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Prepaid ICE sim card in Costa Rica

Yesterday I bought a prepaid ICE sim card in Costa Rica. Last time I was in Costa Rica they didn’t exist. Then they were available, but very hard to find I read. I walked into a shop called abCelular in San Isidro, and after a bit of confusion, walked out with a 2500 colones sim. Yay. 🙂

They asked for an ID card. I offered my UK driving license. That was fine, except their computer would only accept numbers in the “identification document number” spot. So instead, I gave them my passport, where the document number is only digits. I probably could have pushed the issue with my driving license, maybe they would have just entered the numerical part or something, but the passport seemed easier, and I was in a hurry.

The transaction was painless. I showed no phone and they only looked at the photo page of my passport, but wouldn’t have seen it at all if I’d pushed the driving license. It seems that prepaid SIMS are finally available in Costa Rica… 🙂

Now if only I could get service inside my house…

Comments

Debbie at 2010-10-03 11:39:27

I'm ignorant here. Can you clarify what, "It is worth checking the 3g frequencies supported by the phone" means. We live in Golfito, I'm traveling to the states next week. Read that buying a phone in the states with the above attributes might be the way to go. What do you suggest? Any & all help is greatly appreciated.

daniel at 2010-07-29 18:45:58

wondering if i purchase a prepaid sim card from ice will i still be able to use all my data services ob my blackberry? bbm internet and e mail?

Callum at 2010-10-20 18:48:14

No proof of address is required.

Helen at 2010-10-20 19:06:29

Thanks Callum!

Rebecca at 2010-11-17 18:44:20

We will be moving to Costa Rica for 6 months and need the best quality, most convenient and cheapest phone service. Since I am technologically challenged, can you suggest the a phone I should purchase here in US, ie: GSM compatible 3G? And then would you suggest we buy sim cards when we arrive in CR? Our current phones are Verizon, and do not work on sim cards. Also, is texting to US free and are in-coming and out-going international calls expensive? Hopefully we will not be on the phone much and will just need it locally in CR for kids school, etc. Thanks so much for answering these 4 questions. It will be greatly appreciated.

Callum at 2010-06-28 17:39:04

Hmm. This doesn't make sense to me. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2G" title="2G on Wikipedia" rel="nofollow">2G</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3G" title="3G on Wikipedia" rel="nofollow">3G</a> are types of <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GSM" title="GSM on Wikipedia" rel="nofollow">GSM</a> service (2nd and 3rd generation respectively). As I understand it, all towers were 2G. Then came along 3G. Older towers might be upgraded, newer towers are probably built with 3G technology from the start. I can believe that some older sim cards are not capable of 3G connectivity. 2G and 3G usually operate on different frequencies, which will affect the quality of service. So it seems possible that an older sim card or older phone, only capable of 2G communication, might get a different quality of reception than a newer 3G sim or handset. My phone supports 3G and I'm 99% sure my new prepaid sim card does the same (I haven't verified this). I'd be very, very, very surprised if there was a difference between a brand new prepaid and post-paid sim card.

surfvoucher at 2010-06-28 16:54:29

How is the reception? As stupid as it may sound but all the different SIM cards in Costa Rica have different quality of reception.

Callum at 2010-06-28 17:07:18

Really? Are you sure? My phone only gets reception on the road above the house. The woman who lived here before us had a phone that worked in front of the house. I assumed it was a different type of phone that caused the better reception. Can it really be related to the sim card in use? I thought there was only one telecom network in Costa Rica. I assumed they all used the same towers, was that a wrong assumption?

surfvoucher at 2010-06-28 17:24:53

Yes there is only one service provider (ICE) but there are 3 different types of service, GSM, 3g and prepaid. GSM and 3G have different reception quality, GSM works decently in San Jose and not as well in Guanacaste, 3G has more problems in San Jose but a better reception in the rest of the country. I guess that prepaid works with the same GSM signal but I haven't tried it. The mobile you use might be the problem but there is a good chance that the antennas around where you live have an updated 3G infrastructure and probably an older GSM system. The same thing happens with the SIM cards, some were provided by Ericsson and others from Alcatel and depending on the SIM card you got you might have a better or worse reception depending on the area. It sounds stupid I know! But we are in Costa Rica and you can expect anything from government run services.

Callum at 2010-11-19 13:59:38

There's only one phone company in Costa Rica and I wouldn't describe it as "best quality" or "most convenient", but it can be accurately described as the "cheapest" given that it's the cheapest of 1 option. If you want to buy a phone in the US, get an unlocked 3g capable phone that supports the UMTS 850 frequency. Then get a sim card at the airport or in one of the shops around the country.

Callum at 2010-07-08 08:04:21

A friend just picked up an ICE sim card at the airport about 14 days ago, so I'd say yes, they're probably available. As for using the scratch card on the cell phone, I'm not sure, I haven't tested it myself. Somebody told me it does work, and doesn't cost any of the cell phone credit, but I haven't personally tested, so I can't be sure.

