Communications, Cell Phones, Internet and Wi-Fi in Ecuador
Making Calls to Ecuador
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To call Ecuador from abroad you must dial the international access code (011 in the United States) followed by Ecuador’s country code (593), followed by the city code (listed below), and finally the number.
The city/provincial codes for Ecuador are as follows:
Pinchincha (Quito) - 2*
Cotopaxi, Tungurahua, Pastaza, Chimborazo, Bolívar - 3
Guayas (Guayaquil) – 4
Galápagos, Los Ríos, Manabí – 5
Carchi, Esmeraldas, Imbabura, Napo, Orellana, Sucumbíos - 6
Azuay (Cuenca), Cañar, El Oro, Loja, Morona, Zamora - 7
All cellulars - 9
Note: On September 30, 2012, all cellular phone numbers are 10 digits. Existing numbers add a “9” after the initial “0.” For example: if calling from within Ecuador, the number 0-8-9272-700 would be 0-98-9272-700; or if calling to Ecuador from overseas: 593-8-9272-700 would be 593-98-9272-700. This change affects not only cellular phones, but also mobile devices (like smart phones and tablets) that use an internet connection via cellular number. Notice that inside the country, cellphone numbers have ten digits beginning with 09 (followed by eight more digits); however, when calling a cellphone in Ecuador from another country, following the country code (593), the zero that precedes the 9 must be omitted.
Landlines in Quito have traditionally started with the number 2, but in recent years there have been new numbers within the city that have been assigned the initial number 3 instead. Needless to say, you should not assume that a number in Quito that only has 6 digits necessarily be preceded by the number 2, but in all likelihood, it will.
It is possible to make calls from tiendas (stores) that lend phones to the public or, alternatively, at cyber cafes/cabinas telefonicas that offer phone booths (as well as internet); prices vary depending where you are calling to and for how long.
In major cities, local calls can also be made from sporadically placed street phones, owned in large part by either Movisar or Claro. A few coin operated phones may still be found, but most pay-phones now operate on debit cards that may be purchased from Movistar and Claro stores and booths scattered about the larger cities and in certain pharmacies and convenience stores. Remember that, when making calls within Ecuador from a pay phone, you must start by dialing 0, followed by the two-digit city code (listed above), before dialing the six- or seven-digit number.
Cell Phones in Ecuador
It seems wherever you go in Ecuador, mobile phone use is rampant, and those travelers who will be in the country for more than a few days may want to join in. Three companies provide service in Ecuador: Claro, Alegro and Movistar. All three offer monthly plans as well as pre-paid services.
For most travelers in Ecuador, pre-paid plans make the most sense; phones can be purchased at retailers throughout the country, and phone shops will also sell SIM cards that will give you a local phone number and allow you to place and receive calls. After that, all you have to do is buy phone credits to load onto your phone (recargo); this either comes in the form of scratch cards which contain a secret code you enter into your phone or – more typically now – electronically. In the latter case, they simply ask for your cellphone number so that they can add credit to it electronically. The cards and electronic credit are sold in convenience stores and shops throughout the country, typically with a sign that shows what service providers they offer.
Movistar credit is usually the easiest to find in Quito, while Claro is typically the easiest to find in the provinces and Alegro, the most difficult. Also note that in Ecuador, phone calls within cell networks (for example, Claro to Claro) are considerably cheaper than calls between networks (as in, Movistar to Claro).
It may be possible to use your cell phone from home while traveling. Ecuador’s cell carriers operate on GSM networks; Claro and Movistar use the 850 MHz band and Alegro uses the 1900 band. That means that dual-band phones from Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania will not work, but GSM-enabled phones from the North or South America likely will. All quad-band, and most tri-band, phones will work in the country. Remember that phones from outside the western hemisphere will need a plug adapter and 120-volt converter in order to charge safely. Some foreign phone carriers will allow you to use your existing phone plan while in Ecuador, while incurring hefty foreign roaming charges. Others may allow you to unlock your phone and use a local SIM card (from Claro, Movistar or Alegro) while you are in the country. You should contact your phone carrier to check.
Cell coverage in Ecuador is relatively good. The main cities, like Quito and Guayaquil, have blanket coverage. In the Andes, valleys often have very spotty coverage, while a signal can usually be found on top of hills and ridges. The main coastal resort areas are well-served, while smaller communities may have weak or no coverage. Remote parts of the Amazon basin do not, generally, have coverage. As companies build more cell towers, expect coverage across the country to improve.
If you take your cell phone from home, check with your phone company if it will work and what the international roaming policies are. Warning, phone companies generally charge exorbitant amounts for international voice and data roaming. Using your smart phone at a local wi-fi hot spot may be a better option.
