Will My Cell Phone Work in Costa Rica?
Staying Connected: Cell phone service in Costa Rica is more accessible and reliable than ever, so you can stay in touch while on vacation with your own smartphone.
Staying connected in Costa Rica with your cell phone is entirely doable. With mostly 4G coverage (5G in some locations), you can expect your non-Costa Rica smartphone to keep you connected. Depending on how you plan to use your smartphone, you can keep costs low.
Most major and many boutique hotels offer free Wi-Fi with a high-speed connection. Most of Costa Rica uses GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks. Making and receiving calls in Costa Rica should be no problem except in the mountains or the most remote areas.
Using Skype, Waze & WhatsApp while traveling in Costa Rica
These apps, as well as Facebook Messenger, are free to download and use for texting. In the case of Skype, you can also buy Skype Credit and use it for voice calls to any number at the rate of about $0.03 per minute.
WhatsApp allows free calls from within the app, as does Facebook Messenger. Log in on your hotel’s Wi-Fi and connect with anyone using the same app.
Waze is the most common navigation app in Costa Rica and highly useful when you’ve rented a car in Costa Rica and are driving around the country. It provides real-time road conditions and traffic information, as reported by other drivers.
Also, posting to Instagram and tweeting are no problem through Waze and WhatsApp.
Be sure to download your apps before leaving on your vacation for trouble-free installation.
Stay connected while in Costa Rica with an international plan
Sign up with your service provider before you leave home for an international plan. Depending on your provider, a flat daily or monthly charge will pair you with a Costa Rican provider. Usually, the plan provides for a set number of minutes and data per day. For example, Verizon has 2 international plans, a daily charge of $10/day for unlimited access or $70/month for more limited voice and data access.
Connect with a local Costa Rica SIM card
In the U.S., the law says that your service must unlock your phone on request. That’s important because you can buy a local SIM card once you arrive in Costa Rica. Local SIM cards usually come loaded with minutes, and you can purchase additional minutes separately.
Kölbi is the leading cell phone service company in Costa Rica, but there are others, including Claro, Movistar, and Tuyo. You can buy local SIM at cellphone stores and minutes at most convenience stores around the country. A Kölbi SIM card will expire if unused for several months.
If you want to reserve your cell phone for when you’re connected to the hotel’s internet, use a local phone the rest of the time. Poas Rental Cars offers its customers a local phone rental with their car rental. For $5/day, that includes unlimited voice and data for Costa Rica. The phone comes with the Waze app already installed.
Yes, your smartphone will help you stay connected in Costa Rica. How you connect depends on the level of convenience and what you’re prepared to pay for it.
Using Waze, WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook messenger while connected to your hotel’s internet is the best way to stay connected for free. If you want the confidence of being connected while out and about, driving in your Costa Rica rental car, international plans and local SIM cards may be the way to go. Regardless, you’ll want to share your adventures in paradise with the folks back home.