Callum at 2010-09-02 17:22:27

Personally, I don't know, I've never used it. I <em>think</em> that you can buy prepaid calling cards. To use those cards, you can dial 199 from a cell phone. I think what people are suggesting is that if you do that, it's free for the cell phone, but you pay for the calling card. It's not totally free. As far as I'm aware, there's no magic number that makes completely free calls in Costa Rica.

Bilgre at 2010-10-21 01:14:26

Can anyone tell me how to put more money on my ICE/Kolbi card? This is the second time I've had to recharge it. Last time, I went to Pali, paid 10000 colones, and they input the information into my phone for me (since I don't know enough Spanish to understand the menu options). This time, I tried doing the same thing, but my phone cannot even dial the 150 reactivation number. Each time we tried, the call failed. Is there another way I can put money on my phone without actually having to use my phone to do it? Thanks in advance.

Eoug at 2010-07-21 22:02:31

SIM car is available as you are running your bags through the scanner. you can also get them at any ICE branch however the airport is probably quicker. Just look for the line.

Eoug at 2010-07-21 22:03:53

Mine works great everywhere as long as I am within distance of an antenna. I haven't tried it from a zip line yet.

Eoug at 2010-07-21 22:05:36

You are correct. do it all the time. 199 works from a house phone also.

Callum at 2010-10-03 08:43:57

Bands and 3G are completely different. A quad band phone will work on 4 frequencies. It is worth checking the 3g frequencies supported by the phone though. Particularly if the phone was purchased outside of the Americas.

gastroenteritis at 2010-06-03 21:04:33

Does your cell phone do WiFi? Since you're already piggybacking on an AP somewhere in the near vicinity... My BB 8900 has WiFi which I have used for voice in a pinch, but at least with this particular phone, voice quality over WiFi blows! Least you've got online poker! What would a N./Central-American year-long road trip be without it? Does your phone have a camera by any chance?

Bilgre at 2010-10-22 15:54:44

It turns out it was a problem with the 3G system here in Costa Rica and the toll free number to dial to top up was not functioning for almost 2 days. Now it is working again. But, the English version of the systems does not work, and I was wondering if anyone could just list for the forum the correct sequence of buttons to press (menu numbers for top up and then when to enter the pin and clave). Thanks.

Edward Lauria at 2010-06-06 11:35:57

I have an I Phone (unlocked) and I understand I can get a sim card at the arrivals area of the airport SJO. I will be there this Friday the 11th of June. Any body know if this is correct and how much it will cost?

Callum at 2010-06-06 12:02:03

I'm not sure if the ICE kiosk at the airport has stock of the sim cards or not. See <a href="http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1803949" rel="nofollow">this thread</a> (more recent info is at the end) for more info on that. If you can't get one at the airport, I imagine you'll be able to find one elsewhere in Costa Rica.

surfvoucher at 2010-06-28 17:51:43

Expect surprises while in Costa Rica! How long have you been here? It was a common problem for people that had Alcatel SIM cards to have a worst reception than the ones with Ericsson SIMs, the exact same thing happens with 3g and GSM reception, most of the antennas outside San Jose are recent and "optimized" for 3G. Ask around and do your own tests if you don't believe, invite friends over with different mobile services and you'll see on your own. The mobile phone can be a problem but only as far as reception quality.

free number at 2010-10-08 23:29:13

Hi, I bought a prepago kolbi sim card at the airport 2 months ago, and the young man at the desk told me that the data service would not work with my blackberry (Tour 9630). He said that the data service works with every other phone, even Iphone. Anyway :-) , I have been trying like crazy to get my data working. I put the APN kolbi3g... and still nothing. Talk and text work great. May I inquire, what did your friend do to make data work? Thanks bunches, -t

Callum at 2011-01-18 15:56:48

I don't remember what data costs. Calls and text (especially texts) are pretty cheap, so I expect data is likewise. There are dedicated data sims, but I think they're harder to get, they require an account which requires a Costa Rican ID, and so on.

Helen at 2010-10-20 12:45:15

Hi there! Does anyone know if you need to be living in Costa Rica with a permanent address to buy an ICE Prepaid Sim card? I'm coming for a month's holiday only but will need to use my mobile. I've got an unlocked UK mobile quad band. Is passort ID all I need? Or do you have to prove your address? Thanks!

Willy Z at 2012-01-26 19:27:43

Do you know what Bands are used by ICE or Moviestar?? I am trying to bringing over a Samsung Galaxy Nexus but there are 2 different types that use a sim and I want to make sure which one will work.

Buccaneer Dan at 2010-09-02 18:07:05

After much research on cell phones in Costa Rica I found this information out that may be useful to others. GSM works on different frequencies in different countries. I was told "All you need is an unlocked 4band GSM phone and you are good to go." First that is not necessarily true. 2G GSM in Costa Rica runs at 1800MHz and 3G WCDMA at 850MHz. Which can be confusing because a lot of phones run 2G GSM at 850MHz (which does you no good in Costa Rica) and a lot of phone that are 3G like most HTC phones only run at 900MHz or 2100MHz and will not work on the Costa Rica 3G network. There is a small handful of phones that will run on both a SIM card for 3G @850 and can be swapped out with a Sim card that works on the 2G @1800 Network. I see lot of 3g phones for sale on Craig's list in Costa Rica that will run on the 2G, but not the 3G network there. I hope that helps the thread a little.

