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Cell Phone Rates & Plans: Ecuador Cost of Living

Posted in: Living in Ecuador

ecuador-cell-phone-ratesThere are two ways to use a cell phone in Ecuador.

Plan or prepaid.

In this post I’ll give a break down of the three main carriers in Ecuador and the costs to use each one.

In Canada, almost everyone we knew had a cell phone plan. It gave lots of talk time, no hassle and (almost always) a free phone.

Here in Ecuador, the majority of people buy saldo (or minutes) as they are needed. This is good because you don’t need to have a bank account or even monthly payments. A while back the president issued a law making it illegal for the cell providers to expire saldo after 30 days. Now a recharge of $10 or $20 can last a user for months – depending on usage.

Ecuador’s Prepaid Cell Service or Planes Pregago

The prices below are either per minute or per unit (text message or megabyte of data). Taxes (IVA) are included. Without question Claro is the largest carrier in the country. Although their rates appear higher than Movistar, it should be taken into consideration that calls between two Movistar numbers are not that common (because they just don’t have that many users).

In addition to these base rates, each of the providers run a number of regular promotions. The most popular is 2X1 where you get double the saldo that you pay for. They also offer discounted rates to a single number. And other discounts for your top five numbers. You can also buy packs of text messages that last for a month at a time.

Claro Ecuador

  • Mobile Calls to Claro $0.20
  • Landline (Fijos) $0.20
  • Other networks: $0.20
  • SMS $0.07
  • MMS $0.15
  • MB $0.56

International long distance: The majority of countries (including United States, Canada, Chile, Europe and Japan) costs $0.493/minute.

Movistar Ecuador

  • Mobile Calls to Movistar $0.09
  • Landline (Fijos) $0.26
  • Otros Movils $0.23
  • SMS $0.067
  • MMS not listed
  • MB not listed

International long distance: The majority of countries costs $0.56/minute.

CNT Ecuador

  • Mobile Calls to Movistar $0.09
  • To CNT Landlines: $0.13
  • Landline (Fijos) $0.25
  • Otros Movils $0.25
  • SMS not listed
  • MMS not listed
  • MB not listed

International long distance: pricing not noted online.

ecuador-cell-phone-rates

Ecuador’s Cell Plans or Planes Postpago

Some of these plans include a discounted cell phone. Often they will give a free entry-level phone with a two year commitment. From the pricing, I think it is clear that Claro is the leader, Movistar discounts to try to win business, and CNT is the government owned option.

Claro Ecuador

Base Plan (Plan Flex 25)
Voice / Data / SMS
$28.00 (24 month contract)
Includes up to 63 minutes of voice, 300 megabytes of data, unlimited social networks and 20 text messages.

Premium Plan (Plan Flex 100)
Voice / Data / SMS
$112.00 (24 month contract)
Includes up to 430 minutes of voice, 1000 megabytes of data, unlimited social networks and 400 text messages.

Movistar Ecuador

Base Plan (Todo Destino 22)
Voice / Data / SMS
$24.63 (24 month contract)
Includes up to 107 minutes of voice, 300 megabytes of data, unlimited social networks and 200 text messages.

Premium Plan (Todo Destino 105)
Voice / Data / SMS
$117.60 (24 month contract)
Includes up to 698 minutes of voice, 5000 megabytes of data, unlimited social networks and 1000 text messages.

CNT Ecuador

Base Plan (Plan Smartphone)
Voice / Data / SMS
$22.38 (18 month contract)
Includes up to 25 minutes of voice, 500 megabytes of data.

Premium Plan (Plan Smartphone)
Voice / Data / SMS
$123.18 (18 month contract)
Includes up to 250 minutes of voice, 500 megabytes of data.

If you are just arriving in Ecuador and don’t have a bank account yet – you don’t have any choice except to use a prepaid cell phone. It’s probably not a bad idea anyway. You can test the service before committing to a specific carrier.

Learn more about each of these providers. And how to buy a phone abroad that will work in Ecuador.

What’s been your experience with cell phones in Ecuador?

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is editor of GringosAbroad - one of the largest English language sites about Ecuador. Work with GringosAbroad. He is a travel blogger, photographer and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands).

17 comments… add one
  • Erika May 17, 2016, 4:02 pm

    May 17, 2016.

    “In addition to these base rates, each of the providers run a number of regular promotions. The most popular is 2X1 where you get double the saldo that you pay for.”

    That is correct however, unfortunately the double saldo (sometimes 3X1, triple saldo) expires after 2 days. Example: I still had $1.51 saldo on my cellphone. I’ve purchased $20 saldo on a Friday when Claro had a 3X1 promotion. 3X$20=$60 So I had $60 + $1.51 (old saldo) = $61.51 saldo on my phone. I did not call anyone during the next 3 days and when I checked my saldo it was only $21.51 which is $61.51 minus the promotional $40. I went to Paute to a Claro store to verify and they said the information is correct, the promotional amount will expire after 2 days.

  • Richard A Feb 1, 2016, 4:29 pm

    Great info, Brian! I will be traveling to Ecuador from NY for 2 weeks (Quito, Guayaquil, Galapagos, Cuenca) later this month. I have just had my iPhone5 unlocked from my carrier and intend to buy a sim card upon arrival in Quito. Do you know if the local shops I sell the “nano” sim card that my phone uses, or will I have to cut it to fit? For limited/basic use, e.g. a few brief international phone calls back home, a bit of texting, some data use, how much saldo would you suggest I start with (e.g. US$10), since it seems easy enough to add more? Will local shops accept cash?
    Thanks in advance!

