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Telephones

Costa Rica has an excellent and widespread phone system. A phone call within the country costs around C10 per minute. Pay phones take a calling card or 5-, 10-, or 20-colón coins. Calling cards are much more practical, and coin-operated phones are getting harder and harder to find. You can purchase calling cards in a host of gift shops and pharmacies. However, there are several competing calling-card companies, and certain cards work only with certain phones. CHIP calling cards work with a computer chip and just slide into specific phones, although these phones aren't widely available. Better bets are the 197 and 199 calling cards, which are sold in varying denominations. These have a scratch-off PIN and can be used from any phone in the country. Generally, the 197 cards are sold in smaller denominations and are used for local calling, while the 199 cards are deemed international and are easier to find in larger denominations. Either card can be used to make any call, however, provided that the card can cover the costs. Another perk of the 199 cards is the fact that you can get the instructions in English. For local calls, it is often easiest to call from your hotel, although you will likely be charged around C150 to C300 per call.

To call Costa Rica from abroad:

1. Dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S. and Canada; 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia.

2. Dial the country code 506.

3. Dial the 8-digit number.

To make international calls: To make international calls from Costa Rica, first dial 00 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next you dial the area code and number. For example, if you wanted to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., you would dial 00-1-202-588-7800.

For directory assistance: Dial 1113 if you're looking for a number inside Costa Rica, and dial 1024 for numbers to all other countries.

For operator assistance: If you need operator assistance in making a call, dial 1116 if you're trying to make an international call, and 0 if you want to call a number in Costa Rica.

Toll-free numbers: Numbers beginning with 0800 or 800 within Costa Rica are toll-free, but calling a 1-800 number in the States from Costa Rica is not toll-free. In fact, it costs the same as an overseas call.

Mobile Phones

Costa Rica primarily uses GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) networks. If your cellphone is on a GSM system, and you have a world-capable multiband phone, you should be able to make and receive calls in Costa Rica. Just call your wireless operator and ask for "international roaming" to be activated on your account. Per-minute charges can be high, though -- up to $5 in Costa Rica, depending upon your plan.

You can purchase a pre-paid SIM card for an unlocked GSM phone at the airport and offices of the Costa Rican Electrical Institute (ICE) around the country. A 30-day SIM card costs around $4. You'll need an 1800mHz band, unlocked phone. You can buy minutes separately via phone cards or at ICE offices.

Moreover, recently, two new cellphone operators, Claro and Telefonica, were making final preparations to enter into the Costa Rican market. This will most certainly open the availability and range of options for tourists and visitors.

Several local firms rent cellphones. However, none of the rental companies has a booth or office at the airport, so you'll have to contact them either beforehand or from your hotel. Most will deliver the phone to your hotel. Cell Service (tel. 2296-5553; www.cellservicecr.com) and Costa Rica Cellular Connection (tel. 866/353-6492 in the U.S. and Canada, or 8876-1776 in Costa Rica; www.costaricacellularconnection.com) both rent cellphones. Rates run around $5 to $8 per day or $30 to $50 per week for the rental, with charges of 50¢ to $1.50 per minute for local calls and $1 to $3 per minute for international calls. In addition to the above companies, most of the major car-rental agencies offer cellphone rentals, for rates similar to those listed above.

Internet & Wi-Fi

Cybercafes can be found all over Costa Rica, especially in the more popular tourist destinations. Moreover, an ever increasing number of hotels, restaurants, cafes, and retailers around Costa Rica are offering high-speed Wi-Fi access, either free or for a small fee. Throughout the book, I list which hotels provide free, or for a fee, Wi-Fi and high-speed Ethernet access.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.