There are three major cell phone operators in Ecuador, Porta, Movistar, and Alegra. These companies play a significant part in the Ecuador culture. While there are monthly calling plans available, many people opt to use phone cards to purchase a certain amount of minutes. I use a Porta phone, not because I think it’s better, but because that’s the store I happened to be by when I bought my phone.
The costs of using the Porta phone vary depending on whether you call a land line, a cell phone outside the Porta system, or another Porta phone within the system. For land lines and other cell phones, the price is $.61 per minute. Just see how fast a $10 phone card can be used up when you call a land line or a cell phone outside the Porta system!
But Porta has a special program called “Porta Friends,” which is the least expensive. With the friends designation, the charge is $.10 plus tax, or about $.12 per minute. This compares with around $.38 per minute without the “friends” designation for a Porta to Porta call.
To register your numbers with “Porta Friends,” simply dial *555, then press the call button. The recorded operator will come on in a scratchy recording. Don’t necessarily try to understand what she says, unless you speak good Spanish. Press the number one. Then another recording will come on. Again, press the number 1.
At this point, the operator will tell you to enter your friend’s number followed by the # sign. When you do so, the operator will tell you whether you number was accepted or if the number is from another cellular system. She will also tell you how many numbers you have registered.
That’s all there is to it. With this simple action, you will save a significant amount of money on your most frequently called numbers.
Here’s another tip. When you buy a phone card, the $10 cards charge $.38 per minute for Porta to Porta calls, but for the $6 cards, that price jumps to $.61 per minute. Remember, however, your cards have about a 6 week expiration date, so don’t buy a larger number of minutes than you think you are going to use in the next six weeks.
WHEW!! Yes, it is a bit complex, but that’s how the companies make money. If they can confuse you into not paying attention, you pay through the nose!!
If anyone has any information to share about Movistar and/or Alegro, please post.