited data. (For comparison, in the U.S., I was paying $90/month to Verizon.) We can buy more minutes if we need, but so far our own two numbers are the only local numbers we have to call.

We signed up for the Claro service yesterday, but the internet didn't work. So we went back today, they did a little research, and it turns out they needed to plug in the Access Point Names manually. (If you have an Android phone with the same issue, the specs are: Name: Claro IGPRS. APN: igprs.claro.com.ar. Username: clarogps. Password: clarogprs999. MCC: 722. MNC: 310. Defaults for the rest.)

So now it works! The phone doesn't seem to be counting the signal "bars" properly - it always shows zero or one bar - but the connection is reasonably fast around here (speed test registers 480Kb/s down and 48Kb/s up). I mostly want it for email and maps, so that should be fine.

Health insurance: Argentina has a dual health care system, with a private insurance market that is reputedly very good and a socialized system that is not. We went with Medicus, one of the big private carriers. For 955 pesos per month (US$228), both of us get full in-network coverage, with no co-pays, plus an internacional plan that covers travel to the rest of the continent and the U.S. I was very skeptical - no co-pays, no referral requirements, no coverage limits inside the network?! - but that's what it is. "Infinito." We have yet to see any doctors, of course, but I think I'll make an appointment promptly.

- Ben

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