When you retire in Costa Rica you want to rent or buy a home that has already a phone line installed. Read on to find out why. See also our tips about Internet and transportation in Costa Rica.
Depending on which resources you use, you either hear that fast and reliable Internet connections are the norm in urban regions, or that there really is no such thing as high speed Internet in Costa Rica, and that outages or problems with sending emails occur almost daily.
It’s safe to say that speed and quality of service is generally below U.S. or European standards, but that Costa Rica’s telecommunications industry is rapidly evolving, especially since ICE’s state monopoly has been lifted in 2008.
In order of service quality according to TheRealCostaRica:
3. Amnet (now Tigo)
Depending on your location, you’ll have the choice between dial-up, ISDN, ADSL or cable modem. Of those, ADSL and cable modem provide the best value for money. As coverage changes almost weekly, you need to phone either ICE or RACSA to find out what service is currently available at your specific address and your phone number. Remember that most of their customer service speaks Spanish only.
Speaking of phone numbers: there is a shortage of physical phone lines in Costa Rica. So make sure before you buy or rent a place that it has a phone line installed. Waiting times for a new phone line can be several years!
Monthly rates for a cable modem service range from $16.50 (1 Mbps) to $124 (15 Mbps). In addition, you’ll need to budget about $30 for the required cable television service.
ICE’s ADSL service, called “Kölbi Hogar Internet” starts at about $18 for a 1 Mbps connection and goes up to $187 for their whopping 100 Mbps plan. Monthly charges for the phone line have to be paid extra.
Another provider worth checking out is Claro. I use their Internet service in Nicaragua (via ADSL), and find it fast and reliable. One of their offers is “Claro Hogar,” a bundle package with satellite TV, internet and telephone. Prices start at $52 per month. Alternatively, you can try their “Internet Móvil” service, where you can choose between several prepaid and postpaid plans.
You retire in Costa Rica and use the Internet only occasionally? Then RACSA’s cable modem service could be a good alternative. Their basic plan with a 256 kbps connection costs $6.97 per month. You then pay $0.90 per hour online. Or you opt for their “Plus” plan with a monthly cost of $12.97 for a 1 Mbps connection and 5 hours included for free.
Retire in Costa Rica: Getting Around
To retire in Costa Rica means of course also to travel the country from north to south and east to west! So you want to know what the best means of transportation in Costa Rica are.
The most convenient and inexpensive way of traveling in Costa Rica is by bus. You have the choice between the extensive and cheap public bus system, with fares from $0.50 to $2.00, and the more comfortable, air conditioned buses ran by private companies, with ticket prices starting at $25 to $30.
Taxis are plentiful and inexpensive too. It is best to avoid the so-called “Pirate Taxis” and stick to the official cabs, identified by their red color and yellow triangle on the door. Only those are regulated by law and required to use the meter (called “La Maria”, supposedly after the holy mother).
Notice that the meter is not on? Just point to it and say “La Maria, por favor” – the driver will know what you want. As of 2016, taxi fares start at ¢640 ($1.20).
Driving yourself is always an option too, of course … if you are prepared to put up with missing street signs and lights, large potholes that you only notice once you are in them, and the rather aggressive driving style of the locals. Crossing a bridge can be especially daunting, as they are often very narrow and with no guardrails between you and the drop.
Air Travel in Costa Rica
What about air travel? There are two international airports in Costa Rica (San Jose and Liberia) and a fair amount of smaller ones, served by the two domestic carriers Nature Air and Sansa. Judged by the quality of their web sites, ease of booking, and even price, Nature Air wins hands down in my opinion.
For example (all quoted prices as of April 2016): a round trip from San Jose to Quepos on the Southern Pacific coast, home of the famous Manuel Antonio Nature park, costs $132 at Sansa, and $88 at Nature Air, if you take advantage of their no-refund, no-change “Locos” fare. Regular fare would be $138.
It’s astounding that prices went down since I first wrote this page in April 2010. Back then, Sansa charged $150 for the round trip and Nature Air $166.