So you are planning on going to Costa Rica, great choice if I may say so. I am actually sitting in Costa Rica as I write this and have to say, your best way of staying connected while you are here is with a local Costa Rica sim card.
But, which prepaid Costa Rica sim card is the best one for you? That is what we are here to find out.
Join me as I review all the best prepaid sim cards for Costa Rica, discussing coverage, speeds, pricing, and plans so that you can find the right local sim card for your travels.
A Kolbi Sim Card is an excellent Costa Rican sim card to go with as Kolbi has the widest coverage of all Costa Rican providers. This ensures you will have reliable cell phone service and 4G or 3G speeds wherever you travel to.
Kolbi has a prepaid sim card designed just for tourists and it is a pretty good deal. For 12,000 colones ($22.24 USD) the prepaid sim card comes with 5GB of mobile data, 5GB free data for Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Waze, plus 100 local mins, 30 local SMS, and it lasts for 30-days.
Overall, this plan is very affordable and I love that you get free data for social media, communication, and navigation – it covers all the bases.
You can buy Kolbi prepaid sim cards at their shops which are all over Costa Rica and you can also buy them at some supermarkets too.
There are some other Kolbi prepaid sim cards plans on offer which come with less data and are 5040 colones ($9.27) with 2GB of data (3GB Whatsapp free) or 8065 colones ($14.95) with 4GB of data (3GB Whatsapp free.
Liberty, formerly Movistar, provides excellent mobile coverage all over Costa Rica and you will have a 4G connection most of the time with their prepaid sim card.
Liberty has 2 different prepaid sim card plans you need to be aware of – Super Recharge and Prepaid Internet Packages.
The Super Recharge offers are as follows:
There is also the Free Prepaid Plan which lasts for 30 days and comes with 4GB data/Unlimited Whatsapp, Twitter, and Waze, 140 liberty minutes, 70 local mins, 70 SMS – 5900 C ($10.93 USD)
As you can see, you have a lot of very affordable plans to choose from and the Free Prepaid Plan is by far the best value.
In all honesty, the Prepaid Internet Packages are not really worth it as they give you very little data for a very limited time, so stick with the Super Recharge offers.
Claro is the smallest mobile operator in Costa Rica but they have better coverage than Kolbi and Liberty in some of the more rural areas. I actually use Claro for this reason as their coverage is best in Guanacaste where I am.
You will have reliable coverage with Claro and good 4G speeds in most of Costa Rica. They also have a shop at the airport by baggage claim where you can buy and activate your sim card while waiting for your bags.
They have a lot of prepaid sim card plans for you to choose from, literally 23 different ones. I won’t list them all but I will list the best ones.
All of these plans are very affordable and it is a great bonus to have free Whatsapp and that you can use your minutes to call North America, Central America, and more.
I would say that a sim card is essential when traveling to Costa Rica, and in fact, traveling anywhere.
When traveling around Costa Rica you will either be on long bus rides, in a shuttle, navigating your way around in your own car with Google Maps or Waze, or getting internal flights, all depending on your budget.
Having a sim card is kind of a must for all of these scenarios, particularly if you are using public buses or driving your own car.
It is also a stunning place to travel around and you will want to share your experiences on social media if you are into that kind of thing.
While Costa Rica is a safe country generally, it is still handy to have a phone with you that works whenever you need it to. Plus, you have the added benefit of being able to stay in touch with friends and family back home.
Apps like Uber and Booking.com are also very useful to be able to use, especially in San Jose (Uber) and on long journeys (Booking.com) so you can plan where you are staying as you travel around.
Overall, it is certainly worth having a sim card for your cell phone as you travel around Costa Rica, especially when you can get some pretty great data packages for $10 to $20.
In order to use sim cards in Costa Rica you will need an unlocked phone. Chances are your cell phone is already unlocked but if you are unsure, simply call your home mobile provider to check.
If it is locked, don’t worry, just ask the operator to unlock it for you – it should only take a few minutes, and your phone will be ready for a Costa Rican sim.
There are two types of mobile networks in the world, GSM and CDMA. Every country bar the USA and Canada uses GSM and this means you will need a GSM phone to use a sim card in Costa Rica.
If you live in the US or Canada and use Verizon as your local mobile operator, you might have a CDMA phone. Call Verizon to check and if you do have a CDMA phone then you will need to buy a GSM phone in order to use a sim card in Costa Rica.
You will not be able to buy a local Costa Rican sim before traveling to Costa Rica. But, you can opt to buy an eSim for Costa Rica or an international sim card online.
The main benefit of this is that you are connected as soon as you land. But, the airports all have WiFi and you can get a sim card while waiting for your bags.
Buying a sim card in Costa Rica is very easy. You will need your passport for the sim card registration and to go to any cell phone stores or mobile provider stores.
Simply choose your plan, hand over your passport for registration, pay and you will have an activated sim card ready to go. It takes just a few minutes to get connected.
The most convenient place to buy a sim card in Costa Rica is at the Claro shop in the airport. You can then immediately order an Uber (the most affordable taxi) to get to your San Jose hotel or connection.
Sim cards in Costa Rica do not cost much and their price depends on the provider you go with. Here are the prices:
In some cases, the sim card does come free of charge with the prepaid plan you choose to buy.
The best way to activate your sim card in Costa Rica is by buying it in a mobile provider’s shop as they will activate it for you.
You can activate your own sim card but you have to call the provider and speak fluent Spanish in order to do it. I had to get a friend to do mine as my Spanish is not good enough.
When it comes to topping up, you can either do it online at your provider’s website, buy top-up cards at local shops, or go to your provider’s shop and do it there.
Once topped up, be sure to request a package off the back of it if you need to. Ideally, you will not have to top up as you will pick a plan that lasts as long as your trip.
If you are traveling on a budget you might want to opt for a very cheap prepaid sim card plan and then save your data for when you really need it. Here are some tips:
Before you buy your prepaid sim for Costa Rica, make sure you buy the right plan that matches your trip length, data needs, and budget. Ideally, you should not have to top up in 30 days of travel as if you do, you will be spending double.
Luckily, most airports, bars, cafes, and restaurants have free WiFi so you are never too far away from a free connection. This is when you should use your data-heavy apps like Instagram, Facebook, etc so that you do not use up your data.
It is always worth monitoring your data usage and most smartphones have a feature that will tell you how much data you are using and which apps are using it. Adjust your consumption accordingly so you do not have to top-up.
When you turn on airplane mode, it stops all your apps from using data in the background without your permission. You can still use navigation and take photos in airplane mode too.
You can actually download the whole of Costa Rica on Google Maps and use it offline. If you do this on WiFi, you can then navigate your way around without using any data.
If you have to conserve your data as you are on a budget, I would recommend buying a plan with free Whatsapp which most Costa Rican prepaid plans offer. This allows you to stay in touch with everyone for free.
The cheapest prepaid sim card plan in Costa Rica is with Claro and costs just 100 colones or $0.19 but it doesn’t come with very much – just 30MB of data.
The best value plan is the Free Prepaid Plan from Liberty featured above.
Yes, foreigners can buy a sim card in Costa Rica. You will just need your passport for the sim registration and an unlocked GSM phone.
Some US mobile phones work in Costa Rica (GSM) but some don’t (CDMA). See the “Are You Using A GSM Phone?” section above.