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Communication is very important for expats today. Why, without it, I think we’d have fewer expats. The ability to communicate with those back home via Skype, Vonage, or MagicJack is the big difference between expats of 20+ years ago and today. All three – Skype,Vonage, and MagicJack – can save you lots of money over traditional phone services. They’re especially useful when you are overseas since the reception quality is high and the cost is so low. You can try to use an international cell phone, but unfortunately, it may not work in Costa Rica. On our cell phone, we can receive international calls but not make them. And while not terribly expensive, international calls can run up a significant phone bill if used frequently. That’s why we recommend Skype, Vonage, or MagicJack.
As you can see from our RetireForLessInCostaRica business card, maintaining communication is very important to us. We even have our Skype name on the back. Most people communicate with us via email, but that is only one way to reach us. Skype is really good too, since you can see each other when talking if you each have a webcam. Almost everyone we know in Costa Rica has, and uses, Skype to reach loved ones back home and it’s cheap. Matter of fact, it’s free when you’re calling from computer to computer anywhere in the world, and less than 2 cents a minute when calling someone’s cell or home phone. Inexpensive monthly subscription plans are also available. And now, Skype allows you to have conference calls so the whole family can get in on the action. They are constantly upgrading their services and it’s easy to use Skype too. If you can’t download and set it up on your computer, just have a friend do it for you. We use the pay as you go plan, funding our “Skype Credit” with $10 at a time.
We also use Vonage which is my favorite, though most expensive option at about $27/month, including taxes and fees. We even got rid of our land line while still in the U.S. and switched over to Vonage. We’ve thought about getting rid of it and just using MagicJack, but the reception is so good we’ve decided to keep it. We were able to keep our old U.S. number in Baltimore, so family and friends can readily call us. Even though MagicJack Plus would be less expensive, we still prefer Vonage for its clear reception and excellent customer service. We still have a MagicJack that we keep as a backup. Someday, we may change over to MagicJack, or just go with Skype to save money, but for now, we’ll keep it as it is. This way, you can communicate with us however is easiest for you. Alas, all three depend on a good Internet connection. Luckily, we have had good-to-excellent Internet service in CR. Currently, we use a microwave antennae system. We have a straight shot, line-of-sight connection with our provider’s tower in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, 20 miles away. Our Internet service costs about $62 per month and represents our highest monthly utility bill.