Staying in Touch with Home

Staying in Touch with Home

We do not recommend bringing a laptop if you are on vacation. There is too much risk of it getting stolen, and you can check your e-mail at almost any hotel. Most towns have internet cafés.

If you have an iPhone or iPod touch with wireless capabilities, you can receive your email because most Costa Rican hotels have wireless hot spots.

If you download Skype before leaving home, you can use it on your wireless device to call other Skype users for free anywhere in the world, or to call regular phone numbers in North America for about $.02 per minute using Skype-out (www.skype.com). Do not show your wireless device in public.

Can I use my cell phone in Costa Rica?

Next to using Skype on your handheld wireless device (see above) the best way to make calls home while in Costa Rica is to buy a 197 or 199 calling card (tarjeta telefónica), which you can purchase at Costa Rican grocery stores, pharmacies, etc. The more expensive 199 cards have more minutes, but are not always available. You can use these cards with any pay phone or with the land line at your hotel. Just dial 197 or 199, punch in the number on the back of your card, and dial your number. To dial the US or Canada, dial 001, then the area code and number. 

If your cell phone company has a roaming agreement with Costa Rica, you can use your regular cell phone, but the minutes will be expensive. For instance, AT&T charges $2.29 per minute to make or receive calls in Costa Rica.

You can check messages on your cell phone or home phone by calling your number from a land line (with the above-mentioned Costa Rica calling card) and punching in the password that you use with your answering machine or service. Find out more about this from your cell phone or phone company. 

Because of Costa Rica's mountainous terrain, there is not always reliable cell phone reception. 

Unlocked cell phones: if you really want to use a cell phone in Costa Rica, you can bring an UNLOCKED cell phone with you, and buy a SIM card at the ICE (the national telecommunications company) booth in the baggage section of the San José airport. The unlocked cell phone you bring must be a quad-band GSM or 3G handset or at least have an 850 or 1800 mHz band. Most US phones use 950 mHz. Motorola and Sony Ericcson are brands that have models with the right bands.

At the airport ICE booth, you will pay $4 for a cell phone number and buy an inexpensive 30-day SIM card that will be inserted in your handset and will give you 60 minutes of calling time.

If you are on a plan with your US cell company, your cell phone is probably locked. Most cell phone companies will not unlock your phone for you, but you can ask. You must hire a technician to do this before you leave home. Sometimes the ICE booth has run out of numbers, and the number you buy will be the number of someone who forfeited their number for not paying their bill, so you might get a lot of wrong numbers.

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