Buying A SIM Card in Costa Rica
Published: April 27, 2022
How do I find the nearest supermarket? Am I supposed to tip in Costa Rica? What’s the Spanish for that one word again? WhAt ArE tHe KaRdAsHiAnS Up tO?!?!! In the digital age, our phones have become a universal crutch, and getting on-grid is likely to be a priority for you when you arrive in Heredia. If you’re new to travelling internationally, hunting down a SIM card can be intimidating, and if you want a little more help figuring it out, you’re in the right place.
First, make sure your cell phone is unlocked before you leave home. Depending on the laws (and business practises) in your country, your phone might be “locked” in with your home service provider – sort that out with them before boarding a plane.
When you head to buy your Costa Rican SIM, you’ll also need to bring along your passport. Buying the SIM itself will cost just a few hundred colonas. You can then load cash onto the card in a prepaid (prepago) plan catered to your YouTube-binging needs.
Costa Rica has three main cell phone providers: Kolbi, Claro and Movistar. Costa Rica is a mountainous country, and if you stray from the urban areas (which you absolutely should!), you are likely to experience spotty service at some point. Ask any Tico which is best and you’ll probably get a different answer each time, but here is the general breakdown:
Kolbi is the government-operated telecommunications operator, and it generally has the most widespread service in Costa Rica. It is the most popular choice for Ticos, but depending on the area, the other companies might provide more reliable service.
Kolbi offers two main prepaid mobile internet plans:
Talk, text, and additional data boosters can also be purchased on an as-needed basis.
Movistar is considered to have slightly less extensive coverage, but still has a stable connection when in-service. Movistar also operates in other countries around Latin America, so it might be a better choice for you if you intend on travelling around and want to save yourself this same hassle in the next country (although additional roaming charges may apply).
Movistar mobile plans offer a lot of flexibility. Dozens of plans are available, but the most popular include:
Calling in CR
Unlimited Use for WhatsApp, FB, IG and Twitter:
Other plans and boosters are also available.
Claro has the reputation of having the least reliable service, although it is improving. Like Movistar, it also operates in multiple countries in the region, which could be a selling point depending on where you’re headed next.
Claro also has dozens of packages available, and offers the most international services. Here are some of the most noteworthy.
Additional Social Media Data + Unlimited WhatsApp
Additional plans or boosters are also available.
To purchase or recharge any of these SIMS, you can make a pit-stop at any of the dozens of shops that have the relevant sign hanging outside. Since the latest deals and promotions are always changing though, we recommend heading to the actual telecommunications store to buy the SIM itself – you may well get offered a better deal than is apparent on their websites.
If you want to shop around a little, head to Oxigeno Mall, where you can conveniently find storefront locations for all three brands.