Cell Phone in Costa Rica

New correspondent Lucy Culpepper, traveling with her family in Costa Rica, writes this morning:

“We had not done our homework and were surprised, and a little frustrated, to discover the effect of the Costa Rican government’s cell phone monopoly on the availability of phones in this country.

“When we arrived in Mexico, we bought a pay-as-you-go basic cell phone for US$25. When we arrived in Panama, we did the same. No problem.

“When we got to Costa Rica, we were told there were 4,000 people waiting in line for cell phones ahead of us! The country’s one provider (ICE) releases a given number of new lines a year, though obviously not enough to meet the demand.

“As a temporary/vacation visitor, the best (but most expensive) thing to do is to rent a phone. Some U.S. cell phones may work here, but you’d probably have high roaming fees.

“Many car rental companies include a cell phone with the car contract. Check to be sure the phone is fully functioning before driving off. We didn’t and had to go back to get a new one.

“If you’re not renting a car, look for rental companies online. Nearly all will deliver a phone to your hotel/B&B/house. Be careful to check the minimum call times per day, the daily rental charges, and the incoming/outgoing charges. You’ll also be required to leave a deposit, usually in cash.

“Negotiate! There are lots of cell phone rental companies operating in Costa Rica now.”

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