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(QCOSTARICA) Definitely a rare sight, the public payphone was once the only communication tool for many in Costa Rica.  I can’t remember the last time I or anyone I know used one of these contraptions. Or if I could even know how to use one today.

People would line up at the bank of payphones in places like the Plaza de la Cultura, the Gran Hotel (front of the Teatro Nacional) and the rear of the Banco Central building in downtown San Jose, to make and receive calls. The same occurring in smaller town centres like Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago. In smaller communities, the payphone bank could be said to have been the social centre of the town.

In the age of the smart phone and electronic gadgets you would think that the pay phone would have gone the way of the dodo. However, there are still 8,188 of them around Costa Rica, costing the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) some ¢42 million colones (US$77,000) monthly, in maintenance and repairs.

The payphones in front of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica in downtown San José was a source of social gathering a few years back.
The payphones in front of the Gran Hotel Costa Rica in downtown San José was a source of social gathering a few years back.

The head of ICE’s Division of Management and Maintenance of Telecommunication Network, German Sanchez, explained that the state telecom maintains this service because it is still the only alternative communication in some communities.


More: The PayPhone In Costa Rica Going The Way Of The Dinosaur


Unbelievable. Sanchez said there are still people in the country who do not have cell phones, nor a fixed phone in their home, so the fixed telephony payphone, despite their high cost to maintain, will not disappear until they are no longer absolutely necessary.

To that end, the ICE official calls on the population to care for the payphone, safeguarding them against vandalism, increasing the cost of maintenance.