Making International Calls
When you live abroad, communicating with friends and loved ones back home is an important consideration. In Costa Rica you have several options, including international calling from local phones and Internet-based phone services – including video chat.
Costa Rica’s government-owned telecommunications company (ICE, pronounced ee-say) offers international phone service. Both cell phone and home phone customers must activate ICE’s MIDA service to access the international calling feature. The United States and Canada are part of the company’s Group A service, and minutes are billed at $.26 per minute. Clients who spend more than $400 per month on international calls have access to the MIDA Dorado (MIDA Gold) service, which offers rates as low as $0.18 per minute to Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, all U.S. states, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
ICE also offers the Munditel prepaid phone cards for local and international calls. Munditel card services are available 24 hours per day, and customers may make calls from any private, public or hotel phone. To dial another country from within Costa Rica, dial 09 + Country Code + City Code + Phone Number. An ICE operator will validate the call and confirm the Munditel card number and PIN number. Customers pay $.92 for the first minute and $.26 per subsequent minute to dial the United States, Canada and other Group A countries. To purchase a Munditel phone card, you must complete ICE’s activation request form – call 800-SOLUCION for more information.
MagicTalk allows customers to make unlimited calls to the United States, Puerto Rico, Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands via the Internet for the cost of a yearly subscription. Calls to other countries are billed per minute. Connect a small box – supplied by the company – to your computer’s USB port, and you’re ready to make calls to landlines and cell phones. In order to receive calls, your computer must be on with an active Internet connection. A minimum upload speed of 128 kbps is recommended to use the service. MagicTalk’s basic package costs $39.95 for the first year (plus shipping & handling for the box), and subsequent years are billed at $19.95. If you’d like to have your own U.S. or Canadian phone number, you may upgrade to the preferred membership, starting at $19.95 per year. After the first year, MagicTalk is the least expensive Internet-based phone service on this list.
Skype is an Internet-based phone service that allows users to make and receive international calls around the world. You need a minimum 128 kbps upload speed to use Skype. The most basic service is pay-as-you-go – load up your Skype account and call the United States and Canada for as little as 1.9¢ per minute. Monthly subscriptions cost $2.99 and include unlimited calls to the United States and Canada. Voicemail (free with monthly subscriptions, or $6.50 for three months) and an inbound phone number ($20 for three months) are just two of Skype’s extra services that include text messaging and group video calling. Skype may be accessed via a free, downloadable computer program.
Though Vonage is an Internet-based telephone service, it does not require users to install software or leave their computers on. Instead, the company supplies a small box, similar to a modem, to which users connect a standard telephone. As long as you have an active Internet connection, you will be able to make and receive phone calls – and if your connection goes down, you’ll be able to forward calls to another phone number. Unlimited calling on the Vonage World subscription, which includes calls to 60 countries, begins around $35 per month, including taxes. Vonage offers several services its competitors don’t, including visual voicemail (receive voicemails as emails or text messages) and phone number transfers – move abroad and keep the same number you had back home. Vonage recommends a minimum 90 kbps upload speed for top quality calls; 30kbps is required for the service.