    • Bryan Haines Feb 2, 2016, 12:39 pm

      The local shops all accept cash – many only accept cash. We usually put $20+ – there’s nothing worse than running out of saldo when you need to make a call. They do have the smaller sim card – we’ve bought them.

      Have a great trip!

  • Kathryn Elder Sep 15, 2015, 3:54 pm

    I have a question about data plans in Ecuador. Our daughter is living there now and tells us she cannot get a data plan for her (unlocked) smartphone as a non-Ecuadorian. Is this true?

    • Bryan Haines Sep 16, 2015, 8:50 pm

      No. She can prepay a data plan with just her passport and cash. Or she can get a monthly plan but she’ll need a bank account or credit card (must be Ecuador based).

  • paloma Sep 10, 2015, 9:08 pm

    I live in Texas and want to make phone calls to Quito Ecuador is there any cheap long distance services I could use from here to there

  • Jake Sep 16, 2014, 5:18 pm

    Hey everyone ! I have an unlocked samsung galaxy, have bought a Movistar sim, and am traveling within Ecuador for about two months. However, now that I have the sim and a phone (which I bought at home in the US) I can’t figure out how to get minutes on it without having an Ecuadorian bank account. How can I get pay as you minutes for this phone? Any help is greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    • Bryan Haines Sep 17, 2014, 6:58 am

      Just go into any Movistar store (or a community tienda) and ask for a “recarga”. The minimum is usually $3 but you can put $20 or $30 with no trouble. All you have to do is give them your phone number. Before you leave the store, you’ll get a text message advising that the money has been credited to your “saldo”.

  • Max Sand Aug 3, 2014, 7:26 pm

    Hi Folks
    I have an three year old Nokia 7210 that I am going to get unlocked so that I can buy a prepaid SIM card. This will be my street phone while in Ecuador for up to three months starting in the Autumn. I will also be bringing my iPhone but will keep it under wraps and use it from where I am staying for email, Skype and business calls to Canada. Bell Canada has a Travel Plan for around $40/month and you can buy it by the month. This plan means you can use your phone in Ecuador and not pay roaming charges. I don’t have all the details but I’m sure you can get them from the Bell Canada website if you want to bring your Canadian phone with you.

  • James Jul 28, 2014, 8:24 am

    Brian, can you expound on what “unlimited social networks” means in the cell plans?

    Also, are there any plans in between the basic and premium options you list?

    Lastly, we have friends that are using Movistar. If we go with Claro or CNT, do you know if will we have any problems calling or texting their Movistar cell phones?

    Thanks!

    • Bryan Haines Jul 28, 2014, 8:33 am

      That’s a good question. I wondered the same thing. I assume that it means that bandwidth used on social networks won’t consume the bandwidth that comes with your plan. There are probably limitations (especially with sites like YouTube).

      There are lots of plans between the two extremes we published. We just choose two similar plans across the networks.

      You can easily call/text across networks as long as they both have coverage where they are at the time.

  • Evelyn urgiles Jul 20, 2014, 8:46 am

    Hi guys’youre information is very helpful to me.am traveling to Ecuador next month .will my cell phone work out there. if it doesn’t work ‘what will be my best objection.my first time traveling to Ecuador, I’ll be staying for three weeks.am traveling from new York city’.thank you.Evelyn urgiles-..

  • Bev Toler Jul 20, 2014, 3:01 am

    My iPhone 5s came UNLOCKED from Verizon with a removable SIM card. From my understanding in researching phones it will work on the bands used in Equador and would only require a sim card from one of the Equadorian cell companies. This is great because it is swappable. So after establishing residency in Ecuador, I can choose any carrier in the states with prepaid that also use a sim card in order to have a local number in the states for when I make visits back home.

    After reading about smartphone theft and especially that of iPhones, I have a case that does NOT show the APPLE logo on the back of the phone. In fact, I encased it in an extended battery pack case in plain black. Still working out the details yet for moving to Cuenca but am hoping for either the end of 2014 or early 2015. No set time to be there, just whenever I can finish settling things here in the states and head down to Ecuador. I have a large spiritual family waiting for me to arrive, so I will not be alone once I get there. Very heartwarming to see. Ecuador is a tremendously beautiful country!

    I really appreciate all of the articles you share. It continues to bring insight into what to expect when I get there. Planning takes time and the more information ahead of time the easier the transition will be. Please, keep up the great work. Your efforts are deeply appreciated!!!

  • eric Lutz Jul 19, 2014, 9:14 pm

    Hi Folks. a few words all the way from Nova Scotia (where the Men live, just joking) as for s cell phones in this neck of the woods, Yeah it can expensive, We pay a small fee of 11.95 a month. That gives my wife and me 30 minutes of talk time. It works well for us as we never use it anyway. But in this Northern part of the continent. It would seem that 70% of the regular cell phone users are talking by text messages. We have never got into that. I do e-mail a lot, perhaps I’m from the old school .

  • Ralph Sabean Jul 19, 2014, 8:05 am

    It’s nice to know so when we visit for three months we can get a package on an iPhone hopefully cheap.

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