The better hotels provide stamps for your letters and postcards and will mail them for you; otherwise go to the main post office in each town. There are no mailboxes. In addresses 'Apartado' means PO Box; it is not a street of apartment address.
Unless you have a contact in Costa Rica, you can receive mail at the Correo Central (Main Post Office) of mayor towns. San José is the most efficient, and letters usually arrive within a week from North America, a little longer from more distant places. Post offices charge a small amount per letter received, and you need to show your passport to receive your mail - you can't pick up other people's.
Mail is filed alphabetically, but if it's addressed to John Gillis Payson, it could well be filed under 'G' or 'J' instead of 'P'. For San José, it should be addressed as in this example:
Lista de Correos
Correo Central, San José
Ask your correspondents to clearly print your last name and avoid appending witticisms such as 'World Traveler Extraordinaire' to your name.
Avoid having parcels sent to you, as they are held in customs and cannot be retrieved until you have paid a usually exorbitant customs fee and gone through a time-consuming bureaucratic process. This is true of even small packages.
Generally, the telephone system is quite good, although systems sometimes get congested and some areas can be cut off temporarily due to weather conditions.
Public telephones are found all over Costa Rica and are of three kinds. they accept coins or or one or two kinds of cards, but they are not set up to work with all systems. In larger towns, there are rows of public phones with different kinds of machines.
The CHIP telephone cards are so called because of the metallic chip, visibly embedded in the card, which keeps track of the amount of time / money you have left. Cards of different amounts are available and are used in the blue phones labelled CHIP. Put the card into the phone and follow instructions on the screen in Spanish or English. These digital CHIP phones can be found even in small villages.
Telephone cards that work on any touch-tone phone by dialling a toll-free number are alos available. These cards have a scratch-off account number that is dialled first, followed by the number you wish to dial. The 197 cards are for in-country use and instructions are in Spanish. The 199 cards are for international use and instructions are given in English. Both CHIP and toll-free number cards can be purchased in many grocery stores, pharmacies, street stands and other places.
There are no area codes; just dial the seven digit number. Calls are inexpensive except for operator assisted calls from hotels - the fancier the hotel, the more it seems to charge.
In remote areas of the country, look for the telephone symbol in even the most unlikely places. General stores in tiny villages often have a phone for public use. For directory information call 113.
Hotel owners and other businesses in remote areas sometimes receive messages on pagers, which are called 'beepers' in Costa Rica.
Calling internationally is straightforward, though not cheap. The cheapest calls are direct-dialled using a phone card. For collect (reverse charge) calls, dial 116 on any public phone to get an English-speaking international operator. The party you call can ring you back at many public telephones. Countries with reciprocal agreements with Costa Rica will accept collect calls, including the USA and many others.
To call directly to a foreign country, dial 00 + country code + phone number. Country codes are the same as those dialled worldwide (eg. 1 for USA, 44 for UK, 61 for Australia, 41 for Switzerland, etc.)
Many countries have a direct number that can be dialled from any Costa Rican phone to reach foreign operators. These numbers are listed under 'País Directo' in the White Pages of the Costa Rica telephone directory. After reaching the foreign operator, you can either call collect or charge the call to your calling-card number - you can get through in less than a minute. These methods are convenient but expensive; ask the operator for costs or find out from your home country before you travel.
To call Costa Rica from abroad, use the international code (506) before the seven-digit Costa Rica telephone number. Remember Costa Rica has no area codes.
Radiográfica (RACSA) and main post offices have fax machines. They will also hold and accept fax messages. If you are faxing to Costa Rica, make sure you put your return fax number on the document; some machines in Costa Rica don't do this automatically.
Email & Internet Access
It's not difficult to stay connected to your email account in Costa Rica. The main post office in San José and other major cities have public Internet access. These post offices have a 'punto.com' sign. RACSA offices also have Internet access in some cities.
Cybercafés are popular and can be found just about anywhere. Travellers with a laptop and modem will find that hotels and some other locales (friend's houses and offices) have RJ-11 phone jacks. If you are travelling in Costa Rica frequently or for a long time, you can set up a local account at RACSA.
Pictures by Jörn Malek. The team of 1-CostaRicaLink and Costa-Rica-Information-Mobile wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
Text by Lonely Planet.
This Web-Site is managed by Angela Malek, Ciudad Colón, province of San José, CR-10701 Costa Rica, Central America.