Telephones and Fax
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Costa Rica has an efficient direct-dial telephone system. In 2009, ICE (the Costa Rica Electricity Institute) lost its monopoly, although it still operates the public phone network.
Public phone booths are found throughout the nation. In more remote spots, the public phone is usually at the village pulpería, or store. Most public phone booths now use phone cards, not coins. With phone cards, the cost of your call is automatically deducted from the value of the card. You buy them at ICE telephone agencies, banks, calling card vending machines, and stores (look for the blue-on-gold Tarjetas Telefónicas sign). CHIP cards (1,000 and 2,000 colones) can be used in a few public phones by inserting one in the slot and following the English-language instructions. Viajero 199 cards (3,000 to 10,000 colones) are for touch-tone phones; dial 199, then 2 for instructions in English; then dial the card number, then 00, the country code, area code, and telephone number. Colibrí 197 cards (500 and 1,000 colones) are for in-country calls only. With 199 and 197 cards, you enter the code on the back of the card. Public phones marked Multipago accept all three cards.
Local telephone calls within Costa Rica cost 4.10 colones per minute Monday–Friday and 2 colones Saturday–Sunday, regardless of distance. Calls from your hotel room are considerably more expensive (and the more expensive the hotel, the more they jack up the fee). There are no area or city codes; simply dial the eight-digit number.
The Costa Rica country code is 506. When calling Costa Rica from North America, dial 011 (the international dial code), then 506, followed by the eight-digit local number. For outbound calls from Costa Rica, dial 00, then the country code and local number. For an English-speaking international operator, dial 116, also used to make collect calls (reverse the charges) or to charge to a credit card. Hotel operators can also connect you, although charges for calling from hotels are high. The easiest and least costly way to make direct calls is to bill to your credit card or phone card by calling one of the calling assistance operators.
You can direct dial to U.S. operators via AT&T (tel. 0800/011-4114), MCI (tel. 162 or 0800/012-2222), Sprint (tel. 163 or 0800/013-0123), or Worldcom (tel. 0800/014-4444), and to Canada (tel. 161 or 0800/015-1161) and the United Kingdom (tel. 167 or 0800/
AT&T Language Line (tel. 0800/011-4114 in Costa Rica) will connect you with an interpreter. USADirect phones, found at key tourist locations, automatically link you with an AT&T operator.
Direct-dial international calls to North America cost $0.23 cents per minute; calls to the U.K., Europe, and Australia cost $0.90 per minute. Cheaper rates apply between 8 P.M. and 7 A.M. and on weekends. However, those are from personal phones. Hotels add their own, often exorbitant, charges, plus government tax.
Costa Rica employs both GSM and TDMA systems, but the latter is not compatible with TDMA systems elsewhere (such as Verizon in the U.S.). Cell Phones Costa Rica (tel. 506/2293-5892, www.cellphonescr.com) offers cellular phone rentals. Look in the Yellow Pages (Páginas Amarillas) under “Telefonía Celular” for additional providers.
Most tourist hotels will permit you to use their fax for a small fee, as will most post offices. You can also send and receive faxes via Radiográfica Costarricense (RACSA, www.racsa.co.cr) or ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad). Most towns have one. Fax transmissions cost $7 per page to Europe, $5 to the United States.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition