One of our other top priorities, next to finding a place to live (see Part 1), was to get our cell phones working. Ever since we arrived, our iPhones have not had cellular service. We could only use them as a small computer (Internet access and email) and it would only work when we had WiFi, like at the hotel or the B&B. We needed to get signed up with one of the local cell phone providers and we weren't sure there was an office for the carrier we wanted, called Movistar (some call it "moe' vi star;" some call it "movie star") in Atenas.
Side note: as demonstrated in the Movistar ad above, it appears the top celebrity endorsements here are not from the Hollywood "A" list - they are soccer (futbol) stars. They promote everything here in CR.
Anyway, we mentioned to Alphonso (ref: Part 1) that we needed to get our phones set up. He said he knew where to get that done - and he would drive us there. As I mentioned, he's a very nice guy and very accommodating. He drove us to a very small store in town that sells cell phones and associated products. It was great that Alphonso came with us, because the young man behind the counter didn't speak English. Alphonso translated and explained we needed to get our 2 iPhones set up with Movistar service. I had done my research and had gotten both our Verizon phones "unlocked" before leaving the U.S. That would reportedly allow us to use the phones here, with the local service providers.
We exchanged the SIM cards in our phones with cards from Movistar, which should have enabled the phones to access the service. However, the counter rep couldn't get it to work. After trying several different things, he told us the phones were still locked and we'd have to get new phones. I decided we would try somewhere else and paid him for the 2 SIM cards.
I knew there was a full-service Movistar office in Alajuela (about a 50 minute bus ride), so we thanked Alphonso for his time and efforts, and walked over to the bus depot. We had researched online to find out where the Movistar office was located in Alajuela, so we hopped on the bus and decided to try to find it.
Understand that Alajuela is the 2nd largest city in CR, we had only a small map of part of the city, with some reference points, and we speak almost no Spanish. Long story short, we wandered around the city for a while, tried to navigate using our map and asked a number of people for directions (not understanding 90% of what they told us, just shaking our heads and hoping they would point). Tina finally spotted the Movistar office down one of the streets.
One of the reps in the Movistar office spoke English - another answered prayer. She and another rep worked on our phones for about 45 minutes and finally got both of them working and our account established. We were SO excited!!
This meant we had accomplished 2 of our major goals on our first day out!
We went to a nearby Pizza Hut for a late lunch (yes, Pizza Huts are all over here) and basked in the glow from our now-working iPhones. We kept checking the phones to make sure they were still working.
Since we were in the Big City, we decided to go check out Wal Mart. We had to take a taxi, since Walmart is outside of town, near the major airport (the one we flew into). All we had to tell the driver was "Walmart" and he was off.
After scoping out Walmart and making some small purchases, we took a taxi back to the bus depot. Actually, there isn't a "depot", per se, just large carports (busports?) where the buses pull in to board passengers. We got back to Atenas exhausted but amazed at what we were able to get done in one day. We got some dinner in town and took a taxi back to our B&B.
Note: Promotional consideration was NOT provided by Movistar or Pizza Hut - unfortunately!
Posted by Mark.