Wi-Fi Access in Ecuador
Most hotels now provide wi-fi service, and it is generally free. Increasingly restaurants offer free wi-fi hot spots. Many travelers carry along their smart phone, tablet, laptop or iPod touch with cellular data turned off, and just connect to wi-fi.
Photo by Andy Drumm.
Cyber Cafes and Internet Access
Web-based phones like Skype are revolutionizing international calls. Many of the Internet cafes (see the Email section below) in Quito support Net-Phone.
Internet cafes are becoming increasingly common throughout Ecuador, especially in Quito. Internet Cafes pepper the La Mariscal, Quito’s main tourist and commercial district.
The services in Quito are generally good. Take a stroll through La Mariscal or ask the hotel or hostel where you are staying. Other travelers that have spent more than a few days in Quito will also usually know where to find Internet cafes.
n general, mailing out packages and letters from Ecuador is easy to do, but receiving mail is more complicated. You can find post offices and couriers in major cities likeQuito, Guayaquil and Cuenca.
Ecuador’s national postal service, Correos del Ecuador (Tel, toll-free: 1-700-CORREO / 267736, URL. www.correosdelecuador.com.ec), has a variety of mailing options: EMS (express, priority), certified and regular. Locales are typically open Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m.-noon. Mail usually takes the following amount of time to reach its destination:
- United States: 8–10 business days
- Europe: 10–15 business days
- Asia and Middle East: 18–22 business days
- Latin America and Caribbean: 5–6 business days
To receive a letter at the poste restante (general delivery) – where the post office holds mail until the recipient calls for it – have the sender address the letter to you like this:
LAST NAME, First Name
Lista de Correos
Your name should appear as it is in your passport, which you will need to retrieve the letter or parcel. The city is where you will pick the mail up. In the major cities, the main post office branches are:
- Quito: Japón N36-153 y Av. Naciones Unidas. Also, in the Central Histórico: Venezuela y Chile, Local 25, Centro Comercial Palacio Arzobispal
- Guayaquil: Aguirre 301, entre Chile y Pedro Carbo
- Cuenca: Borrero y Gran Colombia esq.Additionally, Correos del Ecuador rents post office boxes.
An alternative option is that some embassies/consulates will hold mail for a specific period of time and even receive faxes on your behalf – before leaving home, you should check what services your embassy/consulate provides. Additionally, the South America Explorer’s Club and American Express offices will receive mail and faxes on your behalf if you are a member/client. Some travel agencies, Spanish schools, and hotels now also offer e-mail, mail and fax services for their patrons.
If you are mailing something urgent or important, then it’s best to stick with a reputable courier. The international couriers have offices in Ecuador’s large cities:
Fedex (URL: www.fedex.com/ec)
- Tomas Berlanga E-1080, between Avenida Los Shyris and 6 de Diciembre (Tel: 593-2-601-7818)
The office is open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Fedex also has branches in Cuenca, Guayaquil and Manta.
DHL (URL: www.dhl.com.ec)
- La Mariscal: Av. Colon 1333 y Foch (Tel: 593-2-250-8088)
- New Town: República 433 y Diego de Almagro (Tel: 593-2-226-5077)
- Mariscal Sucre Airport (Tel. 593-2-292-2687)
All Quito offices are open Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; the first two are open Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m. DHL also has offices in Cuenca, Guayaquil and Manta.
UPS/LAAR Courier Express S.A. (URL: www.laarcourier.com)
- Calle de los Cipreses, Lote 26 y de las Avellanas (Tel: 593-2-396-0000)
Major hotel chains in Quito, like the Hilton, also offer express mail service, so be sure to check with them if you plan on staying at one.
Customs and Shipping Costs in Ecuador
Correos del Ecuador offers the least expensive service. To mail a postcard or letter (0-20 gr) to Canada, the US or any other place in North, Central or South America costs $2 ($4.00 certified); a letter weighing 21-100 grams costs $4.75 ($7.75 certified). If your correspondence is destined for Europe, the costs are $2.25 ($4 certified) and $5.50 ($8.25 certified), respectively.
Packages should be sent directly from post offices in Ecuador, and it’s safest to send them via the main post office in Quito (Japón N36-153 y Av. Naciones Unidas). Don’t close your packages before you get to the post office: the staff is required to check the contents before the envelope or box is mailed. It is technically prohibited to mail jewelry, cash or other valuables, so use some discretion when choosing to mail something. Reseal the package yourself before leaving it to be sent.
If you receive a package from overseas, and it weighs over two kilograms, you will have to pick it up at aduanas (customs). Flete (transportation) fees and other import taxes are calculated according to the declared value of the package; these fees can be quite high. Some ex-pats recommend having the sender declare a $0 value.
The international couriers—DHL, FedEx and UPS—charge are at least triple what the national postal service does. Check the companies’ websites for shipping cost calculations. With these services, stamps aren’t necessary. The companies can also help with customs paperwork.