There are several Ecuador phone options available. And since most of us can't live without our cell phones...
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I was not living in Ecuador between 2004 and 2011. Before 2004, cell phones were almost non-existent and land line phone options were very limited.
The only sure way to call people was to use the phone booths at the local phone company, and hopefully your contact did have phone service. In the years we were out of the country this began to change.
When we visited in 2007, I could not believe the changes that had taken place. Everywhere young and old were attached to their cell phones. Many even carried two phones to make calls to friends with different service providers for less.
Now the cell phone age is in full swing in Ecuador. To run into someone who does not have a cell phone is getting to be a pretty rare happening. On the road from Riobamba to Cuenca, I recently saw a lady all decked out in her traditional dress, in her field working, with her cell phone in her hand.
The land line service is improving. However in areas like where we live there is still a shortage of land lines. It's getting better.
There are three main cell providers in Ecuador.
Each have different plans and different gimmicks to make you feel like you're getting a deal. For example, all three will offer 2x1 and 3x1 minutes on certain days. So you pay for $3, but you get $9 worth of minutes. Of course there's a catch, you can usually only use the promo minutes for calls within your network and text messages aren't included.
The majority of people in Ecuador use pay-as-you-go plans. You add minutes as you need them and can usually get a "recarga" (recharge) at the nearest corner store.
Your choice of provider will depend mostly on where you live. Coverage is not usually an issue, but you will probably want to use the same provider that most of your acquaintances use to benefit from the reduced rates of calls within the same network.
A. Yes. But the phone will have to have a chip from the provider of your choosing inserted into the phone by a technician in Ecuador. Ask around to find a good tech in your area. This service usually will cost you $20 to $50 to have done.
Most phones now come SIM card ready. You should be able to slip a chip into any unlocked phone for use in Ecuador.
A. No. There are very few deals on phones. Nothing like the $1 phones you can often get in the States with the signing of your contract. For a super simple phone expect to pay at least $50. Anything fancy will run in the hundreds of dollars.
A. Yes, it is true. By law each person entering Ecuador is limited to two cell phones. This is to discourage the resale of phones for profit without the payment of import tax.
Many people in Ecuador have really nice cell phones, but phones are usually the main target of thieves. We personally carry cheap phones that we wouldn't be sad to lose and a thief would be disappointed to swipe.
Much of Ecuador is serviced by CNT. Some places will have a local phone company that is not part of CNT. To request phone service it just a matter of going to the local office and asking about availability.
We asked about Ecuador phone service for several years, but we live in a new neighborhood that didn't have phone lines yet. After asking every couple of months we kind of gave up, but last month we decided to check. Who would have guessed?!? There are phone lines available and we had ours installed about three days later.
So if the lines are available it can be simple and quick. If not it can be annoying and drawn out.
As you travel through Ecuador you will frequently find telephone booths to make calls from. A typical international call will cost you from 25 cents to 50 cents per minute.
"Internet to Phone" calls used to be popular in Internet cafes. But these have slowly died away with the advent of Skype. Headsets are often provided for making Skype calls at Internet cafes or at your hotel.