Costa Rica is too small to have a code system. Costs vary with distance and are measured in pulses. For a call within San Jose, for example, one pulse lasts 90 seconds. To call Limon, Puntarenas or Guanacaste from San Jose, the pulse lasts 15 seconds.
The telephone system is generally good, cheap and calls are half price overnight and on Sundays, as well as holidays such as Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Mother’s Day.
Cell phone service is around $10.00 (US) per month plus 10 cents per minute prime time. However, there are insufficient lines at most times, so you can wait a long time to get a phone line. We have waited 6 months to a year for a line to come available.
There are various types of public phones: Chip phones, which take a regular telephone card, and coin phones (put the coin in the slot at the top; it will drop when the phone is answered-do NOT try to push the coin in!) There are also Viajero 199 cards (the only ones you can use for international calls). To use these, you dial 199 on any phone and punch in the code on the card. With a $10.00 card you can call Europe for about 13 minutes. Colibri 197 cards are used in the same way for local calls. On the downside, the service is so cheap that you can often wait for hours for a public phone as the person in front of you chats away.
In rural areas too small for payphones, private homes, garages, pulperias and bars will often ‘rent’ their phone.