Callum at 2010-06-03 21:19:03

Right now my phone is a Nokia 1110. It has a phonebook that consists of names, numbers and icons. Alarms, settings, one or two ringtones, and that's about it! No wifi, no camera, I can barely read the black and white 3 screen for the scratches! I lost my Nokia E51 a while back and am about to buy a new Nokia E72, I think... :-)

Kevin M at 2010-09-26 18:48:08

Just found this post and I have a global MotoQ 9h that I carry with me when I travel. I changed the PROXY settings in the device to kolbi3g and the internet lit right up so if anyone else is having issues like this simply look for that in your connection or packet data settings and set it up with no user or pwd and you should also be good to go. Thanks for the posts everyone

Callum at 2012-01-27 18:21:39

According to <a href="http://www.gsmarena.com/network-bands.php3?sCountry=COSTA+RICA" title="GSM / UMTS band information for Costa Rica and other countries" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">this page</a> it's GSM 1800 and UMTS 850. I know I had to get an additional phone while I was there because many "quad band" phones were at the time only GSM quad band, not UMTS (3G) quad band, and in Costa Rica, there's UMTS reception in many places where there is not GSM reception. So I recommend a 3G phone that supports the UMTS 850 band. With the usual disclaimer that I know nothing, it's all on you, etc, etc. :-)

Nathan at 2011-12-04 00:12:44

Awesome, thank you. Do they speak english at the counter? I had trouble explaining data when I tried to get the same thing in Peru.

George Ernst at 2011-05-30 17:49:37

Got my SIM card at ICE office, no problem. Got the C10,000 package. At $.07/minute it will last a long time and you can recharge it by phone with a debit card (as long as you speak Spanish). Unfortunately it would not work with my 2G phone. The new Kolbi SIMs are 3G and 4G only, so I needed a new phone for C57,000 ($114). Works great no blank spots. ICE is dismantling 2G, so older cell phones will be paperweights

Callum at 2010-07-23 19:44:25

As I understand the technology, it's not possible for the maker of a SIM card to affect the service level. As I've dug into this further I understand there are 3 types of cell service available in Costa Rica, so in that regard you're correct. However, I think your labelling of the technologies is out of sync. I forget the name of the very old technology, the original type of cell phone, without a SIM card. Then there's 2G SIMs and phones and then 3G. My 2G phone does not get reception in my house, my 3G phone with the same SIM does get reception. It's about the frequencies supported by the phone, not about the type of SIM card. I can believe that some older phones might not support 3G. I can also believe that one manufacturer of SIM cards supported 3G and one did not, so people could perceive difference between the companies, but that's not an accurate view in my opinion. Through this whole thing I learned a lot more about 3G than I previously knew. Thanks for prompting this line of investigation. :-)

gastroenteritis at 2010-10-10 15:01:41

"It’s about the frequencies supported by the phone, not about the type of SIM card." This is correct. "kolbi3g" was a key for me (APN server name; as a proxy value?, I dunno...); "icecelular" had no effect/was invalid or outdated. Using a Blackberry 8900, with a pre-paid SIM I purchased at the airport in S.J. I think I bought a 5,000 colones credit, and was told I could, with ease, re-fill it via the ICE/Kolbi website with any credit card, though I never had to. I was never able to get voicemail working, which was annoying since you often lose your connection, and that would've been handy. I spent some time on the phone with a local friend as a translator, and the ICE rep claimed that for pre-paid SIMs, that, voicemail wouldn't work, and English menu prompts weren't available. None of which I actually believe, but after an hour of effort we had to give up. I was within blocks of the ICE HQ, so almost dropped in, in person, but I was on vacation and spending half a day troubleshooting voicemail in CR while using my own ("unsupported") phone, was going to be a lesson in futility. Also because, it's Tico-time, and it could've taken a full day or three. I never saw a local with a "smart phone," most use the cheapest one they can get, bottom-0f-the-line Nokia's. I also didn't test data service like Gmail or Opera (web-browsing) anywhere but in S.J., where it did work, but the same settings might not provide the same, desired result, when in the countryside where signals, freq's, and features may be limited. In other words, based on my perception of ICE, they may not have upgraded their network in the same way, everywhere. I think I also read, that of the Central American cell phone companies, from Mexico to Panama, ICE is the most hated, and for valid reasons. The problem is, that ICE is a corrupt monopoly with zero competition. Kolbi is supposed to help break that logjam open somewhat, but in the U.S. we have three major carriers, and they still manage to screw us all over as often as possible too, though at least fast data service usually works without these same kind of hair-pulling headaches. As a person who provides his income utilizing modern tech like reliable electricity and data connectivity (either cell or landline) that experience really dampened my interest in setting up shop there. Same arrangement with mail delivery. And no street signs, in the capital?... come-on! I don't know how any modern business can thrive, when candle-light and carrier pigeon are their only _reliable_ tools. You can't build a modern, competitive economy only by charging 100% import tariffs on electric coffee pots, and running tourist vans to the beach. Third, world. With very pretty forests and beaches. Glad I visited, but...

