Getting a Prepaid Cell Phone
At the start of 2010, ICE (Costa Rica’s Electricity Institute) rolled out the nation’s first prepaid cell phone service. Dubbed Kolbi Prepago, the service allows users to control their consumption of cell minutes and, best of all, non-residents and tourists are now able to purchase prepaid SIM chips for their GSM and 3G cell phones.
The prepaid service offers both national and international SIM chips in several denominations: local service can be purchased for 2,500 CRC ($5), 5,000 CRC ($10) or 10,000 CRC ($20), while an international chip to call the United States runs 11,400 CRC ($23). Within Costa Rica, daytime minutes cost 7 cents and nighttime minutes run 5 and a half cents. All Kolbi prepaid plans include voicemail, text messaging, call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID, and 911 service. Multimedia messaging (MMS) is an additional subscription service. Additionally, 3G Internet may be added to any prepaid plan for 12,000 CRC ($24) per month.
Steps to Obtain Your Prepaid Service:
- Request prepaid service by calling 115 or 193. Alternately, you may request service in person at any authorized ICE Telecommunications Agency.
- Purchase an ICE-supported (“homologado”) cell phone. Both GSM and 3G phones will work, but TDMA technology will not.
- Once you have your prepaid service request number and cell phone, head to your nearest ICE Telecommunications Agency. If you forget your request number, dial 145 to confirm.
- If you are a tourist, simply present your passport (must have a current entrance stamp) and two copies of your photo and Immigration stamp pages. If you are a legal resident, take your cedula de residencia, as well as proof of residence (an electricity bill, for example). At the time of application, you may not be delinquent on any current ICE accounts. For more information, call 800-PREPAGO.
- You must choose between the three Kolbi national plans or international plans. For reference, the 2,500 CRC plan purchases 73.5 daytime minutes: 5,000 CRC earns 147 daytime minutes; and 10,000 CRC buys 294 daytime minutes.
Purchases less than 2,499 CRC expire in 30 days; more than this amount earns a 60 day window. Dial 150, Option 2 at any time to consult your balance and minutes expiration date.
When it’s time to recharge your minutes, you’ll have two options: automatic payments or purchase additional minutes at authorized dealers. Automatic recharge is available at any authorized sales office, for example certain Servimas centers located in supermarkets and other commercial points. Recharge amounts begin at 50 CRC and minutes are credited immediately. The other option is to purchase scratch cards or electronic pins, which include a pin and password and are available at authorized dealers. Once you have obtained your pin and password, dial 150, choose option 1, and input your information to recharge your prepaid plan.
If your minutes run out before the expiration period, you will still be able to receive text messages and phone calls. However, if you do not purchase additional minutes within five days after expiration, you will lose your prepaid plan. If you want to restart prepaid service in the future, you’ll be required to begin again at Step 1 and would be assigned a new number.