Traveling to Ecuador? Here’s our guide to finding the best prepaid SIM card
Reduce your roaming rates by using a local telco deal.
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Visiting Ecuador? Or traveling around South America? Either way, using your home phone can work out to be quite expensive. A top tip for keeping down costs is to switch to a local SIM card for cheaper deals, tariffs and plans. Ecuador has some good SIM card deals for South America and you can buy 1GB of data for as little as $4.30. You can also use their SIM cards in other South American countries which could save you even more money! So, reduce your bills by comparing your SIM card options.
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There are three main telco providers in Ecuador: Claro, Movistar and CNT. All networks have been tried and tested by both locals and tourists, and can be trusted. According to OpenSignal’s service map, network coverage is exceptionally good around Quito, and the other main towns and cities. Coverage can suffer in the far-flung regions, which is to be expected in some parts of the country and will happen on any phone or network you use there.
About Ecuador’s telco operators
All three operators offer prepaid SIM cards and they can be bought from shops, supermarkets, kiosks, pharmacies, official stores, and at major international airports. There are 2G, 3G and 4G wireless plans available on all networks for unlocked GSM phones. SIM cards can be purchased by showing your passport and giving your hotel address, and your telephone number is already active once you pop in the SIM card. The unique IMEI number on each phone is also being taken and registered, to monitor handsets in the country. To add credit, there are several prepaid SIM card machines around towns and cities, and vouchers are stocked in shops and supermarkets.
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About Claro (or Conecel)
Claro (or Conecel as it is also known) is Ecuador’s market leader with the best coverage, especially in the remote areas that can suffer with poor service. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services, and SIM cards can be purchased from official stores or approved resellers.
Prepaid SIM card starter packs come in the following options:
1) Voice and data SIM: US$7 that comes with US$3 credit, free WhatsApp (WA) and 90MB data.
2) Mobile Broadband: "Prepaid Banda Ancha Móvil" SIM for US$15 which comes with 500MB data.
Credit can be purchased from official stores, approved resellers or at supermarkets, in the following denominations: US$3, US$5,US$6, US$10, US$20 or US$30. Dial *102# to check your balance.
The following data packs are also available:
|US$1||Valid for 1 day||50MB||-|
|US$2||Valid for 2 days||100MB||+5MB WA, 15MB FaceBook (FB)|
|US$3||Valid for 3 days||200MB||+5MB WA, 15MB FB|
|US$5||Valid for 7 days||400MB||+20MB WA, 80MB FB|
The standard default data rate is charged at US$0.228 per MB, and overuse is also charged at the same rate. Dial *123# and select the pack you desire. Credit will automatically be taken off your account.
Register your SIM card/chip in store to save time and hassle. Another option is to register online through http://www.miclaro.com.ec, or by calling another Claro number in Ecuador.
Claro’s APN: internet.claro.com.ec
Website in Spanish:http://www.claro.com.ec
Movistar is the second largest provider in Ecuador. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services, and boasts the fastest speeds in the cities and towns, although it can be a little slow the further out you go.
Prepaid SIM cards are called SuperChip Prepago and can be purchased in official stores or approved resellers. SIMs can be purchased for US$5 as a standard pack that come as a regular voice and data SIM. Credit can also be purchased in the same outlets, or at supermarkets in the following denominations: US$2, US$3, US$6, US$10, US$15 and US$30.
Movistar also offers a useful data and voice add-on called Combo seminal, which comes with 200MB, 20 domain minutes and 20 domain SMS for US$3 per week. You can also add 50MB per day for US$1 and 100MB valid for 3 days for just US$2.
The standard default data rate is US$0.56 per MB. A daily add-on pack can also be purchased to save even more money which gives you 15MB per day for just US$0.50. The following data packs can also be added:
|Internet Diario||US$1||30MB||Valid for 1 day||Text “DIA” to 333|
|Internet 2 días||US$2||60MB||Valid for 2 days||Text “DOS” to 333|
|Internet 3 días||US$3||100MB||Valid for 3 days||Text “TRES” to 333|
|Internet 7 dias||US$7||200MB||Valid for 7 days||Text “7” to 333|
|Internet 15 días||US$10||500MB||Valid for 15 days||Text “15” to 333|
|Internet 30 días||US$20||1GB||Valid for 30 days||Text “30” to 333|
As well, Movistar offers visitors a tourist SIM card which comes with 2GB of data. The SIM card also comes with 500MB of data for WhatsApp usage, 50 minutes for domestic calls, 50 minutes for international calls to Spain, US, Colombia, Canada and Peru, and 500 SMS, all for US$25. The SIM card is valid for 30 days and can only be found at the main airports on arrival in the country.
Movistar’s APN: internet.movistar.com.ec, username and password: movistar
CNT is Ecuador’s national provider, and has the smallest market share in the country. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services but CNT is only compatible with a small number of devices. Make sure you check with the store assistant to make sure your device is compatible before purchasing a SIM card.
SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers for US$4.56 which comes with US$4 credit. Credit can be purchased from most retail outlets in the following denominations: US$3, US$6, US$10 or US$15. Credit amounts above US$10 come with free WhatsApp usage.
The following data packages can also be added:
1) 50MB valid for 1 day: US$1.01 – Text “DIA” to 8000
In addition, CNT offers a tourist SIM card called "Chip Turista" which can be purchased for US$3 and comes with voice and data packs:
- US$22.80 for 500MB plus US$3 talk time – valid for 30 days
- US$28.50 for 1GB plus US$3 talk time, free WhatsApp and Facebook – valid for 30 days
CNT’s APN: internet3gsp.alegro.net.ec
Some top tips from finder.com staff:
- Spanish is spoken in Ecuador. If you don’t know the language you may want to download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel. Although some Ecuadorians speak English, many cannot and they like it when foreigners try their language
- Locals call a SIM card a “SIM” or “chip”.
- Ask the retailer to set up the SIM for you. This will save you a lot of time and trouble, but it’s also helpful to cover anything you might not understand.
- Make sure you get to the stores early before the crowds start gathering.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
“Find a "Recarge Aqui" sign for the phone company you want to do business with: Claro, Movistar or CNT. – and get a cell phone from a cell phone store first of course, then recharge - recarge at the small tiendas/stores that display the signs above”
“The building directly across from the airport terminal contains a number of shops, including Claro. I was able to go there for a SIM and credit”
Pros and cons of Ecuador’s top telco providers
- Good value for money.
- Prepaid credit when required.
- No in-store contract needed.
- Can be used in other South American countries.
- SIM cards could be compatible with your current phone.
- No new devices offered with the SIM card plans.
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones.
- Poor coverage can be found on all networks in country areas.
A final important question
Q: What do I do if I lose my phone in Ecuador?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when traveling around South America. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. If you lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you still have no luck then cancel any plans or payment methods associated with the phone, report it missing and make a note of the crime number to claim on insurance. Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let the new one out of your sight!
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