Callum at 2010-10-05 11:20:35

According to <a href="http://www.gsmarena.com/network-bands.php3?sCountry=COSTA+RICA" title="GSM frequencies per country on gsmarena.com" rel="nofollow">gsmarena.com</a>, Costa Rica works on the UMTS 850 band. Make sure any phone you buy supports that band.

Debbie at 2010-10-05 15:38:27

Callum, I think I've got it. Thank you, very. very much!!!

Callum at 2010-08-16 08:28:40

Glad it's working. I believe icecelular is the APN for a different type of account, probably a post-paid rather than pre-paid account I think.

Nathan at 2011-12-01 02:17:18

I will be going to CR for a week. I have a world phone (Motorola Photon) NETWORKS: - WiMAX 2500, CDMA 800/1900, WCDMA 850/1900/2100, GSM 850/900/1800/1900 I am assuming one of those bands will work. I am curious if you can get data as well as phone and text with a prepaid sim card?

Callum at 2010-08-14 10:21:07

Yes and yes. In the old fashioned phone analogy, the SIM card is the equivalent of the phone line that comes into your home, and the cell phone (in your case the iPhone 2g) is the equivalent of the physical phone. A physical phone is no use without a line to plug it into. The same for a cell phone without a SIM card.

Callum at 2011-02-18 17:51:08

Just to be clear, a typical "quad band" phone is a quad band 2G phone, not a quad band 3G phone. That's why I explicitly stated that the phone must support UMTS 850. It's not possible to have a phone that runs on that frequency but does not use a sim card. The phones that don't use SIM cards are CDMA I think, but they operate on a different frequency. UMTS 850 is the key thing in Costa Rica. :-) If you can put money on the Costa Rican sim online, that might be enough to keep it alive. But, the sim might still deactivate if it's not logged onto the network, so if the phone is not in service range. I'm not sure.

Callum at 2011-12-04 00:14:18

Not sure on the English front, in the airport maybe, I haven't been there though. As I understand it, there's no need to request anything special for data, you'll just need the settings (APN primarily) which you can find online (maybe on here, I'm not sure what info has been posted).

gastroenteritis at 2010-10-10 15:27:00

"at the airport 2 months ago, and the young man at the desk told me that the data service would not work with my blackberry (Tour 9630)" That kid was golden, for me. Helped me narrow-down an outgoing call problem I had on my BB 8900, by swapping out the new SIM into his own phone. He also told me that data service wouldn't work, but he could be either misinformed, or... that was late June '10, so ICE could've tightened things up since then. Cell phone co's around the world are moronic in this sense, since if they just openly published the in's and out's, we wouldn't be hammering their network and support staff with attempted efforts. Hello!, we have the interwebs, we're going to be sharing every single detail in collaboration... (You cannot hide your number for outgoing calls - ICE simply doesn't allow use of that setting, and I uncovered this solution the next day, on my own. I had set my phone to do so by default, unless overridden selectively for chosen numbers.) Data service did work for me, but the service could be intermittent, or... ICE could've just decided to disable it for prepaid or other service levels, on a whim. Given my experience with ICE, I'd imagine once the third tourist arrives and checks Gmail via data service, their entire network collapses and the cell towers catch on fire.

Callum at 2010-07-31 12:09:58

Yes, I believe you can, but you need to change some settings I think. A friend got his blackberry mostly working a day or two before he left. :-)

Ingmar Zahorsky at 2010-08-15 17:39:01

Thanks this is indeed correct and working :-) All I kept finding in my searches was icecelular for the APN which is not working. Your blog is the easiest to find so I am sure other users will thank you for the answer soon.

Rob at 2010-10-30 00:46:15

the 150 number works fine now....at the opening menu, hit 4 to change the language permanently ... press 2 for English, press 1 to confirm. Then 1 to charge the phone from a purchased card, 2 to check your balance &amp; expiry, then 3 if you want to transfer money to another phone number

Debbie at 2010-10-02 09:38:54

Help. Just read an article in ARCR magazine stating the arthor just purchased a 4 band phone in the states &amp; put is ICE sim card &amp; it works. I'm reading here that here that you can only buy 3G sim cards from ICE. Will a 3G sim work in a 4 band phone?

Namloh Drareg at 2012-02-15 05:34:38

You can keep you ICE celluar number active by going to this website www.masterpago.com/productos/indexprepago.aspx and then going to the Recarga Automatica option. You don't have to be in Costa Rica to use this service.

