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Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

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London, Canada
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Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

Hi there - I know this has been partially addressed but wanted to just get some details. I have an unlocked iPhone 4 from Rogers in Canada. I am heading down to Costa Rica (San Jose), in a couple of weeks. My plan is to find a carrier once I am there to get a new SIM card and small data and minutes package for the week trip. Has anyone else done this? Does anyone know the rates for something like 30 minutes and a Gigabyte of data? What is the best company to do this with? And how long does the process take to get this (we are on a time line when we arrive at the airport to catch a shuttle bus)?

Thanks in advance

Jim

Winnipeg, Canada
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1. Re: Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

Hi Jim, I too am a Rogers customer with an unlocked phone that I use both in Canada and CR. There are now several cell carriers in CR - kolbi, movistar and claro. But so dar the one with the most coverage is Kolbi. You can but a kolbi sim a the airport. There is an ICE/kolbi counter in the baggage claim area at SJO. The process is quick probably less than 10 minutes if there are not a lot of people ahead of you waiting to do the same thing. But if you don't have time at the airport there will be places at your first destination to get the SIM. Data is included as long as your phone is configured correctly. Apn is kolbi3g. Rates are reasonable. You can get day week or 2 week passes by texting to 6060. Or you can just pay by the minute. The speed isn't that fast. Theremis also a lot of wi fi around CR, so you may want to use that when available. You can buy a sim with some time on it starting at about $6. You can easily top it up if more is needed. raquel

Edited: 24 January 2013, 02:45
London, Canada
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2. Re: Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

Thanks thats great - is this something I can do while I wait for my bags then?

Huntsville, Canada
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3. Re: Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

Raquel can you expand, I have a Telus unlocked iphone4, when you buy the sim do they then give you a different phone number and essentially does it become a pay as you go.

Winnipeg, Canada
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4. Re: Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

First of all, here is a link about the data. It is in Spanish.

grupoice.com/wps/….UQBKsB1X1LM

Also if you want to find out more about Kolbi prepaid, check the subjects under the "prepago" drop down menu.

Jim, yes if you arrive in the baggage area before your bags, you can head over to the counter while you are waiting. If there is more than one in your party, one can watch for the bags while the other gets the SIM.

@mati - providing a phone is unlocked and supports the right frequency of GSM (I think iphones are quad band so OK) once you take out the home SIM and put in the new SIM, you now have Costa Rica service. You get a CR phone numer with the SIM. it is an 8 digit number. So when you use your phone you are not accessing your home carrier at all. You are not roaming. You pay local Costa Rican rates for calls - which are about 34 colones a minute for local calls and about 30 US cents a minute for long distance to Canada or US. Incoming calls are free to the person receiving them.

It is a pay as you go service - so once you use up your time you just recharge.

For people from home to call you they have to dial 011 506 xxxx xxxx. The amount they pay depends on their home phone plan.

Data is included as part of the service so you can get internet anywhere you can get a phone signal at a very low rate.

Of course if you have a Telus (or whatever) contract you will still be paying Telus the monthly contract rate while you are away - but not racking up extra charges.

Since I travel to CR alot, I keep my SIM active. So sometimes in the middle of my flight, I take my Rogers SIM out and replace it with my Kolbi SIM.

But as I said, for data - I very often just use wi fi on the phone. Every phone is different about the specifics of changing settings.

By the way the other carriers - Movistar and Claro have Costa Rican web sites - so if you want you can also check them out. I don't want to sound like I am specifically plugging ICE/Kolbi. But that is the company I am familiar with. The others are newer to CR and stil buiding their infrastructure etc.

raquel

Costa Rica
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5. Re: Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

To add to Raquel's excellent post - you can get SIM cards of various denominations. Keep in mind that 5,000 colones (about $10) will get you 80 minutes of time. It's easy to "refill" just about everywhere, all over the country. Look for the frog graphic and the name "Kolbi."

Dearborn, Michigan
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6. Re: Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

I've had my iPhone down there and I've paid for the international AT&T data (and then set the phone not to receive calls, but to text me when I get a message/call) and I still get my texts from the US. Outside the city, I've gotten incredible data speeds. I've called people (skype over the 3g) while taking a break from hiking and they've complemented how good the call sounds. Although I've hit dead spots here and there too (though not as many as I thought).

Data speeds in the city (San Jose / Alejuela / Escazu) are generally not very impressive, although if I'm in the city, I've got access to WiFi so not a problem.

FYI, I run the Onavo app, which does a great job of compressing your data (and saving you money).

My phone isn't unlocked, so I never bothered to get a chip.

Gary

London, Canada
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7. Re: Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

Thanks everyone that is good info

Raquel - or anyone else - my spanish is a bit rusty but on the for the prep ago am I interpreting correct that it is unlimited internet. You pay by the time period not the amount used?

Santa Teresa, Costa...
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8. Re: Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

I too have an unlocked Roger's iPhone and do exactly the same thing as raquel_z . She has given you the best advice and thank you raquel_z for posting this step by step instruction....It is a common question and often difficult to explain! Thank goodness Roger's allows us to unlock our iPhones!! Don't do the International roaming...it is so expensive!!! You will be shocked at your cell bill when you eventually get it!

Hattie added what I was going to say....if you don't find the Kolbi kiosk open at the airport, just locate a store with the frog sign and you can easily buy a chip and they can load it with minutes...there are stores all over the place that sell cellular phones and charge cords etc....they usually sell sims as well.

Cellular minutes and data time costs are cheaper here and go a lot farther than the equivalent in Canada!

Enjoy your stay in Costa Rica!

Tortuguero, Costa...
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9. Re: Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

Just one more detail: Kolbi is the only company that serves basically the whole country with only a few dead spots here and there. The other carriers basically only serve the major metropolitan areas so far.

I checked the website and you have two options for internet with a prepaid system:

1. By minute, you will be charged ¢0.33 (that's Colones) and you are limited to 512 maximum

2. You can send a text message to 6060 and get unlimited data for 1 day, 1 week, 15 days or 1 month. The maximum speed will be 512KBPS for day or week, 1MBPS for 15 days or a month. You must have enough money in your prepaid account for this to work. grupoice.com/wps/….UQCFS0pU4ac

You will most likely not reach maximum speeds, but it's reliable enough for maps while traveling, and like others have said, there's WIFI almost everywhere. Just make sure to turn off the 3G when you're in WIFI range so as not to spend minutes.

Also, you will have to configure the APN, which anyone at an ICE/Kolbi office should be able to help you with.

London, Canada
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10. Re: Cell phone carriers and rates in Costa Rica

thanks again everyone - this is exactly the info I was looking for.