Cell phones for visitors to Costa Rica


May 15th, 2012, 09:40 PM
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Cell phones for visitors to Costa Rica

Hey all,

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. We have been swamped during high season. So it has been hard to find the time.

Just got back last night from Costa Rica. It was a work trip. The annual Costa Rica Travel Mart, and then hotel inspections in the Manuel Antonio area. But I did find time to spend a whole hour on the beach this past Sunday!

But I wanted to let you all know the latest news on cell phones in Costa Rica. Many of my customers ask me if their US cell phones will work there. My answer is an unqualified "maybe". It depends on the carrier. The government owned phone company finally has some competition, and the game seems to be changing weekly. But even if your US phone does work, it will be expensive.

However, I found something pretty cool. I was able to purchase a prepaid cell phone in the San Jose airport for twenty bucks, and it came with 300 minutes of local calls. Actually, the phone was free and I just bought the time. This is a kinda big deal. Until lately, non residents were not allowed to own phones. We were there in December, and heard that this was now possible. We spent half a day driving around Liberia, and couldn't find anything. But the San Jose airport kiosk was fairly new.

The phone is able to accept international calls. This is really great for a tourist that needs to be available if there is an emergency at home. It is also handy if you get lost in your rental car. You can call your hotel for directions.

I was able to take it a little further. Since I spend so much time in Costa Rica, I have always needed a way to keep in touch with my office and family.

For several years, I have had an 800 number that can be forwarded to any phone in the world. It is only nine cents a minute to Costa Rica from the US. When we are at our house in Costa Rica, I forward the number there. I also forward it to hotels I am staying at. Anyone with the number knows the drill, and will ask for my room.

I also have a callback service. I use my laptop to trigger a "callback" to whatever number I have available. The phone rings, and I have a US line. I can then call anywhere in the US for fifteen cents a minute. This works great at my house, but it is a little tricky at a hotel.

So I set up both services to be used with my new cell phone. It worked like a charm. My wife and assistant were able to call me on my 800 number whenever necessary, and I was able to call home without any issues. Came in handy on Mother's Day! These calling services cost almost nothing to set up, and you can do everything online. But most folks probably won't bother with that.

But these phones could come in very handy. So I just thought I would share! It is also important to note that these are SIM card phones. So you can use them while traveling in other countries. You just need to buy a new card when you arrive in the country.

But even if you only used it for only one trip to Costa Rica, I think the peace of mind is worth the small cost.

Hope this helps! Let me know if I can offer any more advice.

Warm Regards,
Pat Hewitt
Travel Professional
Pat_Hewitt is offline  
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May 16th, 2012, 03:07 AM
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Wow, Pat, this is really valuable information! Thanks
for sharing.
costaricalover is offline  
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May 16th, 2012, 03:40 AM
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Thanks Pat. I don't even have a cell phone but glad to see you posting again, no matter the topic
tully is offline  
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May 16th, 2012, 06:11 AM
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Good info. - Thanks, Pat!
volcanogirl is offline  
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Jan 26th, 2013, 06:51 AM
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Hi Pat,

We leave for San Jose tomorrow afternoon and arrive @ 8:30 PM. Do you think I will have a problem purchasing the phone you describe at that time? Is there anyway I can order it from the USA and pick it up there?

allyboy is offline  
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Jan 27th, 2013, 08:12 AM
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The ICE/Kolbi desk at SJO - where you buy phones or SIM cards is open till 10:00 PM. So if your flight is on time you should be able to get a phone. One warning though, there is no guarantee that they have the same promotion that Pat talked about. Everything is subject to change. But hopefully they will have one of their cheap models. They usually do have several that are under $40.

By the way - since Pat wrote, the airport arrivals procedure has changed. There was large Kolbi kiosk near gate 6. But arriving passengers can't access that area anymore. So now you have to go to the desk in the baggage claim area.
here is a link to the ICE/Kolbi website showing some of the phones they have available.
There seem to be a couple for about $20 - Nokia 1616, Samsung Keystone and BluJenny. But again there is no way of knowing what they will actually have on hand when you arrive.

And by the way - for those of you who don't realize it - if you have an unlocked GSM phone of your own that supports 1800 Mhz you can just buy a SIM card and use your phone. But the operative word here is "unlocked". The SIMs come with some minutes, but it is easy to top them up at all sorts of places all round the country.

And also - internet access on the cell phone is included and is very reasonable - but not that fast.... You just have to set up your phone correctly. The apn is kolbi3g

The prepaid cell phone option has actually been open to tourists for about 3 years now.
raquel_z is offline  
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Jan 27th, 2013, 08:21 AM
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Thank you raquel for your wonderful info!
allyboy is offline  
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Jan 27th, 2013, 08:37 AM
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You sre very welcome allyboy. Enjoy your trip. And come back and let us know if you were able to get a phone and how it worked.

pura vida
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