Dan S. at 2012-02-27 14:35:22

Thanks very much. Dan

Bob Gieser at 2011-02-18 17:24:03

All the questions and comments are great. I am scanning the q&amp;a and noting important info-thanks to everyone. One thing I have found is that a lot of Verizon phones working on GSM/CDMA in USA do not have a sim card. So getting a phone on 850, like previously stated, and trying to put a sim card when they get here, might not work. Some people have simply stated (on other sites-The Real Costa Rica Blog) get a quad band phone with sim, and replace the SIM with Costa Rica ICE SIM. This is what I am doing. SOME USA Wal-Mart's even has a quad band phone (Nokia C3) with pre-paid sim for use in USA. ($59.99). No wifi but it appears that it will work if you get the unlock code since it appears it will work only on carrier intended for in USA. You can google and get code to unlock specific model phone anywhere from $1.99 to $30.00. For SKYPE users, www.IPEVO.com has a phone called the SO-20 skype reconditioned phonee for $48.00. Find a wifi internet cafe where you don't need code to sign on or a hot spot and skype away for free. [Editor: Second comment, merged in:] If you can recharge your minutes on the internet for the Costa Rica prepaid sim, what is keeping a person from putting on a minimum amount monthly to keep the number active when not in use and back in the USA??

Callum at 2010-10-22 12:52:56

I was able to top up at any shop with a kolbi sign outside. I gave them the phone number and they put the credit directly onto my phone. If you're unable to dial the top up number, I think there might be some other problem with your phone.

Heath at 2010-08-13 10:31:58

Sorry, I'm a little new to this business, but when you have a pre-paid SIM, do you have a phone number that people can call? Also, I've unlocked my iPhone 2g; can I use this with a pre-paid SIM?

SimplyL at 2010-09-18 08:58:56

I've been using a pre-paid (prepago) cell phone bought at a Cellular Alex store in San Isidro (Perez Zeledon) 2 months ago. It works great all over CR where there is a signal. I bought the cheapest newer version phone available and it's not 3G that only matters in a few remote locations where the more expensive 3G phones internal antenae and software settings help with catching weaker signals. I walked in showed my passport, paid the 30,000 colones for the physical phone and another 5,000 for the actual SIM card and service line-phone number (my estimate for 1 month of talk and texting time, which is sufficient tho less than the average Tico uses). As with most pre-paid services you need to keep your minutes paid up to keep using the same number, if you let the balance fall below 0 - or wait too long (more than 2 months) you are assigned a new phone number. Okay - now the only SIM cards being sold now are 3G - and - for all you computer users we can now use these same cards in the data-card available (buy from the International Corner at the Feria in San Isidro-Perez Zeledon for 60,000 colones - Ilena is available Thursdays (Organic day) and Friday morning).... whoohoo prepaid mobile internet. Remember pre-paid gives you some freedom, you don't have to fill out a bunch of forms or tell someone where you work or don't work, or show a bank account .... and finally in Costa Rica!

Marshall at 2010-08-31 00:31:24

can you tell me about this 199 deal?? do I dial 199 then the area code in the states and it's free? So i dial 199 916-555-5555 and it will be free and work??? Please let me know....Thanks

Heath at 2010-08-14 16:37:12

Thanks!

Callum at 2010-08-15 16:08:07

Google will turn up the answer pretty fast. I believe the APN is kolbi3g and the username/password can be blank.

Ingmar Zahorsky at 2010-08-15 15:47:42

This was an informative thread on understanding the different options available in Costa Rica. I just purchased my ICE prepaid card at the Banco Nacional in the Escazu Multiplaza Mal. The 3G icon turns on in my I-Phone but I have not been able to find the correct Cellular Data access information: APN, Username, Password. Do you have any information regarding this?

jay friedman at 2010-07-07 11:33:35

you guys seem to know your stuff. can anyone confirm if they are selling the 2500 colones 3g sim cards at the airport gate 7? i was told that if you had an unlocked 3g phone you could buy the 3g sim card for 2500 colones; then armed with the scratch off ICE cards you could call the USA from your cell phone dialing "199" from your cell phone instead of a pay phone like the old days. any thoughts out there? thanks. jay

jay friedman at 2010-07-08 08:06:32

and i assume the card he got at gate 7 sjo was a 3g card?

Callum at 2010-07-08 08:15:28

I think all the prepaid sim cards are 3g. I think all this stuff about different sim cards offering different reception quality is confusion.

Christian at 2011-01-17 02:28:16

Hi! I will be traveling to Costa Rica for two weeks next June. I have an unlocked iPhone 4 which supports the UMTS 3G 850 frequency. I'm more interested in data/GPS functionality than talking. If I buy the pre-paid 2500 colones sim and activate data with the kolbi3g APN, how is data priced? Per/kb automatically deducted from my prepaid credit? Is there any other way to get prepaid data? I expect to use around 1GB total over the air. (hopefully my hotels have wifi). I'm avoiding taking my laptop.

Marlin at 2010-12-03 15:29:06

You can purchase in San Jose/CR the international GSM SIM cards with free inbound calls and SMS in Costa Rica, have a look here http://ex4u.org/yes_one_sim.php and send them an email. Works great and for international outgoing calls much cheaper than the local SIM cards. Comes with a UK number and you can add additional country numbers to it.

Callum at 2011-01-28 13:16:24

I don't know. If you know somebody trustworthy in Costa Rica you could give them the cash to top up the phone every 3 months. Otherwise, I'd guess your number will have expired after 9 months, but I'm not sure.

