Ecuador is a popular destination in South America. The Quilotoa lake is lovely for exploring and camping, the Ciudad Mitad del Mundo is a must-see monument, and Cotopaxi is an impressive looking volcano. You will have plenty of fun when exploring Ecuador.
What you may not want to do is to roam with your provider. Roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many people want to buy an Ecuadorian SIM card when exploring Ecuador. In this article, I will go over everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Ecuador. Let's do this.
Telecom Providers in Ecuador
Ecuador has 3 telecom providers: Claro Ecuador, Movistar Ecuador, and CNT. All providers have 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks. The country also has a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) called Tuenti.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Ecuador? If you want to buy a SIM card in Ecuador, I would recommend going with Carlo because they have the best coverage throughout the country. If you are interested in high speeds in the cities, then CNT would be your best bet.
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Just like most countries in South America, you need to show your passport when buying a SIM card. Officially, you need to be an Ecuadorian citizen to buy a SIM card in Ecuador, but real-life experience has shown that some stores “forget” about this rule and allow you to sign up on someone else’s name and then transfer it to you a few days later. Either way, better bring your passport with you.
In Ecuador, they use the US dollar (USD). Prices are simply listed as “$.”
Besides that, there is not much to say about Ecuadorian telecom providers, so let’s see what they have to offer.
Tip: Looking for cheap flights? Book with AirWander and add stopovers! Not in a hurry yet? Set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog and get notified when ticket prices for your preferred route(s) drop!
Claro Ecuador, just Claro, has the most customers and has the best coverage in remote areas. Of course, the connection in the cities is much better than rural towns with Claro. However, they may not always have the highest speeds in the city, like CNT.
Claro SIM cards are sold for $4.50 in Claro stores. Recharge vouchers are sold from $3 to $30 in various stores. You can also top-up online.
The following Carlo combo packs are available:
- $1: 50 MB and unlimited on-net calls/SMS for 1 day
- $2: 200 MB and unlimited on-net calls/SMS for 2 days
- $3: 300 MB and unlimited on-net calls/SMS for 3 days
- $5: 1 GB and 100 domestic minutes for 15 days
- $6: 500 MB and unlimited on-net calls/SMS for 6 days
- $10: 2 GB and 200 domestic minutes for 30 days
Movistar Ecuador, just Movistar, is the second-largest operator in Ecuador. Compared to Claro, they have better speeds in the cities, but their coverage throughout the country is worse. 4G/LTE can be found in major cities and some larger towns.
Movistar SIM cards are sold for $5 in Movistar stores and come with unlimited WhatsApp. Top-up vouchers are sold from $2 to $30 in many supermarkets. The following combo packs are available:
- $3: 300 MB and 20 domestic minutes for 7 days
- $5: 650 MB, 100 MB for Facebook, unlimited on-net minutes, and 40 domestic minutes for 7 days
- $10: 2 GB, 100 MB for Facebook, and 100 domestic minutes for 30 days
- $15: 2.5 GB, 100 MB for Facebook, and 150 domestic minutes for 30 days
You can also get a Movistar tourist SIM card for $25. It comes with 2 GB, 500 MB for WhatsApp, 50 domestic minutes, 50 international minutes to Canada, Colombia, Peru, Spain, and the United States, and 500 SMS for 30 days. This SIM card can only be bought at Quito Airport and Guayaquil Airport.
CNT is the smallest operator in Ecuador but has the best speeds in cities. Their coverage is the “worst,” which is why you should only go with them if you care about speed and are staying in cities.
CNT SIM cards are sold for $4.48 in CNT stores. Recharge cards are sold from $3 to $15 in many stores. The following data packs can be purchased:
- $1: 50 MB and 15 domestic minutes for 1 day
- $1: 100 MB for 1 day
- $2: 200 MB for 5 days
- $3: 200 MB and 50 domestic minutes for 5 days
- $3: 300 MB for 10 days
- $5: 750 MB for 15 days
CNT also sells tourist SIM cards. They come in two variants:
- $22.40: 500 MB and $3 talk time for 30 days
- $28: 1 GB, $3 talk time, and unlimited Facebook and WhatsApp for 30 days
Tuenti is Ecuador’s only MVNO. It used the Movistar network, meaning that your speeds will be fine, but your coverage will not be as great as using Claro.
If you want to use Tuenti, I would highly recommend using their app. It offers free VoIP calls and allows you to manage your account easily. You can even register your SIM card through the app.
Tuenti SIM cards are sold for $5 in many supermarkets and from other vendors. You will het 750 MB, 15 domestic minutes, and 50 SMS. Top-up cards are sold from $5 to $20 in outlets. The following monthly combo packs can be bought:
- $5: 750 MB, 15 minutes, and 50 SMS
- $10: 3 GB, 60 minutes, and 50 SMS
- $20: 7 GB, 200 minutes, and 50 SMS
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Ecuador
So far, you have been informed about the SIM card options in Ecuador. However, that is not the only way to be online in Ecuador I have already briefly mentioned that you can roam with your provider, although it can be expensive in most cases. Besides that, you can use free WIFI connections, mobile hotspots, or international SIM cards.
Roaming in Ecuador with Your Provider
Roaming is a term used in wireless telecommunication that indicates a mobile device is outside the range of its home network and has connected to a different, available cell network. Let’s say your provider is Claro Argentina, then you would be roaming with Claro Argentina in Ecuador.
You may have read horror stories of people coming back from a lovely holiday, only to be confronted with a roaming bill in the thousands. This can still be the case if you do not review your roaming options before going on a holiday. Luckily for you, I have written about the roaming options you have with various providers around the world, which you can read here.
Some operators offer roaming plans. Others allow you to roam for free in Ecuador, while several operators let you use your plan’s allowance for a daily fee. As you can see, roaming does not have to be a horrific experience. If your provider is generous and lets you roam for free in Ecuador, then you do not even need a local SIM card (although I would still recommend doing so, as your connection speed will be much slower as a roamer than someone who is a customer of the network).
No idea how roaming works? I made this comprehensive guide about what roaming is and how it works. It is worth the read – promised!
Pay As You Go roaming should be avoided, as that is how travelers get high roaming bills. One provider charges you about 1000 USD per GB in certain destinations, which is insane. If you really want to roam, check whether your provider has attractive roaming plans. Else, you will be better off with buying a local SIM card.
Using Free WIFI connections in Ecuador
This does not require a lot of explanation, but using free WIFI connections is the cheapest way to connect to the internet because you do not have to pay anything. Nothing beats free stuff, right? Well, not so fast.
First, you need to find hotspots in Ecuador. In some countries of cities, you will find so many hotspots that you can try them out one by one and find the one with the fastest speeds. In other places, however, WIFI connections do not seem to exist.
In the case of Ecuador, you can find plenty of hotspots, although not all of them are fast.
Additionally, public WIFI hotspots are unsecure. They are a prime target for hackers to steal your data and use it for illicit purposes. That is I use, and would recommend you to start using, a Virtual Private Network (VPN) if you connect to a public hotspot. What a VPN does is creating an encrypted tunnel between your device and the hotspot so that your data will stay private. I use NordVPN, and you can get up to 70% off when you get a NordVPN subscription. Get your subscription now or learn more about NordVPN.
Using a Pocket WIFI (Mobile Hotspot) in Ecuador
Pocket WIFI is a portable, battery-powered wireless router that allows you to connect your phone, laptop, or tablet without needing multiple SIM cards for those devices to be connected to the internet. They are compact and lightweight so that you take them along with you whenever you need internet access on the go.
Many companies have created mobile hotspots (just have a quick search on Amazon, for example, you will find many). Skyroam and Vision Global Wireless are reputable pocket WIFI providers I know. You can get a discount if you rent a router through Skyroam by using coupon code PHONETRAVELWIZ. Cellular access with Skyroam starts at $8 a day while using a Vision Global device starts at $2 a day. Both services cover more than 130 destinations around the world.
I often recommend mobile hotspots to those who are traveling in groups or with families. They can save groups a lot of money if they are visiting destinations where buying multiple SIM cards would become an expensive endeavor.
I recently wrote an article analyzing the 7 Best Mobile Hotspots for Travelers like yourself, which should be an interesting read if pocket WIFI is something you are considering. I do reviews of individual devices every now and then, so check out my mobile hotspot category to stay up to date.
Getting an International SIM card for Traveling in Ecuador
International SIM cards are, as the name implies, SIM cards for international use. Well, that does not explain anything. Although most providers allow you to use your card abroad, some actually restrict this possibility. An international SIM card lets you go abroad without having to change SIM cards when visiting multiple destinations. They have been made with the traveler in mind.
All of this sounds lovely, but international SIM cards are much more expensive than local SIM cards in Ecuador. Not only that, some offer poor service as well for high rates. Some reputable companies I know are OneSimCard, SimOptions, and Surfroam.
International SIM cards are appealing to those who travel frequently or are visiting multiple destinations in one trip. Many countries in South America require you to register before you can use a SIM card, which can be a hassle for some. Additionally, the language barrier may be off-putting to some travelers, which is why an international SIM card can be handy. You order it before you depart and can use it in various destinations.
My recommendation, however, is to get a local SIM card if you are only visiting one destination. If you are visiting multiple ones, an international SIM card could be handy. If you want to learn more about international SIM cards, check out my international SIM card comparison article, where I analyze 10 international SIM card providers so that you do not have to.
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Ecuador
Getting a SIM card from Carlo would do you well when considering an Ecuadorian SIM card. Be sure to explore the roaming options your provider offers you, as they may offer free or cheap roaming bundles.
You could also consider getting an international SIM card or using a portable hotspot. International SIM cards are attractive for those visiting multiple destinations at once or within a year. Portable hotspots will be useful when traveling with multiple people so that not each individual has to get a SIM card but can use the hotspot.
Visiting other countries in South America? Check out my South America SIM card buying guide, covering other South American countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay. Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
What is next?
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Book Your Flight for Ecuador
It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Ecuador. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Ecuador drop.
Book Your Accommodation for Ecuador
I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Ecuador. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in an Ecuadorian hotel.
Get Your Travel Insurance for Ecuador
You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Ecuador, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.
Get a Travel Debit Card
Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to US dollars for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.
Enjoy your trip!