*New law! You can now keep your phone number between carriers! So if you have Kolbi, you can keep the same number if you change to Movistar! You have to go to your current phone company, fill out some paperwork and it’s free. It should take about 3 days for the whole process*
When you travel to any country it is always better to have a phone number available so family or friends can reach you. It is also handy to be able to call someone just in case of emergencies. You never know when one phone call could save your day!
Buying prepaid sim cards in Costa Rica is very easy and not that expensive and in this article you will learn:
- Where to get the sim cards and the requirements in Costa Rica
- Different phone companies and rates
- Phone requirements for Costa Rica networks
- How to recharge your SIM card
- Our recommendations
- Protect your phone
Getting a Sim Card in Costa Rica
Where to get sim cards in Costa Rica?
Most of the phone companies in Costa Rica have stands all over the country.
If you are flying, you will find booths in both our main airports (SJO and LIR). If you are driving, it is very common to see local vendors offering you a SIM card at the border or customs. These guys will charge a little bit higher than if you buy it at the office but we have never had a problem with the service before.
If you are already in the country and you want to get a SIM card, don’t worry. You can go to any of the phone companies’ offices, supermarkets, shopping malls, electronic stores and appliance stores to buy one.
You should see signs in the window or by the door of which company the store sells. The only requirement you need is to present your passport or picture ID in order to fill out a short form.
Different phone companies and rates
The 4 major phone companies in Costa Rica are:
Kolbi, Movistar, Claro, Tuyo móvil.
With these companies you can buy the SIM card for 2000 colones (around $4) and they will give you the same amount for phone credit on the SIM card itself.
Tip: If you buy a Kolbi sim card, make sure to keep the card because it has your PIN number on it. If you input the wrong PIN number more than 3 times, you will get locked out of your sim card and you have to go to the office or call to unlock it.
The rate per minute for local calls is 34 colones and like most of the services in Costa Rica it is regulated by the government. You can buy data by the day ($1), the week ($5), or the month. The rates will depend on the phone company.
Phone requirements for Costa Rica Networks
If you want to bring your phone and not pay for an international calling plan, your phone must be quad band and it has to be unlocked. The type of phone doesn’t matter, it can be an iPhone, Samsung, HTC, Blackberry, whichever. Call your carrier to find out if and how to unlock your phone.
For Samantha, she has a Samsung Galaxy S2 and she called her carrier (AT&T) to figure out how to unlock her phone. They gave her an IME number to punch in and her phone was unlocked. No extra fees, no expensive international calling plans, just put in the new SIM card and set up the network.
Samantha now uses a Google Nexus 5 and since it comes unlocked with no plan, it will work not only for Costa Rica but other countries as well. This phone is great in general and it’s even better if you travel a lot so you won’t have to worry about roaming or being stuck to a contract!
How to recharge your SIM card in Costa Rica
You can recharge your phone at the supermarket, the phone company’s office or online (only if you have a Costa Rica online bank account). Many business will have a sign outside with the logo of the phone company to indicate they can recharge SIM cards and which company.
Sometimes even pharmacies have the ability to recharge. You can either buy cards where you have to call the company, scratch the verification number and enter that in to add credit or the employee can do it directly for you, like at the supermarket.
Since the day Samantha moved to Costa Rica, she has been using a Movistar prepaid SIM card. The internet is awesome, it is faster than Kolbi and the credit lasts longer than the other companies. The only downside is that in Guanacaste, Movistar and Claro do not have the same reception as Kolbi and she does not always have signal in some parts of town.
Kolbi is the oldest and biggest company in the country. The brand belongs to the “ICE” and a few years ago the ICE was the only phone company in Costa Rica so they have better coverage.
Protect Your Phone
Due to the weather in Costa Rica, we highly recommend to get some protective gear for your electronics (we learned this from first hand experience with our camera). We have an Aqua-Quest waterproof backpack that is durable and really is waterproof.
For tropical weather when it rains very hard, it is the best for protecting all of our camera gear and personal items. Every time we go the beach we protect our phone with a waterproof case which also works for the sand and mud.
Many people who move here buy a simple unlocked phone (not a smartphone) because it is less likely to get stolen, cheaper and they don’t have to worry about scratching it or getting it dirty. We have a few friends who have this phone in particular which is perfect for Coco because it is water and dust resistant.
Buying a prepaid sim card in Costa Rica is not difficult or expensive at all. You will have a Costa Rican phone number, internet (if you want) and are able to stay connected with your friends and family back home.
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