Cellular Phone and Data Plans for Costa Rica – Will My Phone Work?

The price of technology is the proliferation of cell phone towers all over Costa Rica.

The price of technology is the proliferation of cell phone towers all over Costa Rica.

Visitors to Costa Rica eventually come up with the same question: Will my phone work? Many need just basic cellular service while others are tethered to their phones for texting, updating Facebook, and generally staying connected to their homeland.

When our friends from Kentucky moved here, within in hours of their arrival, we had a working cell phone in their hands.

Here’s what we found…

There are 3 network providers active in Costa Rica:

I.C.E., prepaid product: kölbi, state owned, biggest and oldest network. 2G (to EDGE) on 1800 Mhz, wide coverage, 3G (to HSDPA) in the populated areas on 850 Mhz. 4G/LTE has been rolled out this year as the first provider on 2500 Mhz in Central Valley only.
Movistar, spanish owned, 2G on 1800 Mhz, 3G (to HSDPA) on 850 and 2100 Mhz in the centers only
Claro: mexican owned: 2G on 1800 Mhz, 3G (to HSDPA) on 2100 Mhz in the centers only.
All providers are GSM providers on these frequencies, so many US cell phones won’t work in Costa Rica. 

It’s very easy for a non-resident to buy a prepaid SIM card. You only need to show your photo ID or passport.

The I.C.E. has still the best coverage nationwide. So this is the best choice, if you travel a lot within the country especially outside the Central Valley.
They have a store at the San José (SJO) airport (4:30-22 hrs) which is convenient for arriving passengers and the employees speak english.

The prepaid SIM card costs 1,000 – 2,500 Colones depending on promotions. The “Súper Chip” comes with a credit of 1,000 Colones and when you make a recharge of 500 Colones or more in the first 7 days, you get 150 MB internet for 3 days included.

The default rate for internet is 8.58 Colones per MB at up to 1 Mbps.

Furthermore, they offer 4 packages they call plans:

Día Conecta: 24 hours, 60 MB, 1 Mbps, 100 Colones
Día Navega: 24 hours, 150 MB, 1 Mbps, 250 Colones
Día Descarga: 24 hours, 500 MB, 2 Mbps, 350 Colones
Mes, 30 days, 4 GB, 2 Mbps, 9000 Colones
To subscribe, simply text conecta, navega, descarga or mes to 6060. Every plan renews automatically if there is enough credit. To unsubscribe text salir internet to 6060. Overuse is charged with the default rate.

4G/LTE has been started recently and is only available in the Central Valley by the I.C.E.for now. Kölbi has special promocial prepaid rates for chips on “Ultra 4G LTE”:

Ultra Día 1 GB: 24 hours, 1 GB, 6 Mbps, 1,500 Colones
Ultra Mes 6 GB: 30 days, 6 GB, 10 Mbps, 13,500 Colones
Ultra Mes 15 GB, 30 days, 15 GB, 10 Mbps, 24,000 Colones
Activation is by texting Ultra dia, 6 or 15 to 6060, deactivation by texting salir internet to 6060.

Recharges can be made by vouchers called cards/tarjetas of 500, 1000, 2500, 5000, 10000 Colones or 10, 20 US$ or electronically from 100 to 25,000 Colones at many agencies throughout the country.

APN: kolbi3g

Moviestar is good in the Central Valley but can be patchy elsewhere. So before you buy a SIM, better make a network check. The SIM costs 2,500 Colones.

They offer the following packages:

Movistar
Default rate is 8.6. Colones per MB. To subscribe:Enter the keyword to 606 or use USSD code +123# — unsubscribe: Enter keyword + baja to 606

Overuse is charged by the default rate.

Claro

Claro provides  good coverage in the Central Valley, but can be very patchy elsewhere.
Claro charges you 2,500 Colones for the SIM. If you top up 500 Colones or more when you activate the card, they give you “3 days” of mobile internet for free.

The default rate is 8.6 Colones per MB: They have the following plans available:

Básico: 24 hours, 175 MB at 1 Mbps, 300 Colones, activation: DIA B to 444
Avanzado: 24 hours, 350 MB at 2 Mbps, 500 Colones, activation DIA A to 444
Semana: 7 days, 400 MB at 2 Mbps, 1,300 Colones, activation : SEMANA to 444
Quincena: 15 days, 800 MB at 2 Mbps, 4,500 Colones, activation: QUINCENA to 444
Mes: 30 days, 2 GB at 4 Mbps, 10,000 Colones, activation MES to 444.
All packages will automatically renew if there is enough credit. To deactivate text FIN to 444. Overuse is charged by the default rate.

Consult this wiki for more details.

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