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Jul 19 2012

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Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Save on Telephone Service

Since our arrival on April 1, 2009, much has changed regarding telephones and telephone service in Costa Rica. In the last year, the market has opened up to competition and reception and service has improved dramatically. Much of what is available in the States is available here, although technically Costa Rica is about a year behind the U.S. As new phones roll out in the U.S. you can be sure that it will soon follow in Costa Rica.

My phone, a very popular Nokia 3G cost $140. I bought it because the reception was better than our 2G phone. I just talk & text on it and my average monthly bill is $16.

I have a plan that gives me 500 minutes and unlimited texting. If I had used other data services, my bill would be a little higher. My service is with Kolbi, through ICE, the Costa Rica government electric/phone/internet company. Three years ago, when I got my 2G phone, Kolbi was the only game in town. Now there are a couple of other choices: Movistar & Claro.

My wife, Gloria, on the other hand, doesn’t spend a lot of time talking on the phone and was given a nice telephone by our neighbors, Lorca and Robert. Because the phone was “unlocked,” she uses the new prepaid service through Kolbi. It costs her only $2-$4 per month, mostly speaking with me when I’m not around. This is a great option for new arrivals in Costa Rica because you don’t need to be a legal resident or have a corporation to buy a sim card, whereas to get a phone line, either a cell or land line, you do.

So, bring an “unlocked” cell phone to Costa Rica. You can get a used Blackberry on E-Bay for less than $30. The key word for your search is “unlocked.” And when you arrive in Costa Rica, get a “pay as you go” sim card. (See more below.) They will explain the plans and options to you at that time. For less than $10 in Costa Rica, you’ll be ready to go. My friend, Robert, brought down an unlocked phone and got a Sim card at the airport with all the services. His bill is about $10 per month, which includes telephone minutes and data (stock quotes, e-mail, Internet, etc.)

I use my cell phone a lot and we don’t have a landline. Land lines are available and some people have them. Sometimes, a land line is included when you buy or rent a house or apartment, and it is the property of the landlord. Otherwise, you would have to be a legal resident of Costa Rica to obtain a land line. It’s good to have a land line as reception is not an issue and the monthly fees are very inexpensive. However, most people just use cell phones. The use of land lines is diminishing as cell service improves.

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