Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cell Phones in Costa Rica

If you will be staying in Costa Rica for a while you are probably going to want to have a cell phone to be able to make and receive calls within the country, and also to be able to make 911 calls if needed (yes, Costa Rica uses 911 for emergency calls too). The problem with cell phones in Costa Rica, for foreigners at least, is that there is only one cell phone company (called the "ICE" and pronounced "ee-say"), and they won't set up cell phone service for anyone who is not a Costa Rican resident.  So the best way to be able to use cell phones in Costa Rica is to either rent one from a company that offers this service to foreigners; or else to buy an unlocked cell phone before leaving the U.S.

After comparing monthly rates, I found that renting cell phones in Costa Rica was too expensive of an option for me, especially since I was going to be here for more than a few months.  So I went ahead and purchased one.  Although you will not be able to set up a line for any cell phone you buy, you will be able to buy a SIM card at the ICE stand in the airport when you arrive (the stand is right past where you pick up your baggage, and right before you go through immigration). The SIM card works perfect with unlocked cell phones in Costa Rica, and comes in various denominations. I bought a $20 card at the stand and the ICE vendor immediately installed into the phone for me and even tested it before I left the counter (see picture of SIM card and my cell phone in the photos below).

Nokia 2730 with 2.0 Mega Pixel Camera (shown with SIM card & battery)

SIM Card shown inserted into my cell phone
Using cell phones in Costa Rica with SIM cards inserted into them is easy.  I've found the coverage within the country to be very reliable, except maybe for losing signal on and off in some of the remoter mountain-top areas.It is probably best to buy a phone model that is already proven to work on ICE's cell phone system by checking out the cell phones in Costa Rica currently sold by this monopoly at their website HERE. I personally chose the Nokia 2730 with the 2.0 mga pixel camera and have had no problems with it. Also, I get to keep the same phone number as long as I continue to fill my SIM card before the balance gets to zero. Unfortunately, there is no way to refill this card online. So when your cell phone warns you that your minutes are low, be sure to make your way to your nearest ICE office (they are all over the country) and get your card refilled.  You can find other great unlocked cell phone options for your Costa Rica trip at Amazon's link HERE.

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