Valdiosa at 2011-02-21 01:12:27

I bought a prepaid ICE/Kolbi sims card at the San Jose airport last week for $5. and it works great in my unlocked phone. In some areas of travel it is intermitent depending if there's like a volcano between you and the tower or you are farrrr off the beaten track. Also found many places to get scratch off prepaid minuet cards. Now my only problem is I don;t understand the options when calling ICE and can;t find an email on their website to ask anyone. The 150 # has never worked for me this week. The 1150 does but there's no option for english. ANyone have a clue about this? Also trying to find out how much it cost to call the us and india with this sims. Ziplines are the best place since you're higher up near the tower! Val

Callum at 2012-03-28 18:14:14

That's in line with my understanding. I believe all recent sim cards in Costa Rica are both GSM and UMTS capable. I'm not sure why Costa Rica has different coverage for 2G vs 3G, whether they're separate towers or just a matter of frequency. I do know that there was only patchy 3G coverage where we lived, and no 2G at all. I wasn't aware that UMTS was an upgrade for GSM, I understood GSM to be an umbrella term referring to all 3 (or 4) generations, so thanks for clarifying that and adding to the dialogue. :-)

Benedict at 2012-03-28 16:08:24

Callum, this is not quite right. 2G is how we now refer to original GSM. 3G is based on a different technology called UMTS which can co-exist with GSM but uses a different radio frequency. 2G cell towers cannot be upgraded to 3G but in practice, 3G technology is generally added to the existing towers so users can receive both services. UMTS also requires an updated SIM card; the operator decides whether this should support 3G only or mixed 2G/3G. My Kolbi card (purchased March 2012) certainly supports 2G as well as 3G but even having travelled extensively in the mountains I rarely see it. In Costa Rica, 3G service is delivered on the unusual low frequency of 850MHz which gives it greater range; hence the better 3G service reported by many users. From other users' comments, ICE may also have started rolling out 3G-only towers.

Bill Maes at 2012-01-22 19:05:05

Complete conversation with Grupoice online chat: Por favor espere. Un operador estará con usted en breve. Espere en linea por favor... Cecilia Cordero dice: Bienvenido Bill Maes al Servicio de Chat ICE, mi nombre es Cecilia Cordero, en que le puedo ayudar? Bill Maes dice: ¿Dónde puedo comprar tarjetas SIM de prepago? Bill Maes dice: I will travel to Costa Rica in February. Cecilia Cordero dice: There`s lots of places where you can buy a prepaid card Cecilia Cordero dice: In a ICE agency or in the stores that sells Cecilia Cordero dice: prepaid lines Bill Maes dice: Are these businesses the places to buy? http://www.grupoice.com/wps/portal/kolbi_prepago_recargas_Puntos_de_venta_y_lugares_de_recarga Bill Maes dice: Or they just recharge? Bill Maes dice: Is there a list on Grupoice website of stores that sell? Cecilia Cordero dice: Yes, the puntos de venta that`s right Cecilia Cordero dice: No they also buy recharge lines Cecilia Cordero dice: No in this moment we don`t have a complete list, every day we have new stores Cecilia Cordero dice: In this link you can see that they sell and make recharge Cecilia Cordero dice: http://www.grupoice.com/wps/portal/kolbi_prepago_recargas_Puntos_de_venta_y_lugares_de_recarga Cecilia Cordero dice: http://www.grupoice.com/wps/portal/kolbi_prepago_recargas_Puntos_de_venta_y_lugares_de_recarga Bill Maes dice: 2G and 3G SIM cards available? Cecilia Cordero dice: Almost all the prepaid are 3G Cecilia Cordero dice: in this momentç Bill Maes dice: SIM cards are not in short supply? Bill Maes dice: Plenty of SIM cards available? Bill Maes dice: Thanks you for your patient assistance. Cecilia Cordero dice: You`re welcome Cecilia Cordero dice: We don`t have short Cecilia Cordero dice: supplies Cecilia Cordero dice: We have plenty of lines there`s no problem Bill Maes dice: Thank you. You have been so helpful. Cecilia Cordero dice: You`re welcome Cecilia Cordero dice: If you have another question Cecilia Cordero dice: I can help you Bill Maes dice: No, Thanks for asking. Cecilia Cordero dice: Ok thanks for using the ICE service Cecilia Cordero dice: Have a good day Bill Maes dice: You, also. Cecilia Cordero dice: Thanks!

Bill Maes at 2012-01-22 18:00:05

More great information. There are a tremendous of resellers and recharge businesses, separated by regions. This is the best information I have found on the Grupoice website. http://www.grupoice.com/wps/portal/kolbi_prepago_recargas_Puntos_de_venta_y_lugares_de_recarga I am very happy I started translating with Google.

Callum at 2011-05-10 22:51:39

In my experience, international texting is almost always cheaper than calling. I believe that inside Costa Rica, texts are 1c, which is 0.2 USD cents per text. That's the cheapest rate I've ever seen, it's practically free!

Mari at 2011-05-10 22:38:11

Hello, I am currently in Costa Rica and using a prepaid sim I got at the airport. I read that outgoing calls to the US are approximately $.30/minute, but have been unable to find out what an outgoing text message costs. Does anyone know? I want to make sure I get the most out of my card by using the cheapest route (i.e. if texts are cheap, I'll primarily text!). Thanks in advance. Mari

Megan at 2011-01-27 18:01:16

Thank you for all the great information. I spend 3+ months a year in Costa Rica doing research and it will be nice to have cell phone access. My questions is about the credit and number expiring. I will use the phone regularly over the 3-5 months, but will then not use it for 9 months. Do you know if I will have to get a new SIM with a new number each year? Or can I just recharge it the next year (I can do this in Panama unless I forget the PIN code)? Also I have seen conflicting accounts that the minutes expire every 30 (or 60) days (no mater if there was use in those 30 days) and that the phone number will expire after 2 months of inactivity? Any clarification on these issues would be a great help. Thank you in advance.

Dan S. at 2012-02-27 03:04:43

I have a quad band 2G Motorola Razr. Will a 3g SIM card work in it? From other comments, it appears that perhaps that my reception might not be as good, in some areas, as a 3G phone. Is that correct? I have ordered a pre-paid SIM card from: Costa Rica Cellular Connection. THANKS

Callum at 2012-02-27 10:18:16

To the best of my knowledge, the sim card will work fine. Where I lived near San Isidro, there simply was no 2G coverage, but patchy 3G signal, so you will definitely find less areas of service if you're using a 2G only device.

Anna at 2010-12-30 19:12:33

I am a bit confused after reading SimplyL's post. Do you mean that a 3G sim card will work on a phone that does not support 3G? Or is the card you bought two months earlier 2G? I have a Sony Ericsson t303 which does not support 3G. Will a 3g sim card still work with a lesser signal or won't work at all?

michelle at 2011-03-06 15:54:21

I have a Nokia 1661 from 2009 or 2010. will it work with one of the prepaid sim cards? If not, do you have any suggestions as to a cheap US phone that would be best to purchase and bring with me? I am leaving in one week (March 13th) Thanks! :-)

Brian at 2011-10-29 20:25:18

Once you have ICE phone in Costa Rica, can you purchase minutes on the internet or is it better to just buy it at local tienda providers?

george at 2012-03-13 14:01:41

Thanks for the response. Love &amp; joy too!

ChuckM at 2011-12-06 21:53:11

When I was there in January, I could not find anything. At the time, the airport was very sparse for arrivals in terms of access to services. On the return flight, it was similar, simple snack counters and duty free shop once inside.

Callum at 2011-12-02 14:13:04

Yes you can.

Marcel at 2011-06-21 00:04:27

Hi! I'm going to be in Costa Rica for three month, beginning next week. In order to stay in contact with family and friends at home I'm thinking of a new 3G Mobile phone, as well as a Kölbi 3G Sim card, to gain some access to the Internet via UMTS. Is it possible to get some of these Sim cards? And will it have a phone number, so people from home may call it with Skype or something like that, whereas I will be able to access things like Mails or Facebook with the phone? I thought about the Kölbi 1Gb plan ... will the connection just shut down, as soon as i reach the limit? Thank you!

Valdiosa at 2011-03-28 23:17:44

my LG gd580 phone i bought in india works in costa rica with kolbi/ice (also works in india, uk, usa). Did not work in Panama. I bought a sims in panama and it wouldn;t work, then when i crossed back over the border my kolbi/ice won't work now. durn. i set it at UMTS but still doen;t work. think the guy at the border changed the settings when trying the new panama sim card and now i'm stuck. SO just a warning when you cross the border, if you get a panama sims card, pay attention to what the guy does to change your phone settings. lol

Gina at 2011-06-03 02:42:25

I am going to guanacaste and I'm totally confused about cell phone usage in CR. Can I purchase the sim card @ the Liberia airport. What phone do you suggest I purchase in the US? Thanks

Chris at 2011-06-12 19:53:48

After some work, I got my Droid 2 Global ( a US Verizon CDMA phone) working with the prepaid ICE Kolbi SIM card I purchased from the lady in the luggage area in the San Jose airport. She told me that text messages to the US cost 17 cents. I have not figured out how to get data working yet with this phone, but am using wifi to get my email working.

Cassandra at 2012-01-22 23:38:32

I have a kolbi sim card in a d-link 3g wireless stick on a mac but I can't get the darn thing to work! The account is through my CR host family here and is all paid up, it was used by the previous person in my position but now we can't get it to work. Any ideas?

Karen at 2012-01-23 05:38:51

I am taking my IPad and downloaded Textfree app from Pinger that allows for free texting and incoming calls with local US number so family from home can stay on touch. So if you have WiFi, you're good to go.

Karen at 2012-01-23 05:42:22

I looked into this site: http://ex4u.org/yes_one_sim.php As mentioned by another post, but they charge an EXTRA .46 cents per minute for calls to US so avoid that SIM card.

Callum at 2011-11-02 18:01:13

I think there might be a way to purchase minutes online, but I've never used it and I left Costa Rica about 12 months ago. Maybe somebody else will know and might reply here. I believe if it's possible it will only be in Spanish.

Bill Maes at 2012-01-21 01:11:38

Using the cell phone with a pre-paid Costa Rican calling card, obtainable almost anywhere. There are three different calling cards in Costa Rica. These are the 199, 198 and the 197. With the 197 pre-paid calling card, the language used is English, while the other two are Spanish responses. There is a scratch off on the cards that reveal a PIN code. When you dial 197, you will be asked to enter the PIN. Next you will hear a response as to the amount of money in Colones left on the card. Next you will be asked to enter the number you want to call, as in the USA: 001-303-555-1212. Next you will hear a calculation as to the time left on the card with this connection diald.

Bill Maes at 2012-01-21 05:05:22

With regards to what can be accomplished with a Kolbi/ICE SIM Card: Outgoing calls: Local calls (7AM -10PM) US$ 0.07/min Local calls (10PM – 7AM + weekend) US$ 0.05/min International calls (group A) See list at the bottom US$ 0.26/min International calls (group B) US$ 0.44/min International calls (group C1) US$ 0.32/min International calls (group C2) US$ 0.32/min International calls (group D) US$ 0.54/min SMS : Sending SMS within Costa Rica US$0.01-$0.02 Sending SMS International US$0.17 Voorbeelden: Calls to the UK US$ 0.54/min Calls to the USA US$ 0.26/min •Group A: USA, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Hawai, Alaska, Virgin Islands •Group B: South America, Caribean (except Cuba), South Korea, Taiwan and Japan •Group C1: Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Belice and Panama •Group C2: Nicaragua •Group D: Europe, Singapore, Thailand, Australia en New Zealand

Callum at 2012-03-13 13:30:36

Dude, this is my personal web site. I have no idea how much data costs in CR, I'm not there, I was there 2 years ago and I didn't use it then. So please stop apologising for bugging me and just stop bugging me. Somebody else might answer you here, I don't know, or try the ICE web site, or ask when you get there.

Callum at 2012-01-21 16:04:02

Awesome, thanks for sharing such detailed and useful info.

Tica-to-be at 2011-11-03 07:59:28

Do you know if SIM cards are available in Liberia? Perhaps in the airport? I have a blackberry, I'm wondering if I can buy a SIM card there and use a pre-paid service for a month that I will be there. Thanks in advance for any ligth.

Terri at 2011-10-07 03:23:57

Can anyone tell me the how I keep my cell phone active from Costa Rica? it is Kolbi and I travel back and forth every few months. I have been getting new sim cards each time but would like to keep the same number. Can I go to a website and just pay every month to keep it active? Thank you!

Ry at 2012-03-15 15:38:52

Hi, I just arrived in CR yesterday and I would like to have a solution to use my Blackberry Bold with a costarican sim card. Does anyone can advise me which provider to choose to have access to my mails on my device. And also to use BBMensenger? Thank's a lot. Ry

krisbenn at 2011-11-06 01:03:53

i am also curious if you can get the SIM cards in Liberia as we will be flying in/out of that airport. Thank you!

george at 2012-03-12 11:19:25

Hi Callum, Thanks for your useful post. Going to San Ramon soon. What are the data charges on prepaid ICE cards? Thanks - gg

Bill Maes at 2012-02-25 05:08:59

18 February 2012 - I used a 3G SIM Card in an unlocked 2G phone with no problem, also in an unlocked 3G phone. - ICE Kolbi PrePaid (Prepago) SIM Cards are available in front of Gate 5 and Luggage Claim Carousel 1. Just ask for a card and don’t forget the SIM Unlock Code on the card the SIM is attached. - Many places in the country offer the recharging of prepaid card, but it is difficult to find a prepaid card. - To change to English after buying your SIM card, dial 1150 and press talk, enter the number 4 to change, then 2 to change to English, then 1 to confirm. - Text 1150 to get your account balance sent to you. - Dial 1150 to recharge, get account balance or transfer your balance to another ICE Kolbi Prepago SIM Card. - Soon, there will be a glass wall that will segerate the arriving passengers from the departing passengers, so the Gate 5 ICE Kolbi desk may not be available and you will then have to purchase from the kiosk at the end of Carousel 1 of baggage claim.

Jade at 2012-07-25 17:14:58

oh, one more thing i just thought about. i do have 1 day in san jose when i go in and 1 when i go out (total of 2 days in san jose) that i am planing to roam around. i guess it would be nice to have a phone then also. i wont have the courtesy phone in san jose.

Jade at 2012-07-25 16:45:10

Sim Card vs Prepaid Phone card. I would be provided a local phone for emergencies by my host where i am staying. a remote area in sierpe. given this scenario, what do you think the best thing and economical thing to do is. i plan to use my phone very very little, but have an important call that i have to make on a particular day while i am visiting. given that i am borrowing a local phone, even if i use a calling card for my international calls, would it still count against the owner's minutes, or bill or whatever :)? i have an unlocked motorola older phone that i use with sim cards all over the place (europe, asia africa etc...). i was planing to bring that and get a sim card at the air port as someone suggested. thank you for that by the way the guy who posted because for the life of me i could NOT get anyone to say how much they were lol. it looks like $20 sim card might be overkill if it gives ..07 per minute. so i ask, in your opinion, and knowing the remote area i am going to, which would be more feasible? thank you for your time and this very informative thread!