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Burner phone for Costa Rica and Panama?

Burner phone for Costa Rica and Panama?

Old Nov 12, 16, 6:48 am
  #1  
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Burner phone for Costa Rica and Panama?

I've scheduled a cruise in Panama and Costa Rica for April, so no rush on this!

I've got an iPhone 5 with service through Ting. Getting it to work in Central America will take some maneuvering- I have to get them to switch it from CDMA to GSM, switch out the SIM card (that part is easy), and run some software, then reverse it all when I get home. The cruise itself is mostly national wildlife refuges, parks, snorkeling, etc. (so unlikely to be in Starbucks or McD's) and the ship itself does not have Wi-Fi.

It seems like a lot of work and I'd be left with a phone that doesn't work immediately when I land in the US again. Is there a phone I can buy in Panama City (my first destination) that will work in both countries? I just want basic access for the occasional phone calls, e-mail and some Internet browsing so I can fret about the stock market while I'm on vacation. Thanks!
Athena53 is offline  
Old Nov 21, 16, 9:57 pm
  #2  
 
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If Panama is like the several CA countries I visit, getting a phone and a prepaid SIM will take minutes. You will likely have to get a new SIM in CR but a basic unlocked phone for calls and messages will be available for next to nothing.

Smartphone with a prepaid data plan not much more work but of course more money.

Since CDMA and GSM are two totally different things hardware wise I doubt you can switch an iPhone to GSM if it already is not using a SIM. Although apparently the iPhone 5 for Verizon has a working GSM SIM slot. I would not count on that vs. buying a burner. There are basic smart phones in Managua for $40 or $50 brand new but locked as an example.

Just make sure you check the GSM frequency in Panama vs. CR or to be totally sure get a quad frequency phone which most or many are.

You may find that one of the carriers will cover both countries (like Claro in Nicaragua will work in CR) but don't count on it. I have a Movistar locked phone for Movistar and a few unlocked GSM phones since the Movistar phone doesn't work even with Movistar in San Jose for some reason. If you buy one in Panama the service provider might not exist in Costa Rica. Make sure it is clear when buying you intend to use it in both countries.
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Old Nov 29, 16, 5:12 pm
  #3  
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Thanks! There are a lot of "ifs" there but it sounds like I should show up at a place that sells phones and plans and explain my situation and what I need. I guess this is one thing out of my control till I get there!
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Old Dec 2, 16, 4:52 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
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You cannot ‘switch’ the phone from CDMA to GSM. The phone ether has GSM capabilities or it does not. For the phone model you listed, if there is a SIM card slot, it has GSM capabilities.

Unlocking the phone is another matter. If your phone is locked to a particular carrier, you need to ask them to unlock it before you can use it on another carrier network. The “place that sells phones” in Costa Rica or Panama will not be able to unlock a phone locked by another carrier. Call the carrier you purchased the phone from to unlock before traveling.

Some carriers, like Verizon in the US, do not currently lock the phones they sell. I am not familiar with Ting.
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