Ecuador Utilities

A Cell Phone in Ecuador and the U.S. (Update)

Cell phones are ubiquitous companions. I don’t like having one but the convenience and utility are undeniable.

Living in two countries presents a challenge because cell phone contracts tend to restrict our options. We have discovered an optimal solution for those who spend time in Ecuador and the United States.

Terminate Your Expensive U.S. Cell Phone Contract

With documented proof of your move to Ecuador most U.S. cell phone companies will terminate your contract without any fees. You will need to provide any of the following documents:

  • Ecuadorian Driver License
  • Cedula (National ID Card)
  • Real Estate Lease Agreement
  • Utility Bill
  • Property Deed

Activate a Pre-Pay Plan in the United States

Let’s look at Verizon as an example. If you already have a Verizon phone you can activate the pre-pay option without a connection fee (just ask to have the fee waived). You must add $15 per month to keep the phone activated. If you don’t use the phone you are not charged and your balance only expires if you fail to add funds each month.

Charges are as follows:

Click here to get more information on this plan.

Purchase a Cell Phone in Ecuador

You can purchase a pre-pay cell phone in Ecuador. Phones start at $50 and pre-pay cards are sold just about everywhere. If you are away from Ecuador for more than 3 to 4 months your number MAY expire. If this happens you will need to pay an activation fee of about $5.

Bring Your Cell Phone to Ecuador 

U.S. cell phones are most likely blocked meaning that you cannot simply buy a new SIM card in Ecuador.  I recently brought a Cingular phone from the United States and replaced the SIM card with one from Claro.  The phone was “blocked” and the Claro card did not work.

The cell phone companies in Ecuador will not unblock your phone.  You need to find a small electronics store that sells cell phones and accessories.  Look for the logos Claro or Movistar in the window.  They will typically charge less than $20 to unblock your phone and install a local SIM card with several dollars of minutes ready to go.



  1. I’m going to Ecuador in 2 weeks and I’m wondering if I buy a TracPhone in the United States and buy minutes will it still work in Ecuador?

    • No, it will not work. I am not sure what a track phone is, but if it has a sim card, you will need to buy a replacement sim card here for around $6. That will give you some minutes too. When you run out of minutes, you just add more by buying a new card. Stop at any store designated “Claro.” This is the major local cell phone company. They sell the sim cards as well as the cards with minutes. You can buy them in various increments starting at $3.


  3. VERIZON WIRELESS PREPAID has a new DOMESTIC $1.99 UNLIMITED DAILY PLAN (since Dec 2011). No airtime. You pay DAILY ACCESS FEE OF $1.99, only on the days that you make or receive telephone calls. Text messages are $.02 per domestic text, sent and received. You can buy phones for as little as $10 —- great plan for domestic users (international rates are available also and internet access is available for $.99 for 24 hours).

  4. The other day my friend was telling me that her couldn’t unlock her cell phone. I couldn’t understand why not because it’s actually really easy to do!

  5. If you already have a phone with a SIM card you can bring it with you to Ecuador and activate service locally. Otherwise you could just buy a pre-paid phone in Ecuador for less than $50. You could use this phone on your future trips. If the number expires because you are gone from Ecuador too long the phone company will charge a nominal fee to restore service ($5).

  6. Will be in Ecuador in April in the Canoa area and wanted to use a cell phone. What is the best choice given our short stay?

  7. TracFone is limited to calling from the United States, I think. Most of the phones they sell do not have the third and/or fourth frequencies needed for GSM outside the States.

  8. Is the TracPhone usable in Cotacachi???
    If so – how is it locally activated ???

  9. Another US possiblity is TracPhone, available on eBay, at Target and many other discount stores, for $10 and up. You must be sure you get a model that is right for your area, if buying on eBay. The TracPhone site can tell you which models work for your area.

    Some air time comes with the initial purchase and with every new set of minutes you buy. For buying minutes, my TracPhone now is good for airtime through January 2009. Your minutes remain good as long as you have airtime left on your phone and this info is displayed everytime you turn it on.

    You can buy the prepaid minutes at stores or online at Tracphone or eBay. If bought online, you are emailed a code which you input on your phone and you’re good to go.

    Standard purchase of minutes works out to about .25/minute, but you don’t pay daily usage fees on top of this and the phones are relatively cheap. AND there are ways to get minutes more cheaply. There are “double minutes” cards and there are cards sold on ebay that include “bonus minutes codes” that can double your minutes, lowering your cost to 12.5 cents/minute. And if you have the patience to watch and bid, you can also bid on cards that start at .99 for 60″ and go as high as bidding allows. I have got cards that yielded a value of .08/minute.

    As of Feb 18, 2008, eBay has sellers offering a Motorola C139 prepaid TracPhone with lifetime double minutes, all for about $30 including shipping to the US.

    -Lilly, USA, bound for Ecuador