Another big tourist trap is using U.S. cell phone here

In your Friday, June 17th edition, writer Daniel Woodall claimed in an article about unlocked iPhones:

“Local calls at 10 cents a minute and text messages for under a penny are far cheaper than using a cell phone in Costa Rica under a global roaming plan from AT&T.”

This is far from true for U.S. travelers to Costa Rica. First, you must sign up for the World Traveler International Roaming package for $5.99 per month. Then you pay the reduced rate of $1.99 per minute for voice calls, plus taxes and fees. (This is as opposed to the standard rate of $2.89.)

Data usage is .195 cents a kilobyte. (Per a 2010 report from Google, the average webpage is 320 kb. That’s 63 cents a webpage!)

Sending a text messages is .50 cents per message, except for photo and video messages, which are $1.30 a message. The only bargain is receiving messages of any type, which are charged at your package’s U.S. rate.

Obviously, this can get very, very expensive very quickly. Travelers beware!

On a related note, be very careful if you try to use wifi only on your iPhone while traveling. Users are supposed to be able to use wifi in airplane mode, which would avoid the above fees. However, my iPhone stopped letting me use wifi in airplane mode once I entered Costa Rica. (?!)

I turned off 3G, cellular data and data roaming in my settings. I only used my phone on wifi networks, and only made calls through VOIP services. Unbeknownst to me, the phone forced this usage through ICE’s network.

Due to lag time, the network usage didn’t show up on my phone for almost a week. I wound up with a $600+ bill. Using my iPhone cost me more than my airfare (or buying an unlocked iPhone). Learn from my mistake.

Heidi Allen
Austin, Texas

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