While in the Dominican Republic, you are likely to want to change your phone over to one of the local providers. The Main Providers are Claro and Orange.
We have friends using Claro, Orange and several of the other prepaid phone companies. So far Claro seems to be the Clear winner in our area. Orange cuts out frequently, and often when you try to call someone who has Orange their phone is not in operation.
Orange on the other hand seems to have the upper hand in ease of buying refill cards. If you are in any larger town you will see guys walking around with orange vests on selling Orange cards. They’re pretty hard to miss. Either way, many of the comados sell both Orange and Claro refill card so they are pretty easy to come by.
Claro often gives bonus minutes when you buy over 150 pesos at one time. While that may seem like a lot, 150 pesos is a little over $4.00 USD. To ask for them you can just say “tiene tarjeta (tar-yet-a) de Claro?” or “tiene tarjeta de Orange?”, if they say yes say your amount i.e. ciento cincuenta pesos (150 pesos).
Minutes as a gift
While it may seem strange to give someone minutes for their phone as a gift. People are always running out of minutes here. So yes, even $10 – $20 of minutes makes a good gift. If you are in another county recharging phone minutes can be accomplished over the internet. There are several companies where you can buy minutes and put them on any phone you like. One that I have used is prepaidwireless.com. I was using this company when my family was moving to the DR putting minutes on my wife’s phone while I was still in the US, so it works well.
There are several other companies that offer cell phone recharging services so you might want to check prices before you buy. To recharge the minutes on someones cell phone you need the phone number of the cell phone as well as the company that they use Claro, orange, viva etc. You pay about $1.50 more when you recharge your phone this way, but it is convenient.
One other advantage to giving minutes is that it is usually cheaper for someone to call you from the Dominican Republic than it is to call the DR. the best I have found in long distance to call from the US to the DR is about $.10 per minute. While it is about $.05 per minute to call from the DR to the US. I’m not sure how that works with other countries so you may want to check your own long distance plans before going this route.
If you plan on being in the DR for an extended period of time, will have a computer and will have internet access than buying a Magic Jack might be the cheaper route in the long run. This is a $40 investment though, but it will provide free phone calls to the US. Skype also works pretty well for this if the person you are contacting also uses Skype.