If you need a phone, then the Movistar cell phone service may be right for you. If you travel around the country to the main cities and attractions, Movistar will be there to connect you.
There is no charge to receive a call on your cell, unlike in North America.
Only when you make calls from your cell phone do you "spend money." (You either use up minutes provided as part of your plan, or use up part of your cash balance in your prepaid plan.)
Calls to other Movistar phones are cheapest. Calls to landlines and cell phones on other networks are quite a bit more per minute.
Movistar offers both Pospago (monthly) plans and Prepago (pay as you go) plans for your cell service.
Pospago is generally better if you're living here full time.
Prepago is best if you don't use a phone much (perhaps you carry it for emergency use only) or if you're out of the country for long periods of time.
You have a choice of Plan Total Todo Destino or Plan Total monthly plans.
One thing to remember about Movistar plans is that once your minutes are used up, you can't use your phone unless you want to buy prepago minutes (discussed below).
This plan ranges from $15 plus tax for 100 minutes (plus 75 free minutes, with a catch, discussed below) to $300 a month for 2,000 minutes plus 3,500 free minutes. That's a lot of calling inside Ecuador.
The $50 plan would probably be enough from just about any expat. It offers 333 minutes (just over 5.5 hours) plus 365 free minutes, with the catch.
The catch is that the free minutes, and the 40 free text messages per month you can have, are only for favorite numbers that you register by dialing *444 and entering the phone numbers. You can have an unlimited number of favorites.
The plan is for 18 months, paid by direct debit from your Ecuadorian bank account. So you'll need to set one up here in Cuenca (or elsewhere in the country) to obtain this Movistar cell phone service.
This plan ranges from $10 (plus tax) for 125 Movistar minutes (to other Movistar customers), 53 to other cell service providers (Claro and Alegro), and 250 minutes to your Movistar favorites, to $300 (plus tax) for 3,750 Movistar minutes, 1,579 to Claro and Alegro, and 7,500 to Movistar favorites.
Plan 25, for $25, would be more than enough for any expat, with 313, 132, and 625 minutes.
As with the first plan, you have to commit to 18 months, and pay by direct debit.
Movistar also has voice and internet plans to use with smartphones (iPhone, Blackberry, etc.). See this page about Movistar internet service for details.
You can use prepaid service (pay as you go) by buying a phone, and then purchasing minutes whenever you need them.
For example, each call made to a Movistar phone is 8 cents a minute (9 cents with the tax). If you call a Claro or Alegro number, or a landline, it's $.23 a minute ($.261 with the tax).
With the prepaid service, remember to keep a tarjeta in your wallet or purse. A $3 one will do.
When you run out of money in your balance (your saldo), your call ends. Abruptly, with no warning.
If you don't have another card handy, you can't call back and continue your conversation.
Unfortunately, Movistar tarjetas are available at fewer and fewer places in Cuenca as recharging becomes more popular. Electronic recharging (recarga) is available at Supermaxi and hundreds of other locations around the city.
With the prepaid service, you can also call long distance, since the money is deducted from your balance. The cost is $.44 per minute ($.493 with the tax) for North and South America, Europe, Japan and China.
The prepaid Movistar cell phone service is best if you have a lot of friends with Movistar phones. The monthly plans are good even if your friends use Claro, as you're given enough minutes to talk with them as well.
Whichever service you choose, Movistar will serve you well to stay connected with your friends in Ecuador.
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I just want to thank you both soooo much for creating this web site. I am originally from Cuenca but moved to New York 11 years ago and have not being back since. My husband and I are planning on visiting Cuenca over the Summer and this web site has helped me a lot.
When I came to the US we still had the "sucre," the bus ride cost 1,000 sucres and a pack of trident gum would cost 3,000 sucres. I am very nervous to go back, but thanks to your web site I now know what to expect.
My husband is American and Captivating Cuenca has taught him a lot about what my great city has to offer, things that I had forgotten about myself! :)
Thank You both so much! I cannot wait to visit Cuenca!!