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Cell Phone Savvy: How to Use A Cell

Walk down any street in Costa Rica, and you'll see people chatting on their cell phones, texting friends, or surfing the Internet with a 3G connection. Cell phones are convenient, mostly reliable, and inexpensive, and you'll probably use one everyday.

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The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) ended Costa Rica's government telecommunications monopoly. However, as of mid-2010, the country is still waiting on international companies to enter the market. For the moment, GSM and 3G cell phone services are available through ICE, the national telecommunications company. TDMA service is still supported, though new lines are not sold; ICE reports that TDMA service will cease in 2011.

GSM cell phone service begins at 2,900 Costa Rican colones (approximately $5.60) per month; the price includes sales tax and 60 minutes of outgoing calls. 3G service, marketed under the Kolbi brand, begins at 3,277 Costa Rican colones (about $6.35) monthly; this price includes 60 minutes of outgoing calls, 30 text messages, and sales tax. The executive 3G plan costs 33,858 Costa Rican colones (approximately $65.75) and includes 1000 minutes of outgoing calls, 500 text messages, 30 multimedia messages (MMS), unlimited mobile internet, and sales tax. All lines require a deposit of 12,500 Costa Rican colones (about $24.25). You may pay your cell phone bill online (requires online banking with a national bank), at many Servimas locations within supermarkets, or at your local ICE office.

Voicemail, caller identification (caller ID), call waiting, and call forwarding are free services. They come standard with your cell phone and do not need to be activated.

Voicemail: To access messages and your phone's personal settings, dial 1190. Input your password (default: 1234) followed by the pound sign (#). From this menu, you can review voice messages and personalize your cell phone's greeting, password and services. If you prefer the system language to be English, dial your voicemail (190), and follow the prompts to change your language settings: Change personal settings (option 3) > Change language (option 7) > English (option 2).

1 - Listen to voicemail messages
2 - Send a voicemail message
3 - Change personal settings
0 - Tutorial
* - End call

Listen to a voicemail: After listening to a voicemail, press 1 to skip to the previous message, press 2 to repeat, 3 to delete, 4 to save, or 5 to skip to the next message. You may be asked to confirm deletion by pressing 3 a second time.

Send a voicemail: A way to send voicemails (memos) to yourself or other phones without dialing a phone number. After choosing option 2, record your message, press any key, and then follow the directions (1 to accept, 2 to review, 3 to re-rerecord, 4 to add, 5 for sending options, * to delete). After accepting your message (option 1), key in the destination phone number and hit the pound sign (#). Press 1 to confirm the phone number. Your message has been sent.

Change personal settings: This option allows you to change notifications (1), security options (2), change message (3), change review options (5), change language (7), tutorial (0), or previous menu (*).

End call: This option will disconnect you from voicemail and personal options.

Caller ID: Caller ID is an automatic service; all you need is a cell phone that can display an incoming number. Today's GSM and 3G phones all support call waiting display.

Call Waiting: When you are talking on the phone and a second call comes in, you will hear a beep. On a cell phone, simply press "accept,' the green call button, or the menu button indicated on your cell screen to accept the call. Note: On a land line, you must hit flash + 2 to switch between your current call and the waiting call.

Call Forwarding: To set call forwarding from your cell phone to another number, on your cell phone, dial *21*Phone Number to Forward to# and then hit send. You may hear a beep or see a display message to confirm the call forward. To remove call forwarding, dial #21# and press send. You may hear a beep or see a display message to confirm that call forwarding has been turned off.

To help you use your phone efficiently, we've compiled this list of shortcut codes and useful phone numbers:

Cell Phone Access Codes:

1115 - Customer Service
1119 - Technical Support
1187 - Check your Cell Phone Bill
1190 - Voicemail (Access to voicemail on the phone that you're calling from)
1191 + Number to consult - Voicemail (Access to voicemail from a phone different from the one you're using)
1193 - Report a Lost or Stolen Phone

Useful Phone Numbers:

911 - Emergency
1110 - Local Collect Calls
1112 - Time of Day Confirmation
1113 - Directory Assistance
1116 - International Collect Calls
1117 - Non-Emergency Police
1118 - Fire Department & Paramedics
1028 - Ambulance
1192 - National Parks Information

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