Costa Rica Internet for Travelers and Expats

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Costa Rica Internet for Travelers and Expats

Before prepaid options were available and when 3G had yet to arrive in the country, getting wired for the internet was notoriously difficult for foreigners. Accounts had to be in the names of Costa Rican citizens who were forced to wait in endless lines with stacks of documents and IDs. For short term travellers who couldn’t sign 12 month contracts, the only options were Internet cafes and Wi-Fi hotspots.

In 2011, Costa Rica opened up their telecommunications networks to private companies which are finally giving the hated, government-controlled monopoly (I.C.E) some much needed competition. Now there are several options available to travelers or expats who want relatively fast Internet without being tied to a contract.


Japi is the first company to launch a 4G network in Costa Rica. They provide internet service to the greater metropolitan area and boast download speeds of up to 6 Mbps. Customers have the choice of buying or renting a USB stick, Mi-Fi or Wi-Fi router or an outdoor antennae to connect to the network. Prepaid plans can be purchased for periods as short as one hour and monthly rates start at $22 and go up to $135 for faster speeds. All plans include unlimited download data. The routers give you the extra benefit of being able to set up a wireless network and connect multiple devices just as if you were using Wi-Fi with a cable modem at home.

3G USB Dongle

There are now a handful of companies offering prepaid, 3G Internet via USB dongles including Kolbi, Movistar, Tuyo and Claro.

In order to connect, you must first purchase the USB dongle which costs around $30, then purchase a SIM card which can be used in a phone or be inserted into a computer’s USB port. Plans can be purchased for one hour up to one month and vary slightly in price. Speeds fluctuate but usually hover around 1 Mbps.

Most of the plans offered by the companies above are similar, but since Kolbi is owned by the state, travelers can buy SIM cards at kiosks right inside the airport.

One thing to keep in mind though, is that while the SIM card can be removed from the USB port and inserted into a phone, you will not be able to receive calls while the card is in the USB dongle in the computer. You can however, receive and respond to texts which show up in the companion software provided by the company.

If you know of any other Internet options please let us know in the comments!


  • Lee Hearn says:

    I am confused about internet data cards for use in Costa Rica. I have read that Kolbi uses UMTS 850 MHz for data, but all of the data cards that I see for sale in the US do not provide UMTS at 850. They are 2100 MHz, and the 850 band is GSM, which I believe is 2g. Where are the 3g dongles (data cards) sold? I am moving to Costa Rica, and I don’t want to rent one.

  • Bill Grinstead says:

    Try Amazon, that’s probably your best bet.

    • Bryanna Mannis says:

      Hello! I have a similar question. I’m leaving for Costa Rica tomorrow and was wondering, I’ll need to use the internet quite regularly. Would it be best to rent or purchase a dongle.

      I fly into Liberia and am wondering there is a place I could purchase the dongle in Liberia?

      Any advice would be so appreciated.

      Thank you!

      • Bill Grinstead says:

        They will likely have dongles and phone plans for sale right in the airport. If you can get a cheap dongle at home if get one because from what I remember they were some like $50 in San Jose airport.

  • Cristina says:

    Hi there. I hope you can help me.
    I am going to join my husband in Costa Rica in two weeks. He is already there trying to sort out interent in our house, in the South Pacific Coast. In that area it’s not easy to get internet. I guess our only option would be a dongle and a modem?! My husband told me they are not selling dongles anymore so I should be trying and find one here in Italy to take out there.
    What type of dongle and modem should I look for to be sure it’s going to work in Costa Rica?