Cell Phones Are Now Available to Foreign Tourists

Many of my customers ask me if their US cell phones will work in Costa Rica.  My answer is an unqualified “maybe”.  It depends on the carrier.  The government owned phone company finally has some competition, and the game seems to be changing weekly.  But even if your US phone does work, it will be expensive.

However, I recently found something pretty cool.  I was able to purchase a prepaid cell phone in the San Jose airport for twenty bucks, and it came with 300 minutes of local calls.  Actually, the phone was free and I just bought the time.

This is kind of a big deal.  Until lately, non residents were not allowed to own phones.  We were there in December 2011, and heard that this was now possible.  We spent half a day driving around Liberia, and couldn’t find anything.  But the San Jose airport kiosk was fairly new.

The phone is able to accept international calls.  This is really great for a tourist that needs to be available if there is an emergency at home.  It is lso handy if you get lost in your rental car.  You can call your hotel for directions.

I was able to take it a little further.  Since I spend so much time in Costa Rica, I have always needed a way to keep in touch with my office and family.

For several years, I have had an 800 number that can be forwarded to any phone in the world.  It is only nine cents a minute to Costa Rica from the US.  When we are at our house in Costa Rica, I forward the number there.  I also forward it to hotels I am staying at.  Anyone with the number knows the drill, and will ask for my room.

I also have a callback service.  I use my laptop to trigger a “callback” to whatever number I have available.  The phone rings, and I have a US line.  I can then call anywhere in the US for fifteen cents a minute.  This works great at my house, but it is a little tricky at a hotel.

So I set up both services to be used with my new cell phone.  It worked like a charm.  This last trip was a work trip.  I attended the annual travel convention, and spent a couple of days inspecting hotels.

My wife and assistant were able to call me on my 800 number whenever necessary, and I was able to call home without any issues.  I was travelling over Mother’s Day, and it sure came in handy.  These calling services cost almost nothing to set up, and you can do everything online.  But most folks probably won’t bother with that.

But these phones could be very useful.  So I just thought I would share!  It is also important to note that these are SIM card phones.  So you can use them while travelling in other countries.  You just need to buy a new card when you arrive in the country.

But even if you used it for only one trip to Costa Rica, I think the peace of mind is worth the small cost.