Saturday, April 10, 2021

Internet & Communications in Costa Rica

North AmericaCosta RicaInternet & Communications in Costa Rica

The international telephone/country code for Costa Rica is +506.

A stamp to Europe costs ₡125 (0.20 USD).

The main means of contact with the outside world are email, SIM cards for unlocked phones or public payphones.

Internet cafés are relatively easy to find in tourist areas, although prices vary widely. Some of them offer long-distance internet calls.

Call price

National calls are quite cheap and the price is the same no matter where you call. Calls to mobile phones are much more expensive.

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International calls are quite expensive. The cheapest way to make them is over the internet with a service like Skype in an internet café. But short calls with national phone cards (you can make international calls with these cards, but the card values are quite small, so your call will be short!) or the international phone cards available in Costa Rica (all from the government phone monopoly ICE) are the other best solution. It is definitely better than making calls with your credit card or with a US phone card in general.

Public telephones

Public telephones are accessible with phone cards (tarjetas telefonicas), which can be bought in most shops, even in remote areas.

There are four different types of payphones:

  • Coin telephones. Note that these only accept old silver coins.
  • Smart phones. You can insert a smart phone card into these phones and make calls.
  • Hummingbird phones. These phones have a small swipe bar for a scratch card called a Hummingbird Calling Card, available from ₡500. Often, swiping doesn’t work – you still have to enter the calling card passcode using the keypad. Nevertheless, the Hummingbird calling card is recommended because you can use it on all kinds of phones, whereas with a smart card you have to look for a smartphone.
  • Multipago (multi-payment) phones. These phones accept coins, smart cards and Hummingbird cards. Most public phones in the country have been converted to this type of phone. They also allow the sending of SMS and e-mail.

Both types of phone cards are usually available in pharmacies and other places where you see the sticker on the door.

Mobile phones

SIM cards and frequencies

Bring an unlocked quadband or multiband mobile phone that works on the appropriate frequencies and get a SIM card, which you can easily buy on almost any corner. Costa Ricans call mobile phones “celulares” (mobile phones).

Frequencies and mobile operators in Costa Rica :

  • Kölbi: (part of Grupo ICE, the state-owned company that provides electricity and telecommunications services). Kölbi has good network coverage, but many users, which means you have a connection all over the country, but not the best internet speed.
    • GSM/2G : 1800Mhz
    • UMTS/HSDPA/3G: 850Mhz
    • 4G LTE: 2600Mhz
    • Additional configuration:
      • Internet: APN:kolbi3g, or you can send an SMS with the word “Internet” to the phone number 3001.
      • Multimedia SMS: Send an SMS with the word “Multimedia” to the call number 3001.
  • Claro: Second best coverage in the country, in a not so saturated network. In some remote areas it can be difficult to get a signal, but not in the Central Valley.
    • GSM/2G : 1800Mhz
    • UMTS/HSDPA/3G: 900Mhz, 2100Mhz
    • 4G LTE: 1800Mhz
  • Movistar:
    • GSM/2G : 1800Mhz
    • UMTS/HSDPA/3G: 850Mhz, 2100Mhz
    • 4G LTE: 1800Mhz

There are a few other second-tier suppliers that are simply resellers or re-brands of the previous three.

There are many tariffs to choose from, but for a short visit it is best to choose a prepaid tariff or Prepago, which is contract-free and where you pay in advance for what you will use. All operators offer such plans, with many possible combinations in terms of minutes, SMS, internet speed, etc. Prices start at around ₡2,500 (US$5).

To increase the value, you buy a recarga (top-up card), scratch the card to get a PIN code and send this PIN code from your phone to a special number. For the card to remain active, it must be topped up at least once within a 120-day period. If it is not charged within 120 days, you have a grace period of 30 days before your SIM chip is deactivated and you lose your phone number. Also, keep in mind that you may have problems activating your SIM card on Sundays, because like many things in Costa Rica, the SIM card activation system may be closed on that day. Also, not all shops sell SIM cards – many only sell top-up cards. Buy your SIM card at the airport if you can.

Roaming

Grupo ICE, through Kölbi, is the main network where roaming takes place when you use a mobile tariff from abroad. The use of roaming tariffs depends on the contract concluded abroad and goes beyond the scope of this guide.

WiFi

Most tourist areas (hotels, cafés, bars, restaurants) have free Wi-Fi access. Just ask someone for the password. You can bring your smartphone with Skype or Google Phone and make calls to your home country. It’s an easy way to stay connected with email and social media.