Costa Rica: Learn How To Activate Your Kölbi Phone Card + Tips

Traveling to Costa Rica? If your phone supports the Tico frequencies, you can get data, messages and local calling with just a SIM card and a pre-paid “tarjeta”. And if you sign up for Google Voice + Hangouts, you can make and receive free international calls using wifi!

You’ll need a phone that can use the following bands:

GSM 1800 – UTMS 850– UTMS 2100

There are several cell service providers. The biggest one is Kölbi, which also has the most coverage (at least for now). Kölbi has a kiosk inside the Juan Santamaria Airport, which is where you’re most likely to land. Their cards, however, require a little explanation to activate and use.

To activate a new Kolbi card: Scratch off the area in the lower left on the back, using a coin or the head of a key. Dial *888# using your calling app. A message will say “USSD is running”.

You’ll get an options menu. Choose option 2, “Recarga de cuenta”.

You’ll then get another list of options. Choose option 1 “Recargar mi cuenta”.

On the next screen, enter the PIN from your card. Be aware that Kolbi uses a font that makes 8s and 0s look very much alike. It will then ask you for your Clave, which is right after the PIN on your card.

You’ll receive 2-3 texts after activation. The first two will tell you your new balance (one text from 8888, and one from “kolbi”). You can check your balance at any time by dialing either of the following numbers exactly as shown:

*888*1*1# or *1150#

4 thoughts on “Costa Rica: Learn How To Activate Your Kölbi Phone Card + Tips”

  1. CAUTION – BEWARE!!!! You will NOT note that there is a DAILY charge to participate in the “give-aways” offered by Kolbi, Claro and Movistar! Worse still, you DON’T have to sign up to participate! The mere fact that you are receiving an “invitation” to participate means that you will be CHARGED for just receiving the invitation! I have a case before SUTEL right now dealing with the C283 that they deducted from my balance EVERY TIME they send me an invitation to participate in their “give-aways”. It should be illegal for them to charge you for something that you do NOT want to participate in and that is what I am trying to do before SUTEL. If you get even ONE invitation to participate and you don’t wish to pay C200+ every day to participate, RUSH to your Kolbi, Claro or Movistar office and demand that they remove you from those invitations, called in Spanish, “mensaje de contenido” and demand your money back stating that you did NOTHING to indicate that you wanted to participate. They will say that they sent you TWO invitations to participate (that they call USSD’s) and you either didn’t answer, which AUTOMATICALLY is taken as a “YES” and you are signed up. BTW, I have NEVER received an “invitation”, just the deductions from my balance THAT YOU WILL NEVER SEE!!! You have been warned!

    1. Thanks for your comment. Did you experience this issue with Kolbi? I keep a pretty close eye on how much remains on the phone, and haven’t noticed this. Regardless, on behalf of all prepaid users, thanks for taking this all the way to SUTEL! That couldn’t have been easy, and I know it takes long-term persistence to battle through the red tape and roadblocks to a victory. Good luck!

  2. Hmm, that doesn’t work.

    However by DIALING *1150#, you’ll get a screen telling you your balance in Colones, and then receive a text with your data balance and any other special deals associated with your SIMM.

    1. Thanks for your comment. You mention a data balance. Do you have a prepaid (pay as you go) account? In my experience, data isn’t mentioned separately in the messages sent to prepaid accounts. That’s because all activity (calls, messages, data use) is paid out of the prepaid amount, without data caps. On the other hand, dialing *1150# gives me the same info as *888*1*1#. Thanks for the tip! I’ll add it to the tutorial